On flotilla with Katy Hitchins

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Katy sent us her account of just what happens on a family holiday in Turkey. 

1 day to go!

It is with some trepidation that we set off tomorrow from Göcek for a week’s flotilla on a 44ft Cat with 6 adults and 3 children aged 10, 4 and 18 months. We know the 10 and 4 year old will be great junior crew but the 18 month old is a bit of an unknown.  This is our 5th Sunsail flotilla but our first with grandchildren but we know we will be safe and well looked after.  As we have had a week in a villa in Fethiye first we have had time to get used to the heat and in fact went over to Göcek during the week and the Sunsail manager kindly let us have a look at one of the cats so we could get a feel for the layout and sleeping arrangements.  The children are very excited about sailing and the 2 oldest have been practising knots and saying 'aye aye captain'.

Friday 17 July

Tuesday started for me with a peaceful swim before the flotilla awoke. I love swimming in a warm sea in the stillness of the morning when all is quiet and the only sound is the lapping of the water.

After breakfast our hostess Helen organised dinghy races, 2 people rowing blindfold and 1 navigator. Always one to rise to a challenge our daughter carefully selected her team of her brother and daughter. She planned her strategy putting the strongest rower on the outside as the course went round the flotilla. As our Cat was moored next to the lead boat and race start, the rest of us armed ourselves with water ready to drench the opponents. We even had water pistols at the ready. As soon as the race started we hurled buckets of water at the other dinghies - some great shots, weighing down their dinghies and making them difficult to row. Despite all of our tactics (and our team t-shirts) we only came in third but great fun and everyone ended up in the sea. 

We left this delightful bay after lunch and set sail for Fethiye. I think the children were glad of the rest, since the youngest two went to sleep!

We had a peaceful sail for an hour or so towards Fethiye. (The cat is not the most elegant of boats to sail, to say the least, but for living accommodation you can't beat it).  When the wind died we decided to drop the sails and motor in. Well, that was the plan. However the mainsail just would not budge. We tried everything but to no avail. Clearly we couldn't go into port with the mainsail up so radioed the lead boat for help and Engineer George duly arrived a short while later. 

George soon realised that the ropes at the top of the mainsail were twisted and what we needed was a Bosuns chair. This duly arrived with a 2nd engineer who was nimbly winched up the mast. 

Meanwhile of course, as happens in these situations, the wind got up and it became quite difficult to keep the boat steady whilst the poor guy is hanging at the top of the mast. For safety we all had to stay under the bimini. Just as well really, as the engineer broke a pair of pliers trying to get the pin out and it fell with a crash into the deck. 

Eventually the engineer managed to release the mainsail and down it came. Phew, what a relief! We eventually arrived in Fethiye and everyone headed for the hotel pool to cool off. 

We ended the day with a wonderful meal (and a glass of wine or two) at the hotel. What a day!

Sunday 19th July

After yesterday's adventures we had a lazy morning round the hotel pool. Some of our group went into Fethiye to buy Baklava and spices from the market. Our son-in-law (Chef Shaun as he is known) used these to make a wonderful chicken casserole. It's amazing what you can cook on a boat. 

After lunch we motored across to Boynuzbuku bay (recommended by hostess Helen) for our free sail day. She kindly rang ahead so we had a berth and meal booked. Another beautiful bay. We spent the afternoon swimming and generally messing about on the SUB. Other Sunsail boats arrived and all the children had a great time. Our son has a GoPro waterproof camera and we got all the children and adults lined up on the jetty and he took loads of photos of them doing silly jumps into the sea. Great fun. 

One of the best things about the Flotilla, and why we chose this over bareboating, is the camaraderie between boats, for the children and adults.  

Thursday 23 July

Another amazing morning. Most of these quiet bays only have one rustic restaurant and nothing else, however they serve delicious food and homemade bread. It's amazing to just wander up to the bar area behind which is a Turkish lady busy making the morning batch of bread.

