Turkey Gulet Sailing: Solar Eclipse Trip 1999
How do you begin a recap of such a wonderful adventure that should not have been attempted? This was a voyage still spoken of in Bodrum today. We arrive in Bodrum to our hosts Meltem Ozer and Ahmet Epikman. We go over final plans for the tour and go to Sunger Pizza for starters, more starters, raki and very large shrimp. The next day our guests arrive and we sleep on the sweltering yachts docked by the Bodrum Disco which goes on until 0400 in the morning.
The next morning was our first Turkish breakfast aboard. Coffee, tea, bread, cherry jam, mandarin orange juice, cucumbers, tomatoes and some sort of egg. Everyone is antsy to leave. First we have to interview for Turkish television. About noon we finally depart. Two Turkish gulets with twin engines left the port under much fanfare, Amazing Grace on the tape player and we only went to Yalikavak, just outside of Bodrum. We anchor and swim. Once in Yalikvak, Molly goes ashore for bar supplies. We dine around a huge conference table. I stress dine, because that is the culture. Starters, starters, and more food. It takes a while to dine in Turkey.
We begin early to Altinkum across the huge bay. We take a swim before breakfast and meet our guide, Melek (like an Angel) for the day. Didyma and Miletos are lesser visited ruins, but impressive none the less. We trek through the ruins with no thought given to the American with Disabilities Act. The ships sent along a bag lunch of a tomato, potato and egg in a sack. After the ruins, we meet our yachts in Kusadashi. The marina is like a RV park for yachts with a pool, laundry mat and other amenities including ice. The yachts have ice makers, but they cannot keep up with demand in this heat. An impromptu dance contest takes place.
In the morning, we are picked up by Melek’s little blue bus for a tour of Ephesus. We tour the ruins, sit on the famous toilets, go to the Celcus library and test the acoustics at the amphitheater where the apostle Paul caused a riot. We visit the Virgin Mary house and some light a candle. It is in the hill above Ephesus. In the lowlands we visit what is left of the Temple of Artemis. On the way back to the ship our guide cons us into a stop at the carpet shop. We watched as cocoons were unwound by running back a forth. I felt this shop treated my customers fairly and were not high pressure as in Istanbul. The next morning some wanted to go back to the carpet shop as they made up their minds.
We depart Kusadashi with our roughest seas of the whole trip. It looks as if a storm is coming, but it passed over us. We raft up together in a little cove – swimming and snorkeling. That evening was the best star gazing of the trip.
The next day we depart our little cove for a short sail to Cesme. Some of us go to climb the castle ruins. That afternoon we go to the Turkish baths for scrubbing, pain, having our bodies steamed on a hot slab, soaped, rubbed, backs cracked and a massage. I found the ice plant after that and brought back two bags to the yachts. This was an outside dining night at the Penguen Restaurant.
We depart early and meet our guide Memet and the IDEE bus at Dikili. IDEE had a big blue bus. We tour Pergamon and the Red Brick Sanatorium followed by a museum. We meet our yachts at Küçükköy. We dine and prepare for our overnight sailing to Canakkale. We arrive there about noon and board the big blue bus for Troy, a lovely lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. We embark on a ferry crossing of the Dardanelles to Gallipoli. We tour the graves and walk the trenches. We think of young Brad Pitt ferrying messages under gunfire. We meet the yachts in Gallipoli, as they continued up the Dardanelles while we were touring. They also took naps as they were up most of the previous night.
We were the main attraction in town tonight. They do not see many Americans dining out or touring in this part of Turkey. All were very friendly and it was a pleasant evening. Our two yachts were tied up together and the Sultan took a bite out of the rail on the Olympus.
We reach the Sea of Marmara. Capt. Ibo Apak tried to find an anchorage for lunch and swimming. There were jellyfish in the water so we just ate and took up anchor. The winds became favorable and up went the jibs and main sail. We arrive at Atkoy Marina, Istanbul ahead of schedule. GPS devices were new at the time and Peter tells us we were approaching 10 knots. While there laundry was taken out, we dine ashore. The big thing was calling the states with prepaid calling cards.
On Sunday we tour the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topaki Palace and a commission carpet shop. Memet denies he got a cut, but we all know better. He talked a lot, “that is what am paid to do.” It was a Sunday, so the Grand Bazaar was closed. Late in the day we take our bus across the bridge to Asia and up the shore to Sile, where we meet our yachts. We have a laundry sorting party and eat dinner aboard our yachts. Cigar smoking, cocktails and backgammon went on for hours on many nights.
In Sile we stop in at the no name bar go back to our yachts for dinner. The next day we pick up a new Captain with Black Sea experience. He navigates by land as Peter shows up on his GPS. We were doing zig-zags and not a straight line. We arrive in a commercial port Zonguldak. Captain Ibo and our boats are unwelcome. We move further down the coast behind a breakwater for the evening. This was a “dine ashore night”. Not much there for tourists. We find a kabob shop with the skinny hot green peppers.
The next day we arrive in Amasra. That afternoon I give an eclipse briefing. Predicted first contact – 12:56 pm., predicted second contact (totality) 2:21 pm., predicted duration 2:06 to 2:12 minutes. We have dinner at a fish restaurant ashore. We depart in the morning for Cide. The mayor greets us with a TV crew. They have a ceremony for us, ask me questions with Meltem interpreting. I raved about the food. Everything was great. What the Turks do with vegetables is amazing. Ali Oz from the Istanbul Star joins our yacht. Before noon all but Bob and Meltem head to sea for the solar eclipse.
The Black Sea was cloudless. We wondered about the people on land because we could see low hanging clouds in front the hills that permeate the shore. Success. Ali Oz almost gets thrown overboard for flash photography. The captains bring out the champagne and we celebrate. We arrive in Kurucasile for forth contact, more photos and video. Success and many happy faces. We saw a solar eclipse on the Black Sea.
After an 18 hour day we arrive in Sile late at night. We stopped on the Black Sea for a swim. The passengers mutinied and all the sails went up. Off with the motors. We were creaking at 0.75 knots. No wind again. On the way we had fresh bread delivered by a paddle boat while we were sailing.
Now we were headed down the Bosphorus. What a site. We stop for a morning swim at Rumeli. We are going downstream at a quick pace. We go under the Europe-Asia bridge and pass the Topaki Palace and Blue Mosque. We arrive in the Marina. Ali Oz meets us with a copy of the Istanbul Star. There is a full page spread about us. It took time to buy everyone a copy. News shops don’t sell papers. They are there for customers to read while buying Turkish coffee or tea. We eat out on the town and that night and the next day we say our goodbyes. For anyone who stayed, there was a big surprise. About two weeks after I get home, Weekend Bodrum arrives in my mailbox.