There’s no better way to forget about time than by soaking up the sun on a yacht cruise on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. WORDS: Amy Adams.
It’s late afternoon and the heat of the sun cooking Ölüdeniz beach has calmed, leaving a hazy glow glinting off the water. I close my eyes and drift off – until the crescendo of a bass beat becomes hard to ignore. It’s home time for the day cruisers and the first boat is pulling up at the shore.
The dance music thunders as the crowds disembark, red-faced and clutching an assortment of inflatables. The next boatload arrives and then the next, until it starts to feel a little bit like we’re sunbathing in Calais.
As far as budget ways to see the islands of Fethiye Bay go, you can’t really criticise the day tours. But if you’re looking
to get away from it all, you’d better hope you’re good at swimming underwater.
A more peaceful option lies on the decks of boats offering overnight cruises. If you head to Fethiye harbour you’ll see dozens of companies advertising trips, usually for four or seven days.
You can sail east to Olympos or west to Marmaris, or simply tour the 12 islands of Fethiye Bay at your leisure. The beauty is, with a wider time frame, the boats have more choice of destination and, so long as your captain knows his seas, you can avoid seeing another yacht for days on end.
After the spectacle at Ölüdeniz we hastily cancelled our day trip, deciding instead to splash out (money and time) on a four-day cruise. At the height of summer, from mid-June to August, you’ll need to book ahead and this is probably a good idea if you have a fixed schedule anyway. We’d hit the Turquoise Coast towards the end of September and, luckily, a company called Before Lunch had space on a 12-island cruise leaving the next day.
“Once on board the captain is president,” announced Ali, one of the Before Lunch crew, shortly after we’d clambered up the ramp with our backpacks.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, if you cause trouble we can lock you in the cabin.”
There might have been grounds for mutiny had it not been accompanied by a large grin. As it turned out, the number-one crime aboard Zafer (meaning ‘victory’), would be flushing loo roll down the toilet.
If laid-back is what you’re looking for then Before Lunch, set up by a Turkish-Australian couple, is about as horizontal as it gets. The itinerary is never fixed, but rather weather and crowd-dependent, and the company name reflects Captain Ahmet’s vague notion of time – ask him when something might happen and you rarely get a more precise hour than before or after lunch.
It’s contagious, this disregard of time. Barely into day one and we had ditched our watches, structuring the day around meal times and ports of call. Which one we looked forward to most was a tough call.
A whizz in the galley, Ahmet claims to have penned a sailer’s recipe book called The Half-Naked Chef after his tendency to cook dressed only in board shorts (Jamie Oliver copied him, apparently). With help from his deck hand Isa, the pair whip up succulent sea bream, king prawns pan-fried in garlic and tasty frittatas – perfect with a glass
of chilled rosé.
By the time we dock at St Nicholas Island for the first night, we’re far too full to try the sweet pancakes an elderly
woman is expertly preparing on a little dinghy.
Instead the captain motors us to shore and we hike up the peak of the island named after the original Santa Claus, past a 5th-century stone church, to the top. From a rocky outcrop here you can watch sunset take the Mediterranean landscape through a colour wheel of reds and pinks to dusky blue.
That night we sleep on deck, waking up with the first rays of the sun and the gentle sloshing of the sea.
The following days are divided between stretching out on the sun mats of the 28m ketch and dipping in the transparent waters of colourfully named places such as Frankincense Tree Bay or Cleopatra’s Bath.
In an odd burst of activity we swim to the mainland and trek to an abandoned farmhouse, but even then we barely see another soul. When we dock at Göcek to replenish the store cupboards it’s a shock to leave the bubble of Zafer and her 11 passengers.
We struggle past souvenir shops and huddles of tourists, confused by decisions and dazed by the breezeless heat.
Safely back on board we mention the day-trippers we saw docking at Ölüdeniz.
“Ah the day boats with the loud music – I hate it,” Ahmet says, his face crumpling in horror.
“I’m a backpacker too, so I know how you want to spend your time.”
And if you want to spend your time forgetting about time, a cruise round the Turquoise Coast will make things very easy.
» Amy Adams went on a four-day boat cruise with Before Lunch (+61(0) 419 380 207;
www.beforelunch.com). Departing Fethiye, the trips start at £155 and include full-board accommodation