Turkish Delights

As we cruised further south of Bodrum, scenery along the Turkish coast was simply magnificent and different again from anything else we’d encountered over the last seven months. High, red and grey rock mountains covered with a thick blanket of pine or dense green scrub, exposed coast or otherwise enclosed deep natural bays. We were in love.Our final few days with dear friends Jay and D were blissful. Pottering around the gulf of Hisaronu Korfezi, we embraced restful nights at anchor, playing cribbage, making margaritas and Pimms cocktails and devouring new dishes lovingly prepared in the galley by our guests come talented home chefs. What may become a regular guest initiation – we sent D up the mast in the boson’s chair, which she tackled with a smile, though we were all smiling when unsighted, dad unknowingly dropped her in the sail bag on the way down. Opps!

That week Dad also introduced us to some old fashioned Navy fun, building a ‘manta board’ out of some remaining marine grade plywood. We took turns to be towed behind the dinghy at a mellow four knots. Though it was fast enough when being dragged behind whilst gripping onto a piece of ply and diving down with snorkel and mask to fly through the underwater world. It became an extra worthwhile expedition when I spotted a loggerhead turtle resting on the sandy bottom munching on sea grass. I promptly dumped the manta board and swam along with the turtle for 20 minutes.

Stopping in the popular yachtie bay Selimiye Koyu for a wander and some Turkish tea – we ordered what was a gourmet Turkish breakfast for one (at only A$11) and impressively took all four of us to finish it. It was so good we returned there a few days later with mum and dad plus our new guests – ordered three breakfasts between six and were full until well after lunch. If you’re wondering what a Turkish breakfast includes – picture a cold platter of cheeses, tomato, cucumber, olives, spreads and crusty bread, omelet or hardboiled egg with a side glass of delicious Turkish tea. Tasty.

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Apart from a few major resort townships along Turkey’s southwestern Mediterranean coast, the vast expanse of the coastline was wild, rugged and untouched. There was the odd gaudy, eyesore hotel development that will forever scar the majestic landscape. Though whilst cruising sleepy Hisaronu Korfezi Gulf, we passed equally as many first class resorts – some beautifully blended in with the environment, others not so much, but none the less impressive luxury establishments. Several had trucked in glistening white sand (sandy beaches were again a rarity in Turkey) and two different dinghy-bound security guards chased us away when our drive-by got too close for their liking. If you ever find yourself in the market for an indulgent Eastern European escape – here are a couple of properties we drooled over on the way past: D-Hotel Marmaris and Angel’s Peninsula.

Our last night with Jay and D was anchored with lines ashore in the gorgeous wooded bay of Keci Buku across from Marti Marina. After a quick recce ashore to book a table for our last supper together, we found ourselves a poolside retreat amongst the five-star Marti Marina facilities. A marina berth there was stupid expensive (A$200 per night for our 44’ catamaran), though we had no intention to waste away money on a berth, with a perfectly lovely anchorage a dinghy ride away.

Though that didn’t stop us buying a frosty beverage to poach the facilities – the mirage pool and landscape surroundings made us feel in a Turkish oasis. A few hours were happily wasted away there before dinner. And as we’d STILL had no luck catching a darn fish, our guests were hanging for some seafood, so seafood we ordered. Two massive sea bream were served to our table, set at the end of the quaintest pier, under rope lights and flickering candlelight. Four bottles of wine later and we laughed all the way back to the boat in an overloaded dinghy for a final late night swim. Jay and D are like part of the family and we hope to see them back onboard again sometime next year.   DSC_0331DSC_0337DSC_0358DSC_0368DSC_0376DSC_0377DSC_0396DSC_0392 DSC_0408

Like any good hotel welcoming guests – the boat’s spare bedroom was flipped and another deep clean of the boat inside and out as we were expecting new guests the following day. Apart from a short but treasured overnight visit from the newlyweds Bek and Joel in Croatia, we’d the pleasure of hosting three different sets of guests this summer (including Aunty Robyn way back in April/May).

John and his lovely Greek-born wife Tess hailed from Melbourne and joined us at the tail end of their three-month Europe vacation visiting Tess’s family in UK, Paris and Greece. John was a very old friend of dad’s back from their Navy Clearance Diving days. In fact dad’s special ordnance disposal diving team relieved John’s team in Vietnam back in 1968. Dad was only 18 at the time, but they’ve remained in contact over the years and through various reunions and Naval events. John continued with the profession to become a deep-sea saturation diver and supervisor on offshore oilrigs in places such as India and the North Sea. The incredible Navy, Vietnam and diving stories, tales and nautical knowledge between these two was captivating and enough to sink a ship (so the speak).

