Turkey yacht charters offer a chance to explore the Turkish coast as well as neighboring Greece. The best time of year for yacht chartering in Turkey is from April to October.
by Krysia Bereday Burnham
Sailing the dramatic waters around present-day Turkey has been a part of the human story ever since the nymph Galatea, goddess of the calm seas, rode her four dolphins, holding over her head “against the wind a light scarf of sea-purple to provide a shade for herself and a sail for her chariot, and from it a kind of radiance upon her forehead.”
Today, sailors still enjoy a similar blessing during the high season, which stretches from May-September with optimal sailing from July-August, and average temps of 27-29°C. During these months, the legendary meltem, or north wind, rises up in the afternoon thanks to a trough effect between a high pressure system over Hungary and a low pressure area over Western Asia Minor. This etesian (or annual) gale is strong and dry and can rise up unbidden—a convenient cue for boaters to tuck into one of the plentiful coastal coves for the night.
With charter regions that overlap Greece, Turkey abounds with history and coves to explore. From the Central Aegean to the Southern Mediterranean Coast, there are three major areas of interest for the floating visitor to Turkey. First is the ancient land of Ionia (Foca-Bodrum), known for its historic sites such as Ephesus and Didyma, with the advantage of being near to the Greek Sporades: (Chios, Samos and Ikaria) and to the Dodecanese (Leros, Kalymnos and Kos). Farther south, Caria (from Bodrum to Marmaris, the two largest charter ports of call), has arguably the gentlest seas, stunning bays, sandy beaches (a commodity on Turkey’s rocky shore) and proximity to the Greek beauties of Symi, Kos, Nisyros and Rhodes. Finally, Lycia, along the Mediterranean Sea, is known for its mountainous coast with historic sites such as tiny, Byzantine chapels and rock tombs.
There are two types of sailing in this part of the world: bareboating, for the more experienced hand, or chartering a wooden sailboat, the gület (“ghee-let”), which offers a unique local flavor. For generations these two-masted vessels have been used for transport and fishing. Now designed with comfort in mind, they come fully crewed.
The first option will yield more adventure, a freer itinerary, and privacy, while the latter will usually rely on motor power, its sails rarely unfurled. Still, it can be charming to have a private cook, deck hand, and captain fussing over your every need, providing fresh local cuisine and helping to breach the language barrier on land. This popular “Blue Voyage” while relaxing, can be cheaper in groups of 6-10.
Whatever type of charter you choose the sea will not disappoint, with its dreamy island landscapes, welcoming culture, and rich history. By the end of your time on Turkish waters, perhaps you, like Galatea, will have eyes that have grown “wonderful, for they have a kind of distant look that travels as far as the sea extends."
Amanda Armstrong from Burgess Charter said in the January 2008 issue of Yachtworld Magazine:
“The southern coast of Turkey offers a marvellous combination of small picturesque towns, quiet beautiful bays and rich archaeological sites that give the place a timeless quality I love. Depending on what your interests are, when planning a cruising itinerary, I might suggest exploring the many inlets in the Gulf of Fethiye, or venturing up the Dalyan River past the dramatic Lycian rock tombs to the site of Ancient Caunos and the hot sulphur mud baths upstream. Other highlights include the ruined city of Ancient Knidos, the imposing Castle of St Peter in Bodrum with its museum of underwater archaeology and snorkelling amongst the ruins off the spectacular island of Kekova.
“Göçek is a good starting point for a Turkish Coast cruise, while boarding in Duadasi enables a convenient visit to magnificent Ephesus and is ideal for combining Turkey with island hopping through the nearby Dodecanese Islands of Greece, such as Samos, Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos and Kos.”
Sailing in the Mediterranean is usually seen as predominately a light-wind affair. But that's often not the case in Turkey’s main yachting areas, which are subject to the northeasterly Etesian winds (known as Meltemi in Greek waters) that blow throughout the Aegean. These start in spring, building slowly to reach maximum intensity in July and August. Typically, after a calm night and start to the day, the breeze fills in mid to late morning, reaching peak strength in the afternoon before dying away at sunset. However, there are occasions in which strong winds will blow day and night for 3-5 days or more.
The peak wind speeds of 40 knots that are found in the Greek Cyclades islands in July and August are not encountered in Turkish waters, but force six to seven (22-30 knots) is commonplace on summer afternoons in exposed locations. The numerous long peninsulas, and deeply-indented gulfs offer good shelter and more gentle conditions. In the Gulf of Fethiye, for instance, winds rarely reach force five (17-21 knots) and east of Kalkan, on Turkey’s southern coast, the Etesian is rarely encountered. Further north on the Aegean coast beyond Izmir, winds are also generally weaker.
There’s a possibility of a short spell of unsettled weather at each end of the season, especially April and early May or late September and October. In spring and early summer the landscape can still be green, but expect the water to be comparatively cold—unlike autumn when it’s at its warmest.
July and August afternoon temperatures may reach forty degrees Celsius, but averages are closer to thirty degrees and the afternoon winds are pleasantly refreshing. In May and October average daily temperatures reach 26 and 24 degrees respectively. Summers are very dry, with an average of just five days with rain between June and September. May and October are a little damper, each seeing four wet days on average.