Blue Voyage: Life on a Turkish Sailing Boat
I woke up to the sun gently kissing my face with its morning rays of light. Around me, I could hear nothing but little ocean waves splashing against the wooden outline of the boat. We had fallen asleep on an old mattress on the top deck; below the moon and stars that had painted an unforgettable night sky above our boat.
It was a week in paradise, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, of civilisation, of land. For two days now we had been drifting on a traditional Turkish gulet along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, past uninhabited Turkish and Greek islands, fallen ruins of ancient times and pristine waters. Each bay that we stopped at to dip our windswept bodies into the cool waters was more beautiful than the previous one. The water was so clear that we could see almost every detail of the busy reefs beneath us. I loved jumping in from the top deck, feeling the long fall before finally hitting the surface of the water and diving into a world of blue. Little fish curiously swam next to us, nibbling gently on our feet as if to say “hello”.
It was a dream come true… spending a week living and sailing on a gulet, a traditional wooden Turkish sailing boat surrounded by nothing but the beautiful blue waters of the Aegean. Hence the name “Mavi Yolculuk” (Blue Voyage). “Blue Voyage” (Mavi Yolculuk) got its name from a book by the Turkish painter and author Cevat Şakir Kabaağaç, who explored the pine-clad coasts around Bodrum during the first half of the 20th century by boat. We savoured each minute of the week aboard the Haluk Irem, which was named after the captain’s fittingly two blue eyed children. Haluk spent his time on the boat with us, professionally anchoring his namesake in the bays and coves we stopped at, tying sailor’s knots and jumping into the water with the grace only a young man who grew up on sea could have. If Haluk decided to grow a fishtail, none of us would have been surprised. My favourite moments from that time were made in the little bays that were surrounded by hundreds of little dots of islands. In one of them we anchored longer to fill up our food and freshwater supply and while the boat was made ready for the next days, Connor and me hopped off deck onto the little coastal town to explore. Tiny houses painted in white with natural stone walls surrounding them decorated the sandy shore.
Behind them nature took its own path with lush green vegetation soaring towards the sky. We found a little restaurant that had been overgrown by wine. Perfectly round and fresh grapes were growing over our heads and forming an intricate green roof made up of leaves and fruits. None of us could resist the promise of a sun grown organic refreshment, so I jumped on Connor’s back (because he was the tallest among all of us and to this day remains the tallest man I know) and picked a few ripe bundles of green and red grapes. We enjoyed them together will all our newly-made friends from the Haluk Irem accompanied by good drinks and a countdown to a stunning fire-blazing sunset. Once the captain called, we boarded the boat and set out to our next destination, a beautiful tranquil bay close to the old remains of temples that laid dormant on the hills next to us.
There is nothing to beat lying on a deck mattress reading a good book, while sipping a cool drink and anticipating the next delicious creation to come out of the galley. The chef prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner from fresh produce, including fish straight from the sea, if you or the crew are lucky with the line. woke up to the loud yet gentle chime of the breakfast bell that Haluk rang. All of us laughingly flocked to the breakfast table featuring the Turkish essentials for a start-of-the-day meal: tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, bread and lots of tea. The morning sun was warm on our rested skin and we could hear the bay come to live with an orchestra of birds and insects performing their sonata. I took a glimpse of the turquoise water underneath us that sparkled with its clarity and a swarm of little silver fish rushing by in the glistening sunlight. I saw algae beds swaying softly with the warm currents and they seemed too mysterious to resist. I made it my favourite pastime to swim into them with the hope of finding a little treasure: a piece of history or a clam hiding a pearl perhaps. I did not find a pearl, nor a hidden treasure chest, but I found the beautifully intricate calcium skeletons of passed away sea urchins, that looked like the pottery work a tribe of mermaids had finished under the moonlight.
As the afternoon began to settle in, the waters around me started flowing into dozens of shades of blue and green. Happily exhausted from a day filled with swimming, snorkeling and goofing around on inflatables, I hopped back on the boat, leaving a few wet footprints on the wooden planks, and grabbed a towel just in time to marvel at the wonder of nature when the setting sun slipped down the towering mountains of a nearby island and gently disappeared in a golden hazed sea. At night, when I laid my head on my pillow and looked up at the beautiful moon above my head, I felt humbled by the vast strength and beauty of the nature surrounding us. We are only a tiny piece of this large and magnificent ecosystem on planet earth. And right before my eyes slowly closed, I remembered that Rachel Carson fittingly once said that “in every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”