We live in an old fishing village near Gebze; at least it used to be a fishing village.
There are very few fish any more, what with so many people living around here now, and all those big ships cruising in and out on their way to the harbor at İzmit, plus military ships and ferry boats making regular passage (I like the submarines). Frankly, if the joint were jumping with fish I don’t know as I’d want to eat them, but the chemical content of the fish doesn’t stop our local boys, no siree Bob! People have always come here to fish on the weekends and summer evenings, at least since I’ve been here, but ever since they put in the Super-Duper Coastal Promenade (SDCP) (see this page Sept. 15, 2010 -- “Old Eskihisar and the New Promenade”), they come by the thousands, and I am not exaggerating, for once. I know and like fishermen, myself, and I have done my share of it, most successfully in Florida and Mexico. I’ve had cane poles, Cuban lines and regular fishing poles, not very big but plenty of them, along with lady-like reels and tackle boxes to call my own. I used to like bait stores and the folks who ran them. My point is that the next few comments do not arise from prejudice but from surprise and amazement:
God bless ‘em, these boys come from all over the area, in cars, in buses, on foot. They have brand-new poles broken down inside handsome carrying cases, big enough to surf-fish on Pismo Beach. They have reels that would land a 20-pound mahi-mahi, with line weight to match. The SDCP now extends our little shore out and east, so there are big rocks and fishing (or diving?) platforms to fish from, and they line it choc-a-bloc, like the men do on the Galata Bridge. Now, granted the place has been cleaned up a lot, with most of the factory sewage from Gebze mysteriously vanished, God knows where, but there is still a raw sewage line that now, thankfully, doesn’t just drizzle from the shore to the water; that noisome sludge was where you did not want to take your visitors whilst showing off the local haunts. However, all “they” have done is to put it underground a ways, so from a boat a few meters off shore you can still see the charming stuff, which of course attracts little fishies and thus little birdies, so it all looks quite charming if you have blocked sinuses and can’t smell a thing.
Now, we have real fishermen, too. Depending on which fishermen’s co-op gossip you listen to, very few or most of the co-op is composed of old locals, who drink their tea in their private little clubhouse and snort scornfully while speaking of the tourists (who are all local Turks). Also depending on whom you talk to, these guys either catch large fish and sell them to the restaurants, or there are no more large fish. (I sincerely hope the latter gossip is correct, sad as it is, because I love our local fish restaurants, and I do take our visitors there.) What these fishermen, visitors or (perhaps not-so-local) locals have in common is that they all catch rather large guppies. For those of you who know them by another name, they are those dinky little fish you could win at a dinky little fair by throwing a dime in their dinky little fishbowl (the good fairs had goldfish) or the dinky little fish in your granny’s little pond out back. Maybe they aren’t even guppies; they might just be incredibly small baby fish. The first time I saw them I thought they were bait, honestly. As it turns out, you don’t even need bait to catch them -- just a line with tiny little hooks, 10 or so, and they bite ‘em like crazy. I don’t really care what people do to entertain themselves (although it is sort of a shame to deplete the Sea of Marmara of what little life it has when you couldn’t feed a cat on one day’s catch); I am the outsider here, not them, so when in Rome, etc. What does blow me away is the size of the equipment used to catch these little Nemos; it’s like using a chainsaw to cut cucumbers.
The real fishermen
The real fishermen, the co-op guys, of whatever provenance, currently and for the foreseeable future control our teeny little harbor. It is, thankfully, too small for big sports fishers, sailboats or catamarans to turn around in. In fact, it is so stuffed with teeny little boats that there is almost no room, period. Theoretically, you have to own a fishing boat to have a slip there, so there is (almost) no way to just buy a boat and rent a slip. This theoretical slip arrangement is in reality fairly flexible, depending on certain considerations, seeing as how the slip rent is paid to the co-op, and times are tough. If you know the right people, which we don’t, you can sometimes get a second-tier slip -- that is, you can park your boat behind a boat that is parked at a “real” slip, which comes with a small slice of co-op concrete upon which to drag your boat for scraping and painting. Unfortunately for those second-tier boat owners, they have to make their own arrangements for hauling, painting, scraping, etc., away from the harbor, in spite of the rent being paid to the co-op. You pays your money, and you takes your chances, including that of your boat having nowhere to go in a storm, not to mention no way to get on your boat if everyone is parked at the shoreline; without a crane, you’d have to take a chance stepping onto others’ boats, always a bad if not a dangerous idea.
My dear husband Lütfü, who has longed to be a fisherman since we lived in California, had been, well, perhaps “nagging” is too strong a word, but certainly pressing the issue in a persistent and single-minded way as to how it would really be in the best interests of our little family if we were to buy a boat, seeing as how we live so close to the sea and all. We did, after all, take about 10 sailing lessons back in California (shame to waste them), and think of the money we could save sailing to İstanbul instead of taking the train! And that was just one idea. One big bribe -- er, reason -- extended to convince me was that (Lute said) I could also swim from our boat. (Ladies just don’t swim around here, although young men do; unless they have a pool, ladies have to go across the water to the beaches at Yalova or beyond to swim comfortably). With a boat, my loving spouse assured me, we could go far enough out to ensure privacy, and I could go swimming. Oh, yeah, and by the way -- we could also fish for our dinner (see above), and sail down to see Alex and Paul in Kuşadası (Honey, you know you hate that long bus ride) and fish! (The fact that we had no place to put a large sailboat was a negligible complication.) I, beach bunny that I am, could sunbathe on the boat, and had he mentioned we could fish?
Reaching a compromise on an investment
We had been going back and forth on the boat concept for years, coming up with one plan after another (him) and shooting them down in a positive, lady-like way, one plan after another (me). We finally hit on a compromise that might be possible given our circumstances: If one of the local boats came up for sale, and if it came with a real slip, with concrete, and (most important) if we had the money available, it would be pretty cool to have a little boat to putt-putt up and down the coast in, and yes, to fish from. Swimming? I wasn’t so sure; I watch those freighters go by every day. I grew up near the Port of Los Angeles, and all through my childhood we weren’t allowed (by law) to swim in the harbor because of the poisonous dreck therein, and this part of the Sea of Marmara looks a lot like the old port. Still, our compromise seemed perfect -- possible enough to make Lute happy, and impossible enough to make me happy. But of course, or this article wouldn’t exist, things can always change. Next time I will tell you what happened, and how Lütfü’s name got changed to Sinbad, and how he got his new girlfriend, Dimple.