It was fiercely hot day, so hot that it was almost breathless in Bodrum but back at the harbour on the other side of the peninsula a strong wind was blowing, the sea looked rather uninviting and the ferry was rocking from side to side at her mooring. The boat trip suddenly didn’t seem like such a great idea.
After a while the boat left the harbour and headed out to open water and shortly after clearing the coastline it began to labour in the heavy seas. The rigging squealed, the deck groaned, the hull sighed and the rivets creaked. With every murderous crash through the mounting waves we were lifted out of the water and then dropped back down again with a violent thud that jarred violently through the whole complaining shambles of a boat from bow to stern.
I was even more worried now than I was on the outward journey and although I could make out the lights of Altinkum across the water it looked an awfully long way away. This boat was a disaster, if it had a certificate of seaworthiness then I am a brain surgeon. In accordance with a regulation of the International Maritime Organisation all ships are required to carry certificates that establish their seaworthiness and emergency procedures, the competency of sailors and so on but I looked and could find nothing. Even refugees escaping from Africa to Europe would think twice about using the Ali Sultan I can tell you!
As the boat continued to pitch about in the choppy seas some of the passengers began to turn pale, their suntans evaporated and they looked unwell and because I was worried about being ill we stayed on the highest deck and watched the ugly boat battling against the waves. Its dumpy bow didn’t carve its way elegantly through the water it just crashed head on into them and the ferry juddered and jarred with every impact as though it had taken a succession of straight rights to the jaw from a champion heavyweight boxer!
As we reached what I calculated to be roughly mid distance I was at my most concerned. I looked around for life boats but couldn’t see any, there were a few cracked and ageing red and white cork life belts but I don’t think they would have been especially useful in an emergency. I worried about just how long it would be possible to survive in the sea if the boat capsized.
Once we had passed half distance the comforting lights of Altinkum started to get brighter and the wind and the waves started to calm down and it was at this point that the skipper left the wheel house and came out on deck.
He was staggering and at first I put this down to the pitch and swell but then I noticed that he was holding a can of beer and he was completely plastered. We had come through a force four storm with a skipper that was on the beer and the truth of it is that he had probably been drinking all afternoon. He was obnoxious and behaved inappropriately but even though he was drunk most of us were just pleased when he stopped his antics and went back to the controls.
On the positive side however we did see a good sunset!
As we got closer suddenly the note of the engine seemed to change and everyone in the wheel house suddenly rushed outside to look overboard and to listen to the grumbling of the cylinders and the groan of the exhaust. Later I read some reviews of the boat trip and it seems that it isn’t uncommon for the Ali Sultan to break down at sea. At the time I just hoped that he was going to get the heap of rotting junk back to Altinkum in one piece.
Eventually he approached the jetty and Kim jokingly said that we would know when we were back because the skipper would probably crash straight into the harbour wall and then he did just that and sent everyone lurching forward as we all hurried to the front in anticipation of departure.
This took longer than it should have done because it turned out that it wasn’t just the skipper that was intoxicated but the entire crew and they struggled for several minutes to get the thing tied up and the rotting gang plank in place while we stood with all of the other passengers whose collective priority was just to get off.
One thing is absolutely certain, I’ll not be recommending the IMX Bodrum by boat excursion to anyone!
Be Warned, Be Very Warned!
Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal: