An illegal immigrant who lost all her knickers

It started with lost panties, and it ended with police detention.

Indeed, in the space of just 19 days, my yachting career began, and ended, with characteristic drama and hilarity.

Life is an adventure indeed. So here’s the scoop…

If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry

Let’s rewind to the beginning…

I got a job on a yacht in Turkey.

I fly from France to Turkey, with a connection in Istanbul.

I’m in Istanbul Airport watching How To Train a Dragon

and, naturally, stuffing my face with Milka.

I get too involved with said dragon and fail to notice that my gate has changed. Perform an embarrassing last-minute sprint across the departure lounge. Standard.

Then it’s all fairly mundane for a while… A window seat. An inflight Turkey sandwich (chuckle chuckle). Landing. Welcome to Bodrum. Passport control. The dreaded luggage belt.

Yes, baggage claim makes me nervous.

I have this deep inner fear that my stuff will not come… and the more I travel, statistically, the more likely it is to happen, right?

With this in mind, my situation could have been a lot worse. Because my backpack did come… but the small detachable bag on the front had zipped off and was missing.


So I wait in the vain hope it will appear… come on… Annnnnnnyyyyy. Seconnddddddd. Nooowwwwwwww….

Then the belt stops.

Angrily muttering away using language that would make my granny weep, I mentally tot up everything I will never clap eyes on again.

Could it be much worse than losing all my shoes, all my underwear, and all my NEW bikini’s…?! And my ruddy phone charger. FFS.

So we’re not off to a great start, but whatever, no point crying over spilt milk and all that.

I did get to buy some sexy new Havianas

Besides, is there any better ice breaker than asking your new boss if you can wear her underwear in the morning? AB. SO. LUTE. CRINGE.

Also cringe was having no choice but to wear a black bra under my semi see-through white yachtie uniform the next day. I am a disaster.

FYI… the baggage that I did have… there was a conditioner MURDER inside.

A whole bottle of Herbal Essence decided to ERUPT in my bag and coat everything that Turkish Airlines hadn’t lost in a smelly slime.

So, whilst some dirty old Turks in an airport backroom are likely sniffing my panties and dancing round in my bikini’s, with my bras on their heads, spanking each other on the ass with my sandals… I’m washing what I can only describe as fragrant smelling spunk off everything I do have left.

After I’ve been travelling for 16 hours and ‘lost all ma panties, innit’.

So, like I say, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

I’m pretty certain the philosophy of ‘laugh it off’, if fully embraced, could really see you through life.

Varicose veins and t-shirt tan

So, wearing my bosses knickers, I started work as general dogsbody Deckhand / Stewardess.

Working on a yacht can only be described as paid slavery. It is the most unglamorous ‘glamorous’ job in the world.

Lets start with the accomodation.

Its cramped

There is no storage

(I had only the bottom shelf)

Then there are the toilets

They kinda suck everything out through a very small hole.

And when i say small, I do mean small.

In that, if you eat a lot and then go for a large poo… it will likely not fit in the sucky hole.

Yes, I talk from very embarrassing experience.


You clean, you clean, and you clean some more.

Then you re-clean the exact same stuff the next day.

There can be not one speck of dust, not one smear on anything… God forbid.

And I am not joking when I say that cleaning a toilet with a cotton bud is considered NORMAL. Really, there are no words.

Disgustingly, it was only a week or so before I started to notice the development of varicose veins in my legs. Spending all day (and I do mean, all day) on your feet is not good for those pins.

In the same space of time, I also developed a comical t-shirt tan from all that time washing the exterior, polishing the rails, and scrubbing the deck in ridiculous heat. One day I even burned around my rubber gloves!

Now, perhaps looking hideous as a consequence of your job is fine if you love your job and you love your colleagues… but I cannot say I had any such sentiment for either.

But lets be fair, it wasnt all bad.

There was ONE day off during my time there, and I paid 40 euros to spend the day in an all inclusive resort.

All I could eat and drink? I did not mess about!

And on the rare occasions I could get off the boat off an evening, I wasted no time sniffing out some local treats…

And Turkey is very beautiful, it has to be said…

But I seemed to be by myself far too much for my liking!

And we pretty much just sat in the Marina, waiting for our guests who kept on not coming.

When you combine that with a hate of the work and a general indifference/dislike for the crew… you start to get unmotivated and depressed.

In fact, I was very unhappy onboard… all work and no play makes Mel a very dull, bored, lonely girl.

Like it, lump it, or leave it

If life is a journey, then sometimes we’re going to take wrong turns.

Better than taking no turns at all though isn’t it? You learn nothing standing still.

Often only our ‘gut’ will figure out we’ve gone wrong, and then it’s just a case of trusting the instinct that is screaming… ‘This is not right for you!’

It took me almost three miserable weeks to listen to that instinct, grow some balls, and say ‘screw it, I’m going home’.

Quitting is by no means a bad thing- it’s actually quite hard to hold your hands up and admit your gone wrong, and then do something about it.

But at the end of the day, why settle for something that makes you miserable when there is so much else out there that you could be doing? The world is a big place, and it is full of options.

So, I quit. The boat booked me a flight home, I retrieved my passport from the captains care, and I went on my merry old way.

Another Turkish airport, another drama

I take a shuttle from Marmaris to Dalaman Airport and check in.

All’s well until I try to get through passport control and into the departure lounge. You need a visa to be in Turkey, and this is the point where your visa gets an exit stamp.

