Sailing the South Coast of Turkey

Kenton Lillecrapp

Silk Department NX660

In September 2010 Anne and I, with two other couples, chartered a yacht for two weeks and sailed around the south coast of Turkey. We enjoyed it so much that within twelve months we had organised another charter for September 2012.
On the first occasion we picked up our yacht, a Jeanneau 42i Performance, in Marmaris on the south west coast of Turkey and sailed for a week west and then a week east, returning the boat to Marmaris at the end of the two weeks. This time we arranged, for a small extra fee, to pick the boat up at Turgetreis, much further west than last time and to sail east, dropping it off two weeks later at the village of Gocek.
I was the skipper (a formal position in the charter documents) and the crew were friends of ours, Hugh and Meredith Bucknall and Andrew and Amanda Fedorowicz.

( click on photos for enlargement)

The day is hot and sunny as we take a taxi for the long ride from Bodrum to Turgetreis on the far south west corner of Turkey. We finally pull into the huge marina at Turgetreis just as a second taxi slides in behind us. We know its Andrew and Amanda because there is Andrew’s whole head and shoulders sticking out the window, waving and grinning. It’s probably because there is no room left inside the taxi with the entire luggage sharing the back seat.
Andrew and the Turkish barber

Andrew and the Turkish barber

We have once again chartered through Brook Felsenthal’s Charterworld at Sandringham and this time our boat is a Beneteau 43.4 Cyclades. The hand-over, briefing and provisioning of the boat takes most of the long, hot afternoon, but at least we have access to the huge swimming pool at the marina club facility. We cool off with plenty of swims and plenty of the excellent local Effes beer.

It is Sunday morning. The first day of our two weeks’ sailing adventure one way from Turgetreis around to Gocek. It is a fine warm morning with a light north westerly wind, blue skies and clear blue water. Even though we can easily do it ourselves, we are obliged to radio the Harbourmaster to have a pilot boat come around to release our bow rope as if to set us free. We have been warned at the briefing to check our sails as soon as we are out of the marina as the charter operator says that we will be held responsible for any sail damage if we report it to them later on. The mainsail is only halfway up the mast and I immediately call “Stop!” I can immediately see that one of the big sail slugs has come apart and the pin that connects the whole thing to the slug in the track is missing. We are on our way so there is no way we are going back to be held up while they try to find a sailmaker. We make a temporary fix by sliding an allen key in where the pin should have been and securing it with electrical tape. We advise them by phone and carry on. The temporary fix lasts for the whole two weeks. So much for the checks that they said they had done!

Relaxing on the boat in Ruin Bay

Relaxing on the boat in Ruin Bay

The first week of our charter is to cover all new ground to us. We are sailing east over several days to go deep into the Gokova Korfezi Gulf. We are looking forward to this area as it is more isolated than later on the southern coast. For about five hours we alternate between motor and sail as the wind changes between very light to slightly less light (up to about 6kts). Our destination is the small bay and tiny village of Cokertme (pronounced “Cho-cat-me”). There are three restaurants here, each with a small jetty and each with a Turkish boy out in a tinny waving to us to tie up at his jetty. We choose the yellow tinny as he was the first to race out to meet us. Unlike most Australian jetties where we are used to coming alongside, in Turkey and the Mediterranean, you drop an anchor or pick up a line back to the jetty, and then reverse in so that all the boats are parallel and right up against each other . Can be quite a challenge in a boat you are not used to, a cross wind and a gap between two boats that is just big enough to fit your boat with 10 centimetres to spare if you are lucky. (In fact on our last Turkey charter some Russians backed in next to us but could not force their boat any further than halfway in!)

We all dive in to the crystal clear water to cool off and afterwards make our way to “our” “Rose Mary Restaurant” with its huge pirate flag out in front. We are greeted by the head of the pirates himself; complete with black eye patch and Jacob the talking parrot on his shoulder.

Pretty soon Jacob is on Andrew’s shoulder and then on Anne’s head.

Anne with Jacob

Anne with Jacob

Calamari, grilled octopus, dips and great bread. Fantastic food and at the end of the meal the pirate presents me with a Rose Mary pirate flag.

Another clear warm morning and we buy three loaves of “village bread” from an old lady heating them on a fire in her shed facing onto the beach. Fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee in the cockpit and we are on our way in a light 6kt north westerly. Our destination is English Harbour where the British Special Boat Squadron had a secret base during WW II. The pilot book says that there are two sunken Spitfires near the entrance to the harbour, but we don’t see any trace of them.

The pilot says English Harbour is sheltered in almost all conditions. We pick our spot, drop anchor and reverse in towards the shore with Amanda swimming our long mooring line in to tie off on a boulder on the shore. A strong, gusty north westerly settles in right on our beam, proving the pilot wrong. There is nowhere else to move to so we put up with it and Andrew gets out his fishing gear. Somehow he has brought from Melbourne a fishing rod and big plastic box full of sinkers, hooks, jigs etc. We are settling into our second drink when he shouts and calls for a bucket. There is a lovely young octopus on the end of the line. Immediately the girls shout “Let it go”. Andrew shouts “Quick, get the bucket. We are having grilled octopus tonight ”.  The girls are not moving to get the bucket and the octopus, listening to Andrew’s plans for him calls out “See you later mate” and let’s go. Andrew insists that because of our tardiness, we have missed out on the world’s greatest feast of grilled octopus cooked by the world’s greatest seafood chef!

In the morning Amanda swims in and releases the stern line while we winch in the anchor. Suddenly we see a mass of old rotten fishing net come up on the chain. The only way we can get it off is by launching the dinghy and tackling it with a sharp knife from the water.

We are still heading east, deep into the gulf. We anchor in the lee of Castle Island for lunch. There are old ruins and, just around the corner a small beach. Cleopatra is reputed to have had shiploads of sand brought here from Egypt to create the beach. The funny thing is that modern analysis of the sand shows that there is no sand like this in Turkey but that it is identical to sand found in Egypt. The wind is up to 20kts now and we motor the short distance into the little village of Karacasogut and find a spot in the small private marina called Global Sailing.

It’s fine and warm with a 6kt north westerly as we leave the marina and begin our trip westwards along the southern side of the gulf. The wind, now on the nose as we head west, is rapidly strengthening through the morning. We have waves of about a metre and a half and the Beneteau thumps its way through them. Certainly the Jeanneau we had two years earlier seemed to enjoy these conditions more. By middle of the day we have a reef in the main and winds of 30kts as we enter the very sheltered inlet of Bozuk Cati. We drop anchor at the very end in only three metres of water and Amanda swims in and ties off the stern rope. We apprehensively eye what looks like a gypsy camp about a hundred metres away on shore with their fishing boats and old cars. I mumble that it will be a miracle if the little outboard engine for the dinghy is still sitting on the transom in the morning. Anyway, it’s too beautiful here to worry so in we go for a swim. Andrew nearly jumps out of his skin as a friendly turtle bumps into him as it checks us out!

Off we go the next morning with dinghy motor still in place and conditions similar to yesterday. We have three days of strong winds right on the nose until we round the south western corner of Turkey and enter the ancient harbour of Knidos.

Andrew at the wheel

Andrew at the wheel

We drop anchor on the north side of the small harbour but we pretty soon realise that the anchor is dragging as the wind gusts over the low saddle. We move the short distance to the southern side and immediately feel more secure. The girls go for a swim and then we all take the dinghy in to the shore for a walk through the ancient ruins and the huge old amphitheatre.

By bed time the wind is strengthening and by midnight we are being buffeted so much that I get up to check the anchor. There are several boats anchored to windward. Are they moving in the dark? I am sure one in particular was further away earlier. We are anchored in about 5 metres and I have over 25 metres of chain out. I wish I could put out more but if the wind veers more to the north our stern will be too close to the cliff face. I decide to sit up and watch. I end up watching until 4.00am in a freezing westerly gusting to about 30kts. And then finally give up as the big boat I am worried about seems to be holding even though it is swinging perilously close to a couple of other yachts. I check again at 0445 and it is still in the same position and we have not dragged at all. I am up again at 0615 and there, almost on top of us is the boat that I thought had been moving right at the beginning!

A big heavy old twin mast Formosa 52. Luckily they have woken up too and after a long time sorting themselves out they up anchor and motor out of the harbour. I notice that they have a for sale sign on the side! We have a leisurely breakfast and sail east towards Datca a couple of hours later.

Datca is quite a large town with big yachts, big luxury cruisers and many gulets all reversed in at the quay.

Nav station-missing camera on top shelf

Nav station-missing camera on top shelf

We go out to dinner at one of the many restaurants looking over the boats and Andrew takes his camera! The next morning we hear “has anyone seen my camera?” No. (This is the chart table and the camera was on the top shelf).

He searches the boat and then in desperation returns to the restaurant where one of the staff has just arrived. No, it’s not there either. Andrew returns to the boat and announces that he will have to buy another camera, but perhaps he will check with the restaurant again as more staff arrive. In the meantime I sit at the chart table to check out our next destination.

What’s this on the shelf above? It’s a camera plugged in and charging up! We took a lot of pleasure in catching up with Andrew to let him know – and so was born the story of the village idiot.

But Andrew had been busy too, buying more fishing gear. He has tried fishing already and complains that the seas here are completely dead. He buys a sharp new fishing knife and a new lure that the fishing shop man said is exactly what he needs to catch palumat, the fish of this area. More of that later.

We set off sailing east up the big Hisaronu Korfezi Gulf to the village of Selimiye. And there on the pier is the harbourmaster waving and guiding us in. Osman with the gold teeth. We had met Osman on our 2010 trip and had dinner in his restaurant. He is still wearing the same red singlet that he wore two years ago.  Every tooth in his mouth is gold, and he has the biggest shiny smile. Osman’s mother cooks the calamari in the restaurant and it is the best we have had.

Bozuk Buku pirate cove

Bozuk Buku pirate cove

We sail around the coast to the little harbour of Bozburun and its wonderful market. Mooring here is by dropping the anchor about two thirds of the way across the little harbour and then backing up to the quay. Boats on the other side do exactly the same thing. Of course the inevitable happens and one of the big tourist gulets weighs anchor and lifts ours as well. Chaos!

We visit the market and buy fresh bread and supplies and then set off in a good breeze around the southernmost corner of Turkey to the little isolated pirate cove of Bozuk Buku.

The girls buying up in Bozuk Buku

The girls buying up in Bozuk Buku

Here we are no sooner moored with a line back to the shore when a couple of young girls in tinnies come along side to sell necklaces, shirts, scarves etc. Our girls cannot resist.

We complete the day with dinner in the little restaurant nestled in the rocks below the huge old ruined fortress.

Today is a long sail right across to the village of Ekincik. We are sailing nicely at about 6kts and Andrew tosses a line in with his new lure.

The one that didn't get away

The one that didn’t get away

Five minutes later the reel screams and Andrew brings in a beautiful big palumat (a kind of tuna). He sets the line again and goes below to clean the unlucky fish. The reel screams again and Andrew races up to reel in another unlucky customer. This time the new knife is in the bucket and as the thrashing fish goes in Anne warns “Don’t let it hurt itself on the knife!!” After the fourth fish Andrew was heard mumbling something about a “fisherman’s paradise”.

We spend a night in the very upmarket marina at Ekincik and there moored just one boat away is our previous boat the Jeanneau 42i “Nazli Deniz”, this time with a Russian crew. I feel quite envious.

We spend the next day sailing in light winds eastwards to the Fethiye Islands and drop anchor and tie up to the shore in the cove known as Cleopatra’s Baths or Ruin Bay.

Ruin of Cleopatra's Baths

Ruin of Cleopatra’s Baths

Yes this is where Cleopatra came to swim and we swim the 100 metres or so along to the actual ruins of her baths. It must have been quite a grand building built right in the water and we are able to swim through the stone arches and into the roofless rooms. We follow the goat track around the coastline until we reach the huge old stone wall in Wall Bay.

It is our final night on the boat and we make the most of it with a big dinner. Gocek is only a few miles away and in the morning we reluctantly motor around the coastline, taking in Tomb Bay, where there are old tombs cut into the sides of the cliffs and arriving at the big marina for our final handover. We reverse in and tie up, go through our debrief with the charter operator and then head into Gocek. Hugh has a Turkish shave and massage (and falls asleep), the girls go shopping (and Anne loses her new glasses) and Andrew and I sit on the waterfront for our last Effes beer and calamari.

Just marvellous! I could happily do another charter in this wonderful area.

This narrative was made from the log book of our charter yacht “Eternity” 15 September 2012 to 29 September 2012.

Kenton Lillecrapp