Home Sweet Home


By Tom Morkin

Keci Burcu, Southwest Turkey

Home sweet home. That's exactly how Liz and I felt after three months of motorcycle camping in central and eastern Canada and the Atlantic northeastern U.S., to finally be back aboard Feel Free, still safely moored at Yacht Marina in Marmaris Turkey. Over the years, we've left our boat, home, and by far our most valued asset, in foreign countries for periods of at least three months, no fewer than seven times. This however, was the first time the boat was actually left in the water.

Tom on Feel Free, anchored off Marmaris, Turkey

We find it strange that we can be reasonably relaxed about her safety when we're 7,000 miles and three or four months away from her; but during that last hour before seeing the old girl again, we just can't get to her fast enough. Images of dead or dry batteries, leaky winches, and stained upholstery, what floods our brains are flooded bilges, mildew covered walls, rats, and insect infestations.

It’s only the thought of how foolish we'd look as, luggage bound, we’d go running and panting down the dock to reunite with our boat, that prevents us from doing just that. Before you snicker, bear in mind we've earned our anxieties. After a summer on the hard in San Carlos Mexico, we returned to three feet of water in the bilge. Another time, in Hawaii, dead batteries met us, and in the same boatyard returning yachties found their boat had been home for families of rats that had feasted on three sails, all the upholstery, engine hoses, not to mention most of the food in the larder, even the laundry detergent. Happily on this return, we weren't victims of any such calamities. In fact, except for the thick layer of beige Turkish dust on the deck, all was well.

Beautiful Turkish gullets un Bozburum

The next couple of days were spent slowly putting sails on, catching up with buddies, checking boat systems (despairingly, the genset, wind angle indicator and the transmit function of the SSB didn't fix themselves in our absence).

We reckon we’ve between one and two months of cruiseable weather before we have to hunker down for the Turkish winter. So, as much as we're happy just messin' around the boat and sleeping in our own home every night, we must recognize the clock is ticking and within five days we’re on our way.

Boatbuilding traditions in Bozburum

On the first day we cover a full five miles across Marmaris' almost landlocked bay to anchor off the town site. Marmaris is not everybody's nirvana, but as a sizeable town, one can get just about everything one needs. Its natural harbor is home to a huge number of the Turkish skippered sailing charter fleet. These "gullets" range in size from 70 feet to 150 feet, all built in wood, very traditional in design and in almost all cases, truly works of art. At any given time, 40 of these wondrous creations will be Med-moored (lying at anchor with stern tied to the city's breakwater). They take guests on trips from 1 to 14 days and we’ve seen them daily during our Turkish meanderings.

But today our main goal is to provision for the next two weeks or so, and with the big grocery store Tansas just two blocks from the waterfront, that task is quickly dispatched. The price you pay to anchor so close to the big city you pay at night when the bars that line the waterfront try to outdo one another with the volume of their sound systems. “Decibel Hell” starts at around 10 p.m. and runs to 2 a.m. or even later. At least it’s now cool enough at night to close the hatches, and we maintain a healthy supply of ear plugs onboard.

Karen and Graham of Red Herring

The following afternoon, we were hook down and 25 miles southwest of Marmaris in Serce Limani. This narrow and almost landlocked inlet, like so many anchorages in southwest Turkey, has two competing restaurants in the two corners of the bay – both offering good meals. The problem is, these establishments that cater to the bareboat charter crowd, and to a lesser extent the crewed gullet charterers, fill the good anchorages with their mooring balls. They then station men in dinghies whose job it is to convince you to take one of their moorings at no charge. In these bays there are no free lunches or dinners for that matter and as soon as your lines are secured, the inevitable question arises: "Will you be eating in our restaurant tonight?";

 In our case, we declined the offer of the mooring, dropped our own anchor, took a line to the east side of the bay, and after securing ourselves, the gentleman, Hassan, returned to invite us to his restaurant. I politely declined on the truthful grounds that we’d just provisioned the boat in Marmaris. Without missing a beat he replied "In that case, I should have lunch with you." To which I replied "That's a great idea except that my wife is a terrible cook and we wouldn't want to poison you.

Simi town

A gentleman to the end, he took the double rejection with equanimity and left with a smile. By the end of the day, no fewer than 10 boats were on moorings with their stern lines tied to the west side of the narrow bay. For the seven-day bareboat charterers, the system is great. But for the budget-conscious long-termers, not so good. We don’t want to be compelled to eat in what are often lovely albeit expensive restaurants, and we'd prefer not to be lined up cheek by jowl with half a dozen to a dozen other boats. We never did find out what percentage of the boats who take the free moorings take dinner ashore.

