When we set about planning season 2019, we still had a few question marks about our route and timing. Our winterising location was also yet to be chosen, however we had decided we wanted ITIKI to spend her winter on dry land, which is much easier on the boat. With friends and family wanting to join us in September we had to take a guess where we would be wintering and on balance thought it would probably be in Turkey at Marmaris. So a trip to Turkey was pencilled in towards the end of the season. As it turned the island of Leros in Greece was finally chosen as the place to go for winter, fortunately not too far from our cruising grounds in Turkey.
Visiting Turkey requires a little more preparation than other countries we have visited so far. Indeed it is the first place we have been that requires us to have a visa (we are travelling on our Aussie passports). Fortunately that is quite efficiently obtained online. Checking in to Turkey requires a shipping agent as everything is online and in Turkish! We had contacted Gurkan in advance of our arrival and emailed him all of the necessary information. Of course there is a fee for agent services and a transit log (as well as the visa) and we will need to use an agent to check out of a Turkey as well.
We left the island of Symi mid-morning on the 28th of August to head across the 13nm to Bozborun in Turkey. From many of the eastern most islands of Greece the Turkish coast is clearly visible. In fact two Turkish peninsulas wrap themselves around the Greek Island of Symi. These countries are certainly very close neighbours and Turkish waters are regularly visited by the Greek navy, much to the chagrin of the Turks! We often heard radio calls from the Turks notifying the Greek navy that their illegal incursions had been noted.
Anyway after our check in dramas in Corfu when we arrived Greece, I am pleased to say that checking out in Symi was much less painful! When we arrived at Bozborun (Turkey) we popped into our agent’s office and he had everything already prepared for us. After taking us to the port police to have our passports stamped he pointed us to a nearby pub to wait for him to finalise things. We get a transit log and crew list, a blue card (more on that later…) and passport stamps. This process would be impossible without an agent and it is certainly very efficient and painless! Bozborun is an easy place to check in but the downside is that there is nowhere to buy a prepaid SIM card. These are tightly controlled in Turkey, and I had to take the local bus over the hills and far away into Marmaris and back to get that sorted out as we just can’t live without internet. Inexplicably, 3 weeks later my service was cut off by the provider. Fortunately Keith’s wasn't as we would have been completely lost otherwise.
We plan about 5 weeks in Turkey and with 2 lots of guests arriving in the Marmaris/Gocek area later in the month so we decide to take it slowly and not go too far afield. This is novel for us but we are travel weary towards the end of a long season and taking it easy was just what we needed.
Trussed up like a Turkey
The southern coastline of Turkey is wild and rugged with high cliffs meeting the waters edge and continuing down under the water meaning the depth drops off very quickly. You can be within 50m off the cliffs and in 50-100m of water. That means finding places that are shallow enough to anchor can be challenging. Beaches are relatively rare here as are spacious, shallow bays which means swing anchoring is not the norm - lines ashore is pretty much standard in places like Gocek bay (although there are also restaurant quays and a few marinas on offer). With a steep sloping ground rising up to a rocky shore we will be dropping our anchor in 25m of water, into the deep unknown, and reversing back to within 20-30m of the shore. We will take lines from the transom cleats at roughly 45o angle to tie to a suitable rock, or bollard in some places, then tighten up on the lines and the anchor until we are locked in place – trussed up like a turkey. As I am the one swimming ashore with the lines while Keith manoeuvres ITIKI, I am grateful that the water is still warm – 26oC! I tell myself the exercise is doing me good, as I scrape my knee on a sharp rock just below the surface. The novelty has well and truly worn off by the end of the season.
We head along the rugged Turkish coastline stopping at some lovely bays along the way. One of the first and one of our favourites had no name on the map so we called it Goat and Turtle bay. We had this tiny bay to ourselves in the evenings but during the day a few boats came by for an hour or so. There were 2 or 3 turtles living here (they all look the same…) and I managed to follow one of them around for a little. [Check out the video here] They are so graceful underwater. Keith was quite frustrated with the lack of a drone in such a spectacular location so he climbed the mast to take a few photos. The water looks spectacular and conditions were calm so we were able to explore quite far afield on the SUPs.
