Sailing in Turkey

TurkeyTurkey looks somewhat like a left foot wearing one of those Japanese shoes. The ones where the big toe has its own pocket. The big toe is kicking Greece. (That is perhaps appropriate, the Greeks and Turks don't get along too well.) Down near the bunion marking the little toe is the Isle of Rhodes. Rhodes is Greek, but the mainland opposite it is the area in which we sailed for two weeks the beginning of September -- the Carian and Lycian coasts, from the Fethiye Körfezi (Gulf of Fethiye) in the east to the Hisarönü Körfezi in the west.

Turkish flagWe really began our adventure around January when we decided to check out the Sunsail advertisements in the Times. (We were living near London at the time, so it was the London Times, naturally.) First we decided on Turkey because of the descriptions in the brochure. Also, we got good recommendations from people who had visited the country.

Turkey it was, and a flotilla holiday as well. We didn't want to go it alone on a bare boat charter. We had never been the area and didn't know the waters and local conditions. The flotilla seemed to offer the best opportunity for people like us. There would be plenty of "free sailing" -- times when we would not have to tag along with everyone, but there would also be a lead boat to tell us about local conditions and give us advice on places to visit.

When to go wasn't too much of a decision. We wanted to take Michael, so it had to be while he was visiting us for his summer holidays. We also had to be able to afford the trip, so it couldn't be during the "high" season. That left only the first two weeks of September. That is a pretty good time anyway, since the Mediterranean is still warm, but the air temperature is not too hot. Also, since English and European schools are back in session, there are fewer people visiting.

We had a small problem, in that there were only three of us. The minimum package in the brochure was for four people on a 32 foot boat. That was solved by enlisting our friend Tom Wall. It was a brave decision for him; to spend two weeks on a sail boat when he had never done more than an occasional day sail before. We committed the trip, sent our money in early to get the ten percent discount and got ready to leave on the first of September for Dalaman Turkey, our port of entry.

It's never that simple, is it! The first was a Saturday, and the plane scheduled out at 9:30 am. (That is a good start time, since it leaves less time for the plane to become late. The charter used, Dan Air, is synonymous with travel delays.) Thursday night I became violently ill. Diarrhea and vomiting simultaneously. Not a good omen. Luck and a little medication got me under control by Friday night. Susan had to do the packing. I was quite dehydrated but recovering. We left on time from Gatwick.

Saturday afternoon we landed in Dalaman. It was hot. I was still dehydrated. It was beautiful. We found one benefit of being US Citizens. All the Brits had to pay £5 on arrival for a visa. We Yanks didn't need one. Dalaman airport is in the middle of nowhere. Dalaman town is up the Dalaman river from the coast, but the inlet is too shallow for yachts. So, we took a bus to Göçek, a trip of about an hour. Göçek is a small village, but has a rather nice quay for all the boats to tie up to. It is one end point on Sunsail's Caunos flotilla route. The other is Keçi Bükü near Orhaniye.

Göçek must rely on the yacht charter trade for its prosperity. It has a wharf from which chrome is loaded, but most of the businesses are catering to the tourists. We and the other members of our flotilla met under the tile roof shading the tables at one of the local restaurants. We met our lead boat crew. A skipper and engineer from New Zealand and a hostess from Plymouth, England. We got our boat assignment and were pleased to discover that we had been upgraded to a 35 footer. The extra three feet make a world of difference in the cabin area.

The boat was a Beneteau Island 350. French built and designed for the yacht charter trade. It had two aft cabins which would (theoretically) sleep two. A forward Vee berth, also for two and the settee area. We each got a berth. Michael took the Vee, Tom and I each had an aft cabin and Susan slept on the settee. The boat also had a wheel, which is more comfortable than a tiller on long windward passages. The galley had two sinks, a gas range/oven and a large ice box / refrigerator. All in all, the boat was quite well equipped. Much better than the ones we chartered to sail to Catalina and the Channel Islands.

The headsail was roller furling. There was an anchor windless for the bow anchor and all the mast lines were led to the cockpit. The jib winches were not self tailing, otherwise it was ideally rigged for cruising.

It was not quite so hot down by the water. Also, I figured out that the reason I wasn't feeling well was that I was still dehydrated from my sickness. I started drinking plenty of water. (Bottled to avoid "Turkish tummy") That made me start feeling better. We loaded our gear on the boat, went shopping for supplies and it was time for dinner. I think that dinners were one of the better aspects of our holiday. They were quite good and quite inexpensive. The most we ever paid for dinner was about £10 each. (About $18) There were little restaurants in all the coves we stayed in, too.

