In early June, I had the opportunity to fly from the East Coast to Turkey to spend a few days test sailing the new Bavaria Cruiser 50….one of the perks of the job, I guess. We sailed in and out of Alacati, which is near Izmir on Turkey’s west coast and is known in Europe and the Middle East as one of the best sailing regions for many miles around. Here is a place where the wind blows in the 15 to 20 knot range daily; excellent for test sailing cruising boats. Naturally, while I was there, the breeze failed us and we had less than 15 knots the whole time. Still, the sailing was fun, the boat was great and Turkey was delightful.
When I told friends about the trip to Turkey, many seemed alarmed that I was heading to the Middle East. Wasn’t it dangerous? Aren’t there riots and the threat of armed conflict? Isn’t the Arab Spring causing rebellion everywhere? Well, yes and no. Turkey does butt up against Syria, where civil strife has driven thousands of refugees into southern Turkey. And it is across the Med from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where revolutions have overthrown despotic rulers (or will do so in Libya sometime soon).
But Turkey itself is in no way experiencing internal strife; it is one of the safest countries in the world. While I was there, Turkey was in the throes of a national election, which subsequently re-elected the majority AK Party to power and endorsed Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership. Turkey is a modern secular democracy with a booming economy. It is not an EU member and now—in light of the economic woes of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland—is having serious doubts about joining the Union.
During the Arab Spring this year, Erdogan has been shuttling all over the Med helping nascent governments and the leaders of popular uprisings focus on forming secular democracies like Turkey’s. He is the man of the hour, fostering democracies in the eastern Med, and—like most Turks—he is a close and reliable ally to the U.S.
Why this civics discussion? Well, it was really good to get back to Turkey. Over the summers of 1993 and ‘94, Rosie and I and our sons spent two full months each year cruising the Turkish coast aboard our 44-foot ketch Clover. We got to know a lot of Turks as we explored ancient villages and modern coastal developments. We discovered the country’s rich heritage flowing from the ancient Mediterranean empires. And we ate marvelous Turkish food, which is fresh, spicy and always interesting.
Turkey was one stop along a 40,000-mile circumnavigation as a family that took us to more than 40 countries. Turkey remains one of our favorite cruising areas and Turks among our favorite peoples. Yes, it was good to get back to see how the country has prospered and continues to prosper.
I think that it’s important to report that Turkey is one of the Med’s premier charter destinations, with large fleets of boats at charter bases all along the western and southern coasts. BWS’s art director, Sandy Parks, and her family just returned from a charter with Sunsail out of Gocek on the Turquoise Coast. I am deeply envious. You and I will be able to read all about it in an upcoming issue so we can dream of one day sailing along that magic coastline.