Istanbul is surrounded by water: the Marmara Sea, the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Golden Horn. As a result, there is a lot of water traffic. There are a lot of different kinds of boats, from tankers to ferries to small boats. Amazingly, the Bosporus is relatively clean, considering the traffic, since there are two strong currents. One current flows down from the Black Sea to the lower Marmara Sea and the other one flows up due to the different salt content. For several years I went to or hosted boat parties and here I want to share some of them, spurred on by photos of a recent boat party I saw from my friends on Facebook. It made me very envious!
First, let me tell you how to rent a yacht or small or large boat in Istanbul. Probably you can find them online, but if you go to where the boats are, you can find a kaptan and a boat. The price went up over the years, but it cost anywhere from 700 to 1000 lira. We brought our own food, including meat or fish to barbecue, as most boats had a mangal, a grill. There was always lots of great food. We also brought our own music on a memory disk, as otherwise it would be Turkish pop. I had a collection of blow-up air mattresses and tubes, which was great for the smokers… People often rent boats for parties and weddings, which are often in the evenings, so day rentals work well.
I went to a boat party with some people in 2004. It was a little strange, but since we were on the water, it was still very nice. The boat party started with a Roma woman who read our fortunes– the usual love, money. travel. i spent money, travelled, and did not find love on this trip.
In 2005 I rented a small yacht and filled it with friends. We stopped by my friend Carter’s place, though he was unable to come with us. However, it was very cool to stop by on the water. The kaptan was very nice and let us take turns driving the boat. Luckily, unlike most of Istanbul, there was little traffic. We stopped in a bay near an Ottoman garden and then went on to Buyuk Liman, where we encountered a sunken boat that people were trying to raise. Along the way back one of the air mattresses flew off the boat and was retrieved by a small boat. By then we were far away from it and did not try to get it back.
Two years later, we rented another boat, but that was the day that the cross Bosporus swim was happening, so the Bosporus was closed and we were not able to go up it. Instead we went to the Princes Islands and went behind Burgaz Ada. It was actually not as nice, as there were a lot of jellyfish. There was some discussion as to whether they would sting or not (no decision) and we just tried to avoid them. They tend to live in quieter and dirtier water, so I was not impressed.
However, we had a good time anyway.
These are Celal and Bayram narrowly averting tragedy.
My son had come to live with me in 2008 and he was just about to go back to the States, so the boat party was a few days before he left. Once again we went up the Bosporus, a motley crew of his friends and mine. It was a great day.
My old friend Nancy and her friend Marcia visited the next summer, so once again we rented a boat and headed up the Bosporus. By then I had opened my café, but I closed it for the day and off we went. Nancy is a great dancer, so on the way she taught Deniz a few moves.
In 2013 I hosted two boat parties. The first one was so fun, we had to have another! And these were the last ones. We went up again to Buyuk Liman and were shocked to see that the new bridge construction was taking place there. A lot of debris had fallen onto the small beach and the whole thing was ugly. This is one of the government’s new boondoggles. However, in spite of that, we had fun both times.
It is wonderful to see the Bosporus from the water. There are so many palaces and yalis (summer homes) and ancient structures, all with stories to tell. If you don’t rent a boat for a party, at least take a ferry up to Sariyer in order to see it all. I remember our boat parties with great nostalgia.