Continuing further east we turned the corner around the peninsula and could put the gennaker up. Shortly after luffing up to crank the halyard a bit more there was a big bang! - the halyard had chafed through completely and snapped at the top of the mast. The sail hit the deck and tried to go for a swim. Our race boat experience kicked in and we both ran to the foredeck and managed to drag it back on board before it got too wet. Luckily it was not blowing too much. We stuffed it down the hatch and out of the way to deal with later and pulled the genoa out instead. BUT we forgot that we had been lazy and left the mooring ball was attached to the starboard sheet so when we tacked it was swinging around madly. It took a while to catch it and untie it, while swinging back and forth with it – the whole thing looked rather comical. Definitely amateur hour! We found a long, wide, south facing bay called Bozuk Buku and picked a spot along the western shore to tie back to. Over the next half hour or so least 15 gulets arrived but still plenty of space. Although it is reasonably well sheltered here the breeze (and swell) is beam-on, which is never great when you are “trussed up” but it settles overnight. In the morning we went ashore to check out the ruins of the old citadel on the headland. It seemed strangely familiar to me and back on the boat I checked my photos of Turkey from 17 years ago (!) and yes, I had been here before! This was one of the few places I remembered from my previous visit.
We left mid-morning to go all of 3.4 nm around the point where we anchor in the southern corner of a hammerhead bay called Serce Limani. We were considering swing anchoring but felt a bit guilty about blocking off the whole corner, even though on the chart is says "reserved for yachts"! Meanwhile a large luxury gulet came by and anchored to our right, taking a long line ashore. The crew came straight over in their RIB and offered to help us, and in no time the decision was made for us and lines were attached the shore. Now we had really claimed the space. The people from the gulet swam past and said hi then invited us aboard for a drink, must have read Keith's mind as he had just been saying how he wanted to have a look at one. These guys were a group of friends from Houston and Switzerland celebrating a 60th birthday! It was a very luxurious, owner operated boat with huge kitchen and spa tub on the foredeck. They left after lunch and we had the bay to ourselves so we released our lines to swing into the light winds. Keith takes a trip up the mast to drop a mouse line down to thread replacement halyard for the gennaker. The original lines are not the best quality and our plan is to go to 10mm dyneema before next season. Meanwhile we have an “old” halyard kindly donated by Phil from Just-a-Dash that will see us through the end of this season and keep us in business. Its great to have friends with race yachts. We have been gifted some “old” halyards from some of Sydney’s finest and they serve us perfectly well as spare halyards, mooring lines, sheets and braces…
We continue towards Marmaris coming into a bay called Ciftlik Koyu. Here there are a four restaurant quays and we decide its time to give it a try. But which one? As you enter the bay one of the staff from each of the of the restaurants races down to the end of his dock and picks up large coloured flag and starts waving to indicate they have space for you. Eeny, meanie, miney, mo… We choose Deniz Restaurant, give the boat a hose and have a lovely dinner ashore. Meanwhile some swell rolls in to remind us why we don't tie alongside more often. Creaky lines and squeaky fenders, not to mention uncouth, noisy neighbours. Thank goodness for snubber lines and Stilnox. We passed through here on our way back a month later, with mum and bro, and again had a lovely dinner at a Rafet Baba restaurant and the food was even better. Thankfully much calmer and quieter than our previous visit. Some 6 weeks later though we saw a video of this spot with a very strong Sou’easterly coming in. Thankfully no yachts here, but remembering how loose the planks on the dock were, we reckon they are all washed up on the beach by now. Definitely not the place to be in a southerly blow!
Check out the video below to see the conditions 6 weeks after our visit. The docks in the right of the picture are the ones we were moored at in the picture above.
We get away early due to the ordinary night's sleep and head into Marmaris. First on the agenda is to go into Netsel marina to refuel and pump out the blackwater tanks. The latter is a requirement in Turkey and is electronically recorded on our "Blue Card"** which our check-in agent organised for us (more on that sticky topic later…). All completed very smoothly and then we go to anchor in Marmaris bay, with a plan for provisioning. I spy a hairdresser from the boat and head straight there. While I am waiting they talk me into some long overdue maintenance (brows and pedicure). The hairdresser reminds me of Edward Scissor - hands and very quickly has my hair as short as it has ever been! Just perfect, this will last me until I get back to Oz! Meanwhile Keith wanders all over town looking for wood for a shelf in our new, outdoor cupboard (nicknamed The "Cote Mar" cupboard) and is very hot and bothered, and as it is very bouncy and busy in the town anchorage we call it a day and head over to the eastern side of the bay at an anchorage called Joya del Mar, away from the swell, the jet-skis and the comings and goings of gulets. Here we are closer to Yacht Marin and the less developed bay to its north. A bit of music from the shore but much calmer anchorage.
