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I received lots of great responses to the last newsletter I sent out, but the question that intrigued me the most was in reference to the fact that I have been living as an expat for the past five years. The question was . . .
Like many Americans, before I ever visited this country, I had no idea what it was like. My first inkling of how fascinating it could be came from my Aussie friends Carol and Terry Hogan who wintered over here in Finike Marina aboard their Catalina 42 Common Sense back in 2013.
I had met the Hogans a couple of years previously at Cooley’s Landing Marina in Fort Lauderdale. After they crossed the Atlantic, Carol wrote the most fabulous pieces about their travels to Malta and Turkey, and her words inspired me to set my next novel there. Of course, that would require research! They were kind enough to let me invite myself to visit them and sail for a week aboard their boat! Later, I even had the gall to ask if I could bring a +1 after I met Wayne.
That first visit to Turkey opened my eyes. As we passed through the area around Kekova, we saw this big wooden tourist boat, and I learned it was called a gulet. Terry told me they were built locally.
I discovered that Turkey has a centuries-old tradition of shipbuilding dating back to before the Ottoman Empire.
After Wayne and I said good-bye to the Hogans, we traveled by bus on to Marmaris and Bodrum, the epicenters of the gulet shipbuilding industry. Walking the docks, we saw more and more of these handsome vessels.
We were both dumbfounded by the beautiful woodwork and amazed at how these yachts were outfitted with first class gear.
I was toying with the idea of writing a novel about characters who would have a new boat built for them. What I was seeing told me that Turkey had a deep talent pool of shipwrights. So, in the weird way that life and imagination get intertwined, I wrote my book Knight’s Cross about Riley and Cole having their new Expedition Yacht built in Turkey.
Little did I know that Wayne and I would follow in my characters’ footsteps only a few years later.
After I’d finished writing that book in the Marshall Islands, we sailed down to Fiji in 2015. In the way that passages give you lots of time to think and dream, Wayne and I started talking seriously about designing and building a blue water power exploration yacht. On that passage, we both read the book Voyaging Under Power. We came to see that there have been very few real bluewater power cruising boats piloted by a couple without crew - compared to the number of sailboats. The idea represented a new and different challenge. So, after a long search for the right designer, we found Dennis Harjamaa in New Zealand, and this was the very first pencil sketch of the concept.
While cruising Fiji, Wayne and I worked with Dennis, exchanging hundreds of emails. As the design firmed up, the boat grew bigger. The LRC 65 (long range cruiser) pictured above became the XPM-78 (Expedition Passage Maker), and suddenly we were trying to build a boat we couldn’t really afford.
From my experience of having already built a 55-foot sailboat with my first husband, I knew we were looking for a place where we would live for 2-5 years, depending on whether we built the boat ourselves or had it built for us. Here is the list of attributes we considered:
Aluminum boatbuilding industry
Ability to stay - Ease of acquiring visas or temporary residence
Cost of living (for us)
Climate and natural surroundings
Food and culture
We considered builders in Turkey, Tunisia, New Zealand, Thailand, USA, Canada and Holland, and Wayne flew and visited many of them. Turkey tipped the scale in many regards.
Naval Yachts was very much a young and new company which specialized in aluminum boatbuilding. They were located in the Antalya Free Zone, which is a special tax-free zone where goods (like marine equipment and systems that come from all over the world) can be brought in duty-free as long as the finished boat will be exported from Turkey. Also, Turkey makes it relatively easy for foreigners to get temporary residency, as long as they do not work and can demonstrate that they won’t become a burden on the local society. We are now in our fifth ear of residency, and we have been treated like citizens - especially throughout the pandemic, getting vaxed and boosted for free.
We were able to find a 3-bedroom furnished apartment in Antalya within walking distance of the beach for about $350/month. Our 9th floor apartment was so close, Wayne and I often rode our bikes to the shipyard.
The fresh food available at the weekly open markets is unbelievable. The Finike market has only local produce, and keep in mind that it is currently about 14 Turkish lira to the dollar when you see prices.
The cost of living here is sometimes embarrassing, even at the grocery store as you can see in this sample of my daily shopping.
The people and culture in Turkey have kept me busy studying the language and planning our little forays out to discover new sites. We’ve visited many of the famous touristy locations like Pamukkale and Capadochia, but it has been so much more fun to visit the less well known sites. It seems like you can hardly go a mile without stumbling on to ruins here in Turkey.
As for climate and nature, Antalya has exceeded our expectations. My misconceptions about Turkey had led me to be surprised at the huge mountains and forests in this country. After years in the tropics, I’ve enjoyed the changing seasons. While it does occasionally get close to freezing along the coast, winters are mostly cool and refreshing. December through February it rains more often than not, but the crystal clear days with views of the snow-capped peaks make it worth it. Summers have a few really hot days over 100 degrees, but our apartment complex had a great pool.
And nearby, we could go swimming in ice-cold rivers.
Or go white water rafting with friends.
Or go enjoy a cup of Turkish tea in the country by the riverside.
So, why Turkey? I hope I’ve answered that question. The big cities have shopping malls and everything from Starbucks to Burger King, yet the small villages retain the Anatolian charm. We have no regrets about our decision to come make this our home. Turkey will remain forever in our hearts.
However, it is time to go, and I hope that by the time I write you again, we will at least be out of the marina and cruising the beautiful Turkish Aegean coast.
For this who have made it this far, if you have not yet read my novel Cross Current, the ebook will be free on Amazon through Tuesday, May 10. Perhaps you have a friend who would like to read the book or this newsletter.