Turkish solo sailor follows the stars

When you think of solo circumnavigators, a sailor from Turkey probably doesn’t spring to mind. But Özkan Gulkaynak may change that perception. And the moon and star from the Turkish flag that he displays on his boat, Kayitsiz III (seen at left in Moorea), is an appropriate motif for  this celestial nav fan. Gulkaynak is already halfway round the world and he is completing the journey using only celestial navigation.

From the press release: Sailing single-handed around the world has always been a formidable test of nautical skill. Nowadays yet the age of GPS technology and ever more luxurious yachts has taken some of the edge of the challenge.

Not for Turkish solo sailor, Özkan Gulkaynak, however. Now berthed in Bundaberg, Queensland, he is more than halfway round the world and 18 months since departing his home port of Izmir, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The 42-year-old economist has used no electronic navigation tools as he seeks to raise awareness in his homeland of sailing traditions – and the perils that untrammelled development represents to the world’s coastlines.

To build his vessel Kayitsiz III, Gulkaynak sought out boat-builders in a small fishing village on the Black Sea. Constructed by hand following methods handed down over many generations, the yacht has no industrially produced items: all of the metal items were hand-cast, many by the sailor himself.

Measuring 26 feet – a minnow by the standards of ocean cruising yachts – Kayitsiz III features the minimum of comforts for the often arduous ocean voyage, but numerous points of interest for sailors. Some of its winches are hand-made, as is the innovative windvane that Gulkaynak designed and built himself.

Committed to the traditions of sailing as well, Gulkaynak has relied upon only a sextant to plot his position. So the stars have guided him on the 15,500-mile journey that has taken him from Izmir in mid-2006, through the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic and Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and on the long, island-hopping haul across the Pacific Ocean to his current berth in Bundaberg, Queensland.

‘In the electronic age the important traditions of navigation are in danger of being lost,’ he comments. A VHF radio is his only concession to the modern era.

While his boat’s name may mean ‘Indifference’, Gulkaynak is anything but indifferent about the causes that he is promoting on his trip.

Proudly flying the Turkish flag from Kayitsiz III, he seeks to raise the banner of sailing among the youth of his country. ‘We are a maritime country but also still a developing country, so there are few opportunities for our youth to learn the basics of sailing – there’s nothing like the courses for young sailors that I’ve seen at yacht clubs in Australia and New Zealand.’

‘I want to show young Turks that even with limited resources there is no obstacle to sailing the world if they are committed,’ Gulkaynak states. He sees great potential for exchange of information and people between sailing groups in Turkey and the South Pacific.

Coastal protection is his other passion. ‘Overexploitation by tourism and fish-farm developers has destroyed much of Turkey’s coastline, and throughout my trip so far I’ve seen the same symptoms in many vulnerable areas. As sailors we must unite to inform governments and businesses of the threats to our coastal and marine resources, following the example of the late Sir Peter Blake.’

By Ocean Navigator