Bosphorus Passage to Poyrazköy, Turkey

Photo: Tall ships in Istanbul's Golden Horn. Credit: Lisa Borre.
The tall ships regatta was in the Golden Horn of Istanbul on the day we made our passage north on the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 5/29/2010
Distance: 21.1 nm
Sailed from: Istanbul (Fenerbahce) to Poyrazköy, Turkey
Latitude: 41° 12.2’N
Longitude: 29° 07.7’E

It’s hard to imagine how you could have a better passage through the Bosphorus than we did today. We went in the company of our friend, Yeoman Arsay, on Mat, his beautiful 62′ ketch which was custom built in Turkey 30 years ago. Joining him onboard were some of his friends from the Marmara Offshore Yacht Club (formerly Atakoy Marina Yacht Club). Their club used to organize a yachting rally on the Black Sea (known as KAYRA), most recently in 2004, and Teoman, their humble commodore, was the real force behind it all. He has encyclopedic knowledge about sailing on the Black Sea and a Blackberry full of contacts in the countries surrounding it. We were truly honored to make his acquaintance during our stay in Istanbul, and he provided us with a tremendous amount of assistance while making our preparations these past few weeks.

There’s nothing like following a true expert through the Bosphorus to help reduce some of the anxiety of dealing with currents, shipping lanes, ferry traffic, tour boats, and other pleasure craft on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. We started from the marina on the Asian side and followed them over to the European side for a tour of the tall ships which were in port on the Golden Horn. The graceful ships were tied along the quay beneath the Galeta Tower in Karaoke and next to a huge modern-day cruise ship. We continued for awhile on the European side past Dolmabache Palace and the first suspension bridge, before crossing back to the Asian side for the remainder of the passage. Our guide for the day told us that this route is a bit longer by distance, but the most comfortable way through this busy waterway when headed north.

Photo: s/y Gyatso on Bosphorus. Credit: Lisa Borre.
s/y Gyatso is rafted up with s/y Mat on the Bosphorus near Kilburun.

Just over three hours after setting out, we arrived at the designated rendezvous point and rafted-up to Mat beneath the cliffs of Kil Burun, a small promontory of steep cliffs on the shores of the Bosphorus which literally means “elephant’s nose.” They arrived before us and anchored in the deep water near the shore. Bayram, another friend of Teoman’s and a marine biology professor working on Black Sea environmental issues, invited us to this special place for a fish supper on the beach.

Soon we were ferried ashore in a small outboard and feasting on freshly caught horse mackerel, bluefish and bonito which were perfectly prepared and fried by the fisherman themselves. Our table was set back from the beach at the base of the cliff and covered with newspapers in the same way we set the table for a crab feast on the Chesapeake Bay. A simple tarp on metal rods provided shade from the late afternoon sun.  Most drank raki or wine with the meal which was accompanied by a simple tomato, pepper and onion salad and fresh bread for dipping. Fish doesn’t get any better than eating it fresh on the beach with fellow sailors and Black Sea enthusiasts.

Fish lunch on the Bosphorus. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Fish lunch in the shadow of Kilburun on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Credit: Lisa Borre.

During the meal, Bayram explained that the fisherman working the spider web of nets just offshore have had the fishing rights for this area going back to Ottoman times. He said that this is one of the most sustainable methods of fishing in Turkey.  A few minutes later, an alarm sounded on the beach and he told us, “The fish are in the nets.” A half-dozen fisherman scrambled to pull on their gear and then jumped in a fishing boat and zoomed out to the nets to collect the fish. The call had come from one man who sat in primitive, post-like tower and stood watch over the nets. The boat returned awhile later with a nice selection of fish which were sorted and then taken away, probably to the nearby restaurant run by the fisherman.

Over the meal, we also learned more about the research and environmental education projects on the Black Sea. We received educational posters about dolphin conservation and marine litter issues to hand-out in ports along the way.  Bayram said with a smile, “They will find it curious that Americans are handing out Turkish posters.”

Photo: Ships on the Bosphorus in Turkey. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Ships on the busy Bosphorus in Turkey. Credit: Lisa Borre.

Seeing the tall ships earlier in the day and watching the fisherman work on this remote Bosphorus beach transported us back in time, but another supertanker passing in the distance snapped us back into the present moment.

Before sunset, we cast-off and completed the final mile to Poyrazköy alone. It was a perfect send-off for our voyage on the Black Sea this summer.