Boats afloat: all you need to know about gulets and yachts
To come to Bodrum Peninsula is to come to within constant sight of the sea, and therefore of the many yachts and boats that line the harbors and move in and out of your view. Every village bay holds gulets, motor and sailing yachts alongside the local fishing boats. The sea is a permanent presence in the life of Bodrum and its craft a constant lure to explore the waves.

In this article you will learn:

Building Bodrum’s famous boats

A leisurely stroll along Bodrum town’s inner harbor reveals a panorama of every size, shape and purpose of boat. A first time visitor is entranced by the great, polished hulls of the luxury gulets (traditional two- or three-masted wooden sailing vessels) lining the harbor side near the Bodrum Castle. You will see them in different sizes from 50m to 10 metres in length, with anything from 16 cabins to one or two most with their own bathrooms, and certainly, with facilities and kitchens aboard.

On the opposite side of the Bodrum Harbor from the Castle is the private Milta Marina, where the large motor yachts and private use gulets are moored. Here too lie the modern sailing yachts privately owned or rented/chartered out for the keen and qualified sailors or under the guidance of a skipper. The picture is repeated in the harbors of the larger towns Turgutreis and Yalıkavak where modern marinas have grown beside the local harbor and town center, where visitors, new and old residents love to have their own boat moored close by, or access to sail away to capture that wonderful carefree freedom of being on your own boat on the sea.

How can you achieve that dream? One sage piece of advice applies — try before you buy. According to Eren Baki, managing partner at Bodrum-based Cobra Yacht, there are two types of potential boat buyers: sailing enthusiasts and motor yacht fans, with more than 70% of all being the latter. “The sailboat owners know what they want and what they’re investing in, the motor yacht owners usually don’t. They are looking at the interiors, while the sailing boat owner checks the engine, the musts,” Baki told The Guide Bodrum.  

İçmeler Ağanlar Shipyard

Two out of four yachts built by Cobra last season were sold to private buyers. It is not uncommon that frequent renters end up purchasing their charter. “Getting a boat is a 2-year marriage and you have to choose your partners wisely. At the beginning everything is perfect, everyone promises a bright future to each other, but at the end there is 50% chance of divorce,” Baki humorously explains. The reason behind that is, in most cases, the cost. “I never commit to building low-budget boats because at the end both parties are unhappy. For example, if I say 3 million euros and someone else says 1.5 — what they’re trying to do is to take the first payment and then slowly increase the budget.” 

Those numbers might seem outrageous to an average spender, but taking into consideration the time, effort and materials that are being used to build a yacht, everything starts falling into place. “These are all custom-made boats build for a client, so the profit margins are very low, 10 to 15%. And if you make a mistake, the margin goes down,” says Erdem Ağan, CEO of Bodrum-based Ağanlar group of companies. “It is a long project and you lose your motivation along the way; the owner is fully motivated during contract signing but not as much one year later.” 

Ağan openly admits that short-term refitting projects are better for business. “They take four to five months, but when we deliver it to the owner, the boat is always in better condition than it was before,” he says. Yacht refitting or maintenance are services provided for the A+ segment customers, who want to get it done right away. “The quality and time are important; clients don’t accept a no and you have to work quickly and professionally.” The company has the capacity to deliver on a promise: Ağanlar currently employs 120 people, but with winter subcontractors the total labour force numbers go up to 400-500 people.  

Ağanlar’s first shipyard in Bodrum

In İçmeler, Ağanlar stands out among the crowd not only in terms of size but also experience. The company, set up by Erdem Ağan’s father Erol in 1961 was the first one to move into the area. “My father started to work at the age of 11 as an apprentice of a very well-known master Ziya. During that time, in the late 1940s, there were only three or four people building boats in Bodrum,” Ağan explained. When the city began to develop, the shipyard moved from the castle area: “During that time there was no connecting road, they used to come to İçmeler with row boats every day. No electricity, no running water.” 

Looking at the Ağanlar shipyard today, it is hard to believe this is where they came from. At the end of this year’s boat building season the shipyard was filled with no less than 150 megayachts. Erdem Agan’s office is overlooking one of the production yards — with an already impressive skeleton in the middle. “We build it with excessive labour but in the last four years we didn’t have any so it stayed like this,” he explains. Every year the company launches one boat over 24 metres since it’s “good for prestige,” and thanks to such projects the company puts itself on an international radar. Kestrel — Agan’s particular pride that was featured on the cover of Yachting World magazine and chosen best boat at the Antibes Boat show — was constructed for 60% less than if the process was taking place in Europe. “Our quality is very high but the brand value isn’t there yet,” Agan said explaining why many boat buyers choose the more expensive, European manufacturers. “Some people just want to tell others they own a Ferretti. But if they do the research, they come to us.”

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Made in Bodrum

The real cost of luxury

As glamorous as it might seem, owning a yacht is not for everyone. When posed the question