Log #32b More about Turkey

April 19, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 32 Istanbul and The Black Sea, The Logs

Midye, Black Sea

41˚ 35.4’N, 028˚ 08.7’E

April 19, 2004

Hi Folks,

We have spent a grey cool day here in this small fishing harbour, also known as Kiyikoy, waiting out heavy weather before heading to Igneada, our last stop in Turkey before Bulgaria. I have had a chance to spend the better part of the day working on this detailed log about Turkey with lots of boring statistics and nautical observations about the Turkish Straits between the Aegean and the Black Sea.

We are fine, although the weather is quite cool. There are sufficient well sheltered harbours that we can make each day, or wait until the weather improves. The friendliness of the Turkish people here in the Black Sea, even though few speak much English, is greatly appreciated.

We finally picked up our parcel we mailed from Canada 7 weeks ago (told it would only take 3 weeks) about which I will tell in a later log.

Once we get to Bulgaria, I will be starting a new section of logs. Would those of you who wish to keep getting my logs please reply that you are still interested and able to read them, as I do not want to clog up your E-mail with unnecessary material? In replying do not send all of this log back to me, as I am sending and receiving via a mobile telephone which has limited capacity, but just a short note as to whether you enjoy or wish to continue receiving my logs. I will make up a new address list based on the replies once I start my Bulgarian and Romanian logs.

All the best,


Log #32b More about Turkey

Midye, Black Sea

April 19, 2004

As we get ready to depart Turkey in the next few days, I want to put down a few more observations about this country we have enjoyed so much over the past two and a half years. Without a doubt, it is our favourite place so far, for the pleasant, helpful people, the fantastic indented southwest coastline and the Mediterranean/Aegean waters, its history, and the fantastic archeological sites.

We like the people so much that when we travel outside Turkey, we feel we are returning “home” when we get back to these familiar friendly people. Many times when we have been carrying jerry cans to fuel stations for diesel, locals have helped us by carrying them for us and arranging a car to take us back with the full cans. Here in the Black Sea many fishermen have helped us alongside, and given us local knowledge of ports and anchorages. A few days ago when we had to return to Istanbul from Poyraz, located on the outer end of the Bosphorus on the Black Sea, the fishing boat ahead gave us detailed instructions as to what buses to catch to return to Fenerbahce, and indicated they would watch out for Veleda’s lines, as a force eight gale was blowing with occasional gusts to force 10. They also had us on board for a glass of tea and to share their warm stove fire, as ours would not work in the high winds.

True, there are still carpet salesmen trying to sell their wares, but they are not pushy, can accept “no” for an answer, and still invite us in for a tea and to talk with us about Canada and how we like Turkey. Two years ago when Judy was coming back from grocery shopping in Marmaris, she was waiting for a bus when a white van stopped with four men inside. After some confused conversation she learned they were going near Pupa Yacht Hotel where Veleda was anchored, so she got in and had a ride back to the anchorage. She acknowledges that she would not have done that back in Canada, but did so here. Incidentally, the men had us over later that afternoon for tea.

We have been privileged to meet another friend, Murat Api, whose boat was on the dock behind us in Fenerbahce. We have had him, his wife, and five year old son on board, and have been to his place a couple of times. In fact it was most helpful to stay at his place the day we had to return to Istanbul to pick up a package we mailed to ourselves from Canada. At that time we also met his wife’s family and had a very kind invitation to come to their home. Maybe when we return through Istanbul in July? They are Moslem, but only nominally so, similar to many “Christians” in Canada who are good people, but do not attend church. Turkey is over 95% Moslem but has a secular government and attitude towards life.

At the end of March municipal elections were held throughout Turkey in which over 43.5 million people were registered to vote in 174,355 polling booths, to elect 93,353 local administrators including mayors of 16 greater municipalities (such as Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara), 58 city municipalities, 65 cities, 792 municipalities, and 2,253 districts. There were 52,929 muhtars (local administrators) and 34,075 municipal assembly members also elected. These were similar to mid-term elections, as the last national elections were held in November 2002, won by the AK party which turned the old parties out of office. These municipal elections were also strongly won by the AK party, giving it an even stronger mandate.

