Bodrum: Taking Zeus out to sea

Turkish gulets in Bodrum harbor. Photos by David Lansing.

We did our own little blue cruise today aboard a beautiful gulet called Zeus. The yacht’s captain, Yorgo, is a friend of Sidar’s (Sidar has a lot of useful friends, right?). Actually Yorgo isn’t his real name. That would be Selahattin. But everyone calls him Captain Yorgo. Which is certainly a lot easier to say than Selahattin.

Captain Yorgo, left, and Sidar on Zeus. Sidar always has a smile on his face--except when I take his picture. Then he prefers to look like a pirate.

The Turkish gulets are beautiful boats. Originally built and used by fishermen and sponge divers in the Aegean, the classic gulet is a two-masted wooden sailing vessel with a rounded aft and low-to-the-water profile. The fishing gulets Cevat Sakir wrote about in his book Blue Voyage were all powered by the wind. But these days most gulets (including the Zeus) are diesel powered. In fact, many of them aren’t even properly rigged for sailing anymore.

As we slowly motored out of Bodrum harbor you could see dozens—maybe hundreds—of gulets. Almost all available for charter. Like us, some of them were heading out to cruise along the coast on a day cruise, everybody hoping to find a quiet little cove where they could throw down anchor and then spend the day sunning or swimming in the clear blue water. It made me think of what it must have been like back in the mid-20s and 30s when Sakir was cruising these same waters, under sail, with his friends, the Bodrum fishermen. Throwing lines out and passing the time by drinking a little raki, smoking harsh Turkish cigarettes, playing cards. It sounds so simple yet so exotic, doesn’t it?

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