Seven Seas Of The World

We know Osman Atasoy for the round-the-world cruise he made from 1992 to 1997 on his yacht, Uzaklar (faraway).

Taking some time out following that strenuous voyage, which produced both a book and a documentary, Atasoy most recently succeeded in rounding Cape Horn, one of the most perilous passages in the world and regarded as the Everest of navigation. We had a pleasant chat about the sea with Atasoy, who is currently embarking on a new goal, Antarctica..

It Al Started At Dalyan

How did this passion for the sea begin?

I had my first adventures on my father’s sailboat. We used to go swimming in the summer and fishing in the winter. Our lives revolved around the sea. In my childhood and youth, I did rowing and sailing in the Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe Sports Clubs. After that I had my first yacht built, Poyraz (North Wind), at Ayvansaray and I found myself sailing the Marmara and the Aegean.

Was that first venture into the open sea easy?

The first departure from land is the hard part. It’s not easy to untie the ropes and head for the faraway, the unknown, for another world with its own rules. Leaving behind your loved ones and everything you’re used to is very hard at first. But you forget all that in a flash when you’re a few miles out to sea. From there on out it’s a new life, a new way forward.

How did you decide to sail around the world?

The thing that most influenced me - in fact it was a turning point for me - was veteran Turkish yachtsman Sadun Boro’s book, Pupa Yelken (Anchors Aweigh!). I had always dreamed of circumnavigating the globe. But when I read Pupa Yelken I was determined to make that dream come true one day.

How many cities did you tour?

I can’t say exactly how many cities we visited, but it was a lot. We stopped at some 30 countries on the Uzaklar.

You chalked up a great sailing success when you rounded Cape Horn in 2011. How did you choose Cape Horn as a goal?

Very few sailors in the world have managed to round Cape Horn. It’s the southernmost tip of the American continent. The end of the world, in other words. Since there is no land mass at that latitude, the winds can be extremely strong. The Atlantic, the Pacific and the Antarctic Oceans come together there. Three different seas and three different water structures that give rise to enormous currents and countercurrents.

What route did you follow on that voyage?

The voyage started from Turkey. We went from there to Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Brazil, Argentina and then Cape Horn. After we rounded the Cape we took a break. Our return route was via Chile, Peru, the Panama Canal, Bermuda and Gibraltar back to Turkey.

Were there any tense moments?

Things can get tense at any moment when you’re on the sea. You never know for sure what’s going to develop or how the sea is going to be in an hour. I encounter tense situations constantly on my voyages. They used to say that Allah protects children and sailors. I have testified to that many times. One minute you find yourself in an extremely confusing and frustrating situation in the middle of the sea, at night to boot. Then all of a sudden that difficulty is overcome - you don’t know how - and the problem is solved. In the heat of the moment you are not even aware of how it happened or where the help came from. Allah really does protect sailors and children!

What is the biggest danger of all on the sea?

To my mind the greatest danger is colliding with a ship. Big ships don’t easily take notice of yachts the size of ours. But sometimes, thousands of nautical miles from home in the middle of the vast blue deep, you spot a ship flying the Turkish flag and it warms your heart.

You’ve circumnavigated the globe and rounded Cape Horn. What’s next on the agenda?

Uzaklar II is currently in Chile, near Cape Horn. Our goal is to conquer Antarctica and be the first Turkish team to do so. There’s a brief summer in that part of the world in December and January. Access is impossible after that because the water freezes over. So we are thinking of making our Antarctic foray in January.

A Turkish cargo ship we encountered in the Indian Ocean changed course for us and stopped to send provisions for the Uzaklar. In fact, they invited me on board and offered me a lavish meal of fresh bread from the ship’s oven and roast lamb, which happened to be on the menu that day. The sea is full of surprises!