Below please find an article written by one of the participants and published in their official internet site "trans-ocean"
We as individual travel planners with OTARIE since 1999, and after 12000 nautical miles sailed through the Med, decided to join the Marmara Yacht Rally departing from Istanbul, where we just made a service stop coming back from our short trip to Black Sea (Turkish Coast).
Many of our sailor fellows have told us about the interesting and well organised yacht rallies who take place almost every year in Turkey, and this time it just fitted into our program. Furthermore, we had already sailed in the Marmara Sea in 2002 and from there always dreamed to come back to this beautiful area which had to offer so much from the point of view of culture, nature, and of course sailing ground. There were many harbours at the disposition of the yachties, and many new ones in construction or to be completed. (We would visit some of those during the Rally).
The Marmara Sea is still little known by the sailor's community, may be because many of the "easy going" people fear the sometimes struggling way up through the Dardanelles, with wind and current against us. But the price to pay to reach Marmara is very low in exchange to what you get once in it. And then - of course - eternal Istanbul, a "must" stop in the career of every sailor. (Together with many other "must"-stops, i.e. Malta, Palermo, Siracusa, etc. etc.)
By a lush inauguration dinner at Istanbul's exclusive Ataköy Yacht Club, the MAYRA participants were introduced by the oranisators to the gathering yacht fraternity of Istanbul.
The Commodore Mr. Ali Gündüz - a business man and experienced sailor from Istanbul (he and his charming wife Nilgün were just on starting the adventure of Round-the-World with their boat VAGABOND) - presented the main sponsors of the rally, (Ataköy Marina, Ataköy Yacht Club, Turkish nautical sports federation, Bagci, a wine and rahki manufacturing company). He introduced all the captains of the participating yachts and me as OTARIE captain had the honour to be the only woman captain. The press from Istanbul and the yachting world was of course present and I hope to get some of the pictures taken that evening.
There were 4 foreign participating yachts, 3 of them with Israeli crew, flying German, Swiss and Israel ensign, whereas the OTARIE had the only 100% Swiss crew with Swiss flag.
We were introduced to interesting people, very internationally educated Turkish people from the business and sailing community of Istanbul, as well as to authorities like the General Director of the Istanbul harbour, one of the most complex harbours in the world as the Bosporus was part of it, with consecutive potential problems! We were told that regularly, more or less once a week, there were some accidents within the great harbour range. We had many interesting conversations and it was clear that the coming days would be full of pleasant meetings by sea and by land.
On June 21, at the occasion of the briefing, we were given t-shirts, hats, flags, a travel bag, and of course an accurate documentation regarding the rally program.
When we started at Ataköy marina at 4 p.m., the Commodore's yacht VAGABOND giving the start shot (by gunfire), a gusty 4 BF Northerly wind blew us - Otarie of course under full sail - in a zigzag course through the many cargo boats at anchor just out of the marina area. If you imagine the speed catamarans and the touristic boats crossing the bay, together with the big ships on their way into the Bosporus you will understand that it was an exciting start. I have to say that this is not a sailing regatta, most of the yachts were motor sailing with only one foresail out, there is no obligation to sail in any condition.
We enjoyed very much the good wind and made the whole first leg - only 14 NM - under sail, using the engine only for harbour manoeuvres.
The MAYRAarticipants had the great honour to be the guests in the private harbour of the famous elite military university lyceum at Heybeliada Island.
It was the first time in our lives that we were greeted at any place of the generous and very beautiful building by marines, in respectful distance of the guests. The first officer and our Commodore had welcome speeches at the occasion of the cocktail, and the elite school was presented in an illustrative film. We had the pleasure of visiting the small military museum, with very interesting exposition objects. I was fascinated by the books, telling the story of the Golden Horn and the so many battles of the past.
The dinner took place at the Officer's restaurant, in the most beautiful place of Heybeliada, just on top of the hill. The scenery was fantastic, and the rising, almost full moon completed the fascination of the place.
