This is a synoptic compilation of my memories and a tribute to my late dear friend Turgut Ayker. All the accompanied photographs are from my Thetis logs.
I “met” Turgut on the internet in 1998. He lived in Izmir, Turkey and had read this website and contacted me with e-mail. We made an arrangement to meet in person in Agathonisi, and did so in August 22, 1998. I had sailed there with Thetis and accompanied by my younger daughter Corinna. Turgut came with his ketch New Life. He was accompanied by his wife, Arzu, and his teen age children Dilek, aged 12, and Orhan, aged 13. We immediately hit it off famously.
Next year on July 1999 we met again in Çesme while Thetis was on her way to the Black Sea. I was with my older daughter Cynthia Riginos and her husband Scott Shomer. This was our first sample of Turgut’s and Arzu’s lavish hospitality.
In late August of 2000 Thetis and New Life met in Santorini. From Santorini both boats cruised together to Sifnos with a few days stop in Folegandros. During this cruise Orhan and Dilek took turns to accompany me on Thetis on different legs.
In 2001 both our boats met in Psara and sailed together to Sarakino, Skyros, Skatzoura, and Skopelos. In Skopelos I spent 2 days as a guest on New Life because Thetis had some engine troubles and I was waiting for a part. Turgut was a very steady friend helping me with the repairs of my boat.
We did a lot together in 2002. First our two boats met in Oinouses. Then we went to Turkey where I left Thetis in Çesme Setur Marina and spent several days overseeing New Life’s re-wiring in the Dalyan Marina with frequent visits to Izmir. Later Orhan and Dilek spent a few days with us in Samos. In late August while Thetis was together with my brother Nikos’ caïque the Faneromeni was in Keçi Bükü in the Hisarönü Bay. Turgut invited us to join him and Arzu to hear a Sezen Aksu concert in Ephesus. He sent his car with his driver to take us there. We all had a wonderful time. Few days later we joined New Life in Bençik.
On August 16, 2004 Thetis joined New Life and S/Y Merlis, in Mersincik. After several days of cruising together we ended in Bodrum. There I developed a stomach ulcer with sever bleeding. If it was not for Turgut I might not have made it. He and Arzu not only took care of me and got me to a good private hospital but Turgut organized a number of his employees to donate blood for a desperately needed transfusion.
I crossed the Atlantic in early 2005. For the return I loaded Thetis in Martinique and Dockwise Yacht Transport brought her to Marmaris where I received her on July 25. Again Turgut offered his help. He arranged for his car and driver to pick me and my friends, Molly and Douglas MacMillan, from Kusadasi where, we went from Samos, and drive us to Marmaris.
Arzu and Turgut flew to Madras, India, in January of 2008 to attend our daughter Corinna’s wedding.
We met in again in September 2008 in Petrokopio, Fourni. New Life II arrived and met me, as I was already there. On their way Turgut had caught a large tuna. The next day both boats sailed to Marathi and Kyria Katina cooked the fish. From there we both sailed to Levitha and then to Emborio in Kalymnos.
In September of 2010 I visited the Aykers in their summer house near the picturesque village of Alaçati (Alátsata - Αλάτσατα in Greek) docking Thetis in their private dock. We then drove to Urla, the Greek Vourlá - Βουρλά, where the Nobel winning Greek poet George Seferis was born. From there we drove on to Izmir. The next day Turgut and I did our shopping in the fabulous Market in Alaçati. On Oct 2 I crewed on New Life II in a race in Siğacik.
Turgut got a new boat New Life III, an impessive Beneteau Oceanis 50 in 2012. I visited the Aykers in their house in Alaçati in May 2012. The last time we had met was also here in 2010. Last year, for the first time in many years we did not cruise together. On May 13, it was Mother’s day. This was celebrated aboard New Life III and I was very glad to participate. Turgut’s mother Ozcan and his younger brother Fatih were there as well as Arzu’s parents Nurten and Cemal.
I visited the Aykers again in Alaçati on late July, 2013. Turgut took me for a day excursion with New Life III. From there I sailed Thetis to Volissos in Chios and New Life joined us on August 5. We had a dinner party with several of Tyrgut’s and Arzu’s friends.
In September 2015, while I was in Kalami, I received a very upsetting e-mail from my sailing friend Turgut Ayker. One of my worst fears of a sea accident had happened to my friend. Two weeks before he drove to Selimiye to visit some friends who were there with their anchored off cruiser. They went to a restaurant for dinner. On the way back to the boat, there were 5 in the tender, a fast speed boat, without any lights and driven by the crew of a large cruiser, came at very high speed straight at them. By the time they saw it there was nothing to be done. There was a bad collision and Turgut fell in the water with a broken pelvis. He thought that he was going to drown because he could not move. He was rescued by Arzu. In the mean time, the speed boat, which did not stop to help, sped to their cruiser which departed right away. Arzu called for help and an ambulance came and took Turgut to a hospital in Marmaris. He stayed there for 1 week and then he was moved, by ambulance, to their home in Izmir. Later his newly married son, Orhan, along with his bride, Tania, volunteered to crew their father’s beloved sailboat New Life III and allow Turgut to finally get out of his house. We arranged to meet in Marathi.
New Life III arrived around 1330 on September 25, 2015 with Turgut at the wheel. I swam to the mooring with my dinghy and helped Orhan moor New Life. Their new daughter-in-law, Tania, is a lovely petite girl. I am very sorry to have missed her marriage to Orhan in Mexico this spring. I spoke with the family and we exchanged our news. After his bad accident, Turgut was hobbling in the boat and had to use crutches to walk, but he was so delighted to be once again cruising with New Life even if just for a few days. His wife Arzu was lovely, as always, and my friend Orhan was beaming with pride and satisfaction with his bride Tania. We all had an ouzo on New Life and then a good dinner at Pandelis. We spent two days together in Marathi. This was the last time I saw my friend well, even though wounded, Turgut was still a healthy younger man.
A couple of weeks later Turgut informed me that he was diagnosed with a very serious cancer. I advised him to seek more then one opinion and if possible consult with a world expert. He followed this advice and consulted with MD Anderson in Texas. He made several visits over the next two years and after a few of this visits and on their way back he and Arzu stopped in our house in Washington, D.C. But during this difficult time Turgut and Arzu did not stop sailing. In between chemotherapy treatments they sailed their New Life III in the Aegean and chartered boats in several other parts of the world such as the Caribbean, Seychelles, etc. His morale was alway high but realistic.
The last time I saw my friend was, appropriately, in his boat on June 2, 2017 in Marathi. I am glad I did because although we communicated often we were unable to arrange another meeting during the summer months. Then while I was taking Thetis back to the shipyard for her winter layover I received the dreaded e-mail from Arzu that my friend had passed away.
I cannot even begin to describe how much I miss him. But as my favorite Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis wrote: “a person does not die as long as people who remember him live”. I sure I will remember dear Turgut as long as I live. My wife and daughters, too, will remember him and so will his many, many friends.