Marmaris is a sprawling, seaside town with no shortage of restaurants, bars, ice-creameries (Turkish gelato is really good!) and sun-burned British tourists. We head back across the bay and anchor again, take the RIB ashore and try to tick a few more things off the list. We promptly get side-tracked when we find an upholstery place (Aktif). We decide to take the plunge on the cockpit sun-screens we have been considering through the long, hot summer. Halil comes back to the boat with us to measure up. We all get a bit wet in the chop in the RIB going back and forth. I spend the afternoon wandering around Marmaris bazaar, old town and Fort while Keith goes through the templates with Halil, then it’s time to handover a cash deposit... We will be back in a couple of weeks to see how he is going. We eventually do finish our shopping trip and head back to our overnight anchorage again to escape the bounce and noise of Marmaris town. [Post Script: Halil and his team did a great job with our screens and recovering a couple of seat-back cushions. We will be well prepared for the ever-increasing summer temperatures next year.]
Left just after breakfast we make our way past a huge hammerhead bay which looks like it would have some great spots to anchor, except for the minor problem that it is a prohibited, military area. We saw one warship going out, looking like they were heading towards us at first. We started with the main up, motor sailing, but eventually got the gennaker out until the breeze angle changed. Our next stop was in the southwest corner of Ekincek Bay. We didn’t set ourselves up too well initially and we dragged so, upped anchor and headed to the next bay south called Kargi Koyu. This is a beautiful tree lined bay with pebble beach, clean water, not too many boats around. We return to this bay on our way back with some guests and try to go for a walk ashore, but it is tough going on the rugged terrain and rocky “beach”.
We started the next day around noon as we did not think we had too far to go. Unfortunately though our first choice of anchorage turned out to be not so nice as it looked on the map and poorly protected in the conditions so had no choice but to continue on. This turned out to be further than we would have liked for a day trip and we would have started earlier if we had known. The wind really kicks in along the coast here in the afternoon and despite a fairly benign forecast we saw 32kts at the top of the mast giving us an exciting if uncomfortable ride reaching 11+kts of boatspeed. We were grateful that we had already opted for 2 reefs in the main which was initially overkill, but our first reef was just about to blow out (those crappy FP polyester lines again…). While we had started out with the gennaker (on the newly installed JAD halyard), then swapped to the genoa with then newly minted barber hauler system gives us a much better sail shape and sheeting angle. Not the most pleasant of swells either, a bit confused with joggle from the nearby coast and mostly on the beam. It was a relief to find the lovely and well protected "Ragged Bay" on the headland that marks the entrance to Gocek bay, our next destination. It is aptly named as we are feeling pretty ragged after that sail! In the late afternoon light we take lines ashore in the eastern end of this bay. There are not too many boats here and half of them leave before nightfall anyway. The wind backs off at night and we sleep peacefully.
Gocek Bay is an amazing place. I could try and liken it to Pittwater in Sydney but it is bigger, busier, clearer water, more goats and (probably) less sharks! In some ways it is like the Balearics in that there are dozens nooks and crannies to anchor (and take lines ashore), plenty of restaurant docks, some places with (free) mooring buoys as well as a few marinas. The popular and sheltered anchorages are mostly along the western shore of this large bay but it is a short hop across to the eastern side of the bay to the lively town of Fethiye and nearby resorts. We spent just on 3 weeks in this area but you could really spend months here and some do. As we did in the Balearics we find ourselves staying a couple of days in some anchorages and then moving a couple of nautical miles to the next one. We used the opportunity to do some reconnaissance as we have two sets of VIP guests joining us in this area. Everyone has their favourite bays around here, ours were 22-Fathom bay and Yassica Aldari (mooring buoy near one of the islands in the middle of the bay). As you can see from our track we criss-crossed the bay a couple of times also enjoying Wall Bay, Ruin Bay, Tomb Bay and Ortism Bay to name a few.
Gocek itself is an odd little town. The usual collection of gulets and tourist boats and restaurants line the town quay and one street back a recently developed and almost artificial looking commercial street. Excellent kebabs can be had at the bizarrely named “Kebab Hospital” restaurant. Pleased to report we did not need a trip to the hospital after eating there!
The town of Fethiye has a lot to offer too in terms of civilisation, provisioning with the most amazing bi-weekly market, fish market, supermarkets and souvenir bazaar. There are hundreds of barber shops too! There is a large marina in the bay (with pump out facilities…) and the infamous Hotel California of Marinas – Yacht Classic Hotel. The latter is actually a hotel/holiday resort with pool, health spa and restaurant, as well as space for quite a few yachts. Despite a recent price increase it is still quite reasonable with a discount on offer if you eat at the (very good) restaurant. And yes ladies the spa package is excellent value too. You really won’t want to leave this place, and many cruisers just keep coming back!
