I grew up around sailing…my dad loved to sail and seemed to always have some sort of sailing vessel. I remember having a love/hate feeling toward the sport at times, especially after getting caught in a horrible storm at Porpoise Point—where the Matanzas Inlet and the ocean meet in St. Augustine—one afternoon. It was a frightening day that ended in SOS calls and a boat rescue. However, even that experience did not diminish my love of sailboats for long, and as an adult, the idea of sailing the Greek Islands and Turkish Coast has held a certain intrigue.
Searching for a true hands-on sailing experience, I found Sea Scape Adventures. It’s a small, owner-operated company based in the Greek Islands that’s been doing “shareboat” trips since 1994. These trips are skippered sailing adventures where you can be as involved, or not, as suits you—a great way to learn and improve your sailing skills…or just your suntan.
Knowing that May is a beautiful time of year in the Greek Islands, it was decided: a seven-day excursion in May, setting sail from the Greek Island of Kos and sailing to Marmaris, Turkey. I was set to learn a lot, not just about sailing but about history. Although Turkey does not have the same romantic image as Greece, it does in fact have more intact and fascinating ancient ruins, like the elaborate Lycian (an Anatolian people in Lycia, Turkey, and originally from Crete) cliff tombs dating back to 500 BC.
DAY 1 Greek Island of Kos
The island of Kos is an one hour flight from Athens. It is a Greek island located in the south Sporades group of the Dodecanese. Kos also happens to be the birthplace of Hippocrates and is an island of tropical beauty, endless beaches and two thousand years of history.
Spending one night in Kos before meeting the boat in order to explore the island’s ancient history, I spent the evening wandering the streets of the main plaza, which turned out to be quite lively and beautiful.
DAY 2 Set sail for Ovabükü, “the Oval Bay”
Entering the harbour through its magnificent 14th century fortress, erected in 1315 by The Knights of Saint John of Rhodes, I met up with the Seascape Sailing crew at the docks in Kos.
After lunch, a beer, getting to know the crew and other sailors, and completing immigration, the sailing adventure commenced.
Our vessel, Vassilis, is a modern 55′ sloop, with a semi-pilothouse design which creates a very unusual—and large—split-level design, the lower level comprised of the main dining area and galley. She can take up to eight guests on the upper deck, and each
cabin has its own bathroom and shower. Seascape always sails two boats together, and our partner was a much bigger catamaran that carried twelve passengers.
This first day at sea was beautiful; our sweet downwind sail of four to five hours ended in the lovely little village of Ovabükü, a favorite home-away-from-home for sailors, where the families look after them like visiting relatives. Here we met Ogun, a young Turkish friend of the owners, who created the fantastic little hideout where we were to spend the night enjoying light-hearted games after a dinner of his sister Semra’s delicious home-cooked Turkish food.
We docked at a tiny wooden jetty, with a lovely sandy beach which curves around the bay. Tucked away on the Datça peninsula, Ovabükü is the prettiest in a chain of three bays, its shallowness and sandy bottom make it especially warm and a great swimming spot. The beach is a relatively small stretch of creamy soft sand, while the countryside around is lush and beautiful, with pine forests mixed with oak, myrtle and carob trees. This place has the whole package: peace, authenticity and a real sense of escape.
DAY 3 Set sail to Datça
Datça is a small fishing town situated on the southeastern side of the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea and has a population of about 10,000 people. The waterfront is lined with bars and tavernas, while one street back are several interesting craft and jewelery shops. Walking towards the beach, there is a tiny lake, with a surprise mini-waterfall as it runs into the ocean.
For the real Turkish experience, don’t miss the local Haman (Turkish baths). Here, you lounge around on large heated marble slabs, and have those layers of old, dirty skin loofah’d off –or, more accurately, ripped off!— followed by a oil massage, clean soft white towels and some pampering. Note: This is not for the faint of heart; it’s not like a regular massage. But hey, when in Turkey, do as the Turks do.
There are several cultural/historic trips available. We visited a stately old home turned olive farm in Old Town Datca, abandoned by the Greeks after WWII, when the Greeks and Turks did their “population swap.”
DAY 4 Set sail to Boyuk Bükü and Dirsek
We had a gentle, relaxing downwind two to three hour sail to Boyuk Buku, where the landscape suddenly changes: The soft, pine-forested hills become dramatically towering cliffs, arid and desolate as any desert. The ancient city of Lorimer used to be situated here, and the fortress walls which surrounded the entire bay can still be seen. It was a great place for hiking.
After lunch, it was a short sail to Dirsek—a long inlet lying immediately east of Agil Burnu, accessible only by boat and home to a solitary restaurant renowned for its jumbo garlic prawns. This remote, itsy-bitsy cove, with one restaurant, accomodates about ten boats at its dock and has a population of just six to eight people. It was one of my favorite stops.