The guy in the booth is flicking through my passport and looking utterly baffled. There is already an exit stamp on my visa, and yet I’m still here. How is this possible?

Before long I’m being marched away by airport security (with everyone staring at me like I’m a crack smuggler) and taken to a back room for questioning.

Turns out, I’m technically an illegal immigrant and will most likely not be allowed home on my flight.

Now, given my already weak mental state and general exhaustion, this is fantastic news.

I don’t really understand what going on because no one’s English is that great.

I try to explain that my captain handles everything like this and I had no idea he hadn’t put a valid visa in my passport. ‘Muppet’ does not even come close…

They tell me I must pay 500 lira (about 250 euros) in order to leave the country.

I tell them I do not have it.

I have a little sob on a policeman, and then a little laugh to myself about how ridiculous my life has become.

 I mean really, you have to laugh. Im being detained by police because of the incompetency of the yacht im running away from, its hysterically ironic.

So for two hours I am questioned, there are numerous phone calls, there are numerous forms, and I explain numerous times that we left Turkish waters for cheaper fuel and then when we re-entered the captain obviously failed to check us in properly…

To their credit, the Turkish passport police were absolutely lovely to me, and were clearly trying their best to get me on a plane and help me. I even got a hug from the boss; now you wouldn’t get that at Heathrow.

At the last minute, they decide to let me off (possibly because I am blonde, just sayin’) and simply attach the debt to my passport… so that next time I try to enter Turkey I will be turned away unless I pay up. In three years this debt gets wiped.

Anyway, at this point, the 11th hour, the whole plane is waiting for me, so surrounded by my police posse and security, I enjoy another mad sprint across another Turkish airport. This time I have men with guns around me.

Still getting looked at like a dirty crack smuggler.

We made it by the skin of our teeth.

Did I have a relieved half crying half laughing hysterical breakdown when the plane took off? Of course I did. What. A. Nightmare.

On the plus side, I now have the rare privilege of  enjoying three stamps on the Turkish visa in my passport- an entry stamp, and, bizarrely, two exit stamps.

Never a dull moment is there.

No regrets

Initially I was gutted that the dream job turned out to be anything but. It really broke me for a few days, and I felt incredibly lost and foolish for even giving it a go.

However, there is so much I have learnt in three weeks…

I now know I cannot fit into such a setting- I am flippant, down to earth, scruffy, I have a big mouth, and I hate OCD cleaning. I am clumsy (I kept dropping expensive cleaning equipment in the sea!) and heavy footed and not at all delicate or girly, and most things in life just make me laugh when they shouldn’t.  I don’t CARE enough about streaks in the mirrors, and I lack the capacity to get excited about a speck of dust.

But all these weaknesses could, in a more people-focused, down to earth and sociable environment, be my strengths.

Indeed, in terms of working in hospitality… I realise now that I would rather have stimulating conversations with people than serve them caviar. I would rather show guests a hilarious night out instead of a creaseless bed, and I would rather have a good rapport with people than clean their toilet with a toothbrush.

This is why I excelled in a chalet in the mountains, and was crap at working on a yacht.

They were not my people, it was not my place, and I was not myself.

But do I regret it? Not for a second.

You have to try things, you have to see what is right for you.

You never know unless you go. I did go, and now I know.

And here’s what I believe… we make our own fate via choices which define us. So if you’re not happy, change it, because no one else will do it for you.

Your happiness, is in your hands.

The plan now is… to have no plan

It’s fair to say my spirit was broken by being so utterly lonely and miserable, and I’ve no shame in admitting I was in a teary pathetic ‘what do I do with my life?!’ state most evenings. Which is so out of character it’s scary!

It really made me realise that people make everything, and got me thinking that there’s no point me rushing around and doing cool stuff and meeting awesome people if I’m so busy doing the next thing that I never get to see anyone…

So this summer, there is no plan.

Plans don’t work.

I’m going to take it easy in the company of my nearest and dearest… do what work I can, go on holiday with friends (I hear Turkey is nice), tour the UK visiting all my buddies from Croatia and the Alps and uni… get back into my cycling and running… see some bits of England I’ve always wanted to, enjoy a birthday at home for the first time in five years…

Would you believe as well, within hours of being back in the UK, I have a job. Employed by a good friend from my time in the Alps, I will be working as a bar manager at a lot of prominent UK festivals this summer… geez it’s a hard life isn’t it!

Here’s hoping I’ve landed on my feet… and if not, well, they’ll always be stories.

4 Responses to An illegal immigrant who lost all her knickers

  1. Steph July 28, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

    Yours is definitely my new favorite blog. I laughed so hard!!

    I do bet they stole your undies on purpose. Last time I was in Turkey (Istanbul), one of the airport security chiefs looked right at me and said stone-cold serious in flawless English, “You have perfect breasts. I would like to have sex with you” as I was taking my shoes off and putting my carry-on through the Xray. Beyond awkward. Especially as I was wearing a loose, chunky sweater (no hint of boob at all).

    I read that you’re in Thailand now though so I hope it all worked out for the best!

    • Mel July 29, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      Oh my gosh thats terrible Steph!! Holy crap. What a creeper! We can but laugh! Thanks for the comment :)

  2. Kylie September 7, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Wowww.. I just loved your honesty.

    I have had very similar experiences over the years, however I did have a few more ups than downs as I was in a senior position on much larger yachts.

    Thank you for writing this completey realistic review
    and good luck with your adventures.


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