Saturday, 7 December 2013

Diminishing returns

Enki's winterised cockpit set-up - pot plant replaces chart plotter, lentil soup replaces Greek salads

There are fewer liveaboards in Marmaris this winter. The pre-Christmas social calendar is hectic - tomorrow night we "decorate the tree" in the common room at Netsel marina called Sailors' Point. It's BYO everything, as usual, but the point with these gatherings is first the camaraderie, then the catering. Last year the place was bursting at the seams, but recently we've been just a small crowd, about 20 max, flushed out from a handful of British and American boats, one French, one Canadian, one Australian. We're the ones left standing after the summer shouting has died down.

An Australian-themed local fishing boat caught our eye

Dawn Fraser is parked under the footbridge, in the left of the photo

There are always guys fishing on the footbridge which joins the marina to the town

Things are much quieter at Marmaris Yacht Marina, the "other" marina in the bay. A plaintive call went out over the VHF cruisers' net the other morning asking any other liveaboards at Yacht Marina to please identify themselves - "or are we here on our own?" Waverunner asked. This at a marina which in the mid-2000s was the most lively wintering hole in the Med, with crowds of 200 people plus at its winter parties (of which there were lots). Yacht Marina is apparently full, just not full of people. It's become a giant parking lot.

The suspicion is this trend suits the Turkish marina owners. Over the past ten years, as the country's economy has sped ahead, the middle-class has expanded and as more Turks have become seriously wealthy, Turks have begun buying boats. The Turks are the first to tell you they're not really a seafaring nation, but boats are the new status symbol, according to marine professionals around here (Turks too). Most of the marine money goes into power boats which, like horses, have to be kept somewhere. Up and down the Turkish coast there's been a proliferation of marina construction, some of it legal, but a lot of it not.

This photo was taken in October, but there are still cruise ships coming alongside Netsel marina in December

Netsel marina is one of the oldest and biggest and, for good reason, it's also one of the most popular (and most expensive) marinas in Turkey. You'll know by now that its natural harbour offers shelter from the worst of the southerly gales, plus it's spectacular. The town is provincial, but it's become renowned for its excellent marine services. We who live in the marina end up spending a lot of money here, one way or another. But things are changing in Marmaris and it seems likely that foreign yachts won't be wintering over here in great numbers again. It's not so much that they're being priced out of the market (though there's that too, as the swarming to the discounted marina at Finike attests) but that they're no longer perceived to be as valuable to the business of the marina.

First week of December - I'm wearing an Icebreaker merino tee-shirt, but there's warmth in the sun

Having foreign yachts in your marina was once seen as an advantage - they paid for their contracts in hard currency, and less tangibly but as importantly, they gave the marina international bragging rights. That's still the case, I'm sure. Just to cite a couple of examples, Chay Blyth chose to re-fit his newest acquisition for ocean cruising at Netsel marina (the boat, resplendent in her new kit, sits awaiting riding instructions at the end of K pontoon), and last season Randy Repass, founder of West Marine (a big American chandlery) left his lean, mean sailing machine Convergence here for quite some time between outings.  These names add kudos to a marina, but what about the rest of us?

 Colin and Jane (Hydaway) and Dale (Liz) were at Netsel with us last year too

So were Rick and Mary (Orca)

Gotta have a bike
We're a motley bunch, we liveaboards, but ask around at any gathering and you'll find a pretty impressive range of seafaring experience. Crossing oceans is not all of it, but it's a significant part. Everyone, after all, has come here from somewhere else, and usually more than a day's sail away.  "What did you do in your other life?" we ask new friends. You'd be surprised at the range of experience there too. Lots of engineers, but also people who've built businesses, run for public office, taught, healed, made gardens, etc. Sure, we may look eccentric, old folks who get about on bikes and don't hesitate to turn up to dinner in wet weather gear and sailing boots if conditions warrant, and some of us can be a bit careful with our money (liveaboards do have that reputation, and it's not unwarranted). But we're lively. We're hibernating in Marmaris, but not in our lives. By and large during the winter we've got something on the go, usually a boating project or several, but often something else too. People living on boats hatch all sorts of schemes. And lots of them are smart, like Alex.
The man is always flat out (seen from the companionway steps, tweaking his homegrown fuel-polishing system

Ishmail and Mehmet measure up for the base of the Yanmar
I think it's fair to say that the guys at Marlin, for example, really enjoy working with Alex. He's fastidious, he's dogged, he's always thinking about better ways of solving the problem at hand - and he's respectful of the skills and experience of those he's paying. They can do something he can't, but that doesn't mean he isn't keeping tabs all the way.

Having Alex (and other old salts like Alex) here is - and has been - good for Marmaris. We're beginning to hear rumblings around the traps which suggest that locals are worried about the vanishing liveaboards. Perhaps the town at large will not care too much when the once-vibrant liveaboard culture curls up its toes (as seems possible), but the many skilled tradesmen and business owners who've invested their futures in Turkey's young recreational marine industry certainly will.

Alex gave the engine bay at least four coats of paint (that I smelled)

Our Christmas box

I haven't said much about the new engine yet - don't want to waste a good storyline - but for those who can't wait, we've gone with a Yanmar 110 hp with turbo. I'll let Alex explain the whys and wherefores on his practical boating pages. Put simply, it's got no electronics, Yanmar make only marine engines (i.e. they're generally not marinised car engines as other engine brands are), and it's got a turbo because that's what this size engine has to have to keep the weight down and the power up. We're scheduled to be at the crane again by 9 am on Monday. Alex has the engine bay looking good enough to eat dinner off. 


  1. Repower news! we want repower news!

  2. Patience.....there's a hectic social schedule competing with onerous blogging duties!

  3. Truth is, your eyes will encounter so much natural beauty when in Turkey. You won't see just bare beaches, but ones bordered by beautiful Mediterranean-style deep green forests.