For those that don't follow on Facebook or Instagram, this week brings some sad news. Rosie died of heart complications last Sunday morning. We've known she had heart problems for a while and always understood that while it could be managed, heart failure was the likely eventual outcome. You can read a bit more and some lovely memories of her here.
As we leave Istanbul, Rosie and the Sea of Marmaris this week to head back South, I really wanted to reflect a little on some of the challenges that we've been facing. Because there have been a lot of challenges over the last few weeks. The weather is uncooperative. The sea state inside Marmaris is generally shittier than it is pleasant. It's full of jellyfish. There's so many big ships to dodge. Rosie passed suddenly. One of those things makes the rest seem somewhat trivial.
The point is that it's easy sometimes to sugarcoat the experiences we're having and make it look like it's all fun. Which I don't consciously try and do, but the reality is that of course we try and take the "most interesting photos" and show the beauty of things, not the occasional harsh reality. (While this is mostly true, we do have a running joke with our son Jasper where we send the most disgusting, horrible photo of a place we find, for example garbage rolling down a hill, Karina pinching her nose by trash cans - some of those even make it into the blog!)
But while we love living aboard Matilda, the reality hits sometimes that it's not an easy choice that we've made. Yes, things break from time to time. We deal with a complex maze of bureaucracy that "mostly" works, but frequently is opaque and confusing. As we've headed into Turkey we're now faced with language as a bigger barrier than previously, especially when dealing with officials. The weather, which can make life wonderful, also makes it miserable on occasion too.
Rosie's death really bought that lesson home. Sometimes things are just harder when you're away from the support systems you've known. I don't want to get too maudlin about all this, but it illustrates the point I'm trying to make.
As we headed for the heart specialist, Rosie carried in our arms, she passed away maybe 200 meters before we arrived. What do you do when you're now out walking with a dead dog in your arms? We were thrown into a series of tough decisions, without a lot of time to process the grief. We made what we thought was the logical choice, to proceed to the vet. That (as with Australia and the US) they would sympathetically take the body and arrange for it to be cremated.
This was not the case. In Istanbul, the common method of disposal is to simply throw the dead pet into the trash to be collected. There's not really an infrastructure for dealing with this problem at all. We were shocked and after wrapping the body, we walked the streets to a second vet who offered the same advice.
Fortunately, they had the brochure for a private company who we paid to come and collect the body. Rosie has now been buried in a grave in a Pet Cemetery above Istanbul. It's not our ideal solution (we'd have preferred a cremation), but it's the best of the solutions available. We received a very sweet video of the burial ceremony and they said an Islamic prayer over the body as she was laid to rest.
We're somewhat used to this sense of compromise on a boat level. When things break you often have to take the best of several bad temporary solutions. When the weather sucks, you deal with it. We've got very good at just analysing the options and making a call. It feels different, yet weirdly similar, when approaching the same pragmatic sense of choice for something emotional. I heartily recommend long term travel as a lifestyle to everyone, but it's not without its costs.
It's been a week of adjusting. It will take time for the new normal to set in, but we are both doing well. Ultimately we're grateful that she passed quickly in our arms and there's now a new chapter ahead for us of travelling without a dog which will have its advantages. We'll always have fond memories of our time with Rosie and we're going to miss her companionship.
After the challenging Sunday morning, we felt we couldn't just stay on the boat and do nothing, we needed to get out and explore. So we went with Ester into the Üsküdar neigbourhood and explored the local bazaar and street markets. This turned out to be one of our favourite places to visit in Istanbul, so much more authentic than the tourist trap of the old city and full of colourful sights and sounds with lots of great food and good prices.
Monday morning Karina and Ester headed for a Hammam (Turkish bath) while I waited on the boat for a Webasto dealer to come take a look at our diesel heater which hasn't worked since Montenegro. The Webasto guy was very friendly, spoke great English and immediately figured out the problem which was embarrassing in its simplicity.
The diesel heater works by heating up water which circulates throughout the boat and then fans blow over radiators to heat the air. It turns out that the circulation system is not a closed system and little bits of water evaporate away, especially with heavy use and we'd simply run the system dry. It was a very easy fix and I now know how to top off the expansion tank with water to keep everything running fine. It's annoying when two "professionals" have looked at this previously and failed to mention this issue (which I guess is why go to a dealer) and the previous owners never covered it in the handover either!
On Monday evening we headed into the city to a rooftop restaurant, one of the "things to do" in Istanbul and had a great time looking out over the busy waterways while enjoying the lights and sounds of the city below. There was an Australian couple at the next table, so we chatted with them for a bit and had a lovely meal with Ester.
On our way back to the boat, we passed the Basilica Cistern which was still open and had no queue. Our plan originally was to head there on Tuesday morning early, but we decided we'd go then and there and walked straight in and had the place almost completely to ourselves. This is one of those adjustment moments, where now, without Rosie waiting back on the boat, we were able to just stay out longer and not worry about rushing "home".
The Basilica Cistern (or the Cistern beneath the Basilica) is a large water storage complex built in Roman times. While it's "just" a large room with columns, it's remarkably beautiful because of the lighting, the still water that creates amazing reflections, the art installations and the columns themselves. True to form, the Romans reused columns from older temples as parts of the cistern and ornate decorations abound. It's definitely a highlight and must see if you visit Istanbul.
On Tuesday we'd been planning to visit the Topkapi Palace while Ester visited the old city and took photos. We headed in together then went our separate ways. When we arrived at the Topkapi Palace though, we hadn't realised it was shut on Tuesdays! Instead we headed over to Galata to explore that region and also visit the Pera Palace hotel.
Then Wednesday it was time to say goodbye. We took Ester for a short ride on Matilda (to the black water pump out station and the fuel depot!) and waved her farewell while we headed south to the Princes Islands.
We'd originally thought about hanging around for a couple more weeks and meeting Hannah here, but that plan has definitely changed. We've seen what we want to see now and we've realised that the Sea of Marmaris is NOT a tourist attraction. It's dirty, industrial and at times very rough. There was a three day break in the weather and so we decided to just get out while we could.
The last three days of the week were all long days cruising for us and somewhat average overnights. We didn't leave Matilda for three days - my Apple Health app and step count suspects I'm dead. But we did make a lot of distance! We did our personal record - 64nm in one day and had a lot of fun coming down the Dardanelles where instead of fighting the current, it was pushing us South and we were doing almost 9.5 knots at one point - 50% faster than normal!
We've now made it back to Bozcaada Island where we were with Emma three weeks ago and we've decided to stay here to wait out the next little burst of wind because we really enjoyed it. It's a good place to stop - we're back out of Marmaris and back into the Aegean. Once the weather improves on Wednesday we'll be continuing south towards Cesme.
So farewell Marmaris and Istanbul, it's interesting how one area can combine some of our best and some of our worst memories while travelling. We'll be back one day. There's so much to see and explore and Istanbul really is a wonderful city with so much to see and do, just perhaps not best explored by boat.
Until next time
Tim & Karina