All About Gulets

Modern day gulets (pronounced goo-lets) are hand-crafted wooden boats designed and built in shipyards along the southwest coast of Turkey, exclusively for leisure and enjoyment. Design-wise, they have low profiles, making them very stable in the water (terrific if you're prone to sea-sickness) and well-suited for exploring shallow bays and coves where larger boats are unable to venture.

collage of sailing gulets

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Functioning like floating hotels, Turkish gulets come with an infinite range of options – from the most basic 1-star hostel to opulent, 5-star, ultra-luxury accommodations, and everything in between.

All Turkish gulets feature private cabins and bathrooms, combined with plenty of shared living space on deck for meals, sunbathing and otherwise relaxing. But that's where the similarities end. Customized features include anything from basic air-conditioning to surround-sound theatres and Jacuzzi hot tubs. Whatever amenities you need, there's a gulet to suit your needs.

collage of people relaxing on Turkish gulets

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The Evolution of Gulets

As recently as the early 1970s, people who wanted to explore the splendour of the Turquoise coast by boat had to have access to a private yacht, or sail aboard a fishing or sponge boat. It was an "either / or" situation – you could cruise in the absolute comfort of the rich and famous (provided you yourself were rich and famous, or were friendly with someone who was), or you could rough it on a working boat with few creature comforts. There were no options in between.

Fortunately, as more and more people discovered the joys of leisurely sailing Turkey's picturesque coastline, savvy ship builders in the Bodrum area modified their working boat designs to better suit the needs of travellers from all walks of life. And thus evolved the modern Turkish gulet.

Gulet Construction & Maintenance

Turkish gulets are now constructed in numerous shipyards along the southwest coast.

Master craftsmen employ teak, mahogany, oak and other hardwoods in the construction of these sturdy wooden yachts. Pine is sometimes used too, as it is a less expensive option, but the softer wood does not last as long as its hardwood counterparts.

The construction process - which has been used since the 1800s – is called "plank on frame" and is similar for all gulets – whether fancy or plain. It can take more than a year to build a single gulet!

When a wood boat is first launched (or re-launched after lengthy time in the shipyard), it is not uncommon for it to take on some water (i.e., leak). Assuming the caulking and plastering have been done correctly, the leaking stops within a few days as the dry planks absorb water and swell tightly together.

Gulets are exceptionally safe boats, but regular maintenance is required to ensure their on-going seaworthiness. Each year, the hull must be carefully inspected for leaks. Damaged timbers must be removed and replaced. Barnacles must be scraped off (the parasites bore into the wood, potentially damaging the integrity of the hull). And caulking, plaster, and paint must be re-applied as necessary.

A well-built, well-maintained Turkish gulet can last for decades. But even a few years of neglect will lead to a wooden boat's speedy demise.

collage of people enjoying various water sports

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Boat Safety

Commercial gulets in Turkey undergo annual inspection by the Harbour Master, including verification and testing of their navigational and safety equipment - including fire and smoke detectors, life jackets, life rings, life rafts, fire extinguishers and other fire fighting equipment, and safety flares.

Fire is the biggest threat to these highly varnished, wood vessels – so smoking is never permitted inside the boat. Some gulets allow smoking on deck, but guests are cautioned to be particularly careful when doing so. The gulet's crew will advise you of all safety rules and protocols before departing on a cruise.

Sailing on a Turkish Gulet

Gulets are classified as motor-sailers because they are powered by one or more engines, which can be supplemented with sails. In actual fact, they are not very efficient sailboats because of their massive size. But, if you're not in a hurry to get to your destination, it is an incredibly peaceful experience to bob along the sea powered solely by the wind.

One benefit enjoyed by gulets with sails is the ability to stabilize in rough water. With the sails raised, the vessel is less prone to chiming (rocking back and forth) when waves hit the hull from the side. To ensure the most comfortable cruise holiday, nervous sailors, or those prone to "mal de mer" should confirm whether their boat has working sails before booking. (Surprisingly, not all gulets are equipped with sails. And, even more surprisingly, not all gulet captains and crew are knowledgeable about sailing!)

collage of gulets anchored in peaceful bays around Turkey

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Blue Cruises

From their humble beginnings in Bodrum, these purpose-built leisure boats have slowly permeated into the rest of the Mediterranean, and are now popular with holiday makers in Greece, Italy, Montenegro and Croatia. Often referred to as "Blue Cruises", gulet holidays combine all the elements of a seaside resort getaway with the chance to travel and explore a variety of beautiful locations along the coast. We can't imagine a nicer way to vacation. Can you?