If the roar of the Mig, screaming out of the Grecian sun wasn't alarming enough, our hitherto unflappable Turkish Captain, waving his arms and bellowing for my mother to come forward left little doubt that something may have gone seriously awry. The jet, so close that the pilot was plainly visible from the deck where we all stood - mouths agape, hearts pounding - had come out of nowhere for a closer look at my brother, who'd gotten about two hundred yards into what he may have imagined would be a peaceful yet vigorous and beneficial row in the gulet's tender. As my mother had made the effort to pore over the Turkish – English phrase-book relentlessly since we'd left Bodrum some four days earlier, she was the one standing before the now apoplectic skipper as he dished up a torrent of spicy Turkish, gesticulating wildly toward the tiny row-boat afloat upon the placid Aegean as the fighter banked for another pass.
Given that he'd chartered this massive, wooden sailboat and crew of three for a ten day cruise along the Turkish coast, my father felt entirely justified in telling the Captain where he ought to go.This was evidently not the way the Captain saw things, and Dad's meticulously high-lighted routes, plotted over weeks of study on a series of obscure nautical charts, were summarily dismissed by the man at the helm. Where the Captain's English seemed to consist solely of the word “No”, Dad could muster little in Turkish beyond “Thank you very much”, and this was a phrase that clearly had no viable context in their heated discussions regarding ports of call. And so the role of interpreter fell to Mom, based on her fluency in French, her familiarity with the hopelessly inadequate phrase-book, and an overwhelming desire as a traveler to make every attempt, as a matter of basic courtesy, to converse in the local language. said to the Captain, it hardly mattered as the event would have passed and the man had maintained his course throughout.
After a few more passes, during which we all leaned over the rail waving our arms hysterically and exhorting my brother to “Row! Faster!!”, the fighter jet peeled off to the West, apparently satisfied that we meant no harm. In the aftermath of all that excitement, Dad approached the Captain and, with uncharacteristic humility, trotted out his one phrase. “Cok tesekkur ederim,” he said, presumably for not allowing my brother to be blown out of the water. On the night before we disembarked, while my father and the Captain arranged the bottles of Johnny Walker and cartons of Marlboros required for a smoother passage through Greek customs, Vesil, our timid “second mate”, indicated to Mom that he'd like to borrow the phrase-book. After several hours holed up in the crew's cramped and fetid quarters before the mast, Vesil came aft and proffered a smudged and wrinkled napkin upon which he had scrawled, “Tomorrow. Farewell day. Anxiety!” By which we think he meant to say that he'd miss us when we'd gone. Tender and heartfelt as this missive may have been, it gave us all the giggles and shed some light on what sort of blathering nonsense we'd been passing back and forth between my father and the Captain those last, long ten days.