Thereafter an interesting relationship developed between Lute and Zia Amca, full of moves as complex as a game of chess. Little gifts were exchanged; Lute helped Zia with some household repairs, using his much-coveted American power tools (which are available in Turkey, but without the panache of provenance); Lute deferred to Zia Amca during any conversation involving other people; Zia in turn began to actually stop to greet Lute when they met walking, instead of the usual nod and backward hand-flip. I don’t really think it was connected, but it was a notable coincidence that Zia commandeered our cat Salıkız (“Tuesday Girl”), feeding her fish, allowing her to sleep in his boiler room and re-naming her Duman (“Smokey”), later claiming he didn’t know it was our cat. (Out of all the cats in this village, why ours? Too deep for me.) Lute finally passed some sort of mysterious test, and Zia was convinced that Lute could be trusted to buy a boat and not embarrass either himself or his mentor. By now I had bought into the romance of putt-putting up and down our coastline, as well as “owning” a little piece of old Eskihisar in the form of a concrete boat slip, and the hunt was on.
Being both American and Turkish, I am doubly susceptible to conspiracy theories, and have a deep suspicion of coincidences. After a years-long dry spell, wherein no local boats had changed hands (at least openly) at all, suddenly it was Christmas! First the rumors would start -- Zia had heard that so-and-so was selling a boat but we couldn’t tell anyone. Then he would check again, and yes, so-and-so was selling his boat, but there was something wrong with it (with the boat? With the sale? With so-and-so?), and we couldn’t talk to him either, at least not about the rumored sale. All of a sudden, it was done, and so-and-so had sold his boat, but it was a set-up job. Then another guy sold his boat, and it was lucky we didn’t buy it; it was such a good price because the man selling the boat had a second boat, and he didn’t sell the slip rights! Of course, the buyer would have known this, so I still don’t see why that guy was, and is, so questionable, but then I am just an outsider.
This suspenseful little dance went on for a month or so, during which time I became more and more suspicious: Virtually no sales in years, and now every Tayfun, Davut and Hasan was trying to dump his boat. I was sure that something was going on! Why were so many people selling their boats after such a long dry spell? You’ll never convince me we have heard the end of this; I just hope I’m wrong!
Plot or no, in April, after endless mid-dinner phone calls, mysterious meetings and secret handshakes, Lütfü finally became the proud owner of the prettiest boat in the world, the Gamze, which means “Dimple.” The gentle, remarkably non-mysterious owner, Mustafa Amca, named the boat for his first grandchild, who is in university now. For over 20 years that boat was his best friend; he loved it, fished from it, scraped and painted and varnished it. It was like selling one of his kids, but he was getting too old to do all the upkeep by himself, and while his sons were supportive of his consuming hobby, they didn’t want to shame him by offering to help (I know there is some logic in there somewhere.) He couldn’t have found a better buyer for his beloved boat, and Lute couldn’t have found a better seller. Mustafa has his own key for the massive 6.5 horsepower inboard (Zia Amca’s outboard has 45 horses!), which is big enough for the five-and-a-half meter wooden fishing vessel, so he can use it whenever he wants. Sometimes the two of them go out together. He has worked patiently with Lute to teach him the ins and outs of boating, Eskihisar-style. Although he had painted the vessel right before he sold it, he and Lute have re-painted it already since then.
The best slip in the harbor
Not only did Lute get a boat and a new friend, he got what I think is the best slip in the harbor, almost at the end (the water slip) and the very end (the concrete slip). He should be at the end, but the ways of the co-op are deep and inscrutable, so there is one boat next to ours on the end. We have our very own plastic water bottle (the five liter size) that is tied to a line that is in turn tied to a chunk of concrete at the bottom of the harbor, with which to secure the stern of our boat while she is parked. Her front ties to an iron staple in the concrete shore. Our concrete slip is right next to the winch, which we get to use for free, with which we pull the boat out of the water. Lute also gets to hang out at the co-op tea room whenever he wants. I have to sit outside, so I don’t go often, but it is nice he has a clubhouse he can go to.
Finally, along with title to the boat came the coveted green license, which (they say) are no longer being issued, at least in Kocaeli. They also say the resale price of that license is worth the boat’s selling price. (But if that is true, I don’t see why everyone is selling boats all-inclusive, and for the approximately same price; why not sell them separately and make twice the money?) What the green license means is that if Lute ever wants to sell the itty-bitty fish he catches, he can do so legally. There is a different license for the act of fishing itself, which he also got, so all we need now is the fish.
Somewhere in all this, I started calling my husband Barnacle Bill the Sailor, after an old song. After the purchase, when I could finally tell my cousins back home about the boat (don’t mess with the Evil Eye!), my Cousin Ted immediately wrote back and changed Lute’s/Barnacle Bill’s name to Sinbad. He said it had a better regional feel to it, and he was right, so Sinbad the Sailor it is.
Needless to say, Sinbad is on the boat far more than I am, but I have had a few fun times. Once we had our niece and nephew out for a ride, and to show off for them I jumped out of the boat in my clothes. They were appropriately shocked and thrilled, so it was worth it. The water was a little oily, and I was careful not to swallow any, but it was really fun. Unfortunately, I have lost a lot of strength in my arms with the leisure that retirement has afforded, and I was unable to get back in the boat from the water. My niece obligingly recorded my comical attempts, for which I am forever in her debt. I swam towards shore, where a hotel has an accessible sea ladder, and after a while Lute threw me an embarrassing but welcome “simit” (life preserver), and towed me the last 100 meters or so.
Our happiest time on the Gamze so far, though, at least for me, was last Thursday. Our friend Fatih, who is our weekly dinner guest, is fasting, as is Lute. We decided to have a nautical picnic for iftar, so I prepared oven-baked chicken pieces and cut-up watermelon. Lute made hot tea and put it in a Thermos, and we packed it all, with dates and sliced cheese, mayonnaise and bread, into a picnic hamper. As usual we were running late, and it was fun to hurry down the hill with our feast and our Thermos, grabbing ice water at the büfe, waving at and greeting our neighbors as they got ready for iftar on their terraces. We scrambled on board the Gamze, and, only slightly resembling the Three Stooges, we got her out of her berth and onto the bounding main in plenty of time (at least three minutes to spare) for the sunset call. Sinbad and Fatih broke their fast along with the families in the seaside cafes a hundred meters away, all of us under the same beautiful sky, finally cooling off from the over-heated day. Our simple meal was delicious eaten in the gently rocking boat, and we were thankful for our blessings, which are myriad, as the sunset dimmed slowly behind the castle.