There was one hot topic of conversation during the London Boat Show this year, and that was whether Turkey was a safe destination to sail.
View of Bodrum marina by night, Turkey
To help you all understand the current situation, we’ve asked a local charter company, Aura Yachting, based in Yalikavak on the Bodrum peninsular to answer the most asked questions.
Is it safe to charter in Turkey this summer?
The Foreign Office says that over 2,500,000 British nationals visit Turkey every year and most visits are trouble-free. While travel is advised against in the areas bordering Syria and Iraq, the tourist and sailing areas are safe and this is a sailing ground you don’t want to miss out on.
Will I see refugees trying to cross from Turkey to Greece?
It is very unlikely, as most of the sailing areas and bases are not near where refugees cross. Refugees also tend to cross late at night from remote areas so you will probably not witness any activity.
OK, but what if we DO see refugees in the water?
The advice of the Cruising Association and others is to note the position, inform the authorities on your VHF (channel 16) but stay clear in case you cause injury. If you see people in obvious distress, you can throw them floating aids, such as fenders and cushions, wait in the area until the coast guard comes and let them take over the situation.
I heard I would have my passport taken away if I assist someone?
The coastguard and local police will not take your passport. They may take a statement from you about the incident, but they will know you are a tourist and not a smuggler or refugee. We have never heard of any passports being taken away.
But isn’t there also a problem with terrorism in Turkey?
We feel Turkey is no more at risk than any other country around the world, where terrorists move around every day. To put into perspective, Turkish nationals are also worried about taking their holidays in the UK and European countries at the moment for fear of terrorist activities. It is a global fear
I know the newspapers don’t tell the full story, but why should I choose Turkey to go sailing instead of somewhere not currently in the news?
It’s friendly, beautiful, culturally rich and good value for money. It’s modern enough to be comfortable yet traditional enough to be interesting.
The sailing areas in Turkey are among the best in the world, with unspoilt bays and clear seas with perfect afternoon winds. The exchange rate is very high right now so you will get a lot for your money. With many people thinking not to go to Turkey this year, there will be some good discounts and bargain sailing holidays.
But doesn’t Syria border Turkey? Surely that’s a good enough reason not to go to Turkey this year?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to within 10 km of the border with Syria.
Turkey is a very large country. The distance between the Syrian border and Bodrum, one of the main sailing areas, is 1000 miles, or the same distance between London to Prague.
Bodrum marina at sunset, Turkey
None of us should let the terrorists win and make us prisoners in our own homes.