I meet many dreamers. That’s fine. In order to do, you must first dream. Dreaming is an important first step on the road to actually getting off your butt and doing something—to living life zestfully. Alas, some dreamers are just that and only that—they are people who have mistaken the act of fantasizing about life for actually living it.
… they are sort of virtual adventurers.
This is understandable. Dreaming about sailing offshore is safer than, say, falling overboard in mid-ocean.
But life is short and my time limited. I prefer to avoid such people. While I always take a moment to advise an earnest sailor attempting to install a through-hull for the first time, I can’t waste my time chatting with a dirt-dweller who might buy a boat and might someday install a through hull in it.
I hope that doesn’t sound harsh—but my seconds are too precious to squander on wannabes-who-will-never-be.
In addition, I’m (happily) extremely busy. I sail towards life, not away from it. I have many goals—professional, artistic, and humanistic—which I’ve yet to achieve. I don’t have time to sit around and pat myself on the back—or even allow others to do so.
Thus, I was very wary when, sitting in the marina in Finike, Turkey, a note was delivered to my boat that said, ‘… we’re flying in to meet you!’ accompanied by some incomprehensible, unpronounceable names.
Yes, I owe my national and international readers civility and courtesy—but where does that realistically end?
So I braced myself. I’d invite them aboard for an hour or so, and do my well-rehearsed ‘charming seadog’ routine—maybe even sell a book or two. It was an interruption, true, but it was all part of the literary mix. If a writer works hard enough to deserve fans—he’d be an idiot not to (briefly, at least) nurture them.
Of course, I had a mental image of what they’d look like and what they’d be like—silly me! The couple who walked down the dock was completely unexpected in every way.
First off, they were Turks. While I’d like to think I had fans in England and America—my editorial viewpoint hardly caters to Turks. Second, they were both in glowing good heath—with the aura of professional athletes. Third, they were smart as whips. Fourth, they brimmed with intelligent questions—the formulation of which indicated deep and careful thought. Fifth, they realized they were a possible intrusion, and were considerate of my time.
Or, to put it another way—I’d given them an inch, and they weren’t about to take a mile. In fact, our meeting was over far too soon for my liking. I was just getting intrigued by their amazing, unexpected dynamism.
Let’s take Nadire first: In a country where many women wore headscarves, she wore a diamond in her belly button. Her hug was more than genuine—it was loving. I’m not sure with which I was impressed more—that she was a doctor or a belly dancer or a respected author of medical text books.
Most of all, what she exuded was fun. She sparkled on every level—intellectually, socially, professionally, personally. She was happy. She was lit up. She was ready, willing, and able—a thoroughly modern woman with a rich appreciation of her convoluted cultural past.
One more thing was obvious about her—how much she loved, respected, and admired her husband Selim. I’m always attracted to women who love unabashed.
“She’s special,” I thought to myself. “She glows with a lust for living!”
Selim struck me as a sort of … I know this sounds crazy … a Turkish Einstein. There was something delightfully goofy and childlike about him—which was completely in sync with his towering intellect. He was completely at ease and comfortable and confident—without being arrogant in the least.
It was quickly apparent that he was a history buff with a near photographic memory—and not only understood what had happened down through the ages, but the precise date of it, exactly how many people were in the room, and how it all fit into the Big Picture.
His interests were extremely wide-ranging and eclectic—as befits a dirt-poor rowboat fisherman who eventually became a doctor, a surgeon, and the head of the Orthopedic Department in the largest hospital in Istanbul.
… suddenly, the whole ‘Ottoman Empire’ concept started to coalesce in my head—here was a man who, I’m sure, could wield an army as skillfully as a scalpel.
Finally, we got down to business in the cozy cabin of Wild Card. “… and what can I do for you?” I asked.
They hugged each other, like the excited lovers they were. Both grinned like the cat-who-swallowed-the-canary—as if they were sharing the most absurd, silliest secret imaginable. “We want to become … how you say … sea gypsies?”
Now, I am a collector not only of sea stories—but of people as well. Not many touch my heart—but when one does, I never let them go. Thus, I pursued Selim and Nadire with the same intensity as they’d originally pursued me. I contrived to pick-up the returning Carolyn (my wife) in Istanbul—and crash a few days at their place.
And what a place it was! The whole apartment was lined with books—in many languages. The first thing I did was spill a fragile antique china-and-gold cup of coffee onto their fabulous Persian rug … and they were kind enough not to notice. (Perhaps I was a bit clumsy—being on terra firma, and all.)
They halted their professional lives completely—and showed me an Istanbul I’d never believe existed. Where else are pigeons trained and released to perform aero acrobatics for you, where else do dogs wait for the traffic lights, where else does a bath take nearly a day, where else do the Christian and Islamic religions collide so artfully, where else does east-meet-west so sensuously—where else can you tack to starboard and sail into Asia, and tack to port and sail into Europe … all within minutes of each other?
Yes, we sailed the Bosphorus (Bosporus) together in their modest sloop. Yes, we stopped at the small island Selim had managed to escape from. Yes, we visited the fishing harbor where he first rose to prominence.
Yes, we embraced Constantinople together—and she embraced us back. Yes, it was truly The City at the Crossroads of Desire. Our experiences together were pure magic—the nicest, most interesting, most thought-provoking moments we had in all of Europe.
The funniest part was accompanying Selim on his teaching rounds at the hospital—it was just like Turkish-dubbed segment of the American medical TV show called House.
It was almost as if I’d sailed into a Turkish dream: when I need a piece of stainless steel machined for my boat—Selim clapped his hands and a genie named Mister Beautiful Nose appeared to whisk me off in his black Mercedes.
“… why are you surprised,” asked Beautiful Nose, “don’t you realize that the Maltese Falcon … the world’s largest sailing yacht … was built only a few miles from here?”
I did not. Suddenly, I felt like buying stock in the Ottoman Empire, Part II.
Throughout the whole time, Selim pumped me for boat-info, and Nadire snuggled with Carolyn for intimate details on the cruising life.
“… do you like aluminum Ovnis?” Selim asked. “You know—like your buddy Jimmy Cornell sails?”
“… how, exactly, do you preserve your meat without refrigeration—by canning it in a pressure cooker?” Nadire would inquire.
We bonded. They joined us in Greece—as we toured the lesser traveled Cyclades islands together.
They say the Greeks and the Turks hate each other—but we felt only love and respect. And they introduced us to Papa Gosh—a locally-famous sailor in Milos who “embodies all of Hellenic culture, and is also known as the King of Ouzo as well,” according to Nadire.
“Why do you prefer the wind vane over the electric autopilot?” Selim would query between sailing adventures.
“Would you like some tea?” my wife Carolyn would ask.
“If a Turkish person is awake, they want some tea!” Nadire would grin back.
Now, exactly one year later, they have just arrived in the Lesser Antilles aboard their new ‘dream boat’—the very same vessel they consulted us so thoroughly about. They had her custom built in France. She is an Ovni 445 named KEYFI.
They’ve just crossed the Atlantic without major problem—a life-long dream come true.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot—it is I (and we, dear readers) who must showcase our rich, complex Western culture in such a way that it makes sense to them—just as they did so graciously and patiently for us.
Yes, it is wonderful to host dear friends again. And, yes, I suppose it is good news that Selim brought his scalpels—one never knows when a talented surgeon might be needed. But, the best news of all is that Nadire has brought her belly dancing costume as well.
… and the Caribbean may never be the same!
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 52 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, Sail: How To Inexpensively and Safely Buy, Outfit, and Sail a Small Vessel Around the World is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com