As you read this, I may still be meandering in Marmaris, on Turkey’s southwest coast. Rug merchants offer me apple tea, artists tempt me with handmade pottery, and bazaar dealers try to convince me that I cannot live without a hand-carved, mother-of-pearl inlay backgammon set.
I press on, eyes focused on the gulets along the dock. These traditional, wooden boats are fatter and squatter than true sailing yachts, with top speeds around 6 knots as long as you engage the motor in addition to raising the sails. Gulets have become, in recent years, the world’s best value in crewed charter, offering access to the ruins of empires past at prices that make neighboring Greek charter yacht owners blanch. And as the Turkish charter scene itself has become more internationally minded, the gulets have improved in construction quality. I’ll be cruising later this week aboard one of the newest, multimillion-dollar incarnations: the 141-foot Mare Nostrum, a teak and mahogany masterpiece.
The cruise will take me west from Marmaris to Bodrum, which is actually where many Turkey charters start. Yachts cruise the coast from Bodrum east to Marmaris and onward through Ekinçik Bay to Göçek—a lovely, weeklong passage—and perhaps beyond during longer charters to Kemer or Antalya. I did the Marmaris to Ekinçik Bay leg a few years ago aboard the stunning 98-foot gulet-style motorsailer Clarissa, including a ride up the reed-filled Dalyan River to the ruins of a Roman amphitheater that once held thousands. Our group of five was nearly the only one there, an experience far different from what I have encountered at archaeological sites from Greece’s Saronic Gulf to Dodecanese isles. While modern-day marketers draw a distinction between Greece and Turkey, the conquerors of centuries past did not. A charter in Turkey is just as much a peek into history, only without the crowds and super-inflated prices.
Finding the right gulet for your charter is the key, and your best chance of that comes from a good charter broker. Two American brokers I know well are here with me in Marmaris this week, touring the gulets and doing their due diligence. Try Missy Johnston at Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters (who expertly arranged my Clarissa and Mare Nostrum adventures), or Beverly Parsons of Interpac Yachts (who has visited the charter yachts in Turkey for nearly 30 years in a row).
Editor’s Note: Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of five books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, and is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine www.CharterWave.com. Kim also edits www.BoatNameGame.com, which invites readers to submit and comment on funny, interesting, and bizarre boat names.