Boats and Goats on the Turkish Coast

Take one Turkish gulet (traditional wooden sailing ship), eight grown adults, a crew of three and a fully stocked pantry and bar and what to you have?  The most amazing vacation ever, that’s what!

I visited Turkey for the second time recently, heading straight for the southwest coast to board a chartered sailboat for a week with seven friends, including four Americans, a Croatian, an Azerbaijani, a Greek and a Russian.  (We referred to ourselves as the United Nations on the Mediterranean.)   If you are seeking relaxation, beautiful scenery, a bit of adventure and a lot of laughs, this is a trip you want to know more about.

It all started by landing in Istanbul, and then connecting to Dalaman – about an hour’s flight – and then driving to the small port town of Gocek, where we spent the night.  On Saturday morning, we awoke to perfect summer weather and a harbor bursting with gulets.

The harbor in Gocek is where we boarded our boat, the Ercan.

The harbor in Gocek is where we boarded our boat, the Ercan.

We found our crew (visit for the Turkish phone number of the Ercan to book) and boarded – then it was off to the Carrefour grocery store a couple of blocks away to stock up.  The crew did all the food shopping, based on our direction (lots of fresh veg and fruit, fish, meat, etc.) while we ensured that our stock of adult beverages was adequate.  After wiping out the entire section of rose’ and white wine, beer,  mixers and other items, we pushed the carts to the boat (and returned them, of course!) and prepared to set sail.

Our sea chariot awaits!

Our sea chariot awaits!

The Ercan has six cabins that each sleep two people, but at least half of us opted to sleep on-deck.  The front of the boat features a slew of comfy cushions under a large canopy – all we needed to do was bring a bit of bedding up each night.  The fresh air, the stars at night, the gentle lapping of water – and a pair of eyeshades to keep the sun from rudely awakening us at 5 a.m. – made for great sleeping.  These same cushions became our day-time crashpad as well.

Comfy cushions were a great crashpad for daytime lounging and nighttime sleeping.

Comfy cushions were a great crashpad for daytime lounging and nighttime sleeping.

So here’s how our days went down: wake up (whenever you choose) and enjoy a delightful Turkish breakfast.  The traditional breakfast is hard-boiled eggs, bread, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, white cheese – like Feta but softer – and coffee or tea; but you could ask for eggs any way, or maybe the pancake boat would make its rounds, where  you can order fresh crepes filled with honey or Nutella!  Yes!  Right there, from a clever little boatman/pancake chef!  Or the village bread boat would make a stop – ooh, that bread.  I must add: vendor boats ply the waters all day, offering everything from newspapers to ice cream – fun, fun, fun!

After breakfast, a swim, then pull up anchor and glide along the blue, blue waters for a bit, find a beautiful cove, drop anchor, tie up the boat (the crew does all the work) and jump in for a swim and a splash-about.  If you like, you can swim or take the dinghy ashoreo for a little nature walk or adventure exploration.  You will find loads of wild life too, including goats (lots and lots of goats), donkeys, and wild boar.  (OK, so we didn’t actually see a wild boar, but we told our friends we did.  Whup – I just busted us all on that.  Sorry!)

The rest of the day unfolds with such strenuous activities as lunch, more swimming, sailing, napping, reading, plates of watermelon, card games – whatever you like.  We hit maybe three to four coves a day, finally dropping anchor for cocktails and the night’s stay wherever it looked nice. 

Just one of many gorgeous coves along the coast where we dropped anchor.

Just one of many gorgeous coves along the coast where we dropped anchor.

So – this goes on for seven days and you’re so happy and relaxed, you can’t believe it is your reality – but it is!  On the seventh day, we docked at the port in Fethiye, and said goodbye to the crew (who were AWESOME in every way) and made our way to the Dalaman airport (an hour’s taxi ride) to return to Istanbul.  (I will post separately about Istanbul.)

Top Tips for a Terrific Turkish Gulet Trip

* Consider going in June, when prices tend to be a bit lower and the weather is gorgeous – not too hot yet.  You can book directly through a crew for the lowest price, or any good travel agent can book for you.

* Pack light – all you need is a swimsuit and something casual to change into at night.  We girls went without makeup and jewelry the whole time (well, so did the boys, to be fair) – no need for anything fancy.  (And you cannot wear shoes on the boat either.)

* Bring a sarong – I used one as a bedsheet, a bath towel, a cover-up – a very handy item, I must say.

* Bring a pair of sneakers for walking / hiking on shore.  (We tied ours to our noodles and arrived ashore with dry sneaks for walking – clever, no?)

* Bring more sunscreen than you think you need!  That Turkish sun is powerful.   While there is plenty of shade on the boat, when you’re swimming or otherwise in the sun, you will want sunscreen.

* Showering – each cabin has its own bathroom, but beware – the “shower” is the handheld faucet thingie in the sink and it’s just a bit awckward.  We brought shampoo, etc on-deck and used the fresh-water hose to get clean (as we did to rinse off salt water after swimming, too.)

* Buy a cheap beach towel in your port town ($5) and keep it to pack purchases from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul! 

* Ask if your boat has noodles – those styrofoam floaty things – and if not, buy some in your port town ($2 each, or something like that).  They’re fun to play with in the water — and a handy transport to get dry sneakers to shore, as mentioned.

* Tell your boat crew about any food allergies, so they can stock up properly.

* Bring lots of reading material, cards or travel versions of Scrabble, Backgammon, etc.  for nighttime fun.

* Bring an adaptor to recharge cameras and what-not.  While the boat’s engine is on, you can plug in to a power strip.

* Be ready to relax and revel in doing nothing but hanging out with good friends in a beautiful place!

I am happy to answer any questions – post a comment if you have any!  I cannot recommend this trip highly enough for fun, relaxation and a complete get-away!  They don’t call it the Turquoise Coast for nothing.

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