The Gulet, as seen by artist Suat Yurtalan ®
The Gulet, as seen by artist Suat Yurtalan ®
The Gulet was one of the most beautiful boats among the many that populated our seas in the age of sail.
La goletta fu una delle piu belle imbarcazioni fra le tante che popolavano i nostri mari all’epoca della marina a vela.
“Vele Italiane della Costa Occidentale” by S. Bellabarba and E. Guerreri
published by Hoepli in Milan in 2002.

Above is a Lebanese cargo gulet (pronounced as goolet) under sail. In today’s terminology that is in effect in Turkey, where gulets are still built, she would not be a gulet because of her transom and an external rudder. However, in the heydays of cargo gulets she was one. Here we have a ship of 100 feet or so. Here the gulet is Marconi rigged and therefore, the main boom is overhanging the transom by about 15 feet. Compared to the above example, the gaff rigged gulets have much reduced overhangs. Note the huge bow sprit and the “velene” or the staysails. Note also the tiny figure just ahead of the main boom gallows. He is the helmsman! And he steers this enormous vessel on a tiller! A well balanced vessel, indeed. Note her rather steep forefoot.
Image: H.M.Denham, The Eastern Mediterranean, John Murray, London, 1964

A cargo and fishing ship of the Mediterranean, the gulet has survived in the Eastern Med up to our days, and Bodrum is certainly the center for having a gulet built. Her lines have always attracted many a boat designer, including, for example, the famous British design house of Laurent Giles. Nevertheless, none of these boats come close to the flair achievable through the legendary shipwrights of Bodrum.

  • The gulet goletta as seen by Edouardo Guerreri

    The “goletta” as seen by Edouardo Guerreri. She is a two-masted schooner and, like with all schooners, the overhanging mainsail and the numerous jibs provide its main sailing drive. Its clipper bow, almost vertical under the waterline, is paired with, likewise, a clipper stern. Her flush deck emphasizes her exceptionally beautiful shear.

  • • However, not all glitter is gold, and so is with the gulet.
    There are many items to be considered before and during the construction and also while owning a gulet. I have highlighted but a few of the relevant points below:
    • Traditionally the Bodrum Gulets are made of “pine on pine”, utilizing the red pine (Pinus brutia Ten.) popular in our area. This is inherently not a very durable choice of wood, causing gulets to rot, particularly in the badly vented aft quarters. Shipwrights are more and more resorting to exotic woods like “khaya” or  “sapelli.” But even these woods cannot be used throughout the boat, certainly not in keel, stems, frames and stringers; these must be made out of more suitable timber.
    • Since almost no “crooks” are available any longer, the frames and the stems are now usually laminated. However, as the planks are still caulked in the traditional manner the resulting “hybrid” is not a satisfactory construction and consequently, the gulets may turn out to be humid and at times leaking boats.
    • Another matter is the use of galvanized iron nails, iron bolts and coach screws; bronze and copper are unheard of. The ferrous elements have a life expectancy of, say, ten or fifteen years. In fact, even before this period, the owner is forced to “refasten” the planks and, where and when this is not possible, to accept a leaking, “softened” boat.
    • In recent times, in order to squeeze in more and more paying passengers into the boats, very unsightly superstructures and unseaworthy flaring ends have been added to these beauties.

I could continue this list with many more items.

Ata Nutku Gulet
Ata Nutku’s Gulet “Çetinkaya”. Ata Nutku (1904 – 1994) was an eminent Turkish naval architect, interested among others in Turkish local boats. One of his projects was to improve the Turkish coasters (such as Çektirmes and Gulets), and thus to improve maritime transport on scientific basis and help evolve coastal vessels in order to resist against the then newly developing road transport. The underlying reason was to contribute to the family-wide operation of boats and to continue with small workshops and handicrafts. However, the Çektirme building was completely erased in the 1980’s. On the Aegean coast, the construction and operation of wooden boats continues thanks to tourism. “Çetinkaya” is a Gulet of the Black Sea and is different from our Bodrum Gulet. Source: İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi, Gemi Enstitüsü Bülteni, Türk Kıyı Tekneleri, “Çektirme, Gulet”, Ata Nutku, Ord. Prof, Ferhat Küçük, Y. Müh, İTÜ Gemi İnşaatı II. Kürsüsü, Türk Gemi Endüstrisi Kürsüsü, İstanbul, 1963


We would be pleased to assist and advise in the design and supervision of the construction of the finest of the traditional sailing boats here in Bodrum. We can confidently assure that you will end up with a jewel impressing, next to yourself, anybody with a heart for sea and sail.

Not everything that glitters is gold: Gigantic ships they are, yes, but poorly laminated and with already cracked wood, ferrous fasteners, a steel ballast keel envelope, rusting heavily, primitive painting…..already before launching. Therefore please contact us for our services fashioned in accordance with the CE standards and provided through the supervision of naval architects.

Gulets at anchor in front of St. John’s Castle
in Bodrum.
Further gulets in front of the Tepecik Mosque in Bodrum. Note the strongly flaring bows.

Gigantic wooden ships under construction in Bodrum

Photography and text by Yusuf Civelekoglu