Portrait of a Cruiser – Selim Yalcin and Nadire Berker

The fifth in our “Portrait of a Cruiser” series, this month we are profiling a Turkish couple who threw off their professional city life in Istanbul for a 5 year circumnavigation living a simple life, bound only by the rules of nature. Selim and Nadire continue to live on board with a 2nd circumnavigation in the planning.

Published 7 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Names of Owners: Selim Yalcin and Nadire Berker

Nationality: Turkish

Boat Name: Keyif

Boat Type/Model and Size: Alubat OVNI 445

Your Home Port: Istanbul

How did you start cruising?

We have had boats ever since we were children. Selim built his first boat at age eight and earned his living as a fisherman on the Bosphorus for seven years when he was a youngster. Nadire started sailing on dinghies at 12. As a couple, we sailed with family and friends in the Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean while working full time as an orthopedic surgeon and physician, both professors in a busy university hospital in Istanbul, Turkey.

In 2012 when the children left home to build their own nests, we decided to quit life in the big city, retired from teaching and treating patients, distributed our possessions, sold our properties and our fibreglass sloop “Ekip” (which we so loved and trusted), bought a new aluminium boat, and left our beautiful city with only two suitcases to start a new life at sea.

Describe what sort of cruisers you are: We are liveaboard long-distance cruisers.

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

We have just finished our first circumnavigation (from March 2012 to May 2017) and left our boat on the hardstand in the Caribbean. We are taking a five-month break to see family and friends back home and plan to start long distance ocean cruising again in November. We hope to remain liveaboard, full-time cruisers for many more years to come.

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

With our forty years of sailing experience on many different boats, we decided the OVNI 445 to be the perfect vessel for our ocean voyages. It has a strong hull and is lightweight because it is aluminum. The flat bottom and lifting keel enable great speeds when running with the wind, access to many shallow anchorages, and the possibility to beach or ground the boat when necessary. It has a solid rig, is cutter rigged and goes well to windward. The wide comfortable cockpit and the stern platform allow easy access to the water and provide optimum living space outside for hot climates.

What other boats have you owned?

We have had a total of 13 boats including home-made dinghies, later three traditional ‘caique’s’, a wooden Nordic Folkboat, a ‘Shields’ (a 30 foot lightweight wooden day sailor), a Bruce Roberts 28 steel sloop, a 37ft fibreglass sloop, a Hobiecat 17S for sport sailing and a 2006 Elan Impression 434. With the exception of the last two, all were built in Istanbul to the highest standards and we have done 95% of all maintenance and repairs ourselves.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

Alubat had 40 years of experience building strong ocean-going vessels, so we trusted them and suggested only minor changes to the original design.

Most useful equipment fitted, and the reasons for this choice:

In terms of the rigging and the sails, we are happy with our single electric winch, also with the one size larger winches for the genoa. Our Parasailor spinnaker has been most useful for the South Atlantic and Pacific crossings. In terms of navigation, we think our AIS transponder and one-size stronger hydraulic autopilot are the two most useful pieces of equipment on board. We also have a wind vane with a tiny electric autopilot for weak winds. In terms of comfort on board, the fridge and the watermaker are the most useful. In terms of communication, the Iridium satellite phone is invaluable.

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

We would rather not have back-swept spreaders, as they tend to destroy the mainsail on long downwind passages, but our boat comes with no other option. We have a furling gennaker that does not function properly, a gennaker with a sock might have been a better choice.  We should have installed the watermaker in Chantier Alubat as our boat was being built, installing it later ourselves was a problem. We also had to remove the radar from the stern arch where it was shading the solar panels, it functions much better in front of the mast now.

List the countries you have cruised:

We picked up Keyif in Les Sables D’Olone on the Atlantic coast of France. We then sailed north through the English Channel and entered the river Seine in Le Havre, took the mast down in Rouen and motored east through the rivers and canals of Europe, arriving in Constanza in Romania. On this trip, we cruised: France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Then we sailed in the Black Sea and home to Istanbul, Turkey.

From Turkey, we sailed to the Caribbean through Greece, Italy, Spain, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, arriving in St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean we sailed BVI, USVI, St. Barts, Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique, SVG, Grenada, Trinidad, Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Colombia, San Blas, Panama.

