Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


By Liz Tosoni

36 09 05 N, 28 18 32 E

After a month cruising along the southwest coast of Turkey, and the small Greek island of Simi, soaking in the scenery and general Aegean ambiance, it was time to think about winter boat jobs: enclosing the cockpit to capture the sun's warmth and keep out winter winds, disassembling and greasing winches, inspecting and refurbishing sails and rigging, repairing genset and other gear, sanding and varnishing, reupholstering, just to name a few.

Let the chores and projects begin, now that Feel Free is safely tied into her winter marina berth

It sounds pretty sexist but onboard work does tend to break down into “blue jobs,” such as those related to safety, power, and mechanics; and “pink jobs,” such as those to do with beautification, comfort, and nourishment. This is just how things have naturally evolved over the years, even though I (Liz) never dreamed they would when we started out. The season's first storm has already come and gone and more are on the horizon, so we made a run for our chosen marina: Marmaris Yacht Marina.

We had to figure out a way to get from boat to dock. Ergo, the plank

Mediterranean Mooring

Coming into Yacht Marina, our welcoming committee consisted of two professional, able-bodied chaps in a RIB with a large outboard on the stern. One fellow immediately boarded the boat while the other proceeded to our spot on the dock. Almost all boats go stern-to the dock. When Feel Free was successfully backed into mooring position, the newly arrived crew took the “slime line” (a small line attached to the main mooring line) and led the line forward, securing it to a bow cleat.

Rather than relying on one mooring per boat, a series of moorings are joined by a line of 6-inch link chain to which the mooring line is secured. After you see the arrangement on the bottom, you need not lose a minute of sleep for fear of dragging this mooring.

Believe it or not, in all our years of cruising, we've never needed the proverbial “gang plank” but now, as we lay comfortably on our mooring, we couldn't help but notice that our stern was almost two meters from the dock. Since I (Tom) had no plans to drill holes into my surfboard and use it as a passarelle as they call it in these parts, the first matter of business was to scour the boatyard for a discarded 2x8.

You can leave your boat in the marina, on the hard, propped up by logs

Abandoned planks were in abundant supply, so it was only a matter of drilling holes in a nice one and securing it to the boat. On the dock side, the plank also was drilled to take some lines that we led to the arch at the stern of the boat; this will enable us to raise the plank at night, when we’re away from the boat, or when the water gets so choppy that the passarelle would otherwise start banging on the dock. Our solution to Med mooring is simple and functional, yet as we walk the docks we see countless other ways to accomplish a clever passarelle, some of them being engineering marvels.

More sophisticated gangplanks, such as this nifty passarelle, were used on many European boats.

A Case For Cruising Turkey Over the past 40 years, the Turkish yachting industry has grown by leaps and bounds and 21 first-class marinas now dot the scenic coastline, from Istanbul in the north to Antalya in the south. Since our arrival in the country in June 2007, coming from the Red Sea, we've managed to check out a few of them: Kemer, Finike, Fethiye, Marti, and Marmaris. Each one has its pluses and minuses, so why did we choose this one?

The Marmaris Yacht Marina is vast, and has all the amenities we were looking for, at a great price

1) Price -- Marmaris Yacht Marina has the lowest rates in Turkey and probably the entire Med. (Netsel Marina, also in Marmaris, is considerably higher, but it's immediately next to the town.) Following are the rates for a yacht of 13-14 meters at Marmaris Yacht Marina: -Daily mooring: 20 Euro or $29 US -Monthly mooring: 151.7 Euro or $220 US -Six-month mooring: 900 Euro or $1,314 US -One year mooring contract: 1,806 Euro or $2,636 US At approximately $7 US a day, moorage fees are pretty hard to beat anywhere.

We are finding all the hardware we need here. In fact, the selection is the best we’ve seen since leaving San Diego.

2) Location -- Marmaris is a large natural harbor, scenically splendid, known as the pearl of Turkey. There's a 16th Century citadel on a hill just behind the harbor. The surrounding hills are covered with a carpet of pine trees. From the marina, it's a 25-minute “dolmus” (local bus) ride to town. There's good hiking, with pleasing panoramic views of the area. Dalaman airport is just over an hour away.

Winds pick up from the south later in the day to 25 knots and honk all night long. We’re up and down like yoyos checking to make sure we aren't dragging or swinging into the other boats nearby that are tied to moorings with stern lines to shore. Morning dawns grey and uninviting with winds still strong. Yawning and tired after a restless night, we decide to spend the day, reading, writing, hiking, even though it might be smarter to take advantage of the southerlies to carry us to Marmaris. Soon enough…

Turkey is world-famous for it’s ancient steam baths, known as the hammam.

