While we were staying in Erdek, a holiday town on the Sea of Marmara, we were paid a visit by the local Coastguards.
As per normal they wanted to see our passports, check our visa status and examine our boat papers, including information on when our black water tanks had last been pumped out. Fortunately all was fine in that department.
One of the key documents we have to have in Turkey is our transit log – it’s really the boat’s passport. To our utter amazement and consternation the Coastguard told us that the transit log ran out the very next day! They seemed very nonchalant and unconcerned by this but we knew that it was a very serious situation and needed to be remedied straight away. Big fines apply if your transit log isn’t current!
Jonathan immediately swung into action and jumped into the dinghy with the necessary documentation and then on to catch a taxi to a larger town – the port of Bandırma – where there were Customs and Immigration offices.
After much to-ing and fro-ing between various offices he paid the dues and all that remained to be done was to obtain a stamp from the Harbour Master at Erdek. So the next morning he was up with the lark and arrived bright and early at Harbour Master’s office and duly had the paperwork stamped.
He hadn’t been back on board long when he received an urgent email from the Custom’s Office in Bandırma, asking him to return to the office as they had filled in the forms incorrectly and needed to do them again. So another taxi into Bandırma and another round of to-ing and fro-ing between offices and much drinking of çay (Turkish tea) and the transit log was redone. This time the young guy from customs who spoke good English insisted that Jonathan should travel the 20 kms back to Erdek by government car.
We thought the process was finally over but wait, there’s more! Later that day Jonathan received another summons – the forms were still not right! Arghh! So off he went again for the third time – by this time everyone knew who he was and even the security guards at the government offices waved him straight through.
It appeared that yachts were relatively rare visitors to Bandırma and the authorities there really hadn’t any idea how to fill out a yacht transit log. However, they were very kind and generous in trying to get our papers sorted so we remained “legal” when they could have ignored Jonathan and told us we should go to Istanbul, where no doubt we would have been fined for out of date paperwork.
The Deputy Director of Customs and Immigration had become personally involved and was genuinely fascinated that we lived on a boat. He insisted that Jonathan should pose for a “selfie” with him and gave him his personal contact details in case he should need help of any sort. We hope that won’t be necessary but feel very grateful for the warm treatment we received by Turkish bureaucrats in Bandırma.
In the meantime, our boat guest, Jonathan’s brother Jack, had come down with a rotten chest cold and was “hibernating” in his cabin. Fortunately he tested negative for Covid but he was quite unwell for a few days.
It was time to push on to Istanbul – Jonathan’s temporary residency and my visitor’s visa were both due to run out soon and we urgently needed to start the application process for a year’s temporary residency soon.
We left Erdek on a rather cloudy day but the weather cleared up as the day wore on and we had a pleasant trip to our anchorage for the night – just outside a tiny fishing village called Çakilköy.
This was absolutely the worst ever anchorage we have ever stayed in during our two plus years in Turkey – mainly due to the fact that the locals had used the sea as a rubbish tip. Quite literally! The view from our boat that evening was of the village’s waste. Our boat guest Jack commented that we took him to the best places! Needless to say we didn’t go ashore.
Our next stop – Armutlu – was a great deal better although en route we were called up by the custodians of the prison island of Imrali – even though we were many miles away – to tell us to change course. Very strange as we were moving away from the island at the time. We thought that the guards there were probably suffering from excruciating boredom or maybe training new recruits. Our responses were met with silence and we guessed that their English was probably as good as our Turkish!
Anyway, we arrived in one piece at the little seaside town of Armutlu and anchored just outside the small town marina.
We had a wander round the small town and bought a few items at the local supermarket and ate delicious ice creams!
That evening we watched dolphins play around the entrance to the marina and enjoyed the serenity of a beautiful calm evening.
On the move again the next day we knew that we were almost at journey’s end when we saw the multitudes of ships waiting to go into the Port of Istanbul to either offload their cargo or take on new cargo.
Some of these great iron monsters were just sitting there without any anchors down – we guessed so that as soon as they received the call to go in they could move off quickly – so it felt a little fraught weaving our way through them knowing they could spring into life at any moment!
We arrived in the Princes’ Archipelago – a cluster of nine islands just an hour’s ferry ride southeast of Istanbul – around lunchtime and decided to anchor at Heybeliada in a lovely sheltered lagoon.
There were some boats anchored there but we were surprised there weren’t more due to the proximity to Istanbul. However, there was a beach club belting out tunes but after the last ferry departed peace was restored and we had a great evening.
Apparently until 2020, apart from ambulances, fire tenders, police cars etc the only form of transport on the island was by horse-drawn carriage (phaeton). With increasing tourism and concern for the welfare of the horses, it was decided to make the change to electric vehicles.
We left the island looking forward to spending more time there and exploring this little piece of paradise so close to the craziness of Istanbul.