We spent Saturday night on the boat in Göçek. Sunday morning Sunsail sponsored breakfast at the same restaurant we met in the day before. There the lead boat also briefed us on the flotilla in general and on our destination for that night. We were to be in port by 6 p.m. if possible and not to sail at night except in an emergency. If the winds were above force 6 we were not to leave port. (Sometimes this would be enforced by the local authorities. They would impound the ships papers until the winds subsided.) The flotilla had some destinations in common--about half the nights. How we got to them and what we did on the other nights was up to each boat.

The first night was a common destination. In fact the lead boat would throw a punch party for the flotilla to help people mix. The destination was Ruin Bay at the bottom of Skopea Liman. This was just about due South of Göçek. A Liman is (apparently) a sub gulf or a bay. Anyway, the body of water was separated from the Fethiye Körfezi by a number of Islands. Ruin Bay itself was at the base of the Liman. It had its requisite restaurant and the ruins of a Roman bath (hence the name.)

We sailed out into the Körfezi, outside the islands because the wind was coming straight up from the South. We figured that we would have less tacking to do out in the open waters. It was a good choice and we had a lovely sail.

In Ruin Bay the flotilla tied up and rafted to a rather rickety looking wharf. We were assured that it was stronger than it looked, and it must have been. Thirteen boats were attached either directly or indirectly to it. At the punch party we got to meet most of the other crews of the flotilla. We then had dinner at the restaurant. This was not necessarily what you are thinking of as a restaurant. There was a "kitchen" up the hill, an ice box for the beer, wine and bottled water, and a long row of tables under the trees. Many of the restaurants were like this. The food was good, and the price was as well.

Monday and Tuesday were free sailing days. We were due in Wednesday evening in a bay not far from Ruin Bay. We decided to go to the "city" for the first night. We wanted to top off our water supply and our provisions. Besides, the hostess told us of a restaurant in Fethiye which had a nice quay, good water (But not drinkable--for that we had to keep stocks of bottled water.) and a swimming pool.

We got to Fethiye by sailing out of Skopea Liman between Domuz Adasi (Adasi is Island) and the mainland peninsula. From there it was a straight broad reach to the bay of Fethiye. We went below Kizil Adasi and South of Fethiye Adasi which guards the entrance to the bay. (The Turks are pretty stingy on names, tending to make good use of only a few. Göçek's bay is guarded by Göçek Adasi as well.) We got in early to be sure of a place on the quay we had been told of.

The shops in Turkish towns tend to be open late. This was a refreshing change from England. It also made sense. It was quite hot during the afternoon, but quite pleasant at night. In Fethiye we changed some money. (There were no banks in Göçek.) We also went tourist shopping. Susan found a nice leather purse, but mostly we just looked. After all, it was early in our journey. We showered at the restaurant. (The boat had a shower, but the water temperature was determined by ambient temperature.) We also used the swimming pool. We had dinner at the same restaurant then went back into town for the evening.

Tuesday we sailed back across the Körfezi to Top Burnu. This is a large bay in the Skopea Liman across from Yassica Adalari. (I think Adalari is either a different gender or a diminutive of Adasi.) We picked this destination because it sounded secluded. Probably wouldn't be many of the flotilla there. We were right. There was one other flotilla boat at the quay in Fethiye. No one was there at Top Burnu.

On the way over, we stopped for lunch at Katrancik Adasi, a little island along the eastern coast of the Körfezi. There were not many safe stopping points on the Fethiye side of the gulf. No place other than Fethiye which was safe for over night. We got a good taste of why at lunch. While we were having a swim and lunch, the winds picked up. We didn't get our after lunch swim because we had to leave the anchorage and get to sea where it was safe.

We had a quite heavy wind which would have been directly on our nose if we had kept to our original passage to Top Burnu. Instead, we went back up towards Göçek. I figured that we might not be able to make Top Burnu by the Southerly route. If fact, If the wind were as heavy inside of the Islands protecting Skopea Liman as it was outside, we might just be stopping back at Göçek for the night. On the way, Susan lost her sailing hat. It blew off and we just weren't going to look for it in the winds.

Things were better in the protection of the Liman, so we went ahead to Top Burnu. The restaurant there had a quay, but we were advised that it was not safe to tie to. We set anchor in the bay a couple of hundred yards off the restaurant. Once we were settled, we discovered that Susan's hat was not lost after all. It had caught on the stern of the boat and traveled all the way with us. We figured it had to be a well seasoned hat to hang on like that. We all had a nice swim off the stern of the boat. Dinner was at another "under the trees" restaurant. It was definitely the worst value of the trip. The bay was quite pretty, but I think I would not return there.

