I thought it worthwhile giving my observations on a few important aspects of my break.
My first and only experience with sailing boats arrived at the age of twelve in Bognor Regis. It was a school trip and involved myself and some unruly pals sprawling ourselves across a tiny single sailed yacht. The thing with kids is, you tell them something ten times and they don’t listen, what they actually need is the experience of something bad before they know not to do something ever again. My pal James’ time came whilst trying to see how far to the front of the boat he could sit, problem is, whilst sitting pretty much as far forward as was humanly possible, the wind caught the sail and we tipped over to an impossible angle. As I held on for dear life, I watched James’ slowly lose grip and with the fear of god in his eyes, the sea slowly dragged him under the boat and I witnessed his distinct blue and yellow bobble hat disappear into the water. As I looked round at skipper, I saw an inane grin on his face and while I swear he carved a notch into the mast with a tiny pen knife – I saw James appear, a long ten seconds later, behind the boat.
I decided from this single experience that sailing was not for me and it didn’t help the fact that while I was seconded to the National River’s Authority, or Environment Agency as they are now known, I was subjected to this precocious, know-it-all, boat snob who would come in each week and literally force all staff to watch his weekend’s sailing videos, complete with Blur soundtrack and snorting laughter. W@nker.
However, I am now a grown up man with a more open mind and seeing as my own flesh and blood has been sucked into this sport/lifestyle I thought I had better give it a go and so here I was, twenty four years on from that fateful day at Bognor Regis, joining my brother, his girlfriend and his cat in Turkey on his boat. Now, I am pretty sure Jamie can give you his opinion (and probably already has) about yotties and live-aboards and the types of people it attracts and yes, like every road in my neighbourhood, there is some idiot outside his house, mobile phone in one hand, chamois in the other hand, music blaring out of his Mitsubishi Evo – there are always the idiots, but this sailing life really does have something about it and the closest I can relate to it is is when I used to own a Custom Yamaha FS1SE or Custom Fizzy to you bikers out there. Every weekend (or every day at one point) I would jump on my bike and try and get it started, if I was lucky and it still had some petrol inside, I’d be off, wind whistling through my AGV lid and wondering what fantastic part of the Essex countryside would provide me with today’s adventure. If I wasn’t so lucky, there could be any number of things wrong and I would set to taking my bike to pieces and watching the sun go down whilst trying to find some important missing nut.
It seems that, like biking, there is a lot of maintenance needed when owning a boat, and with maintenance comes expense. If you have the money, the time and the patience, it pays off and so long as you accept that you get out what you put in, which is a great philosophy for life, you can really enjoy sailing.
I can’t swear to having understood everything that was going on, but that was not necessary on my first trip. I have always understood things better from a practical perspective and the in-at-the-deep-end approach was a fun way of learning. Apart from the sea-sickness, which can affect anybody, I would recommend giving it a go. I went in with the right attitude, and that was to clear my mind, have no expectations and to work when asked to. I believe these were the ingredients necessary to enjoy what sailing I did on Esper.
Living on a Boat
Those of us like Jamie and I who were brought up camping, at first under a piece of canvas, then onto the luxury of a caravan, would certainly not balk at the idea of staying on a boat. In fact I have done it many times on various river systems and canals throughout the UK. It is cosy, convenient and pleasantly humble. However, “living” on a boat is different. Not only have you got to keep it well maintained, you have to constantly keep things both available and ready to stow away at a moment’s notice. All electrical equipment has to run off twelve volts, so you may as well rule out every single item in your house. You have no loft to store your Christmas decorations and excess pieces of carpet, no garden to walk around in the Summertime, no bath, no letter box, no cable tv, no central heating and no garage to store all your tools, bikes, ladders, broken vacuum cleaners and rusty hamster cages. Plus there are the emotional effects of having nowhere to storm off to after a blazing row about whose turn it is to wash up. Why, therefore would anybody wish to actually live on one of these?
Well, I guess only those who do can answer this. However, recently, since having to say goodbye to my garden shed, I have started to get feelings towards Motor Homes – but this is purely fantasy, as I have a mortgage, a regular job and there is a small fact that I live in the UK – where owning a motor home, let alone living in one is nigh on impossible. Jamie and Liz have thought about it and done it and whether or not they would ever admit to it being a mistake, it certainly looks like that, at the moment, it works for them and while they enjoy the freedom of moving their cosy and practical abode from one small community to the next, I will probably always wonder why and never actually do anything other than write pointless articles asking pointless questions.
Where East meets West. Well, the furthest East I ever got until Turkey was a toss up between Bad Wildungen in Germany or Alghero in Sardinia, neither of which had anything Eastern about them. Turkey on the other hand actually gave me an experience of the Eastern World. A World of extreme religion, political disorder, historical conflict and inhospitable people? Actually no, aside from anything the media had rammed down my throat about the Muslim culture, or what the Turkish Tourist Board had shown me about their turquoise seas, I didn’t know much about Turkey or the Turks. Yet again, my open mind allowed me to drink up the atmosphere of Southern Turkey and take home some very positive memories. Beautiful scenery, exciting marine-life, rich and open history, humble and genuine people and friendly dogs.
Of course, I only saw a tiny part of this trans-continental country and would some time love to visit other parts. For now I am happy adding Turkey to my list of visited countries or World Experiences and will recommend it to any would be adventurer.
Turkish Food and Drink
Coming from Essex, I am, of course an expert in Turkish cuisine. I am particularly refined in the art of spreading my home-made mayonnaise on Sharon’s donner kebab. Joking aside, I did actually feel like the real Turkish cuisine was not far from what we experience in greasy, British kebab shops, however that isn’t a criticism. Turkish kebabs are ground meat, usually lamb, served in a variety of ways, Adana being one of their better types, this is frequently served with salad and chips. The breads are often kiln baked and flavoured with herbs and spices, Pide is a great example of Turkish bread. Turkish vegetable dishes are very good and though I cannot recommend one particular dish, simply asking for Meze will give you a selection of starters, rather like Tapas in Spain, giving you the option of picking at what you fancy. Obviously, being located on the Aegean, I quite often had the option of fish. I do like my fish but usually choose meat, however the octopus and langoustines I had in two separate restaurants were fantastic.
There is a joke that states that what there is to write about Turkish wine isn’t worth writing about – ha ha ha ha ha – it is a very funny joke, I am sure you German’s will think it most amusing ya?. You would have thought that with its climate, the Turkish wine industry would be booming. Apparently it has something to do with the consumption of alcohol being forbidden for 500 years and there only being 40 types of grape that can be used for wine production, most of which is sold, funnily enough, as grapes. However, it is, apparently, “Booming” and mark my words, you will soon get to hear about it. The wine we had was “fairly ok” I have had far worse but in most circumstances would opt for the much better thirst quenching Turkish lager, Efes.
Oh, and it’s cheap – very cheap, for the while…