Wow, it's super hot in Istanbul in July. I am looking for a cool way to hang out with my friends, avoid the skeezy masses who flock to Istanbul's dirty, crappy beaches and hotel pools filled with Saudis and generate stories to tell for weeks after. I have no idea what sort of activity fulfills these criteria, but I have heard spending the day on the Bosporus on a boat can be fun. Do you have any thoughts?
Hot and Cranky
Hot and cranky is right! We are sort of specialists in finding the best way to spend a hot summer day in places. Boat days on the Bosporus are like outdoor movies in NYC or rain at Bumbershoot in Seattle: the essential summer experience. We highly recommend finding a boat, renting it and spending a weekday cruising the Bosporus with your best under-employed friends. Barring that, weekends are good too, with people you have met before.
Here are some things you need, learned from our own experience, that will help make your day on the Bosporus a success.
A Boat: Finding a boat to rent is easy. Walk along the water in Kuruçeşme and you will find many
different options available, depending on your budget (a boat usually runs 1000-1500 TL for a day, depending on your boat, route and amount of time). Or ask people you know for recommendations because people have opinions about boats and love to share them. You could rent the flashy wood and brass trimmed traditional gullet that holds 15 people, max, and has no sound system, that you think will impress the young ladiez. Or, you could get a retrofitted ferry or fishing boat with an astroturf dancing deck on which no one cares if red wine is spilled and a kickin' sound system for your Robyn covers. Which boat do you think impresses us?
Rogue Elements: All successful boat trips need a rogue element, maybe two. A rogue element is someone, who will, on a 20TL bet, jump into the Halıç, a more disgusting and polluted body of water than the Marmara. Rogue elements are most often people who have been in war-zones or living in the former Soviet Union. Among the latter, what regular people would consider "roguish behavior" is just called "Tuesday night." So gird your loins and find those people. Barring that, get a couple of Scandinavians. They can be unpredictable.
Charcoal: Most boats have a BBQ on board. The boat crew will cook and serve the fish and kofte you bring with you, unless you forget to bring the charcoal. You'll only make that mistake once.
Special Cocktails: People on boats want Efes, Angora or Buzbağ even less than they do at every other moment of the day so be clever. We bring a bottle of Malibu on every trip but it seems people want to drink that even less than they want to drink Angora. Red State Sibling created the "Texas Surprise" for one memorable trip last summer, the ingredients of which to this day remain a mystery. Peach and pineapple margaritas were a huge hit on a recent boat day but require a high-quality American-style cooler, which can be hard to come by. Don't forget the ice!
A Nice Swimming Place: We broadly define "nice" as meaning mostly "upstream from Istanbul." Someone needs to explain the appeal of the Princes Islands to us. We have lived here for six years and still do not understand why people ride packed ferries full of shrieking children to crowded islands with filthy water and overpriced, crappy food. They're not much better if you have your own boat, unless you visit a more isolated cove the middle of the night which is a different and somewhat atypical experience that you should try once when it's not really windy. We like to cruise up the Bosporus and park for the day in one of the coves past Anadolu Hısarı. There, you can enjoy pure radioactive water from Ukraine that has yet to be sullied by Istanbul sewage.
Solo Cups: Solo cups, which can only be imported from America, are critical for all parties, especially boat days. You can live without silverware; you cannot live without solo cups. We have stopped speaking to people who have thrown them in the trash.
It should be mentioned that organizing a boat day can be a burden, what with the average 10-15 people invited on a boat day all having strongly-held opinions, ancient rivalries and competing agendas. The potential for drama or hurt feelings can be high. Organizers deal with this in different ways, ranging from complicated spreadsheets to complete abdication of all organizational duties, or, from passive aggression to open hostility. You should probably have a sense, in advance, of how your boat-organizer approaches the job to avoid disappointment. But, regardless, boats are almost always fun.