Backtracking

4 Aug

Well, our little foray into Turkey is now at an end. It was only a brief taster of the country, just under 8 weeks. It definitely wasn’t long enough but commitments in the Ionian are calling and our next “milestone”, the journey back across the Aegean is one we just want to get on with now, rather than linger while the anticipation and related tension builds.

We covered a lot of ground during our short stay. Starting at Kuşadası we covered over 400 nautical miles to our furthest east stop at Gökkoya at the far end of Kekova Roads. (Then another 130 miles back to Bozburun where we formally checked out of Turkey.) Most were short hops with passages over 30 miles kept to a minimum and we managed to visit most of the places that we’d wanted to or that had been recommended to us.

The weather gods looked on us very favourably. A spell of windy weather at the end of July coincided with Sara’s arrival, so we decided to stay put in the excellent shelter of Orhaniye for a few days, but other than that we’ve pretty much had wind when we wanted it and calm the rest of the time (or maybe any memories of unfavourable conditions have already faded beyond recall!)

Prior to going to Turkey, we’d heard so many differing views of the country from a cruiser’s point of view. Many said, “You’ll absolutely love it!”; some said they found the place frustrating and couldn’t wait to get back to Greece; whilst others had decided that, given the bad publicity on the Internet regarding the rules and regulations, they had chosen to give Turkey a miss altogether. We decided that the only way was to find out for ourselves….and we’re glad we did! 🙂

What we liked most about the country were:

1). THE TURKISH PEOPLE
Pretty much without fail, we were met with friendliness, courtesy and a genuine desire to be helpful. The Turks are born salespeople, but even when it was clear that there was no profit to be made they went out of their way to help.
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2). MARKETS
Most of the towns and villages that we visited held a weekly market. We just loved wandering around the maze of stalls, always with the freshest of produce, just marvelling in the sensory overload of aromas, noise and colour. The stall holders were very eager to draw you in with quirky sales patter but always good natured and accepting of a polite refusal.

3.) HAMAMS (Turkish Baths)

We’d been disappointed to leave Istanbul without having been to a hamam (although, to be honest, our omission was probably more to do with my anxiety about the etiquette – do you have to take all your kit off?? Will it be sleazy?). So we were determined to visit one before we left Turkey altogether. Sara was also keen, so, with female moral support on hand I had no excuse.


The steam, body scrub and sudsy wash were fabulous. You come out of there feeling like a shiny, happy person… minus several layers of grotty dead skin. Sara and I finished off the process with a face mask, PT went for a full-body massage. We all agreed that attending hamams could easily be addictive! 🙂

4). EFFICIENCY
Before I go on, I should state that we absolutely love Greece, that’s why we base ourselves there. However, we couldn’t help making the odd comparison regarding efficiency and enterprise. We were immediately impressed how clean and tidy the environment is in Turkey (I know that we only experienced a tiny sample of a massive country). We saw almost no litter or graffiti and only once or twice came across the odour of rotting rubbish, which has been common in the Mediterranean countries we’ve visited.

Services and facilities for yachts were pretty good, although not always cheap. The coastline is typically very deep, often too deep for anchoring, so many bays have little jetties with laid moorings and, quite often, water & electricity too. The jetties are run by restaurants and there is an expectation that, in return for using the facilities, you’ll eat ashore. The standards vary considerably, but the welcome was always warm.

There wasn’t much to not like about Turkey but the main things that were a bit tedious were:

1). ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION RULES & REGS
The whole Blue Card system (see earlier entry for an explanation)is, in theory a really good idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to swim in cleaner water and to know that efforts are being made to protect marine life. However, in reality, it is difficult for most boats to fully comply with the scheme and the authorities in some ports are also paying lip service to enforcing it. For instance, in one port there are no pump-out facilities but officials will still register a pump out and, if asked what should be done with the waste, they shrug and tell the boat owner to dump it at sea.

We did have the tank pumped out a couple of times to create a record on our Blue Card (we’d read that we may have difficulty checking out of the country otherwise). The first time we tried to pump out our full-to-the-brim tank was unsuccessful.

The system uses vacuum suction which wasn’t going to work until our long-suffering skipper had stripped down the top of the tank and fitted a hose to reach the bottom of the tank….all done in 38° heat. We eventually achieved a successful pump out but I’m afraid our soapy water all went overboard after dark. We just became rather paranoid about being caught and fined.


The good side to the environmental protection regulations is that, in some bays, bollards and mooring buoys have been provided to prevent damage to tree trunks (from mooring lines) and to the seabed. We liked these and it certainly made life much easier at times, so it wasn’t all bad.
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2). Gulets

I’d heard about gulets ( pronounced ‘goo-lett’) 2-masted wooden sailing boats used for tourist charters, but hadn’t really thought too much about them. Sailing the south-western coast of Turkey is a guaranteed way to get to know them better….they are EVERYWHERE! And they are BIG!!
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You just settle down in a secluded anchorage, maybe sharing it with only a couple of other diminutive boats…and then ‘they’ arrive with throbbing engines and generators and moor up only yards from you before they proceed to turn up the sound system so that the clients can party into the night. In town harbours, they take up most of the available space on the quay. Whilst at sea, they are majestic (rarely seen with any sail up though) and cut through the water single-mindedly heading for their next destination. Woe betide any yachtie that thinks that they have right-of-way! I’m sure they’d mow any small fry down without batting an eyelid!

However much of a pain in the neck gulets are, they are undoubtedly very beautiful, usually with acres of pristine varnished wood gleaming in the sunlight. The sky’s the limit with gulets. Whilst some are quite modest in size and quality, there are some that offer sheer luxury and indulgence with 5-star fare and accommodation. Although we two curmudgeons moan about them, PT has admitted to secretly wanting one of his very own. I could quite happily live with that…as long as there’s a full crew at my beck and call!

So, we loved Turkey and one day may well go back to explore the places that we missed, inland and coastal. Maybe we’ll even try a Blue Cruise on a gulet! But, for the meantime, Greece is where our hearts are. The Ionian here we come!
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One Response to “Backtracking”

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