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Notes on Turkey

Introduction

Having only recently arrived in Turkey, in September 2008, we cannot yet say that we can speak with any authority!

First impressions

The Turkish people are very friendly and like to be helpful. We felt there was an underlying decency and an expectation of honesty that we found refreshing. It is hard to describe, but the chandler's mate who did not know the price, but gave me the goods and asked me to come back and pay later, the bar who give you the drinks without any apparent system of keeping tab, are examples. When the market stalls eventually closed for the night, they simply covered their goods with cloths. There were no hoodlums, and no graffiti. That is not to say that business is not business, and getting the price right is part of that.

Turkey had the reputation of being cheap. It is no longer! The cost of facilities for yachts has been increased considerably in recent times, and the general cost of day to day living is also not particularly cheap. The Lycian area is home to many ex-pats, and there are many villas and apartments in the region (and many empty, too).

Marinas in Turkey

A useful link to a list of marina operations in Turkey.

Formalities

New procedures have been introduced in Spring 2009, and remain in a state of flux. There is now a computer database upon which details of boats have to be entered, regardless of their size. In practice, it may be easiest to use an agent to do this for you, although in theory the Chamber of Shipping may be willing to load the information for you. It may depend upon striking lucky with the right person and place: in our case this approach failed. The effect of the computer system appears to have been to constrain everyone to use an agent, and to increase the workload, as all the old manual procedures, rubber stamps and multi-part stationery, still seem to be in place. Transit logs now have to be printed off the computer system. Shop around for agents: there is no norm and prices charged vary enormously.

New taxes apply to boats depending on size: over 11 tons light dues are payable. Customs may now require an equipment list of all moveable equipment of value. We prepared one ready, but were handed a blank form to fill in already signed off.

When we first arrived, we were quite concerned to 'do things right', so made for Fethiye which was a port of entry, and where all the authorities were conveniently close together. Our friend Lars immediately suggested that we take our quarantine flag down, as it would confuse everyone, and think matters through before going to the authorities. As a Norwegian, at that time subject to only a monthly visitor's visa, he was particularly conscious of the inconveniences imposed by the Turkish regimen. In the end we delayed our check in for a few days, during which I suffered a major guilt trip whenever I saw a coastguard launch!

At check in, you need to purchase a Transit log. This costs around 50 (charged by the Chamber of Shipping, as claimed by one agent at Datca - used to be 30$), and is valid for one year and applies to the boat. You have to indicate where you are intending to cruise. The transit log then has to be stamped by health, immigration, customs and the harbour master in a specific sequence. At Lars' suggestion we used 'Captain Eddy' to do this for us: I still had to appear in person to sign my name at one office, but I was spared any inconvenient questions about date of arrival or ship's stores and equipment. However, there was a fee for this service. The only occasion we had to produce the transit log was on entry to Netsel marina in Marmaris, and then later to put the boat in 'bond' with the customs when leaving the boat at Yacht Marin marina over winter.

A visitor's visa depends upon your nationality. The Turkish Foreign Office publish requirements on their web site: these vary widely between nationalities. Some of the recent changes are quite restrictive. As British passport holders, we were required to purchase a visa valid for multiple entry over 3 months at a cost of 10 GBP. They much prefer a crisp 10 note to payment in Turkish lira (YTL) or Euros! The problem of course is that most cruisers want to spend longer than 3 months, and the only way to renew the visa is to leave Turkey in person, and re-enter. This is often achieved by taking the ferry to Rhodes, or alternatively and rather shorter, taking the trip across to Kastellorizon (or Simi) which is only 3 miles off the Turkish coast. Leaving with the yacht is a bit counter productive, as you first have to check out, and a new Transit log is then necessary on entry. This issue was behind Lars' suggestion to delay entry until it was necessary. It is of course necessary to have a valid Visa if you intend leaving the country, as this will be stamped on exit. If you have a long term contract with a marina, or a dwelling in Turkey, then it is possible to establish temporary residence and get around this procedure, but it is apparently quite a lot of hassle.

If you leave the boat in Turkey for more than 3 months, then it is necessary to put the boat 'in bond'. This costs 25 euros initially, and the same again when it is taken out of bond. Marmaris Yachtmarin have a 'customs office' who will arrange this for you. The transit log is held while the boat is in bond.

The general hassle is such that with the low probability of being 'caught', a lot of people bend the rules when making short visits to the other side and omit the formalities there. Others prefer to be formally checked in to two countries at once!

Lycian Coast

Our experience so far is limited to that part of the Lycian Coast around Fethiye and Gocek, and Marmaris. See our narrative log. We were very taken with the green, mostly pine forested coast, backed by mountains, and mostly steep-to into deep waters right up to the edge. Fethiye and Marmaris were badly damaged in the earthquake in 1953, so much of the buildings in both towns are relatively recent poured-concrete affairs, and not particularly interesting or attractive. Mostly the older buildings are simply ruins.

Fethiye bay affords a large sheltered anchorage, which is convenient to the town, and most of the facilities you would want. Gocek has a more restricted area for anchoring, particularly since the Marinturk marina has been built, but has some attractive shops and restaurants.

Many of the bays have 'restaurants' in them. We do not eat out except on rare occasions, so these are of limited interest to us. However, they do charge premium prices and expect you to use them if you tie up to their pontoons.

Around the coast there is plenty of archaeology, if you care to look for it, but usually of the 'pile of stones' variety.

We had heard of gulets, the large Turkish sailing boats used for charter cruises, but were unprepared for the sheer numbers of them in every bay. We never encountered any that were less than professional and considerate, however. There are in addition a large number of charter yachts in the area. The area is particularly popular, and it has been said that a number of firms are relocating from Croatia because of the increasing expense there.

Gokova Korvesi

We cruised this 40 nm long gulf, from Bodrum in the north west, towards the east, in Spring 2009. See our narrative log. It is beautiful, unspoiled territory, with few other boats when we were there. No doubt it is more crowded in high season.

Marinas

We do not normally use marinas, unless we really have to. It is clear from peoples' experiences that the charge rates all over this part of Turkey are going up considerably. Daily, as opposed to contract rates, are quite excessive in most places.

We laid Fuga up for the winter 2008/9 in Yachtmarin at Marmaris. The limited winter contract included lift out and back in, and represented the best value for money we have found anywhere to date. It is is a large marina/boatyard with the capacity for well over 1000 boats on the hard, and around 1000 in the water. Despite the numbers, the marina have made an effort with landscaping to make the environment quite attractive. There is a large liveaboard community, and plenty of activities to join in with if you wish. There is a bar and smart restaurant, swimming pool, library provided by the marina. There are service companies, chandlers and a supermarket on site. Unfortunately the marina is 2 miles south of Marmaris town, rather longer by dolmus, taxi, or bicycle around the periphery. Administration and communication is however not a strong point. Do not expect e-mails to be answered, and deal in person if you can.

Netsel marina at Marmaris is close to the town centre and smaller, but rates are somewhat higher than Yachtmarin, although they do include water and electricity. Disturbingly, we have been told of a hike in contract rates for boats in contract on the hard (see noonsite). Payment was required before the boat could be re-launched, a practice that smacks of the sharp practice found at Fertilia in Sardinia. There does not seem to be the enthusiasm to keep on top of maintenance: perhaps business is simply too easy to come by. There are not the same built in facilities that Yachtmarin provide, but then with the town centre to hand, they are not so necessary.

A 'net' is run every day except Sundays on channel 67 for all Marmaris cruisers. It provides a handy way to keep in touch with friends, and helps to organise and promote social activities in all the marinas. The cruising association also operates a separate e-mail network for Marmaris based members.

There are two other marinas in Marmaris Bay, at Sun Marina and Pupa Yat Hotel.

Gocek has a number of marina operations, Club Marina, a new operation run by Marinturk (initially said to be mainly for charter boats) is now in operation, but their introductory rates may have finished. There are also Skopea Marina and Port Gocek.

Bodrum Milta marina is largely full, and daily rates are very expensive. It has the most security personnel that I have ever witnessed anywhere.

Marti Marine lies on the Datca penninsular, west of Marmaris. We understand that rates there too are on the increase, but they offer an attractive rate for summer haul out.

Further west, there is a large new marina at Turgutries. This is also reputed to be expensive.

For winter 2009/2010, we wanted to remain on the boat in order to work on some necessary maintenance. We decided to try the new marina at Alanya. Our reasoning was that we wanted to be in reach of a town, preferably one with a bit of life of its own, where we could remain in the water. We found a lively live aboard community and the town and its surroundings lived up to our expectations. Development of the marina, however, ran late and continued throughout the winter giving rise to some unwanted hassles. If the problem of the swell/surge can be resolved, then the marina may well prove to be an attractive proposition in years to come.

Blue Card Scheme

These new regulations are dealt with in separate notes

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