More Winter Cruising in Turkey


By Tom Morkin

Fethiye Bay, Southwest Turkey
36 38.6N, 29 05.8E

Cleopatra’s Baths, the ancient semi-submerged bath-house spa used for centuries by the Greeks who once ruled this part of Turkey and then, no doubt, by the Romans who subsequently replaced them, was the site of our morning exploration. The structure is located literally on the water; in fact, 30 percent of it is underwater.

Liz imagines the opulence and history of Cleopatra’s Baths

To completely explore the bath house would require mask, snorkel, and a tolerance for cold water -- something in short supply at 0900. Instead, Liz and I walked around the landward side and dinghied around the wet side, vowing to come back when the water temperature was higher.

The dramatic high and steep backdrop of Wall Bay and Ruin Bay were in marked contrast to the lower and more pastoral environment of our next anchorage off Tersane (Shipyard) Adasi, the largest island in the gulf. Tersane Bay was obviously a popular place about 1,700 years ago. Hellenistic ruins including those of a shipyard, watchtower, and monastery litter the foreshore of this very well-protected nook.

Feel Free framed by Hellenistic ruins in Tersane Bay

The resident farming family uses some of the building remains to shelter their goats, sheep, and cattle. The ruins closest to the beach have been used by yachts and small fishing boats as points to secure their stern lines. As in almost everywhere in Turkey, especially in the summer months, anchored boats take their stern lines ashore. To prevent the practice of tying to 2,000-year-old structures and trees, steel bollards have been cemented into the ground here as in other popular bays

Despite claims in Rod Heikell’s Turkish Waters Pilot that the bay provided good holding, it didn’t for us. Twice we dropped our 64-pound Bruce anchor with 150 feet of 3/8-inch chain in 30 feet, assuming our 5-to-1 scope would hold us in place with the 70-horsepower Isuzu in reverse at 1,000 rpm. Not so. On the third try the anchor held with only 600 rpm applied so we settled for that on the grounds that we could put two lines ashore. We got away with it, but it resulted in sleepus interruptus when the winds gusted to 25 knots that night.

With Feel Free anchored in Tersane Bay, winter brings cloudy days on the Turkish coast

The following day’s hike was proceeding quite nicely under light, overcast skies until we reached a high pasture that appeared to be the dining area of the island for over 200 sheep. Try as we might to pass through the diners and continue along on our circular four-kilometer trek back to the beach, the sheep clearly mistook us for their shepherd and thought we were herding them back to the beach too, and en masse they headed back down ahead of us.

Being the city folk we basically are, we thought this to be a bad thing – the four of us driving them from their feeding grounds. Would the shepherd have to drive them back up or would they all go to their sheep bed hungry because of our intrusion? We turned around and retraced our steps. We may as well have kept going because not long after we arrived on the beach, so did the 200 sheep, looking to us to be more than mildly put out by the new strangers who ruined their lunch.

The sheep seemed mildly put out by the strangers who ruined their lunch

In Kapi Creek we reconnected with Karen and Graham of Red Herring. They’d taken a mooring and backed up to the small pier in front of the one restaurant in the tiny idyllic cove. The caretaker of the restaurant welcomed us by holding up the mooring line and directed Feel Free to a spot near our buddies. Of course the restaurant was closed for the winter but that didn’t prevent Isun from inviting us for Turkish cai (tea). The tea party quickly morphed into a wine party when Isun appeared from the kitchen with three bottles of nice Turkish red wine.

Just when our party was coming to life, our trusty ol’ Nikon digital camera decided to end it all. Liz’s return to the boat for party nibblies provided the opportunity. Just as she climbed aboard, it struggled free from her pocket and dove for the drink. It fell short by two inches but had just enough momentum to bounce high enough off the deck to clear the three-inch high bulwarks and finally, peace.

Liz gets a close up view of King Amyntas’ tomb, carved into a sheer rock face, high above the town

Of course, the nagging question is WHY? Possibly, life for a 3.2-megapixel camera in a 10-megapixel world has got to be tough. No question, it did look at peace lying in 10 feet of crystal clear water under our port side. The good news was that the pictures you’re now seeing were downloaded a couple of hours before the suicide dive.