The next leg was to Esenköy. This time hardly no wind and therefore no competitive mood for the sailors...In the evening our Commodore Ali and his charming wife Nilgün had organised a bus transfer up to the hill in a green forest. Before dinner, we made a refreshing walk to waterfalls and the evening was completed in the restaurant nearby under old trees. We had the choice between meet and sweet water fish. I opted for the latter one (after all the delicious Sherif and Nisa mezeler) which was very tasty. The 2 busses brought back to the harbour late in the evening all the company through an adventurous small street. How good we did not have to drive ourselves...Turkish wine and rakhi are very good too...
With fair winds (3 - 4 Bf) we sailed next to Zeytinbagi (greek Trilie), where after a delicious welcome meal on the pier (manti, olives, etc.) we visited with a guide this interesting ancient Greek city. There were many palaces and churches unfortunately deteriorating and no longer in use of course. From the once luxurious houses you could understand Trilie had been a very rich town. Unfortunately the Turkish government did not have enough money to preserve those testimonies of the glorious ancient times.
The end of the day was highlighted by Sherif and Nisa (KAYRA Rally member from the last year), an extremely generous couple, who invited the whole company to their private house. We reached the place by a wonderful bus trip longing the shores of Marmara Sea. The villa was in a well protected area with an incredible beautiful seaview. The food had nothing to compete with a five star hotel buffet, whereas the MAYRA members gathered on different levels of the garden surrounding the villa.
The summit of Sherif and Nisa's hospitality was by one kilo of home made olives to every boat crew. And the day after at 8 a.m. they were again at Trilie harbour to offer to all the boats a farewell breakfast (Turkish speciality, hot sweet pide with honey and humus). Fortunately this was the occasion for us to meet them again and to give them the traditional OTARIE gift to people we meet during our trip and we like very much: a VICTORINOX Swiss army knife. I hope they will use it either during their future trips with their new boat actually moored at Kusadai marina. Hopefully we will meet again during summer.
We were happy to have Sherif with us for some following legs as a guest on a MAYRA yacht.
After a windy night in Trilie (TR Zeytinbagi), we started earlier as usual, as there were some 38NM to sail to Cayagzi (a new harbour on the South Coast of Marmara Sea). The first half was perfect sailing, and the occasion to feel some competition with other boats of similar size. The Otarie crew was very happy to make as much as possible under sail, but unfortunately after noon when we were at Imrali Adasi (where PKK chief Ocalan is in jail for many years now), the wind dropped and the waves remained. So we went on by motor sailing, seeing most of the other yachts doing the same.
In the evening, we enjoyed a various pick nick on the mole, every crew made some home made speciality, and MAYRA organisation was providing the traditional and very excellent Köfte.
The next morning, before leaving Cayagzi, we went for a walk in the very poor village. We again experienced the incredible hospitality of the Turkish people. A very modest farmer's wife offered us cucumbers from their little garden, another women gave us delicious cherries. We wanted to pay for it, but they did not accept. Fortunately I had just bought some Börek which at least I could give to the people.
Let me say a word at this time regarding the kindness and hospitality of the people here in Turkey. We, as Swiss citizens, are really ashamed about how many of our compatriots judge the Turkish people. They have no idea of the real Turkish people, they only see the ones that are working in modest charges in Northern Europe, and of course many of them do nothing for their integration into another culture.
We have the great chance to see many foreign countries and their people with our proper eyes, and then make our proper judgement. And the our "verdict" is very very positive. Let us thank to so many unknown men and women we met during our trips, and they have treated us so kindly and full of hospitality!
The 25 miles to Erdek was exciting. Out of the harbour, swelly seas welcomed us, and it took about one hour until we could change our habit from motor sailing to true sailing. Soon good 15 - 20 KN let us proceed quickly, with full sail plan in activity. After noon it went soon up to 30 and more, and in the passage (Gecidi), we were surprised by more and more. We had all our main sail out, and there was no room to head into the wind in order to reduce it. The passage near Narli was small, so we had to hold the rudder very strongly and go on in winds over 40 KN. The 43 KN was rather hard for me, as I am not a Herkules (you certainly can imagine). As soon as the passage was wide enough, we were able to manoeuvre into the wind and reduce the main sail to about 50%. The healing was strong enough to catapult even the heavy tool boxes out of their place...
