The Tease of a Charter

One trip to the Aegean Sea just isn't enough. Editor's Log from our August 2011 issue.

Turkey Charter

Mark Pillsbury

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: an invitation for sea trials aboard one of Bavaria’s new Farr Yacht-designed 50-footers. I accepted, of course, and just a week later, this past spring, I was on the overnight flight bound for Istanbul. From there, we flew down the coast to Izmir, where a driver took us an hour or so southwest to the small coastal town of Alaçati, on the Aegean Sea. As for the boat, its review will run in CW this fall. The trip? Well, read on.

I’ll admit that the highway that wound its way along the coast—portions of it lined by wind turbines atop the steep hills—kept me glued to the window of the Mercedes van. I love arid landscapes as much as I’m a sucker for deep blue water. And here the two blended incongruously: stepped orchards on one side of the road, white breakers against a brown rocky shore on the other, and an armada of tankers and freighters off in the shimmering distance.

The boat in question was dockside at Port Alaçati, home to the local Bavaria dealer, Taner Gümüs, and his wife, Gül, who also operate Gena Yacht Charter. They have a fleet of about 20 Bavarias split between the main office in Alaçati and another marina farther south in Bodrum. As hosts, it would be hard to top either their generosity or excitement about where they live and sail.

Her family’s imprint is all over Old Town Alaçati, where we had dinner at a street-side bistro the first night. A seeming netful of seafood arrived at our table along with cold Turkish beer and bottles of raki, an ouzo-like Turkish delicacy. This part of Turkey is renowned for its steady winds and blue skies, Taner said. Port Alaçati was once a small fishing harbor along a coast now revered by windsurfers but often overlooked by vacationers bound for the seaside tourist spots farther south. Thanks to an ambitious growth spurt, though, the port now boasts dredged waterways, extensive docks protected by breakwaters, a few hotels, waterside restaurants, and what looks to be hundreds of homes under construction on the surrounding hills.

On the water the next day—once an afternoon breeze chased away an uncharacteristic haze and dispelled an unusual calm—we could see the Greek island of Híos less than 10 miles to the west. Days earlier, Taner and a friend had sailed there for dinner and returned the same night. But what he and Gül like better, they said, is to take a boat early or late in the season and spend a few days sailing to the empty bays that are sprinkled along this part of the coast.

That’s the sort of sailing I’d prefer, too, and talking to them, I knew I was hooked. The next day when I met the driver for the ride back to Izmir, I felt just like I do at the end of a charter trip: grateful, of course, that I’d gotten a taste, but hungry to return sometime on my own boat and schedule to take in the entire banquet that the place has to offer.