Boat Production

The Development Of The Modern Day Boatbuilding In Bodrum

There were many boats engaged in fishing, sea transportation and sponge diving activities in Bodrum before the boatbuilding activity began again. However, the source of these boats was not Bodrum. Some of them were the Greek boats bought from Greece (there were also a few Italian boats) and there were also the boats brought by the Cretan Muslims during their relocation from Crete or Cos to Bodrum. Another important source was the boats caught illegally in the Turkish territorial waters both before and during the Second World War. Mostly from Greece, these boats were seized and later sold by the authorities. These were the only sources for the boats in Bodrum until the beginning of boatbuilding. The development of boatbuilding in Bodrum seems to have taken place in three stages: The first stage was the period when Mehmet of Nami began his first trials and eventually built Bodrum’s very first boat in 1930s. The second stage was the time when the master of the masters Ziya Güvendiren developed the boatbuilding activity into a major trade and built the very firstgulet(pronounced goolet) of Bodrum. Finally, in the third stage, Ziya Güvendiren’s first apprentices became boat building masters of their own shops and  turned, in time, what their master developed into a nationally and internationally recognized boatbuilding tradition with its own type of boat, the Bodrum Gulet.

The person who restarted the boat building activity in the Bodrum area was the Cretan immigrant Mehmet of Nami. The story of the first boat is rather an interesting one. One day, Mehmet of Nami wanted to build a boat for himself, even though he knew nothing about building boats. He was probably inspired by the boats around him. When he was half way finished, he showed it to his father. His father did not like what he saw and told him “this looks like amavna(a simple and crude type of boat),” belittling his work. Mehmet could not take this insult and wanted to burn the boat, but his friends prevented him. He eventually finished the boat and launched it. The boat naturally floated all right. However, that was all it did; it was far from being a good boat. This did not satisfy Mehmet of Nami. He went to the Greek island of Kalymnos, where there were good boat builders. He met some boat builder masters and started asking questions. However, realizing that he had never built a boat before, the boat builders began ignoring him. This did not stop Mehmet. Seeing a cypress tree nearby a boatbuilding shop, he climbed up and started watching the Greek builders who had just started building another boat from the top of the tree. Continuing this for a while, he eventually came back to Turkey and started building another boat for himself. This time it was a proper boat.

Mehmet of Nami sold this boat to a Greek fisherman while he was sailing, taking in return his boat designed for sponge diving with a glass showing the bottom. After this, Mehmet kept himself busy repairing small boats. One day he received an invitation from Ali Cengiz, a sponge merchant in Bodrum, to build him atirhandiltype of boat. Accepting the invitation, Mehmet of Nami came to Bodrum and started building atirhandilin front of this merchant’s house in the Cretan section of Bodrum. This 10,5 metertirhandil, which was named Atilla, became the firsttirhandilbuilt in Bodrum. The year was 1933. Building another boat after this one, he eventually returned to Güllük and continued his boatbuilding life there.

If Mehmet of Nami was the person who started the boatbuilding activity in Bodrum, the person who transformed it into a major field of work was Ziya Güvendiren, who had worked, together with his brother Ali Kemal, in the building of the firsttirhandilAtilla with Mehmet of Nami. Initially, he was a carpenter making doors and window frames. His first experience with boatbuilding was with this firsttirhandil. After Mehmet of Nami went back to Güllük, he continued working on boats, either doing small repairs and boat enlargement work or building small skiffs. This stage may be thought as the period during which Ziya developed his boatbuilding skills through these repair works; there were certainly many boats in Bodrum at that time. The first fair-size boats he built were the twotirhandils named Tepecik and Güvendiren (whose name was changed to Güven by his later owner Vapora) by the Tepecik mosque with the financial support of Karakayalı family. However, he became famous for the boat he built for a naval architect from outside of Bodrum, using the plans brought by this architect. Following this experience that made him even more skilled as a boat master, Ziya next built atrata(a fishing boat). Named Mustafa, this fishing boat became the firstgulettype boat ever built in Bodrum. Following this, Ziya went on to launching boats one after another, especially many sponge divingtirhandils that were on demand at that time.

Mehmet of Nami did not train any boat builders other than his son and grandson, who continued his boatbuilding tradition. On the other hand, Ziya trained almost all the first masters who would shape the boatbuilding industry in Bodrum after him. Because of this, Ziya may be recognized as the father of boatbuilding in Bodrum, though he entered the trade a little after Mehmet of Nami. The very first apprentices who left Ziya after completing their training and set up their own shops were, respectively, Mustafa Denizaslanı, Mehmet Özyurt, Erol Ağan, Engin Denizaslanı, Ziya Tümay and Ali Kemal Denizaslanı. Representing the third stage of the development of boat building in Bodrum, these boat masters initiated, with the help of the friendly competition among them, the progress from the smalltırhandils to the biggulets and then to the mega-yachts. They too trained many boat masters who would open their own shops in time and take their place among Bodrum’s famous boat masters. Thus, Nami’s first boat building experience, the one mocked by his father, led in fifty years to a process culminating in the training of many skilled and successful boat masters in Bodrum. As the boatbuilding activities of Greece nearly came to a halt in the 1960s, Turkey took the leadership in the area and the growth of the boatbuilding activities accelerated. In fact, this process initiated by an ambitious youth who had to some tree-climbing to learn about the trade of boat building from the Greek masters became a major boat building industry selling boats to the whole world, including Greece.

Prepared by Ali Kemal Denizaslanı and Timuçin Binder

Written by Timuçin Binder 

Scroll to top