Sailing Turkey's Turquoise Coast
Blue Voyages along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey were the brainchild of either Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli, a writer, or Bedri Rahmi Eybo˘glu, a painter and poet; Bedri Rahmi has a bay named for him, so perhaps he’s the one. Both found themselves in the area for one reason or another and encouraged their friends to visit. The friends publicized the beauties of the coast and the lives of the local fishermen, and more people came. They still do.
The boats used for these voyages are gulets, built of wood in Bodrum on the Aegean coast, or in Marmaris, in the style of the traditional Bodrum fishing ketch. I’ve heard the name pronounced “goo-let” and “gull-et” (which seems to be favored). They’re generally referred to as motorsailers, and their sailable wind range is quite narrow.
My first gulet experience featured, among other things, lessons in traditional Turkish dancing around the decks under a full moon. I had my second gulet experience last year in late September as part of a press group, and it had all the essential ingredients of the first: a fun group of people, a great crew, a beautifully maintained boat, and an excellent cook. Memo, at 95 feet, can carry 14 guests in seven cabins, and there were only six of us—plus, by the luck of the draw, I ended up in the aft master suite, which could have held all of us. With the mild winds and blissfully warm water of fall—to say nothing of the departure of the summer crowds—it’s a great time to sail Turkey’s Mediterranean coast (the Aegean coast ends and the Med begins at Marmaris).
Turkey’s southwest coast is hardly untrodden; it’s been trodden on for centuries. For example, ancient Caunos, in the Dalyan River delta, is a Carian site dated to the 9th century B.C. with 2nd century B.C. Roman baths and plenty of visitors off charterboats.
We boarded Memo in Marmaris, which was a sleepy little town when I first saw it 20 years ago; its considerable growth has encouraged many of the bareboat charter companies in the area to move their operations to Gcek, in the northwest corner of the Gulf of Fethiye, which remains a small and attractive village. Fethiye, too, is a charming town, with an area of shops too small to be called a bazaar and rugs for sale that will challenge your ability to resist. A visit to the large weekly farmer’s market in Gcek or Fethiye is the best way to discover why your meals have all been so delicious.
If you’re interested in doing some low-performance sailing in a beautiful and interesting area with a large group of family and/or friends, I can’t think of a better way than to book a whole gulet. Bareboating is, of course, another option in this popular charter/cruising area, but have you ever chartered a bareboat whose cook prepares what your doting Turkish mother might have served?
Contacts: Memo is part of the Yesil Marmaris fleet. You can book directly or work with a broker; two brokers I know of who attend the annual Marmaris boat show and check out the gulets are Ed Hamilton and Mary Crowley.
Charter Advertiser Info
Conch Charters, 800-521-8939
CYOA Yacht Charters, 800-944-CYOA
Horizon Yacht Charters, 877-494-8787
Fair Wind Charters, 866-380-7245
The Catamaran Company, 800-262-0308
TMM Yacht Charters, 800-633-0155
Star Clippers, 800-442-0551
Le Boat, 800-734-5491