Hisaronu Peninsular, Turkey: Sailing
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain
Turkey is known for its ancient cities, bi-continental culture and more recently, tourist resorts. Much of the south west coast of Turkey is undeveloped but for historic ruins and off-grid restaurants accessible only by boat. The opportunity came up to cruise the coast for a week with an experienced YachtMaster. The trip was to be in early June benefiting from good winds, hot weather and out of the busy school holidays, perfect.
We collected the boat in Adakoy and after a briefing and thorough boat check we sauntered across the bay to Marmaris for provisions for the week ahead. A sailing trip takes a lot of planning and food and water is critical as you don’t want to run out, but space is limited. I’d planned a week’s menu beforehand allowing for a few meals out, and researched potential stopping points that fit our preference for small bays and villages rather than the larger towns.
Day 1: Bokuk Buku (aka Bozukale)
From Marmaris we headed as far along the coast as we could get before sunset, our plan being to get to our furthest point down Hisaronu Bay within 3 days, giving us a little more time on the way back in case of lighter winds. Beating upwind we made it 28 miles as far as Bozuk Buku cove and docked outside Sailors House restaurant, built and expanded over 20 years by the owner, Mustafa. The staff helped us dock the boat and welcomed us for sundowners followed by a 3 course meal. The restaurants rarely charge you to use their dock with the unwritten rule you should eat in their restaurant. Alternatively you can anchor in the bay or offer to pay to use their dock if you don’t plan to eat there.
A half hour walk up from the restaurant are the ruins of an ancient fort with views over the bay to Rhodes and back down into Bozuk Buku bay for those who enjoy a glimpse of history and a bit of exercise.
The restaurant didn’t have a menu, flatbreads and dips are served as a starter, the most delicious I’ve ever had. For the main course Mustafa brought a platter of various whole fish and meat skewers for us to choose from, our selections were cooked to our preference. Dessert was chocolate and date fondants. It was one of the best meals I’d ever had, for just £12 a head. In the morning we shared complimentary coffees and conversation with Mustafa and he gave us a huge brochure for the region with so much more information than I’d been able to find online. Turkish hospitality is priceless.
Day 2-3: Bozburun
The 14 miles to Bozburun took us around a craggy headland covered in shrub to the east and the Aegean sea to the west. The Greek island of Symi was just a few miles away and we had the right papers to sail there, however the €150 cost of stopping overnight and potential hours lost in dockside immigration knocked it off our schedule. The afternoon gave us easy sailing, gorgeous clear weather, the heat of the sun calmed by the breeze. We pulled into Bozburun bay in the late afternoon, sailing past the waterside boatyard where the large wooden gullet boats are built and on into the picturesque old harbour. Bozburun is a bustling little town with a street market hidden behind the harbour-front selling Turkish delight, breads, crafts and beautifully ripe fruit and vegetables. The coast is lined by beautiful little restaurants and hotels and makes for a lovely stroll.
Conveniently we were parked opposite Osman’s Place which was owned and run by Mustafa’s cousin and of course came highly recommended, so after sunset gin and tonics with a card game on the boat we stepped onto the dock and a few feet across the road to the restaurant for dinner.
The shrimp casserole was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had, and the hospitality was superb. After dinner we retreated to the boat for ‘one for the road’, so close to the restaurant it felt almost as though we were still sat in it. Despite being so close to the action it was perfectly safe to leave the boat open overnight with a lovely fresh breeze blowing through with the smells and warm atmosphere of the tail end of a wonderful evening.
Day 4: Orhaniye
20 knot winds set us up for a great day’s sailing up Hisaronu bay. After beating upwind away from Bozburun we turned north on a broad reach, gybing our way up to Orhaniye 25 miles away. The bay is bordered by steep hills that continue down almost vertically underwater creating lovely deep sailing waters with few hazards. There are no tides here so our sailing hours were entirely dictated by our own relaxed schedule.
We made good progress up the bay over clear dark blue waters with only a few other passing boats, past small resorts up on the hills, some of them popular with the Russian wealthy who come and go by helicopter. Arriving in Orhaniye bay late afternoon we cruised around looking for the perfect spot for the night, past the marina and small hotels with groups of swimmers and boaters enjoying the late afternoon sun. Saturday offers a highly recommended street market with local olives, cheese, honey and crafts but as it was mid-week we had no need to go ashore.
We found a little cove just off the main bay, away from the crowds with just one other boat anchored. I swam ashore to tie a shoreline to a tree on the tiny beach and we hiked up the hill with gin and tonics to watch the sun set over the bay. There was no-one else on the hill, the silence and gorgeous views were just ours. Dinner was on-board that night with the lights of the bay in the background and the sound of water on the hull to send us to sleep.
Day 5: Serce
After a lazy morning swim off the boat we started our journey back towards Adakoy late morning. Another day of strong winds helped us beat upwind out of Hisaronu bay. Along the way the topping lift and a guard rail broke, both quickly fixed by the skipper who had enough experience to identify and execute a quick fix while underway.
After rounding the headland on a beam reach the wind died so we motored the remainder of the 35 miles to reach Serce. We spent the evening at Captain Nemo’s restaurant with another fantastic meal and very relaxed evening. By now, having no real agenda was becoming the norm and it was just wonderful.
Day 6: Kumlubuku
Our last full day we sailed 20 miles to Kumlubuku which is within spitting distance of Marmaris and Adakoy. After a failed attempt to set a shoreline we docked at the Yacht Club and spent the afternoon lounging on a shaded beach pod reading and reminiscing about the highlights of our week.
Just as we were changing for dinner an enormous gin palace arrived and docked right next to us, neon lights glaring and engines throbbing, pumping fumes directly into our comparatively tiny boat. Luckily the engines were off by the time we returned from a lovely dinner on the hotel terrace.
Day 7: Back to Adakoy
We were due back in Adakoy by 10am so we left the dock in Kumlubuku at 8, the winds were light so we motored the 6 miles across beautifully calm water, with the surrounding landscape covered in a blue haze slowly burned off by the rising sun, such a stunning final sail. Our flight didn’t leave until late afternoon so we had a day by the pool in the Neilson resort in Adakoy. It’s a lovely little resort with a surprising amount of watersports on offer, but I already missed the freedom our little boat had afforded us. This was my first but definitely not my last sailing holiday.
Qualifications and experience for chartering
On our return to Adakoy we heard that most boats in the flotilla had lacked the confidence to sail on the days we had good winds, choosing to motor instead. This is a good illustration of the experience needed to make the most of a sailing holiday. A Day Skipper qualification allows you to charter a boat, but having the experience and confidence to sail it effectively in a variety of conditions and through potential maintenance issues comes with experience. A flotilla is one way to get some miles under your belt, another way is a few ‘mile builder’ weekends before you head off on holiday. See my post on sailing for more information on mile building weekends.