I wondered where I would go next and I soon found out. As cheap as Mexico is, boats unfortunately seldom are; and our old girl needed a few new parts to keep her afloat. So I donned my professional captains hat and headed for...
The Southern Aegean and the surrounding coasts. Bodrum in Turkey to begin with. My new contacts Paul and Feza had a new Jeanneau 50 DS which was to cruise the area for the summer, and I was going to run her for them to the Greek Islands and along the southern Turkish Coast.
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An easy to sail boat (especially with full roller furling on both sails, electric winches, air conditioning, and all sorts of other extras) and an inexperienced owner has defined the next few months. My role was to manage the yacht, skipper her, and teach when the owners wished to be taught. I actually enjoy teaching sailing now, something I never thought I would, but if you can survive the training ideals working with flotilla holidays (see later blog), you can probably do it anywhere. And it was good to be diving again too. Checking the seabed with SCUBA outside of Bodrum for a mooring, it was warm, easy, and there were even some fish. It had been a while since I had dived but it was all loaded into the mind ready to be used again on demand.
Living ashore while I prepared 'Blind Date' was easy too, and Feza's sister Ferda cooked the most delicious food. In fact, for all of the restaurants that they used, I still preferred what they cooked themselves. Traditional cooking in Turkey cooked by the locals is some of the best fare I have eaten...
During one such dinner an honoured guest and an old friend to them came to visit. Sadun Boro is not hugely known to the rest of the world, but he is a hero here in Turkey, and rightly so (in fact, as I write this a statue is being built in Istanbul to honour him and his wife, and their first boat now rests in the maritime museum there). Turkish, but educated in Manchester, UK, he sailed around the world with his wife back in 1960, near the beginning of the era for such adventures (not including Slocum of course). He is an older man now but still lives at sea (he is trying out Prout Catamarans nowadays). His writings and books from his many adventures and pilots have sold well in Turkey and other countries, but sadly he was never happy with the original attempts at translating them to English so to this day they are still not available in that language. Maybe one day somebody will manage it. After the evening was finished somebody said to me that he had lived with little belongings or riches, yet he was the happiest man that they knew. This is no surprise to me or anybody else who understands this way of life, and it makes me pine to be back with my own boat. However, there was work to be done, and soon, the Jeanneau was ready to launch.
Without hanging around, we left Bodrum and began the slow island/coastal hopping route east to the area of Gocek. The sailing gentle, the bays, villages and islands we stopped at very picturesque, and the wine was very good too.
It is always good to visit other countries and cultures, but better still to know the people behind them... to know their world beyond the TV and the pictures and the hype. I have always travelled this way (apart from once when somebody took me to Benidorm, and I spent the first 30 minutes in shock, but that's another story).
Knidos (above) was a particularly beautiful place. We arrived the only yacht there and the entire area was a sea of wild flowers and ancient ruins. I would have been happy if we had just stayed there for the following month. I could have walked and walked and simply breathed there, it was incredible for the senses. On a more lively stop we entered Symi for Easter. I soon believed the rumour that they had 6 tons of TNT to use over the weekend as windows and doors rattled and it felt like the island was under siege. A guy was lit and burnt (worryingly called a Jew - but later explained that it was short for Judas), streams of firecrackers and explosives were thrown around near the crowds of people (I saw several people examining their burns with mixed emotions), and all this while the fireman kept watch. I ended up chatting to the fireman next to his wagon as he wobbled clutching his beer and threw his cigarette into the bush. We laughed together; he well understood the irony. Along with the folk dancers and the roasted goat the next day, it was a remarkable weekend.
Finally Rhodes, Castellorizo, Gocek, Kas, and Kekova were visited, before heading east back towards Bodrum to spend the last part of the sailing around Nisyros and the surrounding islands, using the old town as a base. I also visited Istanbul which is a story in itself. Ultimately, Turkey proved itself to be so much more than what I had expected. A land of Eastern promise indeed.
I will add one more note to this episode before moving on, as it is relevant. This 'brief interlude' was exactly that - 6 months cruising away from my normal life of voyaging. It has been a strong reminder of Hayden's quote in the first of these blog entries to stay on the side of nature...
And what have I learnt? It strikes me that we all know in our hearts what the true path is - most of us anyway. Yet people are very good at covering up what they already know to the point that they have to go and find it again. And many people don't even really want to, it is enough in their minds that they imagine they do. What funny creatures we are. But know this; the quest is worth it. And you have to quest - to voyage in life. Herman Hesse wrote in Siddhartha that you cannot pass wisdom on, you must find it yourself. Buddha said you cannot learn to see from reading alone, you must go out into the world. So very true.
There is no Good or Bad, only circumstance.”