“CRUNCH TIME! We have booked our “gulet” and I need to send a deposit right away. You have all given your commitments and I am going ahead on that basis.”

This email, red-tagged for ultra urgency, appears in my IN BOX on a wet November 27th 2009. The time for planning over copious bottles of plonk is over. No more “What-if’s.” Too bad if Fred breaks his leg playing hockey or Jane gets laid off, or the old furnace blows just before the May departure date. All 18 of us are on the hook!

A gulet began as a traditional, Turkish, two masted wooden schooner. An ideal design for fishing, sponging, cargo moving - Even plundering the odd Greek Island way back.

Today, the word “gulet” conjures up images of lolling around on richly upholstered deck cushions, sipping bubbly under a relentless Mediterranean sun. Pigging-out on delectable meals, served up on white tablecloths by impeccable, unobtrusive staff.

Stress? The only stress may come from choosing activities for the day. Perhaps a quiet bay for lunch? A swim? A nice snooze while the captain steams into a small village for a touch of carpet trading? Sound like an ad for “Freedom 55” or “Yikes ma we’ve just won the lottery?

Smart Turkish boatbuilders from around Bodrum and Marmaris spotted the potential back in the early ‘70s. With the promise of pristine islands, untramelled beaches and secluded bays a mere pitchers toss away, tourists began looking for boats to charter.

Before long, master craftsmen were beavering away with hammers, saws and chisels at beach-side shipyards to fill the demand. Monster vessels with shining wooden decks and luxurious en-suite, air-conditioned cabins started rolling from slipways into the sea. Each requiring a year or more to construct.

We arrive in the small South Western Turkish port of Gocek in dribs and drabs. Some had chosen to add side trips along the way. To get 9 couples to commit to a date for a dinner party is formidable. A commitment for 10 days on a boat, 7 months and thousands of kilometres away, is surely a non-starter? – Unless you have a skilled, no-nonsense, organiser!

May 24th. The Cemre 4, all 30 metres of her, sits at the dock gleaming in the sunshine. Her chef is wheeling the last of the supplies up the gangplank. Two boatboys are already fluffing up her cushions and polishing rails. Captain Hayati Arabali has just finished checking the cabins and greets us with a warm Turkish smile.

Two major issues have already been settled. A lottery for the choice of cabins. Extensive wine and beer tastings at the local supermarket to settle on the “poison” of choice. After all, cruising is thirsty work!

To avoid total inertia, it was decided that we would make two shore excursions each day and spend the evenings at anchor in a perfect bay.

For 10 days we: Explored The Lycian tombs at Myra; Joined the pilgrims at The Church of St Nicholas where the bones of “Santa Claus” have lain since his death in AD 343; Sang lustily in the ancient ruins of the theatre in Kas; Bought enough carpets to open a scad of stores back home!

We ate scrumptious dinners in deserted bays and shared empty white sand beaches with goats. We celebrated birthdays, wedding anniversaries and toasted our persuasive leader, without whom this experience would surely never have happened!

The cost for 10 days of living like millionaires? Around $100 per person per day. The verdict? “Where to next year?”


GETTING THERE: We flew Easy-Jet from London Gatwick. South Eastern Turkey is surprisingly well served by cheap UK charter companies.

BOOKING: Book direct and save commission. Go to this website for full details.

WRITER'S NOTE: If you can’t get the gang to sign up join a group by using a travel agent like or just by show up in Bodrum or Marmaris – The main ports of departure.

Turkey is a fascinating country: The Roman ruins at Ephesus; Cave hotels and churches of Cappadocia; Istambul, my favourite European city, is definitely worth a few days. Buses are plentiful and modern. Maybe rent a coach and a guide for your group? It is surprisingly inexpensive.



Copyright © 2012 Andrew G.P. Renton All rights reserved.