With a little extra time before our guests arrive we spent a few days just outside Gocek bay and further east. First we spent the night at Gemiler Island, an anchorage on the northern side of the island in a channel facing the mainland. This was a night that was best forgotten. At sunset we had several crazy disco pirate ships reversing through the channel, then a tideline of muck came floating past so no swimming. Overnight we had 20kts beam on gusts funnelling through that dislodged our anchor in the night leaving us a little closer to the rocks than we were comfortable with and not enough scope to tighten up. I swam ashore at first light to release us and we left to go to Cold Water bay. This is beautiful, clean and sheltered bay and we had a very relaxing couple of days here, just swimming and paddling. The surrounding terrain was too rugged to go ashore though. The crazy disco pirate ships spend the afternoon on the opposite side of the bay, doing a quick hot lap along the far shore before leaving to annoy the folk at Gemilar island anchorage.
Peel me a grape
Meanwhile back in Gocek bay with our guests we are starting to see some of the same boats hopping from inlet to inlet. The good news is you really don’t need to go anywhere near civilisation as everything you could possibly need comes to you. You could just sit on your boat and wave at a passing vessel to fulfil your every desire for the day, day after day. Firstly there is the ubiquitous “ice-cream man”, who will sometimes help you with your lines ashore in the expectation that you and your crew will invest in a cherry Magnum or 3; then there is a couple in a slick looking powerboat offering massages in the comfort of your own cockpit; next comes a guy in tinny selling the world’s most amazing “village bread” – kind of a cross between damper and a scone – as well homemade preserves and some seasonal local produce; next a slightly larger boat which has great selection of fresh, organic F&V and a few basics such as eggs, juice and milk; finally the piece de resistance – The Migros Supermarket boat! This is a super-duper, 40m long, 2,000sqm , air-conditioned, floating supermarket – complete with shopping trolleys! It does the rounds every day from Fethiye, motoring slowly into each of the most popular and larger bays, and in no time half a dozen RIBs dropped into the water and are racing out to it. There is a dude on the transom to take your line and take care of your RIB while you shop. Meanwhile the boat continues to motor slowly around the bay trailing a heap of RIBs trailing behind it. You need to be reasonably quick though, otherwise you could be in the next bay by the time you finish!
Well all this eating and drinking is making us (and our holding tanks) quite full. We can’t release them in this beautiful bay where everyone is swimming, that would be highly illegal, and pretty icky too. But fear not, there is no need waste valuable relaxation time to up-anchor and go into “town” to pump out your tanks! If you wait long enough, or put out a call, the “sh1t ship” will come to you and relieve you off your waste water, along with 50 Turkish Lira, and dutifully record the event on your “blue card”. Which brings me to…
I wonder why they chose blue…
Ah yes, the blue card. The powers that be have decided that pleasure craft over a certain size are not permitted to sail in Turkish waters unless they have holding tanks. Not really clear whether these are supposed to be both black water and grey water tanks but most yachts would only have blackwater tanks, with the greywater going over the side. In addition, it is not permitted to empty the holding tanks into Turkish waters - they must be pumped out at authorised pumping stations and this is electronically recorded on the “blue card”, along with the volume extracted. Officially the expectation is 50L per person per day! That’s a lot of 1s and 2s, and probably all your grey water as well. Unofficially we are told that pumping out once per week is a reasonable expectation, so we aim to comply with that. We didn’t have our blue card checked by the authorities during our stay so we can’t say, however fellow sailors report that “I went into Greek waters to empty my tanks, officer …” seems to be an acceptable “excuse” for insufficient pump out events or low volumes. Those with composting toilets must have to do a bit of “smoke and mirrors” when it comes time to pump out…
So our final night in Turkey we spent at Albatross Marina at Marmaris. It was a pleasure to meet the highly-regarded Atila Alada of Offshore Sailing who has a highly regarded and very extensive workshop here. Although we did not think we needed any work done our forward saloon hatch just so happened to fall off the day we arrived and Atila and his team were able to do an emergency repair overnight which was fantastic! We said farewell to our final guest for the season in the morning, and decided to head straight for Symi in Greece, so a big thanks to our agent Uğur who facilitated a rapid check out with the skipper remaining on the boat due to the bouncy and gusty conditions. We had an exhilarating, reaching sail along the Turkish coast before goose-winging up the channel into the now familiar Symi Town. We had a great time in Turkey, the people were wonderful and the scenery was stunning. We will be back next year for sure! Oh but wait! I haven’t told you about our amazing trip up the Dalyan river! Stay tuned for that one, coming soon…
Meanwhile check out some more highlights of Turkey:
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.