Stunning scenery, lovely people and every improving yachting facilities are making Turkey an ever more popular destination. Sailing in Turkey comes in many flavours – take you pick from bareboat charter, flotilla holidays, skippered charter, crewed charter and sailing courses.
I first visited Turkey 25 years ago and remember thinking it was too good to last and would soon be discovered by the tourist hoardes (yes, I’m one of those tourists that hates tourists)! And yes, one or two of the bigger towns, such as Marmaris, are now crowded with hotels. But most areas remain virtually untouched and there are still places where road access is almost impossible, making a yacht a great way to see the country.
There’s some great sailing too, some easier, some a bit harder, depending on where you are, and often which direction you’re heading. The prevailing winds bend along the coast, meaning it’s often a fast run in one direction and a sometimes bouncy beat in the other.
Whilst there are marinas in the bigger towns, along much of the coast south/east of Bodrum, many bays have just a single restaurant (no shops, cashpoints or anything else).
The restaurants built their jetties from whatever wood was to hand (with results of varying quality). Some bays have no mains electricity or water, so showers ashore are rare and shore power likewise. On the plus side, finding a place is easy – the restaurateurs will bust a gut to get you tied to something in return for your custom, so there’s no need to head in early.
Given the facilities, the catering is sometimes remarkable – I’ve seen 80 people fed with a choice of 6 main courses from a single stone oven (although those who had the chicken ate about an hour later than those who ordered fish)! It can get a bit repetitive if you’re there for a fortnight but it’s fresh and much healthier than our supermarket fare.
In the marinas, charges can be close to Croatian levels, typically £30-£50 depending on yacht size, but other than at the start and end of the trip, few use these more than one or twice in a holiday.
In small towns you will occasionally be asked for a contribution towards “village funds”. This used to be a couple of pounds but £10-20 seems more common these days.
But in most places, the deal is that if you tie up on a restaurant’s quay, you eat at their establishment and no other charge is made.
With only one restaurant, there’s little choice and often no provisions available, other than bread, so you do have to plan your trip to take in the odd larger stop to enable some shopping.
The daily weather pattern pretty consistently delivers no wind until mid morning, increasing until early afternoon, then blowing pretty steadily until early evening. Strengths in the afternoon are typically F3-5. This weather pattern does give the less experienced the option of getting off early to avoid much of the afternoon blow.
The less experienced should head for the Gocek/Fethiye Bay area, on Turkey’s Lycian coast. This is Turkey’s beginners area. If the wind does get too much in the afternoon, you’re never more than a few miles from shelter.
I wouldn’t describe any of the sailing as particularly hard though there are a few stretches that can be more challenging than usual.
On the Lycian coast, heading east from the Fethiye area along the Seven Capes the seas an be a bit confused, but an early start will avoid the choppiness.
To the west, on the Carian coast, around the Datca peninsula, opposite Kos, the winds can put up a biit of a sea, but you’ll soon be through it. Even these areas are well within the capabilities of a decent day skipper, though especially heading west along the coast in to the prevailing winds it can sometimes get a bit bouncy
There’s varied scenery on offer from the well watered areas around Fethiye to the moonscapes further west on parts of the Carian coast. The Carian and Lycian coasts are both hilly areas, ringed with cliffs. Only as you head north of Bodrum does it become a little flatter.
For those that are interested, there are plenty of ruins to explore too – in fact I suspect were they in Greece they would be much better publicised – they certainly merit it.
There’s a relaxed attitude to qualifications from the authorities which probably explains the number of flotillas on offer, which between them cover most of the coast from Kas to Bodrum.
Bareboat charterers will still be asked for an ICC or RYA Day Skipper (or other equivalent) by the charter companies, but lack of these will not necessarily be an obstacle. However, it’s getting tighter by the year and if you’re up to skippering a yacht, and ICC is easily and quickly obtained.
So if you like a bit of luxury with your sailing, and new shopping opportunities every night, don’t go to Turkey. If you like life simple and unspoiled, and welcome the chance to escape from western life for a while, you’ll love it. It remains (with all respect to my many friends elsewhere in the Med), my favourite destination.