A Turkish Odysseus

A Turkish Odysseus

“Look, a Turkish flag!” shouted my Turkish partner who was driving the car as we were descending the single road that would take us to Hora, the main port of Ithaki, the island of the cunning Odysseus. Its horse-shoe like port is alsmost as famous as its Homeric hero and it was on its eastern end where a small wooden boat was moored alone with its Turkish flag was caressed by the morning sea breeze. 

Ithaki, located roughly midway between western Greece and Italy, has been the most convenient stopover for any seafarer since antiquity. Its protected natural ports have hosted sailors and travelers for centuries. And the Ithakians - including myself - were always spoiled for having enjoyed the sight of the biggest and most beautiful sailing boats in the world that chose to stop for a rest in the several ports of the island before they continued their journey.

So, if it was not for my alert Turkish friend, I would not have given that smallish, slightly worn out wooden vessel a second look. To me, looking in the distance, it did not seem much larger than an average, ordinary island caique, as it was moored in the shallow bay of Mylos very near to the shore.

But a boat with a Turkish flag? In the mid-nineties, it was something never seen before on this small island in the Ionian Sea. 

We changed our destination and we turned our car towards Mylos, just a few kilometers away. To this day, I cannot forget my friend’s astonishment as soon as we were near enough to be able to see the name of the boat. 

“It is Kismet!!!” he shouted in a mixture of disbelief and joy.

I did not know what was so special about that “Kismet,” nor could I understand the enthusiasm of my friend, who was trying to explain to me that “Pupa Yelken” was a book he read all his childhood.   

It was not long before Sadun Boro came out from the small cabin and saw us too, standing across on the quay, staring at his boat.

The rest was a wonderful, joyful day where the Boro family, his wife Oda, his daughter Deniz and himself welcomed our invitation and came to spend one whole day with us at our seaside house on the island. There, all sitting on a large veranda across the Aetos bay, we talked about the sea, we looked at the sea, and we talked about sea faring, adventures, adverse winds and safe ports. In the numerous photos we took, Sadun Boro appears always smiling with the joy of a full life, wearing a floral blue shirt and white shorts, a man who told us that he liked the sea more than the land and that he was most happy on his boat. 

It was on that day that I got to know about his famous trip around the world with Oda, although his modesty kept the whole story low in priority that day. Instead, he was more interested about the pear trees in our garden, asking my mother recipes for fruit compost. 

I had to ask at some stage if that was the first time he sailed through Ithaki. “No,” he said, “We know Ithaki very well. I passed through here for the first time with my wife, in 1968, when we went around the world with ‘Kismet.’”  

And why, now? Well, it was a present to their daughter Deniz, who was in her twenties. “It was a promise to make the same trip as the three of us.”

At the end of that wonderful day full of conversation about the better things in life like the sea and traveling, we said good bye and promised to meet in Istanbul.

But as it usually happens, we never did. 

When I read of his death last week I felt deep regret and guilt that I had lost a great chance to meet him again in his own part of the sea. But our life is full of regrets and guilt for missing important dates. 

On the other hand, perhaps it might be better to keep the picture of the wooden “Kismet” moored in the port of Mylos and remembering Sadun bey as an admirable Turkish descendant of his Homeric predecessor.