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Sea of Marmara & Istanbul Marinas

You wish to sail to Istanbul, and stay in a nearby marina? This is the page for you!

Most cruisers enter the narrow Dardanelles, pushing against wind and current, and avoiding large ships, in order to visit the superb city of Istanbul. Once in the Sea of Marmara (marble) it's best to keep south, sheltered from the usual headwinds. This offers a quiet and attractive cruising route with plenty of harbours and anchorages, soft, rolling landscapes, and marble quarries.

Until near Istanbul, there are no concessions to tourism, and few yachts.  The built up area around Istanbul has very good yacht support, with several marinas, shore hards and shipyards. Allow a  week for a slow potter upwind along the south coast. Stay as many days as you can afford near the fascinating city of Istanbul. Then run back in the stronger winds along the rather bare north coast over a couple of days.

The narrow 18nm Bosphorus leads to the Black Sea, a whole new cruising area. Again, strong headwinds and adverse current make this a slow journey, with lots of shipping to be avoided.  Black Sea winters are very cold, pack ice is common . . . this far north is no longer Mediterranean weather









Sea of Marmara Harbours, South side, West to East

After the Dardanelles, This is usually a windward journey along the southern parts of the sea of Marmara:

Dardanelles. Follow pilot book advice to minimise the effect of the head on currents, and give the many large and un-manouevrable ships plenty of room. War cemeteries interring some 100,000 dead from the WW1 Gallipoli campaign are marked by monuments on the north shore as you enter.

Çannakale. This busy town is a port of entry. Moorings tailed to the quay, a little choppy at times. Suitable for a couple of days stop to visit the local excursions - Troy (little to show compared to many other Turkish sites) and the WW1 battlegrounds (visited by many Australians and New Zealanders whose ancestors perished here). Good shopping and restaurants.

Kemer is a  serviceable stop if you're pushing against the wind and need a break

Karabiga is small village hosting a busy little fishing fleet. Coal and marble is shipped  from here.

Erdek is in a lovely setting. There's a nice atmosphere to the place, with shops, markets and restaurants. There are several small ports and anchorages around its peninsula.

The Islands The several islands just off the Erdek peninsula provide a number of tiny ports and many anchorages. Unspoilt, quiet pottering.

Marmara Adasi (island) is a great steep-to lump of marble, scarred by many quarries. The main port is busy, with adequate provisions and a choice of restaurants to serve (mainly Turkish) tourists. A range of part finished marble pieces discarded over the centuries - millenia even - is on display. There are several small hamlets around the island which can be visited by boat.

Bandirma is a busy industrial town with a noisy commercial quay, a port of entry. A shopping stop if needed.

Mudanya is a port of entry, with two or three quays where yachts may be able to berth. It's a busy town with good provisions and restaurants.

Gemlik Körfesi (Gulf) has a number of small anchorages and ports. Gemlik itself has a rather massive pier, good shopping and plenty of restaurants.

Izmit Körfesi. About 10nm east of Katirli, Setur Yalova Marina is useful stop. Frequent cheap ferries to Istanbul make this a possible base for exploring the city, but (as most marinas local to Istanbul) there's noisy late nightlife. We're now entering the more industrial areas around Istanbul. The gulf has naval bases, and there's probably not a lot of reason to go there, excepting for the good value Atabey Boatyard/marina, for wintering on the hard, west of Aydinli/Pendik. But don't forget that winter frosts are common!

Princes Islands are an archipelago of small islands, westernised playgrounds for the population of Istanbul. Weekends are very crowded, when its difficult to find berths.


Istanbul will be the main reason you came here. It's close to London's size and population, so its surrounding suburbs dominate the whole area east of a line from Büyükçekmece Bay to Katirli. Its history goes back to the 7th century BC, so there is enormous variety of culture and architecture to be seen.

İstiklâl Caddesi is the really classy city centre street, lined with palaces, restaurants, cafés and smart shops. Contrast that with the enormous covered bazaar of Kapalı Çarşı, the ultimate centre of pushy salesmanship. Just two of the great historic places to view are Topkapi Palace, and Aya Sofia, Church of the Divine Wisdom. Plan your visit with the Rough Guide to hand.

Istanbul Marinas

But where to leave the boat? East to West:

  • Marinturk Istanbul City Marina near Aydinli is modern, with all facilities. It's 15nm east of the Bosphorous entrance at Pendik. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SBG) is just 6km NE .
  • Setur Kalamiş and Fenerbahçe marinas are long established on the south side of the entrance to the Bosphorus. Safe, but a bit tacky and noisy. Nearby town.
  • Ataköy marina is on the north side of the Bosphorus entrance. More modern, the facilites are good. However, this is also a fairly smart nightlife centre, with the noise that goes with it. The marina organises a Black Sea Rally. Convenient for the airport.
  • West Istanbul Marina. 20nm W of the Bosphorus entrance is an enormous facility, travel lift and hard, convenient for Istanbul Ataturk Airport - the principal long haul airport.
  • Büyükçekmece Bay. 25nm west of the Bosphorus, has a harbour in use on the west side. Just east is a marina under construction.

Karaköy port, within Istanbul, is not a suitable place to take the boat. It's the port of entry, but if you need it, travel in by taxi. Viaport marina (east of Marinturk) was under construction and partly in use in 2015.


Like the Dardanelles, travelling into the Black sea will be against currents of up to 4kts, and against the prevailing wind. The Bosphorus is even narrower, with a lot  of large, unmanouevrable commercial vessels supervised by a vessel traffic service. Yachts will need to use side eddys.

Sea of Marmara, North coast, East to West

Returning to the Med can be a quick passage, using the stronger winds along the north coast of the Sea of Marmara. Just west of Büyükçekmece Bay is Güzelce Marina. After that, ports are suitable for a night pause, but (excepting Silivri , which is an attractive stop) they're undistinguished, as is the northern coastline. Tekirdag and Sarköy seem to offer some shelter, while Eregli looks rather exposed.


  • Attractions: Istanbul, the islands around Erdek and Marmara, good yacht services around Istanbul
  • Snags. Heavy commercial traffic in Bosphorus and Dardanelles. Siesmic activity makes some depths unreliable. Cold winters.
  • Ports of Entry. See map
  • Layup or Wintering. Live aboard; Istanbul marinas. Very cold winters. Shore hards south of Bosphorus and in some marinas.
  • Transport. Frequent seasonal and scheduled flights to all major international airports from Istanbul Ataturk (west of city) and shorter haul destinations (including LGW and STN) from Gokcen (east of city).
  • Boat Charter. Bareboat .


Reviewed Oct 2018


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