School in session

The town of Bozburun, around the peninsula and tucked well up the north end of the wide Bay of Yesilova, was our next destination. We again made a valiant attempt to sail the 20 miles to our destination, in no small way motivated by the US $7.50 for a gallon of diesel. However, impatience won over parsimony, as it usually does in Turkey. Not only are the winds fickle, they’re usually from the west, our usual direction of travel, and we motored three quarters of the 20 miles.

Once a sponge diving center, Bozburun now owes its existence to tourism and to the manufacture of gullets. The boat-building facility and the excellent anchorage near the town, the shoreside restaurant, and internet cafe were four reasons to make Bozburun a two-day stop. Jimmy was an unexpected bonus. He came by Feel Free in his 15-foot sailboat bearing a gift of herbs along with an invitation for Turkish tea in his shoreside abode. How all of this was communicated and understood is a mystery as our Turkish and his English are almost non existent!!

Our dentist’s postcard image of one of his paintings

"Feel Free, Feel Free, Sunchaser, Sunchaser" came the call on the VHF radio next morning as we set out for the next port on our itinerary, Datca. It was our good buddies Brenda and Ray with whom we’d convoyed through what we call Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden last season en route to the Red Sea.

"We're on our way to Panormittis Bay on the island of Simi -- a lovely Greek isle and the site of a fantastic monastery and a great spot to sit out the expected ‘blow.’ Why don't you come along? We have a lot to catch up on."

"Are you sure it's alright?" I timidly queried, concerned about illegally entering and staying in a Greek port.

"No problem" was Brenda's confident reply.

Graham, Karen, Brenda, Tom and Ray in Egypt

"Well, we'll have good company in the Greek jail if things go sour," I said to Liz as we steered Feel Free toward Simi some 12 miles away. It's that 'rigid policy of infinite flexibility' at work again.”

Brenda, Liz and Karen on a Nile River cruise

Truly, reconnecting with cruising pals is one of the great pleasures of cruising. Although we just met Ray and Brenda in Oman in February of 2007, and cruised together for about three months, it was a pretty intense three months sailing from Oman to the Suez Canal. We shared fears, joys, victories, weather information, fish, books, coffee, dinners, did overland trips together in Eritrea, Egypt, even a Nile River cruise, and more than a fair share of sundowners. Hard to imagine getting to know another couple half as well in any other milieu be it suburbia, work place, or school..

Well, we did rendezvous in Panormittis for drinks and dinner aboard Feel Free, the party going well into the night. After it broke up, Liz commented "Tom, do you realize we've only known those two for six months? It feels more like 20 years!"""

Our plan to hole up in this picturesque boat basin for a few days came to an end the next morning as we sampled the famous monastery bread. "Liz, be careful, there's a stone in my bread!" I cried. "Wait a minute, it's not a stone after all! It's one of my crowns that's popped off." It's Friday morning and if we sail around to Pethi we could walk up the trail and over to Simi town to see if we can find a dentist. So much for our retreat in Panormittis. We were off to Pethi within an hour..

On our approach up the long inlet to Pethi, the distinctive shape and color of Red Herring came into view. Unbelievable! Another pair of great cruising buddies, Kiwis, also from the Indian Ocean class of 2007, though we first met them in Vanuatu six years earlier. Alright, it’s party time again tonight..

After explaining my plight to the Red Herrings, also known as Karen and Graham, they’re game to escort us into Simi town. The catching up began as we ambled along the steep, narrow, cobblestone trail. Eventually we did find a dentist whose office actually doubles as his studio where scores of his oil and acrylic paintings adorn the walls. After cementing the crown in place, not only would he not accept payment, he insisted on giving us no fewer than six large postcard sized prints of his lovely paintings depicting scenes of Simi. When I tried to insist he take payment, his reply was immediate and non-negotiable: "Don't think about it." Quite the introduction to Greek hospitality..

That night, back in the anchorage, it was another late night, this time aboard Red Herring. Not only did we catch up on Graham and Karen's summer cruise through the Greek Islands, we also got to meet their visiting daughter Joanne as well as celebrate Graham's 60th birthday. Talk about good timing..

We departed Simi and Greece the next day, happy in the knowledge we'd see the crews of Sunchaser and Red Herring upon our return to Marmaris.

Bozburun Jimmy