Tuesday, April 07, 2009



Photo: The Blue Mosque in Istanabul

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We have enjoyed sitting in Marmaris Yacht Marina in Turkey despite it being the coolest and wettest winter in this region for years. Well, when you don't know any better… We chose Marmaris partly because of the winter climate, the cheapness of living here and the beauty of the area - with the promise of exploring inland over the winter months. We have found the Turks to be very friendly and helpful - but we have struggled with the language as it has little bearing on English - although we have learned some basics and niceties, and the many Turks who speak some English have rescued us often. And the whole population seems to smoke after the age of ten!

With not much to report on the actual sailing front, this blog may give you an idea of Turkey as a destination - and without meaning to turn it into yet another travelogue (you can always skip those bits), this has been our experience - very positive..

Marmaris Yacht Marina is one of three large marinas in the area - and several other smaller ones - Mamaris being the large tourist town nearby. This marina “houses” about 2500 boats with about another 2500 total in the others. There is every type if service and facility available for boats - small to huge mega-yachts with many businesses comprising an army of skilled workers

Photo: Christmas dinner at a local restaurant with liveaboards

The liveaboards are mostly Brits with a fair smattering of Americans, Aussies and Kiwis, Dutch and German and even a few Canadian boats.. Activities make it a real social club with every event imaginable being organized - from karaoke and sing-a-long nights in the bar, quiz nights, bacci-ball Sundays, boat jumbles, ladies' coffee mornings and skippers' forums, ballroom, belly and line dancing lessons, the morning “cruiser net” , organised trips and tours, and the list goes on. Netsel, the other marina nearby in town, also has a live aboard community .

We get in and out of town (8 K away) on the local dalmas (say: “dahl mash”). The word in Turkish means “squeeze” and given the numbers that try to pack into a 16 seater van, minibus does not describe the vehicle aptly. It reminded us of the guaguas and other minibuses in the Caribbean.


We joined an organized trip for 2 days to Kusadasi, first to watch the annual camel wrestling. In this event - well attended (crowded) with a carnival-like atmosphere complete with music and Turkish fast-food, male camels fight over females in heat in an arena. Side betting is not allowed but probably does go on and with thousands of people in attendance no alcohol was sold nor evident on the sly . The winning male camel must neck-wrest his opponent to the ground, but unfortunately does not claim the bride - she is whisked off to entice the next pair of males to battle over her. A different twist to the cockfighting we saw in the Dominican republic…

Photo: The library of Celsus at the foot of the main street

The Mediterranean’s best-preserved classical Roman ruins at Ephesus was next on the trip. It gave us a good feel of what life may have been like in those times. Fortunately we roamed them in the low tourist season as it is packed in the summer - being a major tourist destination. The Great Theatre, the villas and the Library of Celsus are all the best preserved we have seen in the Med. so far.

We also took a trip to Izmir to do some shopping in places like Ikea, imagine that here in Turkey! As well we were able to see the Agora (a marketplace built by Alexander the Great) but the old bazaar in the centre of the city was the main reason to go - as well as seeing some more Turkish countryside on the trip. Turkey’s third-largest city and very entertaining place.


Photo: Fishburgers on the Borphorus

In February we joined the marina-organized trip to the Istanbul boat show - really just an excuse to see that city (we stayed on an extra few days) and there we were joined by Brian’s niece Lucy who came back to Chinook to stay for another week. The boat show itself was very good but we were rushed for time and did not see everything we wished to.

Istanbul is a fabulous city - well at least the old downtown area. We visited all the famed mosques, the old bazaar, the spice market, the underground cistern, saw the whirling dervishes dance, ate native (including “fish burgers” on the riverside), had a ferry tour of the River Bosphorus and generally walked our feet off. The bus trip was 14 hours each way, but with frequent stops for WC breaks and food. The Canadian and US Greyhound Bus service could learn from the Turks with their large modern, spotless buses complete with on-board coffee, tea and snacks, all free of charge.

Photo: Olives at the spice market, Istanbul


Photos: The Valley of Love and (below) Cave houses

We have just recently (April) returned from five days away with our friends Terry and Fiona (“Roam 2”) to a region called Cappadocia (Kapydokya) which is almost slap dead in the centre of Turkey. The area is renown for its interesting weather-shaped rock formations and the cave homes that were carved out of those by the inhabitants in (approximately) the 4th century AD. We saw some quite amazing dwellings, churches and an extensive 8 - level underground town. It was a 13 hour overnight bus trip each way - the best way to travel. The hotel we stayed in (the Walnut House in the town of Goreme) was inexpensive and quite nice with the typical Turkish breakfast of a boiled egg, sliced tomatoes and cucumber, fresh white bread, olives and cheeses along with copious cups of Turkish tea. Apart from one organized day-long tour we took local buses to other towns and tourist points nearby and ate good meals at cheaper family-run restaurants. It snowed the third day we were there - but that did not faze the intrepid Canadian-spirited souls that we are…

In Cappadocia an exciting event for us was a flight in a hot air balloon -about 45 minutes long -floating gently above the local countryside and towns with about twenty other balloons in the windless early morning. A great flight and another longish story, sometime…

Our Turkish visas have a 90 day life. To extend them all we need to do is take a one-day ferry trip to the island of Rhodes (25 n.miles south of Turkey), spend a pleasant day there and buy another 90-day visa (only 45 euros) on re-entry to Turkey. Chinook herself is allowed to be here 12 months after which we purchase another cruising permit for her (about 90 Turkish Lira ($60 CAD). Being here also has Chinook out of the E.U. to avoid paying VAT on her.

Photo: Hot air ballooning over Cappadocia


We both had dental work done in Marmaris - Deborah a crown and a couple of fillings; Brian, ten crowns (inclding a bridge) and four fillings. Deniz the dentist is 28 years old (had his birthday on one of our appointment days), English speaking and extremely competent using modern equipment and methods. But the cost was amazing: about one tenth of Canadian costs for the same work.


As you may know Chinook was for sale at this point . Reluctantly, and we would not let her go easily. After having advertised her for a short time on the WWW, we had a lot of interest generated - probably because the price is so attractive. One buyer who, after extensive inspection, signed the agreement to purchase papers, clinked champagne glasses with us, reneged on putting down a deposit - a bit unsettling when people can pretend to be who they are not.  However, after the deal fell through, we decided we would keep her and continue the cruising life - a decision we have not regretted.   


Chinook now has new safety lines with new gates and pelican clips, new cast brass cowl vents gleam in the sun, and a new stack pack (lazybag) system envelopes a brand new mainsail. Doyle Sails (Turkey) fabricated the sail in Istanbul- USA designed . Some of the rigging has been replaced and the bimini structure has been revamped to allow easier access to the cockpit. The usual sanding and re-varnishing will be done as soon as the weather allows and the “up the mast” trip several times for inspections and to repair the broken wind speed indicator cups.


This summer we plan to be cruising the Aegean sea - in particular the south and west coast of Turkey and the Aegean Greek and Turk islands. We are looking forward to a more relaxed cruising schedule compared to last summer’s “odyssey” and will be back in Marmaris by November for winter. Another trip (flying) to NZ is tentatively planned for early 2010.

Pix: Lucy taking a break in a mosque and Deborah taking a break on 2000 year old toilets