24 - School Daze

A deserted strip mall near the marina appeared to have been taken over by ghost Yacht Clubs and absentee Sailing Schools. On one of the dark shopfronts, someone had, at least, gone to the effort of tacking up a few, rollicking good time, sailing posters. Elena dialled the number on the door. "It's ringing! You talk." She footballed the mobile to me.

Marmaris, Turkiye, Netsel marina charter fleet photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-1] Some of the charter fleet, ready for adventure and fine dining in the eastern Med.

Someone picked up. "Do you speak English?" I asked.

"Of course. Who is this?" It sounded like a woman at the other end.

"I'm at your sailing school. There is a number here. I'm not sure if--"

"What's wrong? What happened?"

"Nothing's wrong. I want to speak to someone about sailing lessons."

"Uh-huh, your charter company sets that up. Who are you with?" The woman asked.

"No one. I'm not chartering. I am in Marmaris. Standing outside your office."

"Oh right, you said that." The woman broke into a coughing fit.

"Do you give sailing lessons? Is this the--" I looked for a name on the shopfront.

"Of course. How many, what kind of instruction?" More coughing.

"One person." I looked at Elena. "I need someone to teach my partner how to sail a fourteen metre Beneteau. Oh yeah, and it needs to be as soon as possible." As with the test drive, my nefarious plan was to watch and learn vicariously.

The woman at the other end went ominously silent.

"I would teach her myself." I went on, not knowing if she was even still there. "But I think she will get more from professional instruction, than from me."

"It's fifty Euros an hour. I teach the Canadian Yachting Association's syllabus. If you need American certification, I think you have to go to Bodrum."

Sailing school storefront in Marmaris 2006 photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-2] A darkened storefront offering sail training.

"That's brilliant! Canada is where we're going."

"Not on a 14 metre Beneteau, right?"

"Actually, yes."

"And your partner doesn't know how to sail?" She half-laughed, coughed. "Look, I'm close. Wait there for me!"

A tomboyish mountain biker skidded to a stop. "It's you that phoned, right?"

"Aye, it's us." I swear she got there in under three minutes.

"I had to see if this is for real." She held up her hands. "Don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds crazy. You need sailing lessons to cross the Atlantic?!" She looked down at our heavy, winter boots. "I guess you guys haven't been in Turkiye long?"

Marmaris late afternoon twilight photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-3] Evening in Marmaris.

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The boat was still dangling, high and dry, when we got back to the marina. Harvey was up a step ladder, bonking on the big, plastic hull with a wee mallet.

"I thought you only had the travelling lift thingy for a few hours."

"Nie whyries, mite! I can finish the survey here. Someone bingled the lift." Harvey said. "A couple of the lads are off to Istanbul for parts."

Highway cones and CAUTION tape surrounded the crane and our dangling boat. "Ah, Harvey, we're staying on that boat."

"You can climb aboard with a ladder. You can even sleep on her, if ya like."

"Sleep!? How long is it going to be stuck in this, this Borg cube?"

"It's going to take 'em a while. If you don't want to sleep in the lift, better grab your toothbrush and bludge somewhere else."

Yacht in travel lift at night photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-4] Elena and Meg's sailboat stuck in the travel lift.

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The charter company let us kip on a loaner yacht. Their munificence, however, didn't extend to training or joyriding. I rang Sinem to reschedule. No answer.

Elena suggested, "We meet Sinem at the boat."

"Uh huh, what boat?" I said. "The one in the car park, or the empty spot it's supposed to be floating in?"

Night shot of Travel lift with Meg and Elena's boat photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-5] Hard to miss this sucker in the middle of the road.

We waited on the tarmac, under our bloody boat. Gawkers strolled by, pointing, snickering and making stupid comments.

Finally, "Hey, you guys!" Sinem shrugged off her rucksack. "Is this your boat? What's going on?"

I filled her in. Told her about Harvey.

"Never heard of him. If he does a good survey, ask him what equipment you'll need to sail to Florida."

"Florida!? Nah, we're going straight to Canada. Maybe Nova Scotia, or better yet, British Columbia. And it's got to be without stopping along the way."