Wednesday's sailing distance was quite short, so we stayed in Top Burnu until after lunch. Kapi Creek was a regrouping destination for the flotilla. It is a long narrow bay just South of the straight between the mainland peninsula and Domuz Adasi. Here we had a quay, but the bottom in front of it was shallow. We had to anchor off it slightly and tie lines to it. Had about a 10 foot gap, so we had to inflate the dingy to get ashore. This cove had two "under the trees" restaurants. We had dinner at the more up market of the two. It had chandeliers hanging from its trees.

Kapi Creek was a good regrouping place. Our journey on Thursday took us out of the Fethiye Körfezi east into the Rhodes Channel. This was one of the longest passages of the holiday, around Kurtoglu Burnu (the eastern point of the Fethiye Körfezi), past the Dalaman river estuary and into Ekinçek Liman. The sailing was quite nice, though. There were no stopover places for lunch because of the prevailing winds, so we went out to sea a bit and then up on a reach to our destination.

At Ekinçek the flotilla was rafted at anchor with long lines ashore in the south east corner of the bay. On the hills above our anchorage was the restaurant for the night. This was the class restaurant of all the bays we visited. It had a real building, a spectacular view of the bay and a diverse and delightful menu.

We stayed in Ekinçek two nights. On Friday Sunsail had arranged for a Dalaman river trip. This was a flat bottomed boat which picked us up at our yachts and took us up the Dalaman river to visit Caunos and Dylan. Caunos is an ancient city now in ruins. There are Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins in the city area. Also in the area along the river are Lycian rock tombs carved out of the sides of the cliffs.

Dylan is a river resort village near the fresh water lake which is the head of the Dalaman river. We wandered the ruins, then went up to the lake for a fresh water swim. Then back to Dylan for a late lunch and some shopping.

The charter boat brought us back to Ekinçek in the evening. We again had dinner in the restaurant over looking the bay.

Saturday was to be another long passage. Destination Marmaris with no opportunity for day stops along the way. Marmaris was the largest town we visited. It also had a marina with showers! We intended to leave Ekinçek reasonably early and get in early. No such luck. Ekinçek had really clear water and little fishes. Susan had some old bread. (We would get more in Marmaris.) She decided to feed the fish. Unfortunately, she lost her balance throwing the bread and fell in off the stern. She didn't lose the bread, but her glasses did fall off and land in the eel grass below the boat. We found them eventually, but it did delay our start.

The sail to Marmaris was also a nice reach. The boat wouldn't sail into wind worth a damn, but it was good on reaches and runs. We made good time, traveling at between 6 and 8 knots. We arrived in time to get a good spot on the quay. Normally we would have to tie up to a quay either stern to or bow to it with an anchor out. In Marmaris they had lazy lines out to sunken concrete pills. You just picked them up on the quay and tied them to your bow. Really quite convenient.

The showers at Marmaris were all they were reported to be. Plenty of hot water and lots of pressure. In town we found a ships chandlery and got a US flag to fly as a pennant. We also got some small line, the only thing which wasn't properly provisioned by Sunsail.

Michael got a leather "bomber" jacket. He really got excited about it. (Probably got more excited when, in Heathrow on the way back to the US, he saw one costing about four times as much.) Susan got a "carpet" purse and I got a vest. I got the vest to wear at the dress-up barbecue at the end of the trip. I am not sure I will ever wear it elsewhere. Wasn't expensive, though.

We had a long time in Marmaris. The injectors of our engine had blown by, so the flotilla engineer pulled the head Saturday when we got in. He had it back in place Sunday about four. Fortunately, the next destination was just a short trip south of Marmaris.

The winds were up, and unfortunately, from the south. Our trip down to Kumlu Bükü was short, but exciting. We started in reasonable winds, so had full sails up. The boat has a rather heavy weather helm. It was quite hard work holding it off wind. When the wind pulled the boat around 180 degrees one time, I decided it was time to reef the main.

It stayed windy in Kumlu Bükü. We tied up to mooring buoys and had to row ashore to the restaurant. I did the rowing because I was a little worried about being blown back out to sea. It wasn't too bad, though.