Just near Erdek, the wind disappeared and we had no problem entering the harbour. The dinner took place at a special place, a new restaurant with the nicest view. And the sunset... Look at the films and photos of the MAYRA participants. You will understand that those are magic places.
But it was very cool and windy, the Restaurant had to distribute pashmina for everybody... Furthermore, they evidently were not prepared to serve numerous guests all together. After the first course, at 10.30 p.m. most of the guests preferred not to wait for the fish which seemed to swim still in the nearby Marmara Sea.
Erdek is a fantastic place: Huge old trees give shadow to the many Cay Bahcesi where the local people sit and chat and sit and chat for hours.
We had been in Erdek 3 years ago and noted a big "upgrading" of quality of the restaurants, houses, etc. But still not an "in-place" for schickimicki people. A fantastic holiday place for Turkish people. The foreigners still have to come. Let's hope they wait for many years so we can come back to Erdek again.
Turkeli New Harbour was the next stop (on Avsa Island), after a long swim stop. Otarie made separate program: we went back to our secret bay South of Koyun Adasi, where we collected big quantities of mussels. We cooked them into a sauce and enjoyed Spaghetti alle Vongole with Greek Rosé wine in the afternoon.
In Avsa, we moored in the new - not quite ready - harbour and received a welcome gift by the local authorities: a bottle of local wine. (Sezer wine).The evening was free, and we were still so tired from our mussel's stop that we enjoyed to go to bed early - once as an exception during the whole Rally...
The next day we sailed to the famous Marmara Island (Port Marmara), the one which gives it' s name to the whole region. Our Commodore had arranged a place for 23 yachts. Not an easy task in this tiny harbour. But the fishermen were so friendly and tied their boat together in order to give room to MAYRA yachts.
After gathering around in the city under the big green trees, we enjoyed an excellent dinner in good company. The sponsorship during the whole Rally was so generous that only a few times we had to pay for our drinks. We enjoyed such a hospitality by our Turkish friends that there is never enough room to repeat them: thank you for all you did for us!
The passage to Tekirdag (wine city with big commercial harbour) ended with some rain, but nevertheless the sailor community was - as always - in very good mood. We were offered a trip by bus, visited the museum and the villa of a Hungarian prince(emigrated from Hungary for political reasons) who had enjoyed the Turkish authorities' hospitality during many years.
We learnt so many interesting features of a history which - unfortunately - had not been on our educational program. Thanks to MAYRA we did not only enjoy the sailor's fraternity in their best "edition", but also have done something for brushing up our historical education.
The evening closed by another delicious dinner at the Yacht Club of Tekirdag.
On June 29 we sailed with very smooth winds that asked for the help of the engine to Murefte. The welcome in Murefte was already a big fiesta: children in folklore costumes (white, red and gold) were dancing accompanied by a local music (wind instrument and drum). The community presented to each boat a smart package containing 3 red roses. Our Commodore had asked the participants to dress their boats with the festive ensigns at the arrival at Murefte harbour. Unfortunately, OTARIE was very poor from that side, having no official flag set. So we tied together some of the courtesy flags of the many different countries we had visited so far with our boat. Better than nothing, even if not quite according to the etiquette...
One of the main sponsors of the rally, the Bagci wine factory, offered us a visit by bus to their premises. We visited a very big plant, and everything was proper and in perfect order. We had the opportunity to taste some of their excellent wines and then turned back to the marina, passing through the beautiful landscape of Thrace (European side of the Marmara Sea).
