Sunday, 5 May 2013

Gearing up in Gokova Gulf

The hardest thing about leaving is letting go the lines, seasoned cruisers tell us. There's always one more job to be done.

We're not seasoned yet, and leaving port after our anxiety over fuel had cleared was as simple as stowing a few more cans of Illy coffee and ducking over to West Marine to buy Alex a new pair of sailing shoes (he was all for fixing the old ones, but I draw the line at broken plastic shoes).

After that, we handed over the key to our bike lock to Lee, our ex-US navy submarine commander buddy, wished he and Zehra pleasant riding, and then we were gone.

At anchor at Sehir Adalari
Now it seems as if there never was a winter.  I'm back in the kayak and (children close your ears) back in a bikini. The first time I lowered myself down the ladder to swim a stern line to shore however, I did so in a full-length wetsuit and booties. A couple of Brits on a boat anchored about 100m away stared rather rudely. They were sitting in their cockpit half-naked. Yes, I understood that the sun was hot overhead, but it was early May, and surely the water was still cold...

It isn't actually - even Alex has dunked his body - but until further notice I'll risk derision and stick with the wetsuit for those long swims with the floating rope.

We've not come far as the crow flies.  For the time being - until Alex kicks the hacking cough he brought with him from Marmaris, and reassembles his back - we're at Okluk (the word means "quiver", as in bow and arrows and quiver, in Turkish) which is in behind the mountains at the base of the Marmaris peninsula. There's a dolmus (shared mini-bus) run into town twice a day - about 30 km one way. By boat though it's much further.

Always a good time to revise Turkish vocab

Great drifts of yellow "stuff" we think is pollen sit on the waters of the Gokova gulf

Okluk is towards the head of the Gokova gulf, which extends inland for over 40 miles from Bodrum on the Aegean coast of Turkey. To get to the gulf from Marmaris, you sail west past the Greek island of Simi, head north-west around the tip of the Datca peninsula (where to sit at anchor in the man-made harbour of ancient Knidos is like being centre-stage in a great classical theatre), and then turn east again towards a massive wall of rock which falls steeply into the gulf on the north-side. It's all very wild, and undeveloped once you get past Bodrum, and because the wind reliably blows west to east, you can't expect to hurry up and back in a few days. You have to plan your legs, so to speak.

First stop was Cokertme, just cranking up for the summer trade
The northern shore of Gokova gulf, from Sehir Adalari anchorage

Cleopatra's custom-made beach
It's a great piece of sailing water though, beneath the mountain citadels. And this early in the season, we have it almost to ourselves. The turquoise anchorage at Sehir Adalari, which Rod Heikell says is hellish in summer, was virtually empty - and paddling close to the ruins on-shore at sunset I could see why Anthony and Cleopatra might have chosen this place as a getaway. Legend has it that Cleopatra had sand brought by ship from the Sahara to make herself a perfect little beach there - apparently, in our times, the sand has been geologically tested, and pronounced untypical of the region and of a type with Saharan sand. The island is now a certified museum. You can swim off the beach, under the watch of a guard in a tower. Swimmers are forbidden to wear anything but swimwear onto the beach or to bring a towel near the sand lest heritage Saharan grains be removed, I guess. It's all a bit strange, but you can't blame the Turks for milking the original It girl's appeal.

Behind the beach - the crowds will come

Something much more satisfying about a theatre

Looks like Copenhagen, actually is Okluk Koyu
Okluk is just around the corner from Cleopatra's playground. Sadun Boro, the first Turk to sail around the world in a small sailing boat, keeps his boat at the head of the inlet, beneath the pines and the liquidambers which grow wild in the forest. It's not the boat he circumnavigated in - he gave that to a maritime museum - but a catamaran, with a decal on both its rear quarters of a giant octopus holding a mermaid in one tentacle and a bottle of Yeni Raki in another. A bit rakish, a bit risque. The old celebrity salt is away now, probably in Istanbul making money from speaking, one of the local liveaboards told me. His girl is here though. She sits at the entrance to inlet, looking decorative and marking shallow water off the point.

So this is it. We're cruising again. It took me a few days to realise what I was missing - the muezzin's pre-dawn alarm call to prayer. We wake now with the light, and in Okluk Koyu, backed up against the forest, with birdsong. It's good.

Mezes and Efes - the perfect combination
Skype is best without the camera - talking to Sam


  1. You are back in the groove and the right place to be. We are following so thanks for the commentary on the local area, I so enjoy the story and pic.
    Regards Peter and Cindy Barker, Bowtie Lady

  2. We'll keep a look out for you, Bowtie Lady!

  3. looks great - enjoy your season.

  4. Enjoying your adventures vicariously and remembering Turkey fondly. I went to Pops' exhibition - loved the small space and the energy of four young artists and gallery having a go'. Bought a small drawing. Lovely.

    1. So generous of you to support Pops - and love that you are with us on our travels, via the blog, Linda. x