The wind kept up, so the trip Monday to Loryma was long and hard. It was 25 miles and the wind was on our nose the whole way. We sailed down to Kizil Adasi which was about three quarters of the trip. After spending about an hour tacking past Kizil Adasi, we decided to turn on the engine. We went the rest of the way slogging into high seas, getting lots of spray over the bow. It was a bit of work at the helm, since often it was necessary to turn broadside to the seas to keep from digging the bow in. Fortunately, it was quite warm, so I steered wearing just my swim suit. Tom lost his hat on this passage, but since it didn't have the sailing experience of Susan's, it was gone for good.

Loryma was also a mooring, but since the wind was still up, the flotilla skipper ran our anchor out with his dingy as well. The wind was so high that I decided it was too dangerous to row into shore. We would have had dinner on board except that the restaurant owner sent his son out to get people. He must have become concerned at the lack of clientele. It blew all that night and was still going the next morning. We found out that the Sunsail people nickname Loryma "Windy City". There wasn't any other choice for a stop off, though, so what can you do?

Tuesday and Wednesday were free sailing days. However, given the previous two nights everyone had spent, it was not surprising that the whole flotilla ended up in Bozburun on Tuesday. Bozburun is around the point to the east from Marmaris. It is way up at the top of Sömbeki Körfezi. A well protected bay with an island sheltering it from seaward. It is also a small town as opposed to a bay with restaurant.

The trip around the point was rough, but not so bad as the day before. Once around, we were no longer going into wind, so had a delightful down wind run. Got the boat up to 9 knots. (If you believe the knot meter.) The boat had a whisker pole, so we poled the jib out wing on wing. The 9 knots was with two reefs still in the main. We didn't bother to take them out.

Bozburun was another quay. This time we tied bow to with our stern anchor out. We got a spot on the quiet side of the harbor. We would have enjoyed a quiet night, except Michael got sick. It might have been something he ate, or might have been the start of something. He was sick again on Thursday and stayed ill the rest of the trip.

The restaurant we used in Bozburun had hot water showers, which were interesting. The water was heated with a wood fire! Still, it was hot and we hadn't had that since Marmaris. Michael and I also got a Turkish shave and haircut. A really good shave, haircut and massage all for three pounds (About $5.50). We reprovisioned for the last time here as well and Tom replaced his hat.

Thursday night was to be a regrouping of the flotilla in a bay named Dirsek. It is just around the point from the Sömbeki Körfezi in the Hisarönü Körfezi. Around Bozburun there were no really interesting places to visit so we decided to go round and spend Thursday in Port Losta. This was up near our final destination, and we would end up sailing back the way we had come to get to Dirsek.

There was an island with a ruined church we wanted to visit. It would make a nice day stop on the way back for Thursday night and Port Losta sounded interesting. Wednesday the wind was in our favor. We had a broad reach down to the point and expected a similar sail once around. We didn't even mind motoring around the point. There was a submerged rock about a third of a mile off shore named "Evil Arthur". I'm not real good at estimating distances like thirds or halves of miles, but I know when I'm next to the shore. Motoring let us hug the coast and avoid any risk of the rock.

The sail down to Port Losta was indeed a reach until the land patterns turned it into a down wind run. We came into Port Losta with full sails. The bay was quite large so we were able to sail in it while looking for the proper quay / restaurant. The wind did pick up, and as we dropped our sails to motor closer, we saw a small day sailor capsize. They righted themselves with no difficulties and headed back (I presume) to Orhaniye, the next bay over.

We finally determined where we were supposed to be and tied up bow to the quay in front of the Falcon restaurant. A couple on one of the 32 footers from the flotilla was already there, and a bit later another foursome arrived.

There were two restaurants together ashore, but since one of the boats was using the lazy line from the Falcon, we chose it for dinner. It was definitely a good choice. A full dinner including wine, starters and desert for five pounds a person. To be sure we were pleased, the proprietor invited the ten of us for a Turkish breakfast the next morning on the house. His hospitality might have been influenced by us being the only customers in the port but it was still genuine and well appreciated.

The bad weather of the trip came Wednesday night. It rained. A cold rain, too. I know, I had to get out of bed and go take in the towels which were hanging on the safety lines. It all cleared by daybreak, so I guess we really can't complain.

In the morning we wandered around the town and bays then set out for the short trip down to Dirsek. We were quite smug in our decision to come around the point on Wednesday because the wind was blowing quite hard again in the wrong direction. We would have to put up with it for a few hours, but then we would be safe in the bay and waiting for the rest of the flotilla. Needless to say, we didn't bother with the sails. Started with the reefed main up for stability, but decided that even that was too much. The seas were as big as our first "victory at sea" day, but spaced a little better. I didn't have to steer so much to avoid burying the bow. Still, it was wet. It was also colder than the first time, so foul weather gear was in order.