The big city of Fethiye, population 40,000, with the famous Lycian tombs, fruit-and-veggie market, nearby hikes on the Lycian trail, and the haunting remains of the old abandoned Greek village of Kayakoy were on tap for our visit. It was a two-hour motorsail (heavy on the motor, light on the sail) to the town anchorage where we found another pair of our cruising buddies.

It was fun to reconnect with our old friends. Here’s 2Extreme with Henry and Mattie and their pilot aboard in the Suez Canal

We first met Henry and Mattie of Marathon, Florida, when we were all in Australia, and the last time we saw them was in the Suez Canal. Now, 2Extreme had spent the winter here at anchor. They couldn’t figure out why we didn’t all just lie off this great town and save hundreds of dollars a month over the winter. The holding is thick mud, the setting gorgeous, and it’s just a short dinghy ride from the marina. “We’ve saved enough money in two months by not paying marina fees to replace our bank of batteries,” said Henry.

Over drinks, Henry and Mattie told us about their summer trip up the west coast of Turkey through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus to Istanbul, then on to the Black Sea and Bulgaria to attend Henry’s brother’s wedding.

The view of Fethiye town, from the hills on a grey day

Each time we four get together we reminisce about our time together in Langkawi, Malaysia, on Boxing Day 2004 where we all survived the terrible Asian tsunami by simply postponing our trips to Telaga Harbor by two hours in order to buy five more cases of beer for our trip to Thailand. That two-hour delay may have saved both our boats because we were late for the tsunami that devastated Telaga Harbor. Who said beer wasn’t good for you?

The tombs on the hills overlook the bustle of life, and children playing, in Fethiye town

In ancient times, when this part of western Turkey was inhabited by Greeks, Fethiye was known as Telmessos and was the famed city of oracles. Nowadays it’s known for sarcophagi strewn haphazardly throughout the town site. These ancient final resting places are to be found in some bizarre locations -- such as beside the post office, in city parks and backyards, and in the middle of the road and used as traffic separators.

The real jaw droppers in the neighborhood are without question the tombs of the Kings. Not wanting their final resting spot to be in a grocery store parking lot, these guys had other people go to considerable time and trouble to be sure that they had a little more peace and quiet for the rest of eternity. Their tombs were cut out of sheer rock faces high above the hustle and bustle of what was then Telmessos and now Fethiye.

A friendly policeman poses for us in front of a sarcophagus

Kayakoy (Rock Village) or Hayaletkoy (Ghost Town) occupies a unique place in Turkish history. Here you see 3,500 old, abandoned stone Greek houses. These village homes of some 25,000 Greeks were abandoned in 1922 after the Independence War with Turkey. The peace treaty arranged population exchange whereby 25,000 Greeks returned to Greece and 25,000 Muslims from western Trace (Greece) to Turkey. (Louis Berniere’s Birds Without Wings is a good historical fiction. The setting of that novel is Kayakoy in the 19th and early 20th centuries.)

The stone houses of Kayakoy stand abandoned since 1922

The Turkish meteorological website warned of cold weather on the way. As it was we spent our evenings on our heater-less boat wrapped in layers of clothes and covered in our comforters. We developed the habit of climbing into bed with clothes on and disrobing only after we warmed the bedding. It was a novel experience after our years in the tropics, and the novelty was wearing off fast. Furthermore, we wanted to get back to Marmaris in time to join the 150 other winter residents of Yacht Marina who were bussing to Istanbul for the Boat Show.

Finally, the northwest winds (our direction of travel) were only expected to build over the next couple of days so we upped the anchor at the crack of dawn. The moment of truth was when we rounded the point leaving Fethiye Bay.

Colorful carpet shops abound in Fethiye town

We could see there were white caps outside, the question was if we could lay it. If not, it was going to be a long and expensive motoring slog. We had 40 miles to go; winds were 20-25 knots with the attendant nasty chop. If it’s on the nose, it will be a 10-hour trip. If we burn a gallon and a half an hour, that’s a $150-fuel day and a bumpy ride

Ancient tombs of the kings stand watch over Fethiye town

We reefed the main, set the staysail, rolled out half of our number 1 genoa, and off we went. Miracle of miracles, the winds were north-northeast and we could easily lay Marmaris on one exhilarating tack. The offshore winds made for flat-water sailing, the occasional dollop of water deflected by the newly constructed cockpit enclosure. Life can be good.


Feel Free sets sail for new adventures in Turkey