After crossing the Panama Canal we sailed to the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Suwarrow Atoll (Cook Islands), Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, New Caledonia.

Crossing the Torres Strait we sailed through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives, Rodrigues, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, South Africa.

After rounding the Cape of Good Hope we sailed to St. Helena and back to the Caribbean.

Future cruising plans:

We plan to cross the Atlantic towards Europe and cruise the North Atlantic and the Baltic for some time, then start a longer second circumnavigation.

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

Atlantic, Pacific, Indian oceans, Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Arafura seas.

Approximate sea miles: 35,000

Scariest day on the water:

In our earlier boat in a night of Meltemi storm in the Aegean when we were trying to reset our CQR anchor in weed in Agia Thalassa on the island of Tinos (Greece), and we kept dragging towards the rocks. After re-anchoring five times we had to give up around 2:00 am and in total darkness set sail into a 48-knot breeze towards Mykonos when we discovered that our boat was not responding to rudder since the autopilot piston’s four 10 mm bolts were broken due to heavy seas.

Best cruising moment:

All the moments when the sun is shining, the mellow wind is from the stern quarter, the sails are full, and the boat is surfing over soft waves. And also all the moments of arrival in a safe beautiful harbor after a long crossing.

Favorite cruising area and why:

We have many favorites. The Aegean is the best cruising area in the world, with its crystal clear waters, its beautiful anchorages, delicious food, beautiful fun loving people. After all, it is the cradle of civilization! French Polynesia is another favorite, for mainly the same reasons. We also love Martinique in the Caribbean.

Favorite anchorage:

In the Aegean, Finikas in Syros island (Greece)

In French Polynesia, Moorea, Cook’s Bay.

In the Caribbean, St. Anne in Martinique.

Favorite cruising apps:

Navionics, Weathertrack, Predictwind, Anchorwatch.

Favorite cruising websites:

Noonsite is the one we use all the time.

Favorite cruising books:

Bernard Moitissier’s ‘The Long Way’, Cornell’s World Cruising Routes, ‘Chasing the Horizon’, ‘Buy, Outfit and Sail’ ‘Stormproofing Your Boat, Gear, and Crew’ by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander.

What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?

Go quickly, go now.

Be completely self-reliant, never let anyone work on your boat, try and learn to do all the work yourself.

Treat everyone kindly and with respect, try to learn their languages, you will have many friends and no problems.

Why cruise? In a few sentences, what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

It is the only way to live a real life, away from the lies and hypocrisy of today’s consumer society. Cruising, living a life at sea, keeps us sane.

Any other comments:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain –

So we wanted to explore our boundaries, realize our dreams, and discover the world. And we did not want to travel as tourists, pulling a bag and living in hotel rooms, eating in restaurants. We journeyed as explorers, sailing in the wake of brave and real sailors before us, and becoming a part of the lands we visit in our floating home. We aimed to live a simple life, bound only by the rules of nature, sail the oceans

and survive on our own expertise and effort, and join the company of sailors/cruisers like us, who left the comforts of life ashore and embraced adventure at sea. We did not want to be just another consumer – tourist, but a friend and a comrade in the lives of the populations, human and animal, of the places we visited. No, it was not easy, but then nothing romantic ever is. Yes, it was a lot of sacrifices, mentally, financially, spiritually, but then realizing a dream always is. Most important, yes!, it was worth every effort, to be able to journey to all these places we read about for decades, to be able to sail free on the bosom of mother ocean for weeks on end and live simply, to befriend so many beautiful people and be brethren for life with them, to exist, even if for a brief period among the wildlife on earth and experience their own civilization. We feel blessed and extremely lucky to have had the chance.

In the words of one of our comrades, and yes, he is a comrade although we never met,

“I am a citizen of the most beautiful nation on earth, a nation whose laws are harsh yet simple, a nation that never cheats, which is immense and without borders, where life is lived in the present. In this limitless nation, this nation of wind, light, and peace, there is no other ruler beside the sea.”

– Bernard Moitessier –

We wish all of you the opportunity to realize your goals, the courage to grab the reins of your life, to follow your dreams, to pursue relentlessly a productive and happy life, and live each moment as if it will never happen again. It will not be easy, but immensely rewarding.

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