The solitary taverna is run by an extended family with lots of goats, sheep, and chickens —a true farming cove nestled down deep among the towering cliffs. Our dinner was about as fresh as it gets, with prawns, vegetables, fruits and herbs just plucked from the immediate surroundings.
After dinner we went back to the boats to relax over a few drinks under one of the starriest skies I’ve ever seen.
DAY 5 Sail to Bozburun
We awoke to the wafting smells of fresh bread baking outside in a wood-fire oven. We breakfasted on this with local honey—mmmmm! What a delight!
Our next anchorage, Bozburun, is a small, traditional seaside town in the Marmaris district of southwestern Turkey with a permanent population of about two thousand. It’s full of gulets (wooden sailing ships), but not many yachts…and certainly not many tourists.
We docked at a tiny wooden jetty just outside the village, at a little family place right on the waterfront called Aphrodite Hotel Bozburun. It is a shady, quiet spot and some of us decided to rent rooms for a mere $35 for the night in order to stretch out a bit more. We all settled in for a lovely communal dinner along the waterside and relaxed for the evening.
DAY 6 Bozburun
Bozburun is worth an extended stop, and we spent the day exploring this deeply religious village. In the center of the town is a mosque that broadcasts Muslim chants through a bullhorn every hour on the hour for nearly ten minutes each time. It was a bit daunting at first, but we got used to it.
Bozburun was once the main center for traditional wooden boat construction, and there are still several visible little boat yards scattered around where you can see gulets in all stages, from bare skeletons to the beautifully finished item.
This is where my personal journey took a turn. Being on a small boat with several other unknown individuals can be a bit tricky, with its mix of personalities in close quarters. Suffice it to say that one of my fellow sailors had gotten more obnoxious with every night of revelry. So, I inquired how to meet the boat at its final destination, and then disembarked to stay another night in Bozburum. This was going to be my private day of exploration, but I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to find my way. This is a remote village were no one speaks English.
DAY 7 Bozburun in a small world
Getting up at 5 a.m., I grabbed one of the many kayaks lying along the waterside for guests to use and took off exploring. I spent a couple of hours leisurely kayaking, inhaling the quiet beauty of the water and massive cliffs.
Afterward, curious about the tiki style hut I had seen up in the treetops next to my hotel, I wandered over. It turned out to be a luxury resort called Sabrinas Haus, and I was eagerly greeted by several staff who spoke only Turkish. Immediately realizing I spoke English, they took off to get their manager—a tall, dark Turkish man, who asked in clear English where I was from. I told him I was from Florida, and he said he had just moved from Florida…simultaneously we both said “Jacksonville!” Stunned, he continued that he once worked at Shelby’s Coffee shop in Atlantic Beach, and then suddenly said, “I know who you are—I remember Arbus Magazine from Shelby’s!” Shocked, we stood there for almost twenty minutes laughing hysterically about such a chance encounter. Incidentally, I learned that the mysterious hut in the trees was the resort’s massage room, which I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy before meeting back up with my new friend, Tarik Yüce. We talked for hours over cocktails down at the waterfront bar, and then into dinner at Sabrina’s Haus. What unexpected fun!
DAY 8 Time to find the boat in Keci Buku!
Admittedly, I had absolutely no idea how to find the docking location of the boat. I was told to get on a certain bus and go…“Go where?” After two hours of total confusion (my own, that is), I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to see the concierge from my new friend Tarik’s hotel. Tarik had asked him to come find me and take me to the boat. You can imagine my sigh of relief.
We drove through the heavily wooded mountains, round and round on up, and then plunging down to a scattering of coastal villages and beaches. They say the craggy mountainous Bozburun Peninsula is the real hidden Turkey.
It’s like an hour long roller coaster ride to Keci Buku, a well-sheltered hideout described as a “gem” in the Turkish Waters Pilot…and it truly is. Keci Buku is a wide, sweeping bay surrounded by pine forests, with a fascinating old fortress perched on the top of an island, guarding the entrance.
We disembarked Vassilis at Marmaris the next morning and drove to Dalaman, the closest airport, where–filled with unforgettable memories of this adventure-filled sailing experience–I hopped on a flight to Istanbul.
This adventure is: SeaScape Sailing. They offer summers in Greece & Turkey, winters in Thailand & Malaysia. www.seascape-sail.com
Tip: Get a small group of friends together and captain an entire boat. All expenses are included in the cost.
Black Creek Outfitters recommended trip gear.
When sailing always be prepared for stormy weather. Black Creek Outfitters recommended the Arcteryx Beta SL: Newly Redesigned in 2012 with a slimmer fit and a Storm HoodTM. Super lightweight, packs small, waterproof GORE-TEX® PacLite® jacket designed for take-along emergency storm protection. It is a hard shell that is wind proof and water proof (keeps the outdoor elements out).