The Turkisch sea industrie is goes back millenia, with the age old traditions of merchants, pirates and their old trade fleet that dates back almost as far as before the birth of Christ. The world's oldest documented shipwreck (1350 b.c.) was discovered outside the Turkish coast in vincinity of the village Kas based on research done by the Texan based institutute for Nautical archeology. These fleets were the precursors of the Dorians, Romans and Ottomans.
Today the Gulets bear a remarkable resemblance to the craftsmanship of old times. The harbors where the ships were built were located on the Turkish Riviera on the Egeian coast. The diesel engines later replaced the sails. Traditionally, the cargos consisted of oil, coper and glass, now they carry people basking in the sun sailing towards the beautiful Greek islands.
The design, materials and construction techniques have only undergone small changes throughtout the centuries past. The traditional ship building industry can be found in the entire coastal area of Turkey on the Egeian and Mediteranean coasts. However, the largest number of boats built today and their shipyards are still situated in Bodrum, the home of the Turkish Egian charter fleet.
Construction of the Gulet sailing yachts started in Bodrum but as they gained in popularity, they were also built in Bozburun, Marmaris, Fethiye and Istanbul. The traditional Gulet sailing yachts were built of pinewoord. Handcraftsmen and carpenters preferred the more expensive materials such as: teak, mahogany and Iroko.
Since, the times of its oldest inhabitant King Mausolous (4th century before Christ) Bodrum has been the most important shipbuilding center of Turkey. Kng Ptolemaeus of Egypt had his warships built here in the third century before Christ, in the area where the current shipyard is located. There are now more than thirthy shipyards in the immediate surroundings of Bodrum and there are even more in the surrounding peninsula.
The bustling activities of Bodrum's shipyards has stayed the same in comparison to the old shipping industry, that built the Ptolemeaus fleet. Many of the modern boats are modern day versions of the much older ships of the past. With its symmetrical bow and rear, the Tirhandil is a direct descendant of the old Egeian design and soon developed into a favorite of the spunge divers. More recently, the ships have become known under their new name the gulet, presumably named after its descendent the Italian Gouletta of the Venetian Galiota.
The Gulet yacht is equiped with a broad light bundle and a rounded rear bow and the Ayna KIG or Ketch (comparable to the Gulet but with a square rear bow, that's why it carries its name as Turkish mirror, Ketch).
These Gulet Ketch are ideal charter boats with their wide beams and S-shaped decks providing space for comfortable cabins.
Some shipyards work with steel or fiberglass, but the most important construction material still is the local Egeian pine. Found in three varieties: red, with and black,, the latter two are prefered because of their solid strength and high hars density. The wood is acquired from the local Merchants or procured from the ministry of forestation. The wood predominantly comes from the Koycegiz, Mu or Yatagan areas.
Later on the boats were mostly built with wood that was specifically sourced for the different ships. Not only in regard to measurements in length but also the trees were specifically bent in certain directions as they grew to meet specific demands. The construction of a boat starts with a kiel, a solid base for both the construction on shore as well as its floating strength. The kiel is shaped by a welded steel base and subsequently filled up with high density stones and covered in concrete. Together, they form a strong spine for the Gulet. This presents a significant amount of weight. A wooden bowspriet and achtersteven with bouten on the ends of the steel cage en the ribs. These fixed parts determine the length and the maximum width of the boat. The sketch of the bases and the toerail (the shape of the boat on the deck level) is mostly determined. The leftover ribs that provide support are handcrafted and applied.
As soon as all ribs and the interieur have been finished, the work on the huts and the planks of the deck starts. In this fase the installation of the ship equipment, such as the fuel and water tanks, electrical systems and the motor takes place. As soon as the deck nears its completion a small ceremony follows. The builders celebrate with "Baklava wood" and then comes the final piece ending in the hull. With this piece installed a major part of the construction is completed. The hull is reopened by removing a part of the bottom planking so that a hole is created for the saw dust and waste of the construction.
In addition to all woodworks the metalwork is also done in the shipyard. Working with stainless steel, the rough pieces are molded in to their proper forms. Spar, sternrail of the fueltank. The whole framework is designed and installed by the shipyard for all types of Gulets. With the exception of the mechanical parts such as, the engines, complicated electronics that are bought elsewhere and are installed by the shipbuilder, the enitre ship is built by local craftsman.
Larger ships take up to between nine and twelve months of construction. The shipyards, that make use of local workers to build smaller Gulets take up to ten months. The costprice of these beautiful ships varies between $ 100.000 for a simple 15 meter long ship to several millions of dollars for the most luxurious Gulet beyond 20 meters long.
It is not an unusual occurrence to visit a shipyard in the Bodrum area, they will gladly show you around the construction site to show you a boat in its early stages being put together. Launching a ship into water is a major task. Many shipyards are located far from the sea. Often, large boats have to be transported over landed for several kilometers before being launched into sea. Smaller boats are transported by trucks or hangers. Larger boats are placed on the rear of a truck or special moving companies are employed.