Properly pronounced goo-LETS, these two-masted yachts started out as commercial vessels designed to transport goods up and down the imposing Turkish coastline. Gulets had to keep cargo safe and dry at sea year-round, so they were crafted with stability as a key characteristic. Imagine boxes upon boxes of food and supplies tied across a wide, flat deck, with the boat traveling slowly—at 6 or 7 knots, maximum—to prevent heeling and spilling.
Today, gulets maintain those essential qualities, but for the comfort of guests instead of the safety of cargo. Many charter guests comment on how surprisingly stable gulets feel compared with other sailing yachts, even with the sails fully raised. It is rare for a gulet to operate on wind power alone, instead using a combination of sails and an engine. The experience of being onboard is similar to that of cruising on a trawler yacht, which means moving at a slow pace and enjoying the scenery. People prone to seasickness often find gulets to be more comfortable than other styles of yacht, too.
Gulets are traditionally built of wood, and in particular of pine, African mahogany, and West African teak. This construction method makes the gulet more susceptible to degradation than, say, yachts built of aluminum or fiberglass. A gulet owner who invests in proper maintenance can keep a charter yacht looking and operating beautifully for many years, but it is not uncommon in Turkey to find gulets that are rotting from the inside out. For this reason, it is important to book a gulet charter through a broker who has stepped aboard the actual boat within the past 12 months. A gulet that looks to be in good condition one summer may be literally falling apart the next summer, so relying on past guests’ comments alone is not a smart idea.
Many gulets are considered day-charter boats, with cut-rate pricing and low-rate amenities to match. However, since about 2005, a new category of gulets has emerged—the luxury gulet. A handful of charter managers from Turkey began to attend international yacht charter shows and compare what they were offering in Turkey with the types of yachts that are regularly available for charter in places like the Caribbean and Mediterranean. These managers now understand their international competition and have been working with gulet owners to build top-quality sailing yachts in the traditional Turkish style. The highest-end gulets in Turkey today often have fixtures and amenities imported from Western Europe, where yacht construction has long had a higher standard of quality—and where charter prices can be double that of a good-quality charter in Turkey.
Common to most gulets is an entirely Turkish crew, as opposed to the international crews typically found aboard charter yachts in other destinations. It is typical for at least one or two of a gulet’s crew members to speak English, but expect an onboard experience filled with local customs, including plenty of Turkey’s well-known fish, lamb, and vegetarian foods.
The vast majority of gulets in Turkey spend their summers chartering in the waters along the nation’s southwestern coast, from Bodrum in the west to Goçek in the east. These waters are so close to eastern Greece that the Dodecanese Islands are often visible from the Turkish cruising lanes and can be made part of a charter itinerary that spans a week or longer. In Turkey, sites along this route include Knidos, which houses the open-air ruins of an ancient city, as well as Marmaris, which is a tourist town filled with waterfront restaurants and a large shopping bazaar. Charter guests can enjoy a wide variety of traditions, from sitting on the crumbling stone of an ancient amphitheater to haggling for a newly woven rug.
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