Getting to know Turkey

25 Jun

It’s been a while since the last post. Technology hasn’t helped. (We have an internet connection on the boat, but only via our ancient laptop with a dodgy battery. Sufficient for checking email and weather forecasts but not for prolonged use – it can take a while to craft a blog post.) I’ve also been a bit brain-dead: must be the heat which has been up in the high 30s.

Anyway, here we are in Turkey again…with Two Choices this time. 🙂
It was only a short passage from Samos to Kuşadası, where we formally checked into Turkey on 7th June. Checking in basically means getting a Transit Log which includes the boat, skipper and crew details and your proposed itinerary. The process involves getting clearance from the Health Authority, Passport Police, Customs and the Harbourmaster and can apparently take hours trailing round different offices. Like many others, we chose to use an agent and we were pleasantly suprised at the fee charged – 60 Turkish Lira (about €24). Information gleaned from the internet had suggested that it could be anything up to €150. We were also glad that we didn’t have customs come aboard given our substantial stash of Greek wine (we’d been warned that booze is pricey here…).

Turkey have introduced new regulations concerning marine pollution in the past 2-3 years. Most yachts discharge toilet waste (known as ‘black water’) into the sea far from the coast in deep water. What the new regulations mean is that, essentially, it is now illegal to do this within Turkish waters. It is also apparently forbidden to discharge ‘grey water’, the water from sinks and showers. In the most popular cruising area of Muğla, boats are now required to have both types of waste pumped out at shore stations and to have pump-outs registered on a computer system known as Mavi Kart or Blue Card. Stories of huge fines for contravening the regulations circulate. However, there are an inadequate amount of pump-out stations and the practicalities of abiding by the regulations are a bit farcical. The whole issued has generated a huge amount of stress and uncertainty within the cruising community and many cruisers are now choosing to give Turkey a miss. Prior to coming to Turkey, we had weighed up the pros & cons and decided to give it a go. We did, however, want to get a Blue Card as soon as we could so at least we would be seen to be complying in some way. We were disappointed to find that Kuşadası aren’t yet part of this new scheme so were unable to provide a card. More bureaucracy to be looked forward to further down the coast then!

We weren’t keen to linger in Kuşadası longer than necessary. The town is busy and rather touristy – it’s a cruise ship stop-off point for visiting Ephesus – and at €50 a night in the marina, not the cheapest place to hang around. Besides, we had planned a rendezvous with friends from home further down the coast.

Next stop was Didim, 42 miles down the coast, with some cracking sailing on the way. D-Marin is a plush marina, complete with luxury accommodation and swimming pool. There’s also a supermarket, a shopping centre and a comprehensive range of yacht support services. Our overall impression so far of Turkish marinas was that they are incredibly efficient and professional. Cost – €56 per night.

Didim is known for the ancient Greek sanctuary containing the temple and oracle of Apollo. Our reason for calling in at Didim, however, was not to visit ancient ruins but to meet up with our friends, Ivor & Moira, who have a holiday apartment close by. It was great to catch up, enjoy a good meal and to swap guided tours of our respective homes. But 2 more nights in a marina was enough for the budget and, after all, there’s a whole coastline to explore. So we moved on again.

Catching up with Ivor & Moira

Catching up with Ivor & Moira

We didn’t go too far. Only 10 miles east into Gulluk Korfezi (Korfezi Gulf) to a little cove known as Paradise Bay (37°19′.1N 27°28′.0E). We shared the clear turquoise waters of the bay with 2 other yachts and, for an hour or two, with some Turkish fisherman stopping for their lunchtime chin-wag. A fabulous setting, but still not warm enough for me to swim!
The next day was my birthday so a meal ashore was called for. The enclosed bay of Gümüşlük, 20 miles south seemed to fit the bill – small, sheltered and a choice of restaurants. We motor-sailed for 5 hours to get there in a rising southerly breeze, only to find that it was jammed full of boats, mostly on moorings, with not much room to anchor safely. There were 2 alternatives to choose from, Turgutreis Marina an hour south into the wind or backtrack 4 miles to Yalıkavak Marina. We went with the easier downwind option of Yalıkavak. The thought of spending more time in a marina wasn’t appealing but there were no suitable anchorages within reasonable sailing distance, so a marina it was to be.

