My Blue Cruise along the Turkish Rivera
17-19 SEPTEMBER 2023
“Now voyager sail forth to seek and find.”Walt Whitman
Did Agamemnon or Achilles pass this way and enjoy such views? I think not. Their minds were focused on more manly things like wine, women and war. While I definitely am NOT a cruise person, nor would I fly thousands of miles for a beach, cruising this part of history in a gulet sounded interesting.
Modern tourism and commerce recognize a money-maker. Have beautiful scenery, ideal weather, historic and cultural attractions of interest? Why not take advantage? Blue and turquoise waters of a sea of legend, add a boat and crew and one creates a money-maker. Subsequently, the market for gulet cruising flourished along the Turkish Rivera.
Cruising aboard a Gulet
Gulets are traditional Turkish wooden boats of a two or three masts design. The vessel’s length is from 65 to 130 feet with cabins for 4 to 22 guests. The “yachts” are “simple luxurious. “ A captain and crew of 4-6 provide the compass and food. There may be air-conditioning, TV, ice-maker, internet and private showers. Some smaller, less luxurious boats can be pretty sparse on the amenities with limited electricity and suggestions to “dry your hair in the sun”.
There are differing opinions as to the origins of the gulet. The evolution from a simple fishing vessel to the yachts of today is a relatively recent development, with many boats built in Bodrum and Marmaris. The recognition of their commercial value led to the blossoming of tourism.
Simultaneously, their sea worthiness evolved. Gone are the days of derision, as boats built in the last 20 years have proven themselves in the Bodrum Cup Wooden Yachts Races. While we won’t be racing, we may not sink either.
We arrive in the coastal town of Ekincik where we board our gulet for a 3-day Blue Cruise. Our ship is the Nemesis. Our ketch was built in Bodrum and refit in 2014. The double-masted boat is 88’ long with a 21’ beam and houses 8 cabins. It only needs 12’ of water so we’re good to go. Our dining table and lounge overlooks the captain’s seat. We can keep an eye on him. It is wood paneling everywhere.
The cabins are small as are the private bathroom with shower. Beds are a bunkbed style and small port holes the only source of natural light and air. One must pre-plan one’s moves when sharing a cabin. There is one electrical plug so at least part of the day there is charging capabilities when and if the generator is running. Captain has turned on the internet and most times cell service picks up from the shore.
Bottle of wine is purchased – we’re good to go.
We sail very briefly around Ekincik Bay, getting our sea legs and boat etiquette. Important information: life vests are in the room. Bar chest is open as long as no one is sitting on it. Nemesis is moored to the rocky shoreline.
Seas are calm, but we haven’t left the bay. The evening is passed quietly swaying in the bay, bobbing quietly. Lights twinkle and music blasts from the other ships anchored here.
Life appears to be okay on the sea. The sun is hot, the beer is cold.
I enjoy the sights, a glass of wine, and occasionally manage to read a few more lines of Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey. In this tale, the Trojan War has ended with the total destruction of Troy. Many of its principal players are dead. Paris and Achilles are haunting Hades. Agamemnon sails home to his wife Clytemnestra, only to have her axe him in his bath. Meanwhile, Menelaus returns with Helen, whose face launched a thousand ships, but the marriage bed remained unfruitful. And then there is Odysseus who sails the long way home enduring 20 years of carousing and adventuring around the Mediterranean before returning to Ithaca and faithful Penelope.
Sleeping in Hades
However, because we anchor in a mountain-surrounded bay, following daytime’s temps over 90°, and tiny port windows providing little air, my room is a sauna from Hell. There is a wall control that indicates air conditioning and fan are available. It is only a feverish dream.
Shower water is tepid, so no relief there. A light coverlet is on the bed. What are they thinking? I can’t seem to drink enough water. Sleeping is close to impossible. Have we so sorely offended Neptune that he punishes us so?
Sleeping in the Penthouse
My second and third nights on the boat I slept on top under the stars. I needed that coverlet and my windbreaker. The breezes are wonderful and soothing.
The night skies are dark and the vast universe is overhead, filled with stars. These stars have not changed since the time of Agamemnon. Greek astronomer Ptolemy named 48 constellations centuries ago which included the 12 zodiacs and references to the gods. Some of his names differed from our modern ones, but overhead remains: Scorpius, Capricornus, Taurus, Pisces, Hercules, Hydra, Leo, Pegasus, Andromeda, Ursa Major. The list goes on and so do the stars above.
Venus, either the goddess or eastern star, or both, shines brightly as daybreak comes. Eos brings a spectacular sunrise.
Dawn arrives in her saffron robes
Daybreak is spectacular! Our gulet slowly rocks in gentle swells. I hate to rise. In the east, the sun peaks above the mountains, casting its golden streaks across the Aegean. Surely, Agamemnon, Menelaus and even Achilles would acknowledge its beauty. To have ignored such treasure would have angered the gods.
I sail south along the shore of Antalya Province thinking of Greeks and their ships sailing for spoils of war. Eons earlier our ancestors passed this way on their way to settle Europe and eventually to America. Did my Croatian ancestor walk or sail?
The vistas vary: arid, mountains, cliffs, and always the blue sea. Seas are calm, temperatures are warm and the coastline of limestone cliffs and distant mountains stunning. Villages and resorts nestle along the waters and in the hills. Turkey’s “Blue Cruise” along the “Turquoise Coast” has fairly-earned its reputation.
Occasionally, our gulet makes a stop in case one wants to go ashore. Swimming opportunities are available. The islands and bays around Göcek are inviting. There is the quiet Hamam Bay and the secluded Cleopatra Bay named after you know who. Cleo’s Baths are spectacular both in location and color. I’m sure she would have loved to have dove in on her way to Tarsus and her tryst with Mark Anthony.