Scenery and History
For the rest of our trip, we enjoyed perfect winds sailing over a deep blue sea in a place once traveled by the likes of Odysseus and Saint Paul. Kathy is on a first-name basis with all the Greek gods, which made her a portable shipboard reference. My lifetime interest in history made ancient place names and Bible references pop back to mind at unpredictable intervals. The week became a series of “Aha!” moments.
“I am Odysseus,” Kathy’s journal reads. “It is not too late to seek other worlds.”
Turkish history is colorful, thanks mostly to its being the bridge between Europe and Asia. Armies have marched across her land, navies have struggled to control her waters, and silk and spices from the Orient have been lugged across her mountains. In a massive relocation launched by the country’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in the 1920s, the entire Turkish Christian population was swapped for Greece’s Muslim population. Dozens of towns were evacuated and still lie abandoned today.
If you want ruins, they’re here, still relatively undisturbed. The seagoing Lycian civilization flourished right where we were sailing for more than two thousand years, leaving the surrounding islands covered with the remains of towns and the world’s first step toward democracy, the Lycian League. We dropped anchor off Gemiler Adasi (“Ship Island”), tied a stern line to an ancient stone warehouse and climbed among some of these buildings, imagining the lives of those who had lived and worked there long before either Christianity or Islam appeared.
And so it went: from Sarsala to Karacaren to Kapi Creek to the tourist town of Gcek, we sailed, motored and motorsailed through winds ranging from zero to 15 knots and temperatures going from hot to very chilly. We even had a bit of rain. Not knowing what to expect, we'd packed for all kinds of weather and wore everything we had.
The Sunsail pilot book recommends several anchorages for snorkeling, but for us the water was simply too cold. A couple of the hardier Brits did go swimming, but only once and briefly at that. Winter, which is cold here, was not quite over, and the hot summer sun had not yet had time to warm the Mediterranean. Here, sailing during the summer calls for all the standard protective gear: shorts, sunscreen and a good bimini over the cockpit. We wondered if the cabin fans would move enough air to cool the interior in July, and decided spring and autumn are probably the ideal times to cruise here.
Thanks to the good weather, Kathy got in plenty of time at the helm. Unlike our sessions on the narrow Severn River back home in Maryland, where big wind shifts are the norm, she had plenty of time to visualize what was happening to the boat in the steady breezes. She ended the week a much better sailor.
The last day of the cruise was to be a race back to Fethiye, but this was cancelled by both a lack of wind and the Turkish Coast Guard. As we drifted across the starting line, tacking to cover the British racing skipper in a very slight breeze, a patrol boat appeared and chased us away. It turned out that there was an officially sanctioned race in the same area, and we would be in the way of those boats. It’s the first time I’ve ever been declared an obstruction to navigation.
At a group dinner back at base in Fethiye, we felt relaxed, physically tired and enthusiastic about all we had just seen and done. Not only had we made some friends, absorbed a lot of history and consumed thousands of delicious calories (this is not a place to diet), we’d discovered that it was possible for us to charter successfully as a couple. By any measure, it was a fine vacation that served as a true testament to the benefits of flotilla cruising.