Baby Will has a passion for hose pipes (two of his favourite words) and this morning he found one just in front of the restaurant. He played with this for ages soaking everyone who passed (which in this heat is not a problem).  He also loves the shower on the back of the boat. Before we set sail we bought a small paddling pool and we put this in the front area of the cat where it was difficultly for him to get out but he's in the shade. This proved a great success.  He loved the bucket with the rope and a few plastic toys, kept him amused for hours. Most of the time when we sailed he would either wear his life jacket or just the flotation jacket. The advantage of the cats is the flat living space and the fact that cats don't heel making it much safer for small children. Will also loved sitting on his Dad's knee up at the helm. He slept in what became known as his 'cave', the bed in the bows. He would wake in the morning delighted to see his Mum and Dad in the main cabin and just sit there grinning and saying 'morning Mummy, morning Daddy'. He's an absolute delight.

Lunch was in another quiet bay with the only facilities a very rickety jetty and an old double decker boat doubling as a cafe. It was run by a Turkish couple and their Mother who I think lived on the boat during the season. There were a few sheds on shore for storage and several dogs. But, the best bit was their home made cakes. As it was our son-in-laws Shaun's birthday the following day we purchased a large slice of freshly made chocolate cake (in this heat!) and a slice of pear cake together with more homemade bread.

The afternoon proved the best sailing day so far with really good winds. We all enjoyed the sail and took it in turns to sail or mind the children. Sailing requires really good team work and we were getting quite adept at tacking which given our family has little sailing experience was really satisfying. It's been a delight for my husband and I to see our family take to sailing with such enthusiasm.

Thursday night was arrived at Kapi Creek, our final night before returning to Göcek. As usual we radioed our skipper Chris for mooring instructions and he directed us to a space only just larger than the cat with the jetty on one side and rocks on the other. I loved his confidence when he said to my husband Geoff 'just come in forwards and spin her round'. We all gulped but Geoff took the helm and brought the Cat to mooring perfectly. As the cat has 2 motors it's possible to spin her round by putting one motor in forwards and one in reverse. Quite novel for us monohull sailors.

The children all disappeared into the sea together for a few hours before our group meal. At one point they were playing cards on the trampoline on the Cat and they lost a card into the sea. This became a great challenge then to see who could dive down to retrieve it.

After the group meal, the lead crew took a group up the hill to do a spot of star gazing. Only our eldest went but she was amazed at the stars. One of the group had an app that identifies stars and they spent time finding the names of the constellations. What a wonderful experience for them.

Friday 24 July

Friday - our last day at sea. Where have the days gone? We started the day with a champagne breakfast (well, sparkling wine) to celebrate Shaun's birthday, complete with bunting, balloons and of course the chocolate cake, and I'm sure we've all put on weight despite all the swimming activities!

Today the Lead Crew had organised a Regatta for the morning so always being up for a challenge, even though we knew the cat would be no match for the monohulls, we got ourselves into position.  We've never done this before (though Geoff used to race dinghies in his student days), but off we all went with our route round an island. We of course were trailing most of the way. We kept up on the straight sail but suffered down the narrow channel which required lots of tacking.  It was great fun though and we had the distinction of coming last.

We had to be back in Göcek marina by 5 pm to refuel and check out the boat, then off to the restaurant for a group BBQ and prizes. The food was excellent, the company brilliant with everyone swapping stories of their week. We loved the prize giving - the lead crew created a prize (a rosette) for every child. Will received the prize for water baby, Lola - little mermaid and Summer (our eldest) the little skipper rosette. Then there was a prize for the best cocktail (from the cocktail competition) and the prize for the winner of the regatta. My husband and I received a prize for Grandparents of the week, which we were delighted with (we were the only grandparents on the flotilla). What a wonderful final evening.

Would we do this again? You bet we would! Our family all said this was the best family holiday ever. We are already trying to plan the next one to fit with everyone's schedule. Well done Sunsail from us all.

To find out more about flotilla holidays in the Mediterranean, visit here.

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