All three boats from Port Losta came into Dirsek about the same time. We were the middle boat. The wind was pretty high in the bay, so we waited in a holding pattern until the first in got securely tied bow to the quay. The third boat was out far enough that they had radio contact with the rest of the flotilla. We learned that the rest of the boats decided not to go round the point, the weather was too rough for them. They retreated back to Bozburun and elected to hold the barbecue there.

We briefly considered going there as well, after all, I had bought a vest for the barbecue. We were already secure on the quay. The cove was beautiful. The restaurant owner had done a nice job of landscaping, etc. Besides, if it was too rough for the flotilla to come around our way, it would be as bad for us going back. Also, since we were supposed to be back on this side Saturday, we stood the distinct possibility of having two miserable roundings of the point.

The three skippers decided we would stay in Dirsek. As we arrived, the restaurant owner left in his boat for Bozburun. (Remember the heavy weather?) This was an omen. The restaurant didn't have any food. He must have spent his profit on environmental improvements rather than food storage. His wife said that if he weren't back by seven, no dinner.

He got back by seven, but it was on Friday morning, so for the first time we had to eat dinner aboard. The three boats pooled their emergency provisions and we got some potatoes and onions from the restaurant. Dinner for ten was served onboard our boat. (It was the largest.) The meal may not have been as exotic as we got from the restaurants, but the camaraderie more than made up. Everyone enjoyed it. We have plans for a reunion of the "Dirsek ten" if we can find a restaurant in London with no food.

The wind kept up all night. Blowing down on our stern. We all let our shore lines out and took up on the stern anchors to keep us well off the concrete quay. Michael got sick again, but this time it was not from the food. He didn't recover fully until we were back in England a few days later.

By Friday morning the wind had slacked to a reasonable level. Besides, our destination was now with the wind. The flotilla were on their way around, and going to have a race to finish out the holiday. We didn't participate. Didn't think it was a good thing to do with a sick crew member. Instead we went to visit the ruined church that we missed the day before because of the weather.

We had a nice down wind sail to the island and anchored for lunch at the church. The resident donkey came down to greet us. We took a quartered apple ashore to feed him. For that, he followed us all over as we explored the ruins. The race course went right by our anchorage. It finished off the tip of the island, so we got a ringside seat as the boats all sailed by.

From the church we had a pleasant broad reach to Keçi Bükü, then a run down past the Byzantine fort built on an island in the bay. This was Orhaniye, our final destination. It was also the most interesting moorings of the trip. We were supposed to get in by four in the afternoon. Again we had a hat over board. Tom's new one from Bozburun took the plunge. This time we were ready. The crew kept a steady eye on the hat and watched it sink quickly to the bottom as we brought the boat around.

We actually turned the corner into the bay at four so I figure we were on time. Most of the other boats did get in before us, though. The early boats were stern to the quay, but there were two flotillas due in, and not enough room at the quay for everyone. We late comers tied up bow to bow with the boats on the quay. That made for an interesting time unloading all our gear from the boat Saturday morning. Not as bad, though as the people who got the boats for the return flotilla to Göçek. Their plane was five hours late. They must have arrived exhausted at 11:30 or midnight and had to get everything onboard in the dark.

There was not much to the area where we ended the trip. Orhaniye proper is inland from the bay. There is a resort hotel nearby run by the Sunsail group. By the quay there was only a restaurant and a single shack "store" where you could get some (but not much) provisions. Well, that wasn't our problem. The restaurant was not great, but it sufficed. Saturday morning we boarded a bus to go back to Dalaman airport.

Fortunately, the itinerary included a stop at the Sunsail Hotel in Marmaris. The plane bringing the next group in was the same which was to take us back. That meant we were five hours late, too. The Sunsail rep checked the flight when we stopped in Marmaris, and we didn't leave there until the flight was in the air from London. I think waiting by the beach at a resort hotel sure beats waiting in Gatwick airport. Even waiting in Gatwick would have been better than waiting at Dalaman airport.

We finally got off about 9:30 p.m. and arrived Gatwick at about midnight. We got home about 2 in the morning. (Turkey is two hours ahead of London.) Arriving at that time in the evening on a charter flight was really nice. We were the only ones in the queue for the "Non EEC Passport" passport control. It was a tiring return, but at least we had Sunday to recover. The kitty cats have forgiven us, so we are now dreaming of being able to go back some day.