Sailing under the Star in Turkey and Greece
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Sailing under the Star in Turkey and Greece

Brian Crisp discovers the delights of Greece and Turkey on board the Star Clipper.

Day 1 Athens
The trip from central Athens to its port is anything but simple. We cram four adults and eight suitcases into a Skoda with a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English or seem to know how to operate his meter.

While we can see the ship (its soaring masts tend to stand out from the crowd) and almost touch it, for a long time we can’t find how to get on board. Eventually, after several trips round the area, our driver uncovers a road that takes us to the Star Clipper, a tall, square-rig sailing ship built with respect to age-old traditions.

The captain welcomes us to a vessel that is buffed in all the right places.

The brass shines, the sails are whiter than white and the timber decks are scrubbed spotless.

Below decks, our cabin is spacious enough to accommodate all our belongings double bed, shower, toilet and cupboards. And if I had a cat, I’m sure I could swing it around, without doing too much damage.

When it is our turn to leave the port, the epic sound of Vangelis’s 1492 the Conquest of Paradise fills the air through the onboard sound system. Even though we leave under engine power, the captain hoists one sail to show our intent. It’s 10.15pm as we slip away, turn portside and start our journey to Turkey.

Day 2 at sea
Thankfully I’m up too late for the exercise class but still in time for breakfast. Today is a sailing day. It is also our first safety briefing so at 10am, as the alarm sounds, about 170 guests, wearing bright orange life vests, head outside for a run through the safety procedures, an introduction to key staff and a familiarisation of on-board procedures.

The Star Clipper is meant to be a true sailing experience. It is not cruising, as most of us know it. It is not like the big ships with which we share the docks. You won’t find a casino on board. You won’t find any Las Vegas-style shows. It is very casual. It is the first morning and already most people are down to shorts and T-shirts. You can be as active as you like (there is something happening every hour on the hour), or you can sit back and enjoy a good book and watch the Aegean Sea and Greek coastline pass you by.

If you wish, you can help the crew by hoisting the sails, learn how to tie nautical knots or join the captain in the wheelhouse and take the helm.

The Aegean Sea is about 645km long and 290km wide. It is dotted with islands, including the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Sporades.

Day 3 Bodrum, Turkey
This whitewashed town, on the Gulf of Gokova in southwest Turkey, used to be called Halicarnassus. Three colours dominate. The sky and sea are a rich deep blue. The surrounding mountains green. And the buildings, without exception, are white.
All visitors to Bodrum should explore the Castle of St Peter, which dates back to the Knights of St John in the 1400s.

Since that time every person of power in the region has fought, or bargained, for control of the castle.

From its highest point you have a 360-degree view of the harbour and town, now one of the world’s most important timber-boat building centres.

The harbourfront is very Mediterranean. Restaurants overhang the crystal-clear water and crowded shops sell knock-off Prada bags, Gucci shoes, Tissot watches and Billabong clothes.

It seems that Turkey’s shopkeepers are happy to do business in any currency you wish.

It should take 40 minutes to stroll from the castle, along the palm-lined streets, to the ship. But today, in 26C heat, we need several stops to jump in the water and cool off.

Day 4 Dalyhan River, Turkey
The faces on the photographs look familiar as we walk to the changing area at the Dalyhan River mud baths.
Dustin Hoffman has been here. So has Sting.

If it is good enough for them . . .

Our cruise director, Peter Kissner, has guaranteed that an hour in the mud baths will take 10 years off my life. First I warm up my body in the sulphur bath. It’s about the size of a small backyard pool with the smell of Rotorua. Next I slide into the mud bath. This pool is a little bigger, and a lot dirtier. The mud squelches between my toes. I follow everyone’s lead and start shovelling mud over my body.

I’m feeling younger already. My $50 a cut hairdresser says I’m thinning on top so I whack some of the green ooze over my scalp. It can’t hurt and at least now she might have to work harder to earn her money.
Then I start to bake. The drying is very important. And funny. Imagine 100 people caked in mud, standing side by side, chatting. It is difficult to tell men from women.

It is impossible to find your wife. I wonder if that is her next to me, or just someone who looks a bit like her, but is actually 10 years younger.

I cross my fingers and say something inappropriate. I realise it is not her when the woman answers in German and stomps off to the shower.

Day 5 Santorini, Greece
The view from the porthole this morning is a little confusing. The waves are swirling, the sea is heaving and, instead of sunlight what I’m seeing looks more like my front-loading washing machine. ...

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