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Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Three Generations on One Tiny Ship

Our weeklong, extended-family odyssey two summers ago was my dad’s inspired and generous way of celebrating his 80th birthday. We have always been a family that loves to travel.

Now we would charter a gulet, a small two-masted Turkish ship, and sail along the southwestern coast of Turkey.

Of course, there were moments when the idyllic-sounding phrase “Seven days on the Mediterranean!” gave way to another reality — “21 consecutive meals with the exact same people!” — but that was inevitable. Set even the closest, most agreeable group out to sea for long enough, and any shipboard fantasy of “The Lady Eve” will have its “Lifeboat” moments.

At least the risk of an international incident was low: three of my grandparents were Greek, but one of those three was a Turkish citizen born near what was then Smyrna. We were enthusiasts for that part of the world, period. Setting, food, culture, ambience — for us, all of those things trumped national borders and quibbles over air space.

Our cast included my parents, my brother, Alexi, and me and our wives, and the three sons we have between us. Capt. Huseyin Sahin, his mate, Doruk, and a cook, Erdal, served as the crew on our gulet, the Ceyda 2. We are all still speaking, even if, during the trip, one psychiatrist (my father) was heard to observe to another psychiatrist (my brother) that there was “certainly material for a study of group dynamics.”

The family had arrived in weary installments in Istanbul and made uncharacteristically quick work of the sights — time was limited. The Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the underground Byzantine cistern were taken more or less at a run.

As a group, we were both natural (a family, after all) and unnatural (each of us inclined to go his or her own way when traveling), with predictable results. Movement down the sidewalk was slow, and there were sudden, brush-fire-like squabbles. Disorganization reigned, only some of it attributable to jet lag.

But once at sea, our little band felt, somehow, less at sea.

After a salad and spaghetti lunch at a long table in the stern, where we would have all our meals, we pulled out of the Marmaris harbor under a cloudless sky. The mood lightened immediately. We were pointed in the direction of the Aegean, but in fact for the whole journey would remain, technically, on the Mediterranean side of the Bozburun Peninsula, which separates the two.

A pattern established itself. The Ceyda 2 hugged the rocky, olive-tree-dotted coastline. We’d drop anchor in quiet bays for afternoon dips off the boat, which were followed by tea as the sun slipped behind a mountain. Evenings, we’d anchor again in some new breathtaking spot, eat dinner and spend the night. The menu became familiar. For breakfast: eggs, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, olives, juice, excellent tea, Nutella and Nescafé; lunch and dinner: borek, a cheese- or meat-filled pastry; or grilled tsipoura (porgy); or melitzana (an eggplant dish), salad and fruit.

An unhappy surprise for the birders onboard was the utter absence of wildlife. A few flying fish and the occasional shearwater scraped the surface, but otherwise pretty much ... nothing. A brief outburst from cicadas on a distant shore was the trip’s equivalent of a jungle-safari experience. This corner of the Mediterranean is a stunning two-tone blue, but barren, hot and still, rendering even more incongruous the sound of Captain Sahin’s cellphone, which rang every couple of days to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

One day, as we were anchored in a cove — breeze soft, sun warm, water lapping — my father fell into conversation with the captain.

You are 80 years old,” he said to my dad. “You are still working?”

Yes, I still work.”

The captain, after a pause: “Turkish people lazy.”

So are the Greeks,” my father replied.

A minor but significant détente. Deep down, aren’t we all brothers and sisters, bonded by a common lethargy?

On deck, people gravitated toward the activities they enjoy. My son, Theo, who was 14, snorkeled, played backgammon and cracked jokes. My brother’s sons, Julian and Aris, then 11 and 10, wore cool sunglasses and draped themselves along the cushions during the heat of the day, but were otherwise absorbed in books or their Nintendo DS. One morning after breakfast, I noticed Aris in the prow, looking quietly over the water. What does a 10-year-old boy think about as he gazes at the sea? Pirates? The Wii he left back home?

My mom watched over everything, standing erect in one part of the boat or another; curiously, she was never actually seen to move from Point A to Point B — she simply vanished and then reappeared somewhere else. To relax, she arranged the towels and swimsuits drying on lines, redeploying clothespins with panache.

For the rest of us, bouts of reading, napping and swimming succeeded one another with blissful regularity.

We took one side trip, to the Greek island of Simi. When we entered Greek waters, the captain ran a tiny Greek flag — the size of a cocktail napkin, really — up the Ceyda 2’s mast.

Simi town is pretty and atypical for a Greek island: no whitewashed houses, but rather colors running up the hill from the harbor — mustard yellows, blues, greens, rusty reds and oranges. It felt good to stretch out and walk. After a hike, we rested with a frappé and milopita at a cafe.

But back at the Ceyda 2, our anchor had become entangled with the anchor of another Turkish gulet docked just across the small harbor, and several hours of tension and uncertainty ensued. The other captain at first refused to leave his cabin to discuss disentanglement. Eventually, gesticulating from their respective decks, the two petulant skippers shouted grievances at each other across the water: progress. That was followed by a long, complicated pas de deux involving the two boats — a sort of Rubik’s Cube maneuver for gulets that seemed to do the trick. Then, in the perfect evening light, we backed into our berth again — it was too late to sail now.

More boats pulled into the harbor the next morning. One sailboat nearly crashed into our neighbor, sending shouting vacationers to the rails and reigniting the general bickering. “Michael,” Captain Sahin said, turning to my dad. “You have office here? Many people need psychiatrist.”

If we lost our momentum in Simi, we also found our rhythm. I looked up from my Patrick O’Brian one day and smiled to see that the cook, Erdal, had put on a “Rodos, Greece” T-shirt. The Turkish flag fluttered behind him in the hot breeze, and the stereo emitted Greek music. The nights were beautiful, with some of us escaping the cabins to sleep on deck, where there was fresh air and an amazing sky: inky blackness, meteors, constellations.

The low jinks continued — I reliably bumped my head on the same spot whenever I stepped belowdecks, my dad failed to hear a bell for tea that was probably audible a quarter-mile away, my mom accidentally locked herself in her cabin — but so did the perfect weather as we reversed direction and headed eastward back toward Marmaris. And terra firma. And, for better or worse, our separate lives.

Ana Sayfa