There is still a bit of tension to ensure the secular nature of the government, and thus the headscarf is still banned from government places, including universities. The governing party is a former Islamist Party which was outlawed several years ago, and reconstituted itself as the secular AK party. The army considers itself as the guardian of the secular state, and if the government gets too close to the mosque, the army would be unhappy. The AK party seems to be doing a good job so far. The army and the government wanted to support the US in a northern front for the Iraq war from Turkey, but a democratic vote in parliament denied this option at considerable cost to Turkey, economically and in her relations with the US.

So, I consider that democracy is alive and well here in Turkey, a prime example of a Moslem country able to embrace a secular democratic government.

The southwest coast is a great sailing area, as the indented coastline provides many bays, coves, islands, harbours and marinas. Many of the towns and cities have ancient histories, and archeological sites from the Lycian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Genoese, Crusader, and Ottoman eras. One city we have yet to see is Ephesus, with ancient Greek, Roman and Early Christian legacies. Remember Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament? In fact Paul came from Tarsus, another Turkish town on the southeast coast. Many of the ruins are superior to sites in Greece and Italy as they have been less exploited, and are more remote. If visiting Turkey (for those not fortunate enough to do so by sailboat) a great experience would be to take a gulet trip from Kemer, Fethiye, Finike, Marmaris, or Bodrum for a day or a week to explore the silent historical pasts of Kekova Roads, Phaesalis, Bozuk Buku, Cleopatra’s Island, Olympus, Knidos, and many other sites accessible mainly by water.

Our time in northern Turkey around Istanbul and the Black Sea has been interesting. The waterway linking the Black Sea to the Aegean is referred to as the Turkish Straits and comprises the Bosphorus (also known as the Strait of Istanbul), the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (also known as the Strait of Canakkale). This waterway is one of the busiest in the world, as it links northern Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria to the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Istanbul is located at the northeast end of the Sea of Marmara, and has the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus within its embrace. The Bosphorus especially creates great hazards, as it wanders through this city of over 13 million people, and it is only recently (1998) that the traffic control procedures have become compulsory, as Russia did not want to allow Turkey any control of its vessels transiting the area. Istanbul, at the juncture of the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, has over 2000 ferry crossings and a minimum of 135 ships plying the Bosphorus per day. You can understand the “interesting” time we had maneuvering Veleda through this busy stretch of water the three times we have passed through Istanbul to and from the Black Sea.

The Bosphorus is 16.74 nautical miles long as it winds its way from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, with an average width of only 0.81 nautical miles (about 1600 yards), and only 0.38 nautical miles (about 750 yards) wide at its narrowest. It takes several sharp turns requiring large supertankers and ocean going ships to alter course a minimum of 12 times with one of the alterations being 45 degrees (at Kandilli, the narrowest point, where the current can be as much as 7-8 knots) and another alteration of 80 degrees. At both these points, ships approaching from opposite directions cannot be seen round these bends. We watched as a supertanker rounded one of the bends accompanied by a guardian tug, ready to give assistance if need be. They are monstrous ships for such a narrow waterway.

The Dardanelles are 37.8 nautical miles long from the Aegean up to the Sea of Marmara, but are wider, with the narrowest point at Canakkale where it is 0.7 nautical miles (1400 yards) wide to 1.08 nautical miles (2200 yards) at its widest. Even on this larger strait there is a very sharp course alteration of over 90 degrees.  The thought of over 50,000 ships per year transiting these straits in such dangerous waters raises the fear of accidents in a heavily populated area, or what is worse now, an act of terrorism with a hijacked ship.

Turkey has a good traffic management scheme, including Navigational Reporting, traffic separation zones, tugs and pilot services, as well as navigational aids, many radar control towers, and the necessary communications systems. It has regulations requiring vessels 500 gross tons or larger to report, 24 hours before entry, a Navigational Plan including the vessel’s name, flag, call sign, tonnage, arriving and departing ports, cargo, and a demand for pilotage services. Other vessels may do so on a voluntary basis. It appears that there is not a high degree of compliance as in 1998 only 50% reported a Navigational Plan, and only 38% took a pilot. However, since 1994 when the regulations came into effect, the accident rate of collisions dropped from 47 per year to 7 per year.  To me this is still a bit scary, as I would not want a 100,000 ton supertanker involved in a collision which may force it off course into the shoreline of a city of 13 million people. But, people still live in Los Angeles with the risk of a catastrophic earthquake at any time.

The statistics I have obtained for this log have come from the Turkish Daily News, an English newspaper here in Turkey, and from the Turkish Shipping Sector Report 1998.