John was an excellent chef and previous restaurateur, and it was obvious he’d missed the kitchen after three months away from home, as we couldn’t keep him out of there. But we were also more than happy to sample many delicious new dishes and menu ideas he whipped up out of our compact galley. Despite being a cute, giggling lightweight on the G&Ts, Tess was an exceptionally good sport – climbing mountains with dad, SCUBA diving for her second time and up the mast in the boson’s chair on a glassy full moon night. Though what impressed me most were Tess’s multi-lingual skills speaking and understanding English, Greek, Spanish, French and Arabic. She would make a very valuable crewmember for future expeditions!

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Our visit to Marmaris would serve an important purpose, given it was the location dad intended to undertake some final research before deciding where he would winter the boat come November. In our travels this summer, we’d met several Aussie and Kiwi boats along the way that had wintered in Turkey and more often than not, specifically Marmaris’ Yacht Marina. After a recce of the marina site and accompanying yacht services, dad was satisfied it was the best option for him.

On the day he booked haul out services and a spot on the hardstand, he was independently told by another Australian yachtie – who’d been wintering there for the past four years – that Yacht Marina had recently come out as the best marina for value (price and services) out of alarge number of marinas surveyed throughout Turkey and Greece. I’m sure dad will be happy to offer his full account and experience with the marina next Spring once the haul out and maintenance are complete. With 1,000 dry berths available, he will be leaving the boat on the hardstand and spending a week or so at the end of this season and again at the start of next to complete an arm’s length list of general maintenance and upgrade projects.

Yacht Marina was also very accessible to – though quiet and far enough away – from Marmaris town proper, which offered a wealth of yacht service businesses and all other amenities and provisions they would need. Despite the sprawling stretch of hotels to the east, old town Marmaris and its palm-lined quay are attractive. Pictured below from our anchorage, this particular grey sky morning was following the first and ONLY rain shower we had seen in two and a half months.

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Marmaris, similar to Bodrum, had morphed over the years into a bar and nightclub party haunt to satisfy the hedonistic needs and wants of an exploding tourism industry. Along Maramaris’ bar street – stepping into a thumping open air nightclub, complete with go-go dancers, fire throwers and laser lights, quickly reminded me that this use by date was well past due. Maybe I just needed more booze. But that night, we were content with dancing around the outskirts of the fluorescent lights with a smooth vino, local brew and calming apple tobacco shisha water pipe. In so many different ways, Turkey is an eclectic feast for the senses.

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The abundance of English accents indicated the market that Marmaris caters to. As did the long line of gulets (wooden boats) lining the quay and whisking tourists off on a well-beaten circuit around the bay, or otherwise off to crowd the hopelessly ‘protected’ turtle nesting beach at Dalyan.

South of Marmaris, Dalyan was once a sleepy riverside village that Mike and I visited a decade ago, now like many other towns along the coast, the region had given way to package tourism and tour boats hawking its ancient assets. We arrived there early to beat the day-tripper boats from Marmaris, anchoring off Iztuzu Beach and attempting to navigate up the marshy Dalyan River to the Lycian Kings’ Tombs carved into the cliff face opposite the town of Dalyan. The Turkey Waters Pilot Guide suggested that we could take our own dinghy up the river, and although we were hassled by the local boat operators (who wanted 100 euro to drive the same route), we eventually lost our way amongst the long reeds and spider web of waterways through the marsh. Lost and running low on fuel, we were defeated in reaching those particular Lycian rock tombs (there would be more the further south we travelled), but had otherwise enjoyed our little expedition through the reeds and local fishing traps.

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After calling this dependable little catamaran home for the past eight months, we are preparing ourselves and minds for the return to a normal land bound lifestyle. Unsure how long it will take to adapt or how often we will yearn for peaceful nights at anchor, forever changing scenery, the sun and wind on our faces. Where our only cares have been the weather, our next sailing destination, locating a decent market or grocer, or a calm anchorage for a restful sleep. Mike and I are due to leave the boat in just over two weeks from now, visiting friends and family in Nova Scotia and Whistler in Canada before heading back to work and reality in Sydney. If we hope to come back and join mum and dad again next year – our priority now is to work and save our little butts off to top up the bank account. Dad and mum will stay on for an extra few weeks, with the catamaran booked to be hauled out of the water first week of November where it will stay on the hardstand until April next year.

The dream is not over, just taking a temporary hiatus whilst the bone chilling European winter blankets its way south and across the idyllic Mediterranean. Though please stick around for a few more updates this year, including our last few weeks in Turkey for 2013, Mike and my visit to Istanbul and dad’s preparation to winterise the boat.

But one thing is for sure; we cannot sing the praises high enough of this intriguing country. Another one to add to your must-visit list.