Why Not Turkey? It's Delightful!
The ancient land by a turquoise sea offers a perfect getaway for the bareboat charterer with an appetite for bigger adventures.
A Different Destination
Taking a trip to Turkey is like taking a trip to Mars.
There’s the recurrent call to prayer, which, droning out of electric speakers, can sound, to inexperienced ears, like the buzz of a mosquito. There’s the inscrutable language that, to ears and eyes more used to the Romance languages, yields scant clues to comprehension. There’s the dress: Why are some women covered head to toe, why are some in high heels, why are some in both? And public toilets I get, but public baths, with massages? And tombs cut into rocky hillsides, ruins tumbling down to the shore?
You sure don’t find these in the British Virgin Islands. Turkey is a challenge set a rung or two higher on the charter scale than the B.V.I. It’s a big adventure in a different kind of cruising ground—and totally worth it.
And, hey, it’s not that hard.
True, the meltemi blows. But on long, sunny days along the Lycian coast, it’s possible to work with this wind blowing from the west, instead of against it. Med mooring does become second nature, whether you’re using laid lines for the bow or tying a stern line ashore to a bollard or a rock. And the region south of our departure point, The Moorings base in Göçek, is so full of coves and secluded bays and protected indentations that finding friendly water is no big deal. That’s true even in July, a month that, according to conventional wisdom, is marred by vacationing European crowds. (However, in August, a monthlong break for many Europeans, all bets are off.) As for the locals, it’s a point of pride, taken very seriously, that visitors must have a good time. Enjoy it.
How did it all begin? Rave reviews from sailors who’d already cruised in Turkey made me curious. During my visit to her Vermont home, famed solo circumnavigator Tania Aebi showed off a beautiful multicolored glass lamp and a pouch of spices she brought back after a flotilla she’d led here. “Bring a shopping bag for the bazaar!” she advised.
Veteran bluewater voyager Liza Copeland, who cruised in Turkey and the rest of the Med aboard her own boat, Bagheera, dished out advice on kilim, or carpet, buying. “Measure out your home’s floor spaces before you leave!”
And don’t forget to drink the fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice! That was the tip from colleagues Peter and Carol King, charter-vacation brokers and partners in CW’s Adventure Charter program. They’d recently returned from a trip they led aboard a Turkish gulet, one of the many traditional wooden double-masted motorsailers that carry guests to destinations along the country’s coast and among its islands.
With those admonitions came Turkish tourism department-issued descriptors: center of world history, cradle of civilizations, seat of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, last home of the Virgin Mary, presenter of coffee to the West.
But what does a cradle of ancient civilization and a continental crossroads look and feel like? How does it taste? How does a rising world economic player mostly situated in Asia and a secular democratic republic whose population of some 78 million is 99 percent Muslim comport itself? And what can an American celebrating the Fourth of July look forward to while visiting a country that is awaiting membership in the European Union while sharing borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, and Syria?
For answers to these heady East-West questions before I got there to check it out firsthand, I consulted the work of Rod Heikell, who’s been cruising throughout the Med for decades and is unparalleled in his passion for the region. Heikell publishes and regularly updates a series of detailed guides and pilots of countries and destinations there.
While cruising and researching his books over the decades, he’s documented the growth of Turkey’s infrastructure and economy as it relates to the proliferation of tourism and waterfront development, including the marine service sectors and yacht chartering.
As Turkey pushes to become a full member of the E.U., he writes, it would be “the first country with a majority Muslim population in this predominantly Western and Christian club.” Sailors venturing to the east Aegean should bear in mind that “for those of us who have cruised and traveled in Turkey, the fears are paper thin, and the country, more like the West than not, is a most gentle of introductions to the Muslim world.”