In the second part of our visit to Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, Sophie McLean does what many come to this part of the world to do, sail – and sail in style…
Approximately one year ago, Nemesis, a twenty-five metre, traditional sailing yacht, raced her way to an impressive third place in Turkey’s Bodrum Cup. This prestigious competition, now in its 30thyear, sees around 100 classical sailing boats from all across the world sail five legs over five exciting days of mental and physical endurance. No mean feat for any vessel, or team, involved.
A little over six months later we are on board the very same boat. This time under Nemesis’s more regular guise – home to, and basis of, an opportunity for us to sail with Scic Sailing and the same excellent crew, around some of the finest Aegean coastline that this tip of Turkey has to offer.
We join our yacht on what is a ‘flexible’ Day Two for most of the rest of the guests, where she is moored in a quiet bay, not far from the white-washed pretty fishing village of Kalkan. When we arrive, a colourful, Mediterranean-fresh lunch is being served, complete with glasses of home-grown, holiday ready wine and sunshine. Once plates are cleared, the rest of the day quickly dissolves into time spent on deck, admiring bright-blue views and gazing into bafflingly crystal-clear waters beneath us.
It isn’t long before the temptation to jump into these becomes too much, and so, with newly-arrived courage, a series of human dominos soon rise over the yacht’s sides, plunging deep into brilliantly refreshing, temperate sea – an activity quickly repeated throughout the week at any other given opportunity (best before breakfast). The weather affords us a very clement time – reading, sunbathing, eating, and getting to know to our fellow passengers; all interesting, all bright – as well as the chance to take in the moment, press pause and, simply, indulge in happily standing still.
When the sun dips beneath the sea each night, our world is set to rights with sundowners and nibbles, before dinner is served – up on deck, in this instance, for our group of twelve people. Our onboard chef Nizam is accommodating of varying dietary requirements, and even produces an enormous birthday cake when we have cause to celebrate on one evening – an occasion that lasts long into the night with music and an impromptu bout of salsa dancing. From a practical point of view, one of the best things about taking one of these trips is that everything is included. From dawn to dusk, all meals, snacks, sunset gin and tonics – and everything in between – is provided, whilst on board. Plus, Scic’s (pronounced chic) crew is employed all year round, meaning camaraderie exists between them, and a prevailing sense of family is felt throughout.
If floating in the sea and throughout her idyllic seascapes are not quite enough to take your breath away, other sights, and the varying activities on offer can further entertain both brain and body. The sunken city of Kekova, a mystery-inducing reminder of both people and times gone by is just one of these, as we sail further around this charming, rugged coastline. We paddle to small islets on the Nemesis’s owned kayaks and put face to fish under snorkel. Evenings are spent watching twinkling lights that dot the mountains before us when we moor up for excursions off the boat. Here, convivial or solo meal-times on ‘nights-off’ in the other pretty port towns of Gocek, Kas and Kekova to name but a few, are affordable and delicious. Turkish cuisine and hospitality are an often forgotten pearl in this destination’s ‘touristic’, and everyday, light.
On at least one day, when the wind picks up and we have ground (or sea) to cover – onwards to our next stop – we are afforded an unrivalled chance to experience our own version of some life-affirming, adrenaline-inducing, incredible ocean sailing. As we glide through wild waves, under Captain Oktay’s gentle expertise, the Bodrum Cup trophy glints at us through the window like a Nazar Boncugu – or Turkish blue-glass eye – ones that we see frequently as passers-by on traditional village stalls.
Sailing like this is a feeling that is unrivalled – bare feet on the deck beneath us, the occasional lick of sea-salt spray on our faces, and well-set sunglasses shading open views onto the now far-off horizon. The yachts in this company’s small sailing fleet may not be “super”, but they are certainly authentic, and can reach enviable speeds of around 12 knots. And who wants to just ‘motor’ around anyway?
Other highlights for a week aboard a Scic Sailing boat are explorations of Turkey’s Gomde Plateau, reached in our dozen by open-top Jeep. Up here, at altitude, we make a short trek through striking hillsides, bathing our feet in cool mountain streams and stopping for traditional tea in a mountain village. We meet local characters, including a large tortoise trying to cross the road, with no other diesel exhaling could-be coach-load in sight. Later in the week Oktay arranges a drive back into the countryside, for a sumptuous Turkish breakfast. This time it is hosted by two local connections at their work-in-progress home, and mosaic decorated kitchen. The duo boast a sunken garden amphitheatre over which we sit to eat fresh honeycomb on home-made bread and cake, bolstered with moreish cheese and locally grown fresh vegetables – combining to give something of a real, authentic treat.
On one of our final nights, when the sails come down as another sunset begins and fresh fish is smoking on the suspended over-water barbecue, I realise some of the things I’ve gained. Not just new friends and a greater sense of adventure, or a genuine appreciation for a part of the world that could be all to easily dismissed (it is well-worth the visit). Above all, I now have an appreciation for sailing, and a brilliant new hobby to boot. Why? In the sheer beauty of the surroundings, it’s hard not to lose your head and your heart while you’re here. Peaceful adventure with a disconnect from daily routine. It’s no co-incidence then that the crew’s shirts say something similar. Until next time, Scic.
Sail from March til early November. Prices for a one week cruise start from €951pp excluding flights. The Scic fleet can be booked in their entirety for the length of your trip (usually one, two or three weeks long). Ideal for solo travelers as there is no single supplement. All cabins are ensuite. For more information and inspiration visit www.scicsailing.eu.