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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September

Blue Voyages along the spectacularly beautiful southwest coast of Turkey are summer dreams shared with the blue sea, green shores and star-filled night sky. Your boat is both friend and home during those magical days of long lazy conversations, delicious food, restful sleep and happy memories. We decided to trace the story of these boats and visited Recep Sökmen's boatyard in Fethiye. Here we found boats of different sizes at every stage of construction; some as yet only a keel, others a skeletal frame, and still others awaiting the finishing touches. Five or six young men between 15 and 25 years of age were working under the supervision of Recep Sökmen in the shade of a lean-to roof.

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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September

They were busy with saws, planes and other woodworking tools, and at first we could not understand how a handful of youths working with these simple tools could produce goulettes, ketches, tırhandils (fishing boats with both sails and oars) and motor yachts of up to 36 m in length. But when we listened to Recep's instructions we discovered how the mastr'se experience of many years enabled difficult and precise work to be carried out according to a simple logic, and saw that each of the young men was a skilled craftsman.

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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September
On one side of the boatyard, resting on thick logs, was an enormous U-section metal bar between 15-25 m long and 25-35 cm wide. This was a ballast keel, which gives stability to the finished boat. It is bolted to the keel, the lower half of which lies inside the ballast keel, over a layer of concrete and pitch. The rectangular keel is made of durable wood such as mulberry, pine and chestnut. This is the backbone of the unique Blue Voyage boats which ply their way in and out of the coves and inlets of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Lateral loads are carried by the curving ribs which form the hull and again are made of mulberry, pine or chestnut depending on the size of the boat and the preference of the master builder. The ribs form the shape of the hull, and are set at intervals of 17-22 cm. Each pair of ribs is a single member in a broad 'U' shape, bolted at the base to the keel.
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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September

The ballast keel, keel and ribs are the most important loadbearing parts of the boat, and must be made of durable materials, since replacing these if they are damaged is extremely difficult. Now it is time to build the outer shell from planks of wood such as pine, mahogany or teak. Each plank is 3-4 m in length, 4-10 cm wide and 2-4 cm thick. These are nailed horizontally to the ribs, each plank tightly fitted against the next and either nailed or glued together. If glue is not used the planks are later caulked, a process which consists of forcing finger-thick greased cotton fibre into the seams to make them watertight. The boat is now capable of floating, but lots of work remains to be done.

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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September
 

Tanks, plumbing, engine, gearbox, propeller shaft, and electric wiring must be installed, and if desired sails and rigging, generator, air-conditioning and other optional features. Finally it is time for the interior fittings and decoration of the cabins, showers and lavatories, galley and other living quarters. Making maximum use of minimum space is essential for every boat, and each area is therefore designed individually. Last of all is the job of painting and varnishing, and the boat is ready for launching. It is placed on the slipway and hauled stern foremost into the sea using steel cables. Once afloat the masts made of steel sheeting, aluminium or wood are fitted, and attached to the sides by steel cables that are stretched tight by means of lifting screws. The mast height never exceeds the length of the hull.

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Bound for blue voyages
2002 / September

Once accessories like fenders, lamps, lanterns, sails, ladders, tables and chairs are in place the boat is ready for years of seafaring. The engine is started, the ropes are untied, and yet another boat is off on its maiden voyage.



* Ugur G. Yalçiner and Veysel Cingöz are freelance writers.

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