Turkish Delights - 04/27/2011

Istanbul is a destination: Straddling the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus Strait, this centuries-old city stands at the geographic and cultural crossroads of Europe and Asia. You may not know it, but if you have a Meridian Yacht and you plan to visit Turkey, you will not be alone. Trio Deniz, Turkey’s exclusive Meridian Yachts dealer, has an expert team ready to support any Meridian owner, whether visitor or resident.

Meridian in Turkey
An overhead view of the Meridian Yachts 391, a model tested by the BoatTEST.com team of captains.

See the full test of the Meridian Yachts 391 Sedan Bridge...

One of those residents is Trio customer and Meridian 391 owner Murat Irengun. He’s certainly fond of the city he grew up in—his parents kept a summer house in nearby Dragos on the Sea of Marmara—but he’s quick to dismiss it when the conversation turns to boating. “Istanbul, it’s a congestion of traffic,” he cheerfully complains. His passion for boating began as a kid. Murat says, “I had my 50-hp Johnson with a 6-meter-long boat. It became an 8-meter and a 9-meter, and the engines, accordingly, became greater.”

Meridian in Turkey
Meridian Yachts 441 Sedan Bridge cruising past the Beylerbeyi Palace, Belyerbei Istanbul.

For much of his career, Murat was part of Turkey’s textile industry, running a company that supplied parts for mechanical looms. He sold the business in 1998 in favor of part-time consulting work—and more time on the water. Throughout his adult years, Murat and his friends have taken to Turkey’s western shores and the unblemished waters of the Aegean Sea. “That is the most beautiful part of Turkey for boating, starting from Izmir and going along the coast toward the south,” he adds. Today, Murat owns a summer home in the centuries-old peninsular city of Bodrum. He keeps his 391 in Bodrum’s marina, where it lives among antique wooden sailboats called gulets and the imposing Bodrum castle, which dates back to 1402.

Meridian in Turkey
Looking across the Gökova Bay in Bodrum and the Bodrum castle.

Bodrum lies on a long, wedge-shaped stretch of water called Gökova Bay and is shielded from the open sea by numerous small islands, many of which are part of Greece. The tightly packed geography and winding coastline prove ideal for the brand of carefree boating Murat relishes. “What Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera is to France, Bodrum is to Turkey in summertime,” he says. Indeed, the area’s winter population of roughly 60,000 can easily hit a million or more during the height of summer.

Meridian in Turkey
The Meridian 441 Sedan Bridge with the Blue Mosque (Sultan ahmet Mosque) in the background.

“It’s so convenient from there,” Murat says of Bodrum, “to go to beautiful clear-water coves, to bays, secluded areas. Kos Island with my Meridian 391—it’s 40 minutes from Bodrum Marina. Or two hours from Bodrum to Symi Island, right across Datça”—another long, narrow bay south of Gökova.

Island- and marina-hopping along Turkey’s Aegean coast is nothing Murat invented. For decades, vacationers have been chartering the gulets and their crews for getaways tellingly known as “blue cruises.” “You hire them weekly, and you anchor in all these beautiful bays,” Murat explains. “The nature is so nice, and you swim in the crystal-clear water, fish, snorkel and dive. They all have diving facilities onboard. It’s just beautiful.” He and his friends have chartered a gulet every summer since the ’80s, and it was the pleasure of overnighting on these 40-foot yachts that convinced Murat he needed to upgrade from the runabouts he had been using to a spacious liveaboard vessel of his own. He began with mid-sized cabin cruisers, and then ultimately found that the 391 suited his needs perfectly. Well, at least for now. Murat will be one of the first owners of a Meridian 541 Sedan.

Meridian in Turkey
Meridian 541 underway powered by twin Zeus pod drives.

See the full test of the Meridian Yachts 541...

He and Murat Bekiroglu of Trio recently visited Florida to see the 541 prototype in person. “I came to do the test drive, actually, to see whether I would be able to manage it myself—and it was so easy with the latest technical facilities,” he explains, alluding to the 541’s joystick-operated Zeus system. “That was amazing, really,” he laughs.

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The trip was actually Murat Bekiroglu’s second within three months to show his customers the 541. Evidently, that kind of service is a matter of course at Trio. “It all relies on the dealer—the services and the relationship,” Murat Irengun says. “There are so many other companies—the Italians and some others. But it all relies on how keen they are on their servicing matters. Whenever I phone Murat at Trio, somebody comes down to Bodrum”—an hour-long flight from Istanbul. “This counts. This is something.”

Meridian in Turkey
Meridian owner and cruising enthusiast Murat and his friends.

Knowing he has Trio to rely on may go far to explain Murat’s attitude toward his days—and sometimes weeks—on the water. “We don’t really plan in advance a lot of things,” he says. For instance, Murat and his friends might find themselves anchored outside the gorgeous seaside town of Bozburun. “So, while we are there, we can say, ‘Do we have enough petrol? OK, let’s go to Knidos,’” he says. The anchor comes up, the 391 turns west toward the tip of the Datça peninsula, and soon the Meridian is splitting the turquoise water en route to the ancient city.

“Or, spontaneously,” Murat goes on, with a wide smile on his face, “we say, ‘OK, you like the grilled octopus in Kos at so-and-so restaurant? Let’s go there.’ That’s how it works.”

Written by Roger Kamholz | Photography courtesy of Trio Deniz and Murat Irengun