There's room for 1,000 boats on hard stands (boats are propped up with logs) and 650 in the water. It's like a miniature boat city really, a maze of boats of every description, with two TravelLifts (330-ton and 60-ton) -- lots of room in the inn. Compare that to the western Med where prices are usually sky high, especially in the summer months, and spaces fill up early in the season.

4) Boat parts -- There's a section of Marmaris town that's completely devoted to yachts, with every shop you can imagine. There, you can find everything you need from electronics to liferafts to refrigeration to rigging to upholstery. When we first set foot there, we couldn't believe our eyes. Not since San Diego have we seen such a wide selection of boating goods and supplies. West Marine is also being set up in Turkey. The first one will be in Istanbul in May 2008.

Liz was inspired by the beautiful carpets and textiles of Turkey, and reupholstered Feel Free’s main settees.

5) Social Scene -- A large and friendly international liveaboard community is found in the Marina, with boats hailing from all over the world. A host of activities, social events, and programs are organized throughout the winter: daily hiking (0730); visits to the “hammam” (Turkish bath); Turkish, German, and French lessons; seminars on various topics; quiz night; Kids' Club; exercise classes; organized festivities at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year; outings to places of historic and cultural interest; beading lessons, and so on. Every year in February, a trip to Istanbul for the Istanbul Boat Show is planned, sponsored by the Marina owner, including welcome party, boat cruise on the Bosporus, meals and complimentary jacket. Participants only pay for their hotel plus a small fee for the bus fuel.

Our German marina friends from the sailboat Odin, dressed in their Christmas finery

6) Good repair facilities and shopping -- Because of the long tradition of wood-boatbuilding in Turkey, carpentry, painting and upholstery are particularly good. It's nice to know that professionals are on hand if you need them. A weekly market offers tables overflowing with all manner of colorful and delicious produce, cheeses, olives, dates and figs, nuts and oils, and all things for which Turkey is famous -- pastries and breads, local souvenirs, as well as carpets, clothing, bedding, shoes and leather wares.

Everywhere you go in Turkey, you can enjoy the age-old art of carpet making

There are also a number of regular grocery shops and large and small supermarkets in town. The other day, I (Liz) was aghast when I discovered my change purse with cash and credit cards missing from my pocket after spending a couple of hours in the market. Trudging back to the market, heavily laden with all my purchases, I thought “this is a long shot but I've got to try.” First stop was the garlic stand. “Merhaba. I lost my purse. Did you find a purse?” I nearly cried when the young man replied, “Is this your wallet?” “Yes!” I quickly replied, totally surprised. “What is your name please?” He checked my name against the one on the credit card and handed it back to me. He’d already reported it to the police. My face was beaming as I walked away, thinking this was just one more reason to love Turkey.

Turkey is one of the most beautiful cruising grounds we’ve visited so far.

A Few Negatives
Of course it can't all be good. There have to be some disadvantages, you say, and you're right. Our biggest annoyance about life in Marmaris town and Turkey in general, is the age-old custom of bartering. You feel as though you can never browse in peace. When you ask for the price of something, you know that the price they quote you is far above the price the locals get charged. Sometimes, it's twice or three times as much!

It helps that it’s winter, when the tourist population is small. We don’t have to haggle as much about the price of everything

Marmaris is a tourist town and touts abound. Sometimes it helps to say: “I'm not a tourist. I live here.” It’s a game and at first it can be fun, but when you live here, it gets a bit tiresome. Actually, though, we've noticed that recently, the behavior is different. The sales people seem to realize that if you are here in the cold months, you mustn't be a tourist, and there isn't the hard sell. They likely enjoy a rest from the game themselves during the slow season. Another irritation is having to exit the country every 90 days to renew your visa. The boat is welcome for 18 months without leaving, but the individual has to depart and have the passport stamped in a foreign country every 90 days or face a considerable daily fine. This can be expensive and time consuming. Turkey has her share of problems both political and economical, but when you’re a guest, it feels as though you’re sheltered from them. The foreign media scare people off and give a wrong impression of this welcoming, safe, friendly place. It's become our new “home away from home.”

We need to leave the country every three months in order to renew our visas, so we take the ferry to Greece.

We were on an inland trip in Konya, walking back to our inn, when a man stopped us in the street to ask if we had somewhere to stay. When we told him yes, we did, thank you, he said if we didn't have a place, he would like to invite us. “I am Kurdish. I have a home. You can stay with me and my family.” He wanted to let us know that ordinary Kurdish people are good. They get a bad wrap in the press and maybe he wanted to educate us. That's the thing about cruising and traveling; it's a kaleidoscope of surprising stories. Wintering over in Marmaris Marina allows us to tackle our boat projects in earnest as well as get to know the people and countryside of yet another fascinating landfall. We’re very happy to be here.


Along with our new group of international group of friends, in formal attire no less, we celebrate New Year’s Day with a dip

The meltemi is a fierce weather system well known in this region. It’s nice to be snug and safe in the marina when they blow