KALKAN, Turkey – A mousy looking, all-wood schooner called a gulet has been the workhorse of the Turkish Mediterranean ‘’blue voyages’’ for more than 30 years. Now, gulets are getting a face lift as comfort-conscious Americans want bigger and better. Traditionally, these coastal cruiser were built at about 50 feet; now they are coming in at 120 feet and provide a perfect environment for those who just want to put up their feet and watch the clouds roll by These broad-beamed boats with voluminous deck space are for hire along the Turkish coast, a place of hidden surprises where one undiscovered cove might hide a 1,500 year-old temple.
The spring and summer months are the busiest time for these work-horses. They hold up to six couples varying degrees of comfort and provide one of the great travel bargains as well as allowing the passive sailor to combine a marine experience with cruising comforts… in a new 120 footer named the Amazon Solo the accommodations were surprising: a double bed, a separate head and shower. All rooms look out at the water.
The blue voyage got its name, naturally, from the techniclored blue of the water. An informal route began in the early 60’s when historians wanted to discover a lost part of Turkey. Some of these blue voyages rediscovered the Blue Cave, a sea cave near Kalkan that is one of the country’s natural wonders. There is the bay at Myra, where you slow to view a series of tombs cut into rock. There are places called Rat Island, Goat Island, Snake Island. Along the way, you might spy a dolphin.
Tours begin from Kalkan, a city on the eastern Mediterranean, Marmaris and Bodrum, which is becoming known as the Riviera of Turkey for its cosmopolitan crowd, including the financier Ahmet Ertegun and the actor Dustin Hoffman…..
The boats are hand-built of chestnut and oak, the interior of cedar and Indian walnut by local craftsmen in the Black Sea. Much of the cruising is on motor power. Because the boats are close to shore, there are times when there isn’t enough wind. But for a few hours a day, when the wind is right, they host the sails. Because of wide decks, there is room for everyone to sit and schmooze aft, where meals are often served. The fellow doing the serving could be the chef, a deckhand, or even the captain…