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The Adventures Of LeeZe: Hassels Of Entering Turkey - Legally (BLOG)

Lee, Zehra and their boat LeeZe are put through the trials and runarounds of entering turkey, only to become illegals for a day.

June 16, 2014

We anchored in a small cove called Egri Liman Koyu and just after sunset, a fishing boat all lit up comes way too close for my comfort level and then proceeds to stop maybe 100 meters to the north of us. This sets off a small amount of paranoia in Zehra and she starts locking all doors. She believes that there are nefarious people all around us just waiting to pounce. I do not share this thinking at all, and wonder where it comes from. She reads the newspapers (and they only publish nice stories right?) and sees how many there are being reported, and believes that unless we take measures, we are next. The fact that the newspapers have not reported any boaters being attacked while anchored in small, out of the way coves is immaterial. The newspapers have not reported an attack in years, though they have reported break-ins and items stolen from boats at anchor, especially in the Bay of Marmaris.

June 15, 2014

Karaburun - the anchors indicate where we dropped the hook.

Karaburun - the anchors indicate where we dropped the hook. (Click to enlarge)

After coffee, we are underway for Karaburun. It takes about 3 hours to get there, and we have to dodge many fish farms, a sailboat that could not seem to be able to make up its mind, and a motoryacht traveling 20-plus knots that had no sense of what an appropriate distance between boats that are approaching each other should be. We anchored south of Buyuk Ada (Big Island) in about 13 meters of water. The weather is not supposed to get bad, but if the wind picks up, we will move and anchor in front of the city itself.

We are still not in the country officially, so while there is a temptation to go ashore, we stifle it because if we are caught, have no clue what the authorities would do with us. We will try to check in at Eski Foca, our next stop.

June 16, 2014

Back when we arrived in Cesme, we dropped anchor, only to be told by the Turkish Coast Guard that where we dropped the hook was not an authorized anchorage. So, in preparing to enter Eski Foca, I noted the paper charts had all types of notes about no anchorage or restricted areas. The electronic chart had similar notes, but in different areas. So, I called up the Harbor Master and asked them where the authorized anchorages are. The lady that answered the phone did not know, did not know who to ask, and based on the tone in her voice, could not be bothered to find out. Great!

Next, I called the Coast Guard (for those in Turkey their country wide phone # is 158) and asked them. They had not a clue either but offered to find out and get back to me. About 10 minutes later, their Izmir Operations Center called to tell me that I was authorized to anchor within 300 yards of 38° 40.380'N, 026° 44.880'E. Getting somewhere!

The little harbor (Kucuk Deniz) south and east of me is where the day charter gulets hang out. Dead South, in the bigger harbor (Buyuk Deniz), there is pier space on both the east and west sides, and we are hoping to move there after we complete the check-in process.

An ariel look at Eski Foca, once again the anchors indicate where we stayed.

An ariel look at Eski Foca, once again the anchors indicate where we stayed.

June 17, 2014

We started the check-in process at 1300 yesterday and finished today at 1100. After this experience, we cannot even remotely recommend Eski Foca as a port to enter or exit the country! There is one travel agency that can sell you a transit log and they may or may not have any on hand. To get one, either you, or they, have to travel to Izmir (64 km away) and buy one. There is no agent in town that you can offload the check-in/out process to so you must do it your self.

We first show up at the Port Captain's office near the dock where the ferry to the Karaburun Peninsular launches. He is on the Buyuk Deniz side of the bay. He is open from 09-1730, and is closed for lunch one hour, midday. If you have had a transit log before, you must present to him a new blank transit log and the original of the checkout copy from your last transit log.


If you do not have a new blank transit log, you have to get one from the travel agency so for those that are in Turkey, you may find it convenient to have a blank log on board just for situations like this.) After he fills in the new transit log (he did ours by hand, and his penmanship is terrible!) he sends you to the Health Police for the next step. They are located in Aliaga, some 42 km away by road. (For those that care, they are at 38° 49.650'N, 26° 59.032'E.)

The "Little Harbor" is dead ahead and then to starboard. The "Big Harbor" is immediately to starboard. Noonsite reports that the holding in the Big Harbor is not so good. I can neither confirm nor deny.

The "Little Harbor" is dead ahead and then to starboard. The "Big Harbor" is immediately to starboard. Noonsite reports that the holding in the Big Harbor is not so good. I can neither confirm nor deny.

We had to take two minibuses and a taxi, plus a 3+ km walk to find this place. It took us 5+ hours to get there and back, and we cheated, we took a taxi from that office to the main intersection on the highway where the turnoff for Eski Foca is. We were beat, dog tired, and really pissed off that the Port Captain had not been entirely up-front about the level of difficulty in getting this stamp.

