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Cruising the Turkish Coast in a Gulet

In Turkish a gulet is a traditional wooden fishing boat converted for pleasure cruising. In English, however, words like "peaceful," "serene," and "stress-free" come to mind when I think of a gulet. Cruising along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean is relaxation at its very best.

The weather is sunny and warm, the water is clear, the coastline is pristine, the towns are charming and quaint, the people you meet along the way are friendly, the food is delicious, the crew is competent and fun, and the price is low. And yet, according to the crew of the gulet we rented for a week, very few Americans vacation this way.

Our cruise began at Marmaris on the West Coast of Turkey. Shortly after arriving by minivan from Ephesus we boarded the Seher Yeli, a 58-foot wooden motor sailer, and cast off for unknown waters. Our crew, Captain Cahit, the boat's owner, Mustapha, and the all-around gofer, Gurcan, however, certainly knew the waters as we motored our way toward our first anchorage. There are a variety of cruises available; our journey took us from Marmaris to Gocek with side trips to Dalyan and Fetiye. In-between stops were short trips to pleasant anchorages in quiet coves where we could snorkel, swim, sunbathe, or just do nothing. Our boat had four cabins with double beds and private baths, which accommodated the seven people in our group. The amenities were on the Spartan side, but certainly acceptable. A large banquette where we ate, read, played cards, or just relaxed and chatted filled the fantail area. Full-size, thick canvas-covered cushions, one for each of us, were scattered on the amidships deck; a bimini shaded the area. As we wended our way down the coast, we saw other gulets that appeared to be more luxurious than ours so there are many choices.

The water in this part of the Mediterranean really is a turquoise color and is incredibly clear '" you can see to the bottom in at least twenty feet of water. It is also the saltiest water I have ever swum in. I tried repeatedly to retrieve a shell while snorkeling in about eight feet of water, but couldn't due to the water's buoyancy. Ever-accommodating Gurcan plucked it from the sea's bottom for me. One of the nicest things about the cruise was that the crew laughed with us, let us help chart the trip, and cooked fresh fish for dinner that they had caught only hours before. But the highlight of our cruise was the trip into Dalyan. We hired a shallow-draft launch since our gulet would have run aground in the river leading into town. Way up high, overlooking the reed-filled river are imposing tombs, the facades of which resemble Ionic temples. According to our guidebook, the tombs were built in the 4th century BC by the Carians. The most amazing thing is that they are carved into the sheer rock face halfway down the sides of high cliffs, leading one to wonder at how they were built.

Happy and relaxed, we ended our cruise in Gocek, a lovely town lined with impeccably clean streets and colorful buildings. The town was so charming we wanted to stay longer. However, we knew that we had to move on to other magnificent sites and adventures in Turkey. The total cost of our cruise for two, including meals, was $700 for the week. This price is based on the number of passengers, and also includes: Crew, insurance, use of snorkels, fins and fishing equipment, and transfers to and from the hotel.
Bottled water and drinks were extra. Before we left on the cruise, we stowed sufficient Turkish wine, which is good, that we bought in a supermarket in Marmaris.

There are many websites advertising gulet cruises; just type in key words gulet and Turkey and you'll have lots of choices. Travel agencies in Istanbul and other major Turkish cities also advertise these cruises. In addition, guidebooks have information on how to arrange one.

Article written by Elaine Matthews

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