Blue Voyage

Day four – or maybe five – of the boat trip. The classic way to see Aegean Turkey is via a “blue voyage”: a trip along the Turquoise Coast in a wooden “gullet” ship, dropping anchor at secluded beaches along the way, swimming, exploring ruins, and drinking heavily. We’re trying it out, though our captain complains that we don’t drink nearly enough.

But it’s another day, another bay. Or two. The pattern is fairly simple: we’re awakened by the engine start near dawn as we pull out of last night’s port of call. Decide whether to close the aft portals, roll over and sleep a few more hours, or go up topside, loll around on deck and read while the scenery glides by. After a few hours of motoring, we drop anchor and maneuver alongside Han’s father’s (much faster) boat in some picturesque bay. Mehmet and Hussein, our relatively reserved crew of two, tie the boats together, and Han’s family come aboard for breakfast in the more-spacious quarters of our deck. Olives and tomatoes, bread from last night’s market, fried sausage, jam, honey, and tea, served up by Junait and our crew. We look down into the water and speculate on its temperature, while the kids throw crumbs to the aquarium-like swarm of fish that have congregated beneath our little flotilla.

We swim and lounge about, on occasion mustering the effort to go ashore and explore the waterside ruin-of-the-day. Today it’s a collection of fallen walls and a solitary standing arch just onshore. Han’s father has been told that they’re only a few hundred years old – not worthy of investigation. Yesterday we explored the 3500 year-old agora and theater overlooking Kedriai, which supported Athens in the Peloponnesian war and was sacked by Lysander for its efforts.

By mid-morning, the “day trippers” arrive – charters or daily party boats from Bodrum or Gekova. They come in fast and loud, deck swathed in sunscreen-drenched vacationers who seem oblivious to the thumping disco music blaring from their roof-mounted loudspeakers. Mercifully, most (alas, not all) extinguish the disco beat once they drop anchor and shut down – Thomas Cook earns a black mark for consistent generosity in sharing their musical tastes with the neighborhood during their stays in our otherwise quiet Aegean bays.

After the morning’s swim (where ‘morning’ is often loosely-defined), it’s time to eat again. Junait and Hussein bring freshly-cooked lunch to the freshly-scrubbed table on dishes that have been cleaned and dried while we were engaged in our own strenuous activities. Devon and Sila shuttle to the main cabin, where the kids are seated, cajoling them to put down their Nintendos and actually eat. Tea and Turkish coffee follow, amid discussions of what bold plans await us for the afternoon.

At some point in the heat of the afternoon, we hear the whine of a high-powered outboard, as a small brightly-colored speedboat angles into the bay. Like Neil Gaiman’s improbable FedEx courier, the Algida ice-cream man has tracked us down to deliver boatside service. The 400% markup is exorbitant, but business is brisk. A blue voyage is nothing if not decadent, and what could be more decadent than a freshly-delivered ice cream on a boat in the middle of nowhere.

After the inevitable afternoon swim, we pull up anchor and motor to our evening’s destination. Our boat, a nominal schooner, is comfortable at about 7 knots, well below the zippy 20-something-knot top speed of the Kiliccote boat. As a result, our boat sets out early, tortoise-like, doomed to forever be arriving late to dock beside Ayhan’s well-rested hare. Sometimes we enjoy the stately ride while kids frolic on deck; sometimes, in a hurry to get to dinner, we pile into the other boat and let the gullet catch up with us later.

Dinner is always at a cove in the middle of nowhere, up a dock lined by some half-dozen other ships, and served by a small outdoor restaurant sheltered beneath an arbor heavy with ripe grapes. With really fresh fish. It’s never clear whether there’s a road that actually connects this outpost of civilization with the greater part; there’s always a touch of Robinson Crusoe, or Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. Of course, this it may just be part of a carefully-constructed image cultivated to attract folks like us. Han is vaguely disturbed to note that he has full-strength cell phone coverage everywhere we go.

Dinner starts by 9:30. Kids are given their french fries and fish first, and finish quickly while the grown-ups order. By the time our mezes arrive they’re done and plugged into a DVD playing on Sila’s laptop in a remote corner of the restaurant. By the time our coffee hits the table, we’re painfully-stuffed (“you have to try this, it’s a local specialty!”) and my watch is turning the corner at midnight. We tuck in below our respective decks and drift off in the heat, amid the smell of fresh varnish, and the sound of deck-parties going on next door.

Han is rightly amused at the irony of our habit. We spend days seeking solitude, and come to dock packed side-by-side with strangers’ boats. Sleeping in seafaring townhouses – adjoining windows open against the heat, each one an unwilling audience to the others’ whispers, cheers and petty arguments.

Tonight, at least, we’re at anchor in Alasbalik(?) Bay. No dock, no immediate neighbors and no late night parties (assuming, of course, that a Thomas Cook yacht doesn’t decide to set up camp next to us). All four kids are playing on deck – yet another make-believe pirate game with which they continue to amaze us – while I hide below and try to write. But the sun is high, and they’re starting to run short on patience. Must be time for lunch again.

[While exploring the ruins of the day, we discover that they’re significantly older than a just few hundred years: lost in the brush are the remains of what appears to be an entire Byzantine-era city. Nameless and unexcavated, as are most ruins in Turkey, the buildings seem to have once covered the entire bay, and include a cistern that still holds water, and the remains of a fallen church that still bears some of its ancient fresco.]


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