Family yacht travel in Turkey and beyond
Akin Ongor explains how his yacht helps him and his family to live in the moment.
Akin Ongor believes in living in the moment. So much so, that he named his yacht Only Now. “I wanted to emphasise the importance of enjoying the present,” he explains. “The past is the past; today is the only reality.” Ongor certainly lives by this mantra. After retiring as CEO of a major Turkish bank in 2000, he has been able to spend months at a time on board his yacht with his beloved family, savouring every moment with his wife, children and grandsons.
Growing up in Turkey, a country blessed with beautiful coastline, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ongor developed a taste for the boating life. “I was a student in Ankara which is in central Turkey, but I moved to Istanbul right by the sea after graduation, so most of my life has been spent here,” he explains. Luckily, his wife of 44 years shares his passion for the water and over the years, they have owned a succession of yachts, all of which they have called Only Now.
“My wife is a big part of this whole experience,” explains Ongor. “She is a wonderful woman, she loves the sea, and we love each other!” The current incarnation of Only Now is the family’s seventh yacht – built in Turkey and delivered in 2013. “I was very involved in the build process,” says Ongor. “Building a boat is a very fun and exciting process, I was always in the shipyard watching what was going on.”
The resulting boat was built for the Mediterranean climate that Ongor and his family have grown accustomed to. “Over a period of five months, there are only one or two days of rain here, otherwise we enjoy great sunshine and wonderful seas,” he explains. “The boat is designed with that in mind, so there are lots of open spaces for outdoor living.” On board, all of that al fresco space is a dream come true for the couple’s two grandsons, who are just four and six. “At my age, I define our grandchildren as a great injection of joy into our lives,” says Ongor.
In the summer, the couple normally sails around the eastern Mediterranean, following the sunshine as they go. Based in London, their two children, aged 36 and 39 are able to fly out easily and join their parents on board whenever the mood takes them. “It’s so lovely to spend time together. Every season is a big excitement,” says Ongor.
The Turkish coast and Greek Islands are family favourites, but there are also frequent trips to Croatia. “We’ve been going there for the last ten years and the waters are exceptionally beautifully,” says Ongor. The couple also have a villa in Turkbuku, a yachting hotspot in Bodrum, where they plan to locate themselves for the coming summer. The boat will be available for charter for the first time whilst they are there.
Anyone who does charter the yacht will benefit from the excellent crew who have all been working on board for a decade or longer. “We respect their workload, their rights and their family lives and they respect us in return, so we have an excellent relationship,” says Ongor. With Ongor’s daughter being a private chef and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, getting the right chef on board was paramount. “Eating and drinking is so important on board – it’s a major social event,” says Ongor.
Wine is also high up on the family’s radar since Ongor started producing and selling wine in Turkey and abroad after retiring. “We established the vineyards from scratch in the western part of Turkey,” he explains. “From time to time I visit them and watch what’s happening, do tastings and so on.” Ongor has many other projects on the go post-retirement, including ongoing involvement with the WWF charity in Turkey. He also gives frequent talks on leadership and change management and acts as a trustee at two Turkish universities. As if that wasn’t enough, he also taught himself to scuba dive post-retirement, racking up 270 dives across the globe.
“I don’t just want to retire and watch TV,” explains Ongor. “Some of my friends do that but I am always active, I am always trying to generate something for the greater good.” A prime example is a school he established 11 years ago. “It was my wife’s idea,” says Ongor. “We have 1000 girls there learning nine different vocations to help them to stand on their own two feet.” Ongor frequently donates the fees he earns from talks and lectures directly to the school so that they get a healthy flow of funds.
“I keep myself busy,” explains Onfor. “I am enjoying life. You have to make the most of every day.” And where better to do that than on board Only Now?