Bodrum Gulets

Bodrum’s  Gulets

From Kaiki To Gulet

Today’s luxurious Blue Voyage boats are separated into three different categories ofgulets,tırhandilsandaynakıçs, but their ancestors, the workboats of Bodrum, were much more diversified, both in the form of different hull types and sailing rigs. The purpose of this maritime museum is to bring this different but at the same time rich, though nearly forgotten, maritime heritage to the present.

Before tourism began in Bodrum, the boats with lengths varying between 5 to 28 meters, using first sails and later engines, were used in fishing, sponge diving and maritime transportation. Among these old workboats, the typetırhandil, whose design probably goes back thousands of years, is usually the first type to be noticed. One can define it as the Aegean double-ender. However, it would not be fair to end its description only with this piece of information, as there are different types of double-enders in the Aegean Sea, like in the other parts of the world. This type of double-ender, the tırhandil, has the following characteristics: a hull with a length to width ratio of 3 to1, a convex stem, a nearly straight stern with little slope, a short keel, a conspicuous sheer line all the way from both the stem and the stern to the middle frame, and a camber ratio of such proportions that make the sides of the boat appear as if almost touching the water. This hull type has been nearly the most favored one in the Aegean Sea for centuries. It was once built in great numbers as the industry of sponge diving expanded. There are still a few tırhandils among the Blue Voyage boats.

Another hull form similar to the tırhandil type is theperama. Came in different sizes depending on the type of the job for which it was designed, the most distinctive feature of the perama was its forward-leaning straight stem. No peramas were ever built in Bodrum, but there were peramas among the transportation boats that the Cretan refugees brought with them. Among the boats in this museum, the one named Cumhuriyet is a perama. Another hull type that can be seen in the museum is theçırnık. Its very distinctive front-leaning stem and its long boom separate this type of boat from the others. Its short keel had once made this boat the favorite of the sponge divers.

Among the small boats, there are two types: thepiyadeand thebodi. The perfect length for a piyade type of boat is 7,5 meters, but they come in lengths varying between 6,5 and 8,5 meters. Its stem is straight and slopes forward. Its distinctive characteristic is the very small flat transom at the stern. The bodi type is a little shorter than or at the same length of the piyade, but it does not have the small flat transom. Used extensively by the Bodrum fishermen once, the bodi is a double-ender, but its stern is not as perfectly rounded as a gulet’s is.

The most famous among the boats of Bodrum is perhaps thegulet(goolet). The term gulet that comes from the same root as the French goélette and the Italian goletta used to define a rig type in the beginning rather than a hull type. In this regard, it is different from the terms given above, each of which describes a hull type. The gulet once described what the rig term uskuna describes today, that is, the schooner rig (a fore-and-aft rig with two or more masts, the forward mast no taller than the rear masts, using gaff or lug sails or a combination of both). Although the discussions about the origins of this rig type are still not over, it is generally agreed that it was first used by the Dutch and later improved and popularized by the North Americans. Sometimes used as a hull term as well during this time, this rig type arrived in the Mediterranean a short while after it appeared in North America. While some used the term uskuna or its versions to describe this type, some others preferred the term goletta and its versions. However, there are some indications that the North American schooner rig was slightly modified in the Mediterranean. Its transformation into a hull term probably happened in Turkey. That some of these schooner-rigged boats had rounded sterns was probably the reason for this transformation. Thus, the term gulet became equivalent to what the Greek term Karavoskaro described, that is, a boat with a rounded stern. In return, the rig that the term gulet described was named the uskuna.

The clipper stem and the round stern are the distinctive features of this hull type described as the Bodrum gulet, the hull type of the famous luxurious Blue Voyage boats of Bodrum. The search for a bigger cargo capacity and the need for a boat able to navigate in the stormy waters of the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean, led to this peculiar hull type by the local boat builders. On the other hand, the so-calledaynakıçhull form is simply another version of the gulet hull with a square stern rather than a round one. Whereas only the round stern type used to be called gulet in the past, today both types are described as gulets. Like the original gulet, the aynakıç version was, too, the result of the search for bigger capacity and larger deck space.

As the inquisitive ones will realize immediately, these old workboats came with various types of sailing rigs. Whereas basically one sail type, that of marconi or bermuda, and two rig types, the ketch and the schooner, dominate today’s blue voyage gulets, the workboats of the past used many different rigs during these years when the engines did not exist and, later, when they did, they were rare and not so dependable. One can see in the museum both the single and the double mast gaff rigs on some boats and the traditional double mast gaff-lug (randa-pıraçera) rig on some other boats. While the former can still be seen today on some gulets, though extremely rare, the latter does not exist anymore. There are two types of gaff rigs in the museum: the one with both the boom and the gaff, and the other one without the boom, just the gaff above, which was mostly used by the small fishing and sponge boats. In addition to these, there are two more sail types or rather rigs that do not exist in Bodrum’s maritime scenery anymore, but can be seen in the museum: the lateen sail and what used to be called the ‘tulum’ sail in Turkish (closest translation would probably be the bag sail) and the sacoleva in Greek, another indication of how close the maritime cultures on both sides of the Aegean Sea are. The ‘tulum’ rig comes with a mast inclined forward, a long spirit going up diagonally from the base of the mast and a quadrilateral sail occupying this area made up by the mast and the spirit, similar somewhat to the lateen sail. While the locations of the masts on the multiple-mast boats indicate some true schooners, most of what used to be called schooner/uskuna rigged boats used the 1/3 rule in the placement of the masts.

Today, this richness of hulls and rigs has left its place to the beautiful luxurious blue voyage gulets and a small number of tırhandils. The sponge, fishing and cargo boats of the past disappeared completely, replaced by the Bodrum Gulets designed to offer every kind of comfort with their spacious cabins and large decks, lengths reaching up to forty meters, combining the niceties of the modern life and the technology with the magnificent nature and shoreline of the Aegean Sea. It is a beautiful sight to see these wooden blue voyage gulets and tırhandils come together for the traditional Bodrum Cup regatta at the end of each charter season.

Prepared and written by: Timuçin Binder  

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