Turkey is a yachting paradise. The azure waters of the Mediterranean and the Aegean are treasure troves of coves, inlets, bays and beaches. The traditional Turkish sailing/ racing yacht, called a gilet, is a favorite with yachtsmen in these waters. Built with a flat hull, it responds with gentle movements to sea conditions. The advantage of chartering a gilet, versus a more traditional sailing yacht, is definitely the additional space, configuration, and the enjoyment of quiet comfort over speed . . . cabin ceilings are higher; the aft and forward decks roomy and wide, ideal for sun bathing and star watching. Crews are usually from seafaring families, continuing a tradition with knowledge and pride that makes time on board even more special, knowing the crew is there for their love of the sea and sailing. Most importantly, its size allows it to move at speeds of 9 knots, slow enough to maneuver into small coves and small harbors, not navigable by larger motor yachts.
My Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Dalaman takes less than an hour. A driver is waiting to transport me to the seaside port of Gocek where the Papa Jo is moored. From the moment I cross the steel gangplank, to my final farewells, I am in Turkish Heaven. Yucel, owner of the Papa Jo, his associate Mustafa, Lorrie, owner of Mediterranean Collection, and the crew greet me like a longtime friend. we will spend three nights and four days t sailing the Turkish Coast., spending each night in a private anchorage. . There will be coves to explore; waters to swim in; fresh fish to savor; and lazy afternoons in the sun as it begins its decent towards the sea.
The unique design of the newly built steel hulled Papa Jo, the only gilet of its type in Turkish water, makes for a smoother sail and the ability to cross the Atlantic. The interior, designed by an Israeli architect, has the sleek lines of a sailing yacht and the modern conveniences of a 5 star luxury boutique hotel. The view from the back of the yacht to the front is unobstructed… a glass wall separating the captain from guests offers more privacy …and the 26 feet wide aft deck, fitted with massive white mattresses, huge cushions and oversized bolsters, is ideal for lounging, dining or an afternoon nap.
The master suite is elegant and well appointed; its spacious bathroom has two raised sinks; the other four cabins are large and comfortable with ample closet space, and black marble bathrooms, stocked with my favorite L’Occitane bath products and fluffy oversized towels. The Papa Jo is ideal for five couples or a family of ten.
I am the first one awake; I sit on the deck pensively sipping a hot cup of Turkish coffee, watching Murat and other young crew members hose down the deck, clean the windows and polish the sleek mahogany surf board shaped dining table that seats ten.. A few houses dot the shoreline; the sun begins its climb over the hills. We set sail from the Gocek dock and motor into Bozodkale. After breakfast, we swim in Agil Bay. Lorrie water-skis, I swim to the dock and back; an exhilarating and refreshing workout; the light turquoise waters tastes a little fishy; Meals on board are served on the aft deck at the highly polished mahogany wood table as slick as a surf board that seats 10 to 12 guests, and we return for a mouth watering lunch . . . a spread of mezze (small plates of Turkish delicacies. . A small boat paddles up selling locally made dresses. At 5:30 we gather on deck; sip champagne mixed with peach juice, mellowing out to the sounds of Diana Kroll singing soft jazz. I feel like Cleopatra sailing up the Nile, or part of a Sultan’s harem
I hear them pulling up the anchor as I doze under my down comforter; we will soon pass Datcha, a small nomadic village that attracts artists seeking privacy; the hills rise out of the sea with calm determination; the island of Symi beckons in the distance as we navigate around the Dacha Peninsula; a small white lighthouse sits on a cluster of rocks.. The ancients, appreciating the pleasures of life set up their cities and theatres by the sea, and this area was one of the most important commerce and cultural centers of the Aegean and the Easter Mediterranean during the classical and Byzantine periods. We dock and have a breakfast in the garden of Mehmet Ali Aga Konaga Mansion, a “museum hotel” that integrates a19th Century Turkish mansion with the comforts of 21st Century architecture.
Later that day we anchor in Knidos, one of the Byzantine and Helenistic cities from 100AD; we visit Mehmet Koc Evi Hotel an old house converted into a pension with a traditional hamam. Lunch back on board is yet another feast: freshly chopped salads, relishes, assorted cheeses; rice with tomatoes and chopped meat, yogurts and pastas. Every meal is a celebration of the many layered flavors that make Turkish cuisine so exciting. .There is never any urgency to do or eat more than suits one’s mood at the moment. Motor boats pass and wave, no doubt envious of our good fortune. The sun is deliciously warm. The breeze fans my thoughts into languid motion as does the gentle lull of the calm sea. : I am in “my own moment” as we drift through the inlet; the dark blue sea shimmers in the afternoon sun. The beauty and advantage of being on the Papa Jo, a relatively small 115 foot yacht,( or any other yacht under 150 feet) is its ability to navigate into secluded coves for a swim or to rest for the night..
Our last night on the Papa Jo, Yucel pops open a bottle of rare champagne and a tin of beluga caviar. We drop anchor outside the Bodrum Harbor; the launch takes us to the dock. Bodrum is a happening resort town that attracts celebrities from all over the world; we stroll and shop the stores that line the waterfront promenade; have a drink, then head back to the yacht for a late dinner of fresh caught grilled fish and the usual assortment of salads, vegetables, relishes and cheeses. We make many toasts to the joys we have shared, our love for Turkey, Papa Jo and our new friendships. After dinner, we sit on the forward deck, wrapped in blankets, watching shooting stars and comets fly through the star blanketed sky. We ooh and ahh like young kids as they explode like fireworks; it is a magical moment, in all of our lives, one that that can never be replayed, nor forgotten. Far from the exasperating traffic of Istanbul, I surrender to Papa Jo; he has swept me off my feet and won my heart; I am sad to leave his embrace.
For info on chartering PAPA JO contact Mediterranean Collection, specialists in Mediterranean charters in Turkey, Greece and Croatia: www.medcollection.com
For Turkish Airlines Reservations: www.thy.com or 1-800-874-8875