On a two-masted sailboat, the yacht of our sponsors _______ and ________, we are traveling west under power from a marina in the Pendik district, thirty kilometers from the Bosphorus on the Anatolian coast of the Sea of Marmara. If weather and time permit, our sponsors assure us that we will travel up through the strait that serves as the geographic delineation between Europe and Asia and then on to the Black Sea.
I have perched myself on the bowsprit in as sunny a spot as I can find. The wind is blowing up and then across the coast. Many of us make our way to the port side facing the sea where we are protected from the winds that have driven the otherwise pleasant and sun-warmed weather to the places where our bodies have congregated. There, with our legs over the gunwale, we are able to see the waiting room of global capital. We pass empty container ships in various and rusted states flagged by various countries and crewed by various nationalities. The projectiles of maritime trade can be considered three-fold: vessel, container, and crew. The two latter trajectories converge inside and on top of the first. The perceived indivisibility of container ship obscures the accumulation of commodity held within.
As we sail through the ships, whose empty bellies and decks allow them to ride high, scattered across the surface of Marmara, the Bosphorus now seems to be the site of the cultural and logistical gymnastics of the city. It is both a cut through the city, a conduit that concentrates and congests the flows of trade as much as the flow of water between Marmara and the Black Sea, and the fulcrum around which Istanbul centers itself, balancing the development of finance and rural migration. It is as much an intercessory entity, a mythic presence to those with access to it, and an instigating and confounding division between the uncritical binary of East and West, or rather the brutally apparent dialectical reality of a city in the throes of modernization.
Yet out beyond the prow, the complexities of the city are relegated to image and skyline. Skyscrapers stand in for progress and the constant specter of "the global city." Surveyed in this way, as voyeur, political and spatial ramifications are neutered and flattened by the beauty of the surreptitiously camouflaged neo-colonial view from the yacht. It is hard for me to distance myself from the not particularly accurate assumption that invaders encounter the Bosphorus in this way. We are Xerxes on our way to Greece. We are the Ottoman Turks claiming Byzantium.
And yet still, my overactive sensitivity to disguised imperial dispositions cannot ruin the beauty of Istanbul viewed by sea.