I AM NOT A U.S. CITIZEN
…and yet, my boat, unfortunately, is. I am one of the hundreds of Turkish sailors in Turkey who fly a foreign flag. Any person who lives under the shade of a foreign flag would consent to what this means: I am an outcast, unidentified, sailor in exile.
Having sailed in Turkish waters and neighboring countries with boats ranging from 4 meters to 9 meters for many years, we finally started looking for a sturdy boat that will carry us to the oceans of the world. We have scanned the boat market, we have searched the ways to have a new boat constructed. Upon realizing the extreme cost of having a new boat, we have come down to the earth, and started looking for a second hand boat.
The search lasted for three years. After seeing many boats for sale, and finding them either incapable, or expensive, we have finally found our dream boat in Kusadasi Marina. WILD VENTURE was a 13 meter , 13 ton ketch, with a modified long keel, constructed in Taiwan in 1982. Yes, she was a little old, but she was well maintained and strong. Furthermore, the asking price suited our budget. Having found the miracle that we were longing for, we have ignored the tiny little defects that we have seen, and bought her right on the spot. Doesn't every rose have a thorn? The only defect our new boat had was its foreign flag. Our thorough investigations on this matter revealed the fact that the Turkish legislation prohibits importing a second hand boat into Turkey . Hoping that this law will change in the near future, we tried to come even with our foreign flag. Ever since the day we bought WILD VENTURE, we have sailed thousands of nautical miles with her. None of the problems that we have come across were unsolvable. Over the years, with our personal efforts we brought her to her present near-perfect condition. Upon retiring she became our home; we have changed her name to VAGABOND, to make it easier for us and our countrymen to pronounce. Now we are finalizing our last preparations for our circumnavigation that will start in July. ….and they happily lived thereafter…..
…..not really…. That tiny little defect continues to cast its vigorous shadow. In the ports that we arrive, U.S. citizens kindly run to help us, with anticipation to meet their fellow citizens. Then the following dialog takes place:
Hello, did you sail all the way from the United States with this boat?
No, we haven't. We are not Americans, we are Turkish.
Why, then, do you fly an American flag?
Because our boat is American. We have bought her with the U.S. flag. Because the Turkish law prohibits importing a second hand boat into Turkey
The exclamation marks may mean many things, but they can quickly be interpreted as follows:
What a story! You are definitely sneaking tax from your government. You dirty traitors!
Why should a country prohibit its citizens to fly their own flags in their own boats? They should be lying!
And sometimes we have our Turkish citizens running to help us. Here is what follows:
Hello! Welcome to Turkey !
Merhaba! Biz Turkuz.
This time the exclamation marks imply this:
There! Another clever guy.
Oh my country; we both have worked hard for many years in order to provide the financial means to buy this boat. We have always paid our taxes regularly, we have made an effort to promote your reputation both in Turkey and abroad. We have always been good citizens. You, however, have burdened us with a guilt complex that we do not deserve.
Where did we go wrong? Should we have bought a brand new boat? The construction company have ceased to produce VAGABOND boats, but in the years that these boats were produced a new Vagabond would have cost approximately 400,000 US Dollars, an amount way above our budget. To import a similar boat into Turkey today would increase the selling price by 109,760 Euro, the combination of VAT and OTV(Special tax) taxes (400,000 x 27.44 /100). In 1995 we have paid for our boat US $ 110,000, and sadly surrendered to the flag of a country that lights a green light to a second hand boat.
There is yet another solution to our guilt complex. Sell the boat, say goodbye to our beloved seas. But if every Turkish sailor with a foreign flag does the same, wouldn't that result with a considerable decrease in the number of Turkish sailors in the oceans of the world.
Oh my country; we Turks have started recreational sailing rather recently, but the number of Turkish sailors is increasing rapidly. Unfortunately the number of boats with Turkish flag remain almost constant. Why, do you think?
Yes, as opposed to the sailors with the Turkish flag, we, the foreign flag sailors of Turkey are rather free in Turkish waters, and out in the seas of the world. We are sad, however, because we, as well as many other Turkish boats, will fly a foreign flag in the oceans of the world this year. If corrective measures are not urgently taken, we will never be able to experience the honor and pride that the great Turkish sailors Sadun Boro, Osman and Zuhal Atasoy, or Teoman Arsay must have felt in their voyages.
Is it too much that we ask? I doubt it. All we are asking is our own native flag.