So, we get back to Eski Foca about 1900, to find Passport and Customs also closed. We go into the Police station right by Customs, and try as gently as possible, to get permission from both entities to continue the process tomorrow. Nope. Nada. Not a chance.

The Passport Police Officer comes in and basically tells us that we had to do what we had to do to get that stamp, but for the entire trip, we were in the country illegally and if something would have happened… his voice trails off. He is quite sympathetic of our plight, and wrote to the government to explain what the Port Captain is having newcomers do requires them to be illegally in the country for hours. No response. After that discussion, he stamps are passports and our transit log, but says we now have to wait for Customs. We suggest that we could come back tomorrow but again, nope, nada, not a chance, again!

The author with LeeZe anchored in the background. Further back, between Lee and LeeZe is the entrance to the Turkish military base.

The author with LeeZe anchored in the background. Further back, between Lee and LeeZe is the entrance to the Turkish military base.

By this point, we are legal; but LeeZe is still not. So, we wait for Customs, who shows up at about 2000, with her husband, and 6-month-old baby.

Zehra finishes her dinner while I go in to handle the paperwork. She wants to see a copy of our old transit log, and then after a series of routine questions (all in Turkish mind you! She speaks NO English!), she stamps the transit log. Now LeeZe is legal. Then she tells me to go back to the Port Captain to complete the paperwork. But he is closed. She tries to get him to come in but cannot. She announces that she is going to hold on to the transit log until tomorrow morning. That is NOT going to happen. She is quite adamant but I tell her that if the Turkish Coast Guard comes by tonight, I need to show him these papers. She reluctantly agrees to return them to me.

It is now after 2100, we are both are running on empty. I get some dinner, and we are back aboard LeeZe by 2230, and asleep shortly after that.

So, today, at 0915, we continue the process. We tender in, and stop by the Port Captain’s Office. In so many ways we describe our trip to the Health Police, how a boat of foreigners could not have done that at all, how he misled us as to the ease of getting to the place and back, and that while we were performing that mission, we were illegally in Turkey per the Passport Police Office. The more we recounted our tale of woe, the further he tries to melt under his desk.

Now here is a trick we just learned. We had heard that we could add the names of family and friends that might come aboard for a ride or two at this point. So, before the Port Captain completes the paperwork, we ask him to add 12 names, and he does. He then signs the document again, and welcomes us into Turkey. We then stop by the Passport Police and give him his copy of the transit log, and the same to Customs. It turns out the Passport Police Officer must have had a heart attack when he saw 12 names on the log and not just ours, because about 2 hours later Zehra receives a frantic call from him. She explained about friends and family are coming to visit, but he asked her at least three times if we both were the only two that entered the country. After that call, we had a good laugh. I cannot imagine what he went through his head initially when he saw the log with 12 names.

This is what a completed transit log, with all the needed stamps and signitures, looks like. (Click to enlarge)

This is what a completed transit log, with all the needed stamps and signitures, looks like. (Click to enlarge)

The left hand stamp is the Health Police, then the Passport Police, then Customs, and last, on the right, is the Port Captains stamp. LeeZe is registered at 35 tons net displacement. Normally, I have to pay a "lighthouse" fee because I displace so much, though recreational yachts under 20 tons have this fee waived for them. This time, I was not asked to pay the fee. I do not know if the Port Captain overlooked it because of the hoops he made us go through to get the Health stamp, or he made a mistake and forgot to charge us. We shall see if this fee catches up with us in the future.

(This log is good for one year and expires 16 June 2015. One can renew at that time for another year without having to leave the country. One can do this 4 more times but on the 5th renewal, the boat must leave Turkish Territorial waters. The boat does not have to stay out long, at most one day, but it does have to depart.

It is 1100 on a Tuesday and we are now legally in Turkey. We also learn today is the once-per-week farmer's market so after a light breakfast; we buy our fruits, veggies, cheese and nuts. BTW, there is a GREAT family restaurant called "Na-Ne Cafe" at the end of 203 Sok. The place was crowded today, and the food was flying out from the kitchen. If you are in town, may be worth checking out.

What I do know that the holding where I anchored was superb. I was in 10 meters of water, had out over 60 meters of chain.

Also nearby is a Turkish Army Base. On some nights, we could hear, but not see what must have been military helos practicing night maneuvers. We could also hear large artillery guns being fired, small arms fire, smallish explosions, popping sounds and soldiers shouting during morning exercises.