Sailing Turkey’s Turquoise Coast In Memorable Style: ScicSailing

When Loes Douze started a sailing company in the brilliant waters around southwest Turkey, hardly anyone was going to Bodrum. It was 1993, after all, that the world had yet to discover the Turquoise Coast, a place that more than lives up its name (not exactly taken from the shade of the sea, but one that might as well have been).

What a difference three decades makes. Now those waters—especially as plied aboard a traditional Turkish gulet or ketch (wooden sailing yacht)—are one of the world’s most popular sailing destinations, and a wish-list item for even wanna-be sailors. A quick Google search turns up dozens of companies offering charters.

But Douze’s company, ScicSailing, still stands out. First, there’s the pioneering experience that she and her Turkish business partner bring to the proceedings. Then there’s her dedication to the name, which stands for Sailing Cruises in Comfort and which she pronounces “chic” (also apt), with a hint of the accent of her native Netherlands. Everything is understated but attended to just-so, from the fluffing of the cushions to the presentation of the Turkish breakfast on deck every morning.

For people who care about boats, here are some details. Scic has a fleet of classic ketch yachts with modern schooner rigging and sails with a surface area of around 4,300 square feet. They have cabins for between 6 and 16 guests, each with its own ensuite shower and WC, and a captain, chef, or one or two very friendly crew. The “comfort” yachts are exactly that, with individual cabins for couples or solo travelers (there’s no single supplement), while the “luxury class” ships are available for private charters and have hotel-style bedrooms with freestanding beds and sometimes jetted bathtubs.

For people who care about experiences, here are some impressions—calm, joyful, friendly, pleasurable and utterly relaxing. It’s about whiling away the hours sunbathing with your head in a book or just soaking up the landscape. It’s about the rush of feeling the water when you jump in to cool off with a snorkel or swim. It’s about the exhilaration of sensing the wind on your face when the sails are up—something else that happens far more often with Scic than with many of its competitors. The crews love the challenge of sailing, and the boats can reach up to 12 knots, almost 14 nautical miles per hour. (It feels faster than it sounds.)

The one-, two- and three- week “itineraries” are fairly free-form. There are 14 guideline routes of one or two weeks, departing from the harbor in Bodrum itself, Marmaris or Gocek. But the details change every time with people’s moods and the winds—which bays guests use for their swims, which islands the boat anchors nearby, and which activities they do on land.

With the yacht filled with experience-seeking travel journalists during my recent week spent sailing around Bodrum, we made a plan for a relatively high number of stops, at least one per day. There was a walk around the ancient Greek archaeological ruins at Knidos Antik Kenti and its particularly interesting temple to Aphrodite, with a knowledgable and colorful local guide. There was a sunset stop at Gokagac beach to hike up the hill for the view and an extensive barbecue on the pebble beach, and a walk around Kedrai Antik Kenti, another excavation site, this one dating from the 6th century BC and with an impressive amphitheater beside the azure sea.

But it was the food-related stops—not to mention all the lavish, delicious Turkish food that showed at regular intervals on the boat—that left the most passionate memories. (I am perhaps unusually fond of delicious and unusual food.) There was the simple fish restaurant beside the beach in Karacasogut near Marmaris, and the bustling farmer’s market in Oren, its stalls piled high with all kinds of olives, stacks of cucumbers and all manner of flavorful tomatoes.

Then there was Garova Vineyards, reached via an exciting four-wheel drive to Karova, where the winemaker decided nearly 20 years ago to make natural, low-intervention wine after looking at the vines on his property and researching the methods that were used 5,000 years ago. The next day there was Etrim Doga, a restaurant within a rug weaving cooperative that serves a particularly epic Turkish breakfast, not only the vegetables, olives, cheese and herbs but also specialties like the egg-and-pepper dish called menemen to the syrup-drenched donuts called lokma.

The farewell dinner was back on the mainland, at one of the top restaurants in Bodrum’s bustling marina, Memedof. Waiters made their nimbly between the tight tables, their trays—as usual—laden with food. Tables of local businessmen held court between other tables of visitors, chatting away in so many languages. It’s the kind of lively restaurant that makes me happy: people living well, having fun and sharing the experience with others.

But I’ll admit that the boisterousness came as a bit of a shock, after a dreamy, mellow week in a small group at sea. No wonder some 70% percent of Scic’s clients are return guests, with some booking as often as twice a year—and in one case, Douze told me, a couple who would be boarding again shortly after my trip, 20 years after they originally met on board as solo travelers on their first-ever sailing voyage with Scic.

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