"Yeah, right!" She snickered. "You can't sail straight to Halifax from here. Not with the currents, the trade winds, against you. And last time I checked, the Americas got in the way of a straight run to British Columbia." She looked directly at me. "You do know that, right?"

"Sure, who doesn't?" My cheeks burned. Probably too much sun.

"Tell me, why not Florida?"

Elena and Meg's yacht provides shade photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-6] A yacht on a sun scorched tarmac provides a lot of welcome shade to passersby.

"We aren't allowed to land between here and Canada."

"Oooooh kaaaay, you better pack a lot of groceries. You are going to be out there a long time." Sinem strolled around the travel lift. "Which one of you needs sailing lessons?"

"She does!" I pointed at Elena.

"Right. Boat's not in the water, guys. Let's call today a free-be. I've got study guides with me for -- Lenna, right? She's who needs the lessons, not you? You obviously know what you're doing."

"Of course."

Sinem rolled her eyes. "I'll leave study guides for both of you. Just in case." She looked up at the monstrosity overhead. "Does this boat have an autopilot?"

Since she asked, I assumed it had to. Until then, I thought only aeroplanes had autopilots. "Oh yes, fully equipped, top of the line."

"Well, that's a start, but you are going to need a lot more than what this boat comes with. And how are you set for charts? Are you getting a package shipped in for your route, or are you flying out to get them yourself from London?"

Elena Vaytsel in shades, in the shade photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-7] Elena takes refuge from the sun.

She didn't wait for an answer and rattled off a list of necessary equipment. Most of it was unfamiliar and sounded expensive. "We're going to need all that?"

"If you want to stay alive you will. This boat is equipped for charter. It has what it needs to get to pretty bays and yacht clubs. But I can see from here, this vessel is not ready to cross any oceans."

"Aye, I hear you. But it's not like we're sailing the Vendee Globe!" A little name dropping couldn't help but add to my sailing cred.

"Good to know, you aren't going around the world, non-stop, in a bare-bones, charter boat!

I didn't think anyone gave a tinker's cuss; as long as they got paid. If we wanted to juggle chain saws, they'd gas em up, pull the cords and tell us to catch. "Look Sinem, we've run out of options. We have no choice. I, or we, will do the best that we can with what we've got. That is why I want-- no, that is why I need you to teach Elena how to sail this thing. That way I can concentrate on getting all that equipment and getting it installed." Again, I impressed myself with a brilliant save.

"I'm just trying to help. My job is teaching someone to sail, and teaching them to know what the boat is capable of. You want to leave soon? This is Turkiye! You can't just go to the shops and buy the equipment you will need. It can take months and thousands and thousands of Euros, and that is just to get it out of customs! If it doesn't go missing on the way."

"Huh, I didn't actually know that. We'll just have to find a work-around. What do other people do?" I asked.

"They island-hop to Greece, then Italy, then France. Or they put the yacht on a freighter and they ship it. Why do you think yachts are so cheap here?"

"What if they want to cross oceans or sail around the world?"

"They certainly don't do it with a charter boat. They spend a long time, sometimes years, preparing themselves and their gear!" Sinem caught herself, stopped, shook a cigarette from a pack. "Business is bad and I want this job, but I don't want to help you two kill yourselves." Something caught in her bronchi and she doubled over with a wet racking cough.

"I guess it's do-or-die." I mumbled while Sinem hacked up a lung.

"Die? What about dying?" Elena snapped out of her stupor. "I do not want to die."

"Then you guys better have the right equipment. And if Lenna has to be out of Turkiye in two months, you may not have enough time." She took a long drag on her cigarette. "If you like his report, see what your surveyor has to say about your plans and see if he can get the equipment you need. I'm just a sailing teacher." She pulled a handful of booklets from her satchel, slapped them down on an oil drum, then turned and started walking. "Call me when the boat's in the water."

Meg Aitken walks along the Marmaris canal toward old town photo elenameg.com

[Image 24-8] From the marina, unstoppable Meg heads into town along the canal.

[[ updated Apr 23, 23:57 GMT ]]