The sponsors very extremely generous, not only by presenting a gift (wine) to every boat, but offering a tasteful dinner, accompanied by their excellent wines or rhaki, and to conclude the evening, we were dancing and I was even playing some notes with the violin. Of course, this folklore music was far away from my classical music education, but just for fun. It seamed that the MAYRA sailors enjoyed my little initiative.
At Murefte, one of the social highlights of the rally, some of the participants had to leave us returning to Istanbul for business reasons. They were replaced by some "newcomers" so that the MAYRA community was again more than complete.
The next leg was to Cardak liman at the entrance of the Dardanelles. This was the point where we said good bye to the beautiful Sea of Marmara. It was the first time all the community was together at anchor. We enjoyed a tasteful dinner on the terrace of the nearby restaurant, and again this was sponsored by the local community. The sunset was great that evening, the noise of the "camera-clicks" was accordingly... Neptun had been friendly with us: the wind dropped in the evening and had just a little comeback in the middle of the night. It must have been too much for 3 boats tied together but each at his own anchor. The boats had turned around and to free them again when 3 anchor chains are turned around.....Anyhow the MAYRA fleet was always able to solve some problems. The camaraderie has been excellent during all the trip. A big compliment at this time to the Turkish sailors!
An early start (from 6 a.m.) was necessary to get in time to Canakkale, our last harbour. The marina is rather small, and only thanks to the great organisation of our Commodore, we were all able to find a place in the harbour, entering by boat size. First the bigger boats, then the smaller. And then you could have closed Canakkale like La Rochelle at the old times: with a chain. No way for newcomers to find a place. The MAYRA community had taken possession of Canakkale marina.
We were offered then an extremely interesting excursion by bus to the world famous Gelibolu Peninsula, where most tragic battles have taken place in 1915, involving Turkish military, Russia, the ANZAC forces, a Royal Naval Division (GB) and a French Colonial Division. It is not the place to repeat what we have seen in the almost 5 hours lasting visit of the many memorials and cemeteries. But although Otarie has now passed 4 times the Dardanelles, this time was very emotional. Too many young men lost their lives in such a crazy campaign. And all this in one of the most peaceful landscapes of Turkish Thrace. What a contrast! Life is full of contrast, of course. But Gelibolu Peninsula shows this antagonism between unspoilt, peaceful nature and the negative effect of crazy search of power that only human beings can produce...We all were highly impressed and sad of course, and everybody hoped that such a crazy campaign would never happen again.
A cocktail at the marina concluded the evening, in the presence of high officers of the Naval Corps in Canakkale.
The day after, we visited the most interesting and beautiful Naval Museum in Canakkale. Again we had the opportunity to learn more details bout the Canakkale Naval war, for better understanding of the previous day's visit to Gelibolu.
After a break in this hot summer day, the buses were waiting for us for the next very important cultural visit: Troy, the place that many civilisations think to be the birthplace of their ancestors.
The MAYRA organizators had been very generous to the foreign members and offered a special Bus with an English speaking guide. We had on both days very capable guides, everybody was happy to have the occasion to repeat what we all had read or studied some long time ago.
The evening was sponsored in an extremely generous way by the cement industry company AKCANSA. We were driven by bus through the big premises of AKCANSA near Troy, had an overview about the fabrication process of cement. This interesting visit was concluded by a cocktail in the fantastic garden of the social building. The dinner to follow in the restaurant - the MAYRA closing dinner - was an excellent review of Turkish specialities. Between the many tasteful courses - there was the plaquette ceremony: the Commodore distributed to each boat a remembering plaquette of the MAYRA Rally 2005. And last but not least, a life music was to entertain the community, and nobody had to go home with empty hands: generous AKCANSA gave us to each boat a bottle of wine and one of olive oil of their own production. The olives grown in the magnificent landscape of Asian borders of the Dardanelles.
Thank you for all your perfect guidance through the Sea of Marmara, dear Commodore Ali Bey, and all the best for your Round-The-World-Trip with your charming wife Nilgün. Hopefully you will remember those MAYRA days as a sympathetic start for your great adventure.