Palmarina turned out to be the most expensive so far for us at €77 for one night, and that didn’t include water & electricity!. The marina has been bought by an Azeri oil billionaire and is in the process of being transformed into a swanky megayacht marina. Atmospheric lighting, swaying palm trees and hugely expensive shops and restaurants line the quay. They seem to have got the basics far wrong though. The brand-new marble showers look the part, but there are no locks and only one changing cubicle for 3 showers. Big fail! On the plus side, we had a lovely birthday meal ashore, and we finally managed to get our Blue Card so we’re almost legal in Turkey!

On Wednesday 12th June we had a 21 mile passage south to Bodrum. There’s a huge marina here but, thankfully, there is also a large anchorage right under St. Peter’s Castle which suited us just fine. Bodrum is a small but busy town with a nice atmosphere. We wandered the streets, shopped a bit (& I finally found a handbag that met with my approval – happy birthday to me!) and visited the castle.

St Peter’s Castle was built by the Knights of St.John back in the 15th century and defended Bodrum up until World War 2. Now it is a fascinating museum, housing the Museum of Underwater Archeology amongst a whole host of other exhibits. Well worth it!
A prototype Ipad

A prototype Ipad

Crusader graffiti

Crusader graffiti

The BIG downside to Bodrum is the noise. It’s lovely and peaceful bobbing around during the day watching the world go by. But, come nightfall, the place is transformed into decibel hell. Not only is there the wall of music coming across the bay from the Halikarnas Club, which claims to be the loudest in the Eastern Med, there are nightclub vessels weaving through the anchorage until dawn, pounding out music loud enough to make our decks vibrate. Still, we liked the place enough to stay 2 nights…ear plugs are essential kit though!

All provisioned up, we departed Bodrum and headed into the wilderness of the Gulf of Gökova for a week. The gulf is almost 50 miles long and has umpteen choices of hidden anchorages along its shores. The weather was settled, with a breeze during the day and stillness and calm by night. We had a fantastic relaxed time just chilling, with a little bit of swimming, wine drinking, reading and cribbage/scrabble/rummikub thrown in for good measure. Sadly, we never did have an anchorage completely to ourselves but there is still plenty of room to go around.

For anyone that may be interested, the anchorages that we spent time in were:

English Harbour (in Degirmen Buku) 36°55′.35N 028°09′.4E – gorgeous and incredibly well-sheltered. Apparently, the Special Boat Service were based here during the war, hence the name.

Akbük Limani 37°01′.7N 028°05E – a large, deep bay with 2 restaurant jetties at the head. We moored on the Doğa Restaurant jetty and ate ashore. Free water & electricity, ok meal, very helpful staff. 2 mini markets for limited provisions. Nice swimming.

Sakli Koyu (East Creek) 36°52′.02N 28°02′.9E – another fantastic, sheltered anchorage where we tied a line ashore…watched by a turtle!

Mersinçik 36°45′.11N 27°28′.9E – no room in the small cove on the NW corner of the bay so we anchored close in. The weather was settled so we were ok, wouldn’t be good in a blow though. V peaceful and…PT caught a sea bream 🙂 !

English Harbour

English Harbour

Akbuk Limani

Akbuk Limani

East Creek

East Creek



We’ve now rounded the headland at the western end of the Datça peninsula and we’re meandering around the Gulf of Hisarönü, getting ready to pick up our first guest of the summer at Orhaniye.

Summer has really started now and as we go south, there are more and more boats on the water. We’re moving into the busiest area of Turkey, cruising-wise that is, and it’ll be interesting to see what we make of it. In the two and a half weeks since we arrived here, we’ve been unable to stop ourselves from making comparisons with Greece. Which do we prefer? The jury’s still out. Watch this space!


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