Sailing yacht

Sun, salt and school dresses: sailing a yacht in Turkey

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I love sailing.

Well, let me refine that.  I love sailing in sunshine and calm seas, with a bunch of mates and some way of keeping my beer cold.

Fortunately I have a few friends and family members who feel the same way, so every couple of years we get together somewhere in the world, charter a yacht and embark on a mission of discovery and alcohol abuse.

In the past we’ve cruised around lonely Greek islands and fought big seas in the Whitsundays.  This time, we were headed to the Turkish coast for two weeks … in school uniforms.

Crew in dresses

Dubbing ourselves the Deckhands in Dresses, we were on a mission to spread the word about One Girl‘s campaign to educate young women in Sierra Leone.  With seven of us sporting those fetching frocks, we got a lot of attention … which was, of course, the point.

We’re still $239 away from our fundraising goal, by the way, so if you’ve got a few dollars to help put a girl through school and change the world

So, one sunny morning in September, we cast off the mooring lines at Göcek marina and slid quietly out into the Mediterranean.

We opted to head generally eastwards during our time at sea, for no particular reason other than it seemed to have plenty of the smaller, quieter (and cheaper) areas where we like spend our time.  Places that looked a bit like this:

Yachting view

and this:

Turkey coast view

and oh, yeah … this.

Sunset in Turkey

We had chosen to charter from Sunsail, as we do every time, and picked a nearly-new 44i to be our floating hotel and bar.  It was easily the best yacht I’ve ever sailed – nearly everything worked as expected (a rarity at sea, to say the least), and there was enough room for seven of us to stretch out and usually not want to murder each other.

For eleven days we sailed slowly along the coast towards Olympos, dropping anchor in secluded coves where we could, and busy marinas where we couldn’t, before rushing back to Göcek.  The infamous gulet booze cruises cover a similar route in four days, but we were in no hurry.  There was plenty to explore, by land and sea, and we had the time to do it.

Yachts in the harbour

Two areas stood out during our time aboard, coming right at the start and end of our trip.  The beaches and coves around Fethiye Bay were stunning, with most being too small to hold crowds of yachts or large vessels.  Karakaören in particular was lovely, with the added bonus of a (hot and sweaty) walk over the hill for an hour to visit the ruined town of Kayaköy.

This town was populated largely by Greek settlers until a forced population exchange in 1923 left it deserted.  It was a bit of an eerie place, in a beautiful setting overlooking the valley.

Ruined city

The best part of the entire charter, however, was right at the end of our eastern wanderings.  Kekova Roads is a long, sheltered bay with dozens of little inlets perfect for exploring and staying a night … or two … or three.  And so we did.

While the howling winds at Uçagiz Liman made for some interesting anchoring techniques that provided several hours of entertainment, the standout highlight was Gökkaya Liman.  A bay within a bay, we found our perfect spot, threw out the anchor and flatly refused to move for the next 48 hours.  Ancient ruins dotted the coastline.  Turtles surfaced every few minutes, undoubtedly laughing at our futile attempts to photograph them.  The weather was perfect, and we did little more than eat, drink and swim for the entire time.

Other than a Busabout gulet – complete with screaming backpackers and dance music – that turned up to ruin the ambiance one night, this place was perfect.  The sailing part of yachting is great, but equally important to me is the chance to find quiet little spots that are hard or impossible to get to by road.  Gökkaya Liman was that spot.

Gökkaya Liman

Of course, no sailing trip would be complete without something going wrong, and ours came – as always – at a less than helpful time  While attempting to rush back towards base to finish our charter, we discovered that we had a faulty fuel gauge.  How did we find this out?  Well, obviously, by running out of fuel.  The gauge said one-quarter.  The engine said … cough.  Then it said nothing at all.

With no wind worth speaking of, it took a few hours to drift back towards the harbour we had just left before a local dive boat towed us in.  All was well in the end – we even got back on time, after a pre-dawn start the next day – but trying to keep a very expensive yacht off the rocks, with almost no ability to steer it, doesn’t rank as one of my all time favourite experiences.

Still, even with all of the drama, we somehow found time for one last swim before handing back the keys…

Swimming in dresses

And that was it.  Two wonderful weeks in the sun, sailing around a beautiful part of the world and raising money for a great cause at the same time.

What more could I ask for?

Absolutely nothing at all.

PS: If you’d like more information on chartering a yacht in southern Turkey, I did an interview recently with the lovely people at Turkey’s for Life where I went into more detail about what is involved.

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  1. And I didn’t get an invite because … ?

    If I had been there, I would’ve insisted that we all wear white slacks and Nautica polo shirts as a charitable statement for yuppies worldwide. The failing economy means many have had to sell their second boats. Save the endangered yuppies!