One of the classic activities available for Turkish travelers is a “Blue” cruise along the Lycian Coast. These cruises are done in old style sailing boats called “gulets.” These ships ply the waters along the southwestern coast of Turkey taking travelers on trips that last anywhere from 3-7 days. Our plan was to pick up a gulet in Fethiye and spend four days traveling westward to our final destination of Marmaris.
Unbeknownst to us, our first night of the cruise was actually spent in the Fethiye Harbor. The tour that we had booked was the second half of a seven-day cruise that had already sailed from Marmaris to Fethiye and this was a layover day for the continuing 12 passengers. We boarded the boat in the late afternoon and expected to push-off to sea shortly after. Instead, we spent a loud night in port. The noise level was quite loud as numerous other ships were also in port and many of the passengers were in a partying mood.
Our gulet was not fancy, but quite comfortable. The best part of the trip was the food. Our cook made some amazing meals with a wide selection of meat and vegetables to satisfy everyone’s palate. Dessert always consisted of fresh, juicy, and delicious fruit. If the enormous amount of wonderful food on board was not enough to satisfy, there were gentlemen cruising around the bays in small boats selling ice cream, albeit for an exorbitant price! But where else are you going to find ice cream out here at sea! We loved the idea of an ice cream boat instead of the usual ice cream truck!
The cabin on the boat was comfortable but because of the unusually warm weather it got very hot and stuffy, making sleeping quite difficult, at least for me. Fortunately, the deck of the boat had numerous padded, terry cloth-covered mattresses where passengers were welcome to throw their blankets and sleep under the stars. I slept outside on the first night even though it was pretty noisy between the late night revelers on the other boats and the night club music emanating from various spots around Fethiye. Still, with the help of some good ear plugs, I got a pretty good night’s sleep.
The itinerary of our trip was pretty simple: sail around numerous islands and find a nice bay to anchor in for swimming and lunch. The water was always a pleasant temperature for swimming and it was a great escape from the heat of the daytime sun. They pull up anchor, take off for another sheltered bay for more swimming, dinner, and spending the night; repeat on the next day. Our first stop outside Fethiye was a short swimming distance from a gravel beach where there sat an old, tiny church in a bad state of disrepair. We swam ashore and some of the group wandered over to another part of the beach to amuse themselves with a resident donkey. Just after the afternoon tea, a massive thunderstorm moved in, dumping rain and spewing out lightning. The crew was able to drop down protective plastic walls around the dining area so dinner was only marginally affected. The outdoor mattresses of the boat were not covered by plastic tarps, so sleeping in that part of the boat wasn’t going to happen that night.
I tried to sleep in our cabin on the second night of the cruise, even though it was still stifling hot and muggy after the rain. I lasted until around midnight when I woke up feeling like I couldn’t breathe. So, I grabbed my blanket and pillow and crashed on one of the outside mattresses in the dining area. What a relief! It was almost cold outside, and the stars were brilliant. I had a great sleep until just before 6:00 am when the captain turned on the lights and fired up the boat engines for an early morning start to our next destination. I could have slept a little longer, but I just wrapped back up in the wool blanket and enjoyed the early morning ride through the bays as the sun came up. The Lycian Coast is spectacularly beautiful and it was nice to have a quiet, relaxing time to enjoy it.
The remainder of the day was spent with our usual routine: find a bay, swim, eat lunch, find another bay, swim, have tea and a snack, nap, eat dinner, and go to bed. If you have high adventure in mind, this may not be the most exciting experience for you, but I guarantee it will be relaxing and it is nice not to have worry about much of anything except when the next meal is and deciding what part of the boat to spend the night in (or on). Once again, I chose to sleep out on the deck under the stars. Everyone else seemed happy to spend the night in their cabins, so I had the whole topside to myself.
We began the remainder of our cruise towards the resort town of Marmaris. We made a stop along the way for one more day of swimming/eating before arriving in the harbor at Marmaris. Marmaris is definitely a resort town with restaurants and bars as far as the eye can see along the harbor. Valerie and I wandered around town, checking out a covered market area, then climbing the hill behind the boat docks to an old fortress that overlooks the bay. Then we found a restaurant with a roof-top bar and settled down to enjoy the sunset.
The plan was to spend one more night on the boat while it was docked in town. This proved to be a challenge for getting any sleep. Marmaris is most definitely a party town and the revelry went well into the early morning hours. I tried to sleep on the deck again but the party activities on the adjoining boats were just too much for any kind of sleeping. It also didn’t help that a local booze cruise boat kept going up and down the wharf right past our boat. I tried sleeping in the cabin, but the noise permeated there as well; it was also sweltering hot as usual. Things finally quieted down by 3:00 am so we were finally able to get a few hours of sleep.
We had breakfast on the boat with our fellow travelers before leaving the boat and starting the journey back to Istanbul. The trip was fun, but if I do any future blue cruises on the Lycian Coast, there are two things I’d do differently: first, I’d have some going ashore days (other than just swimming from the boat) so we could explore the shore and the numerous archeological sites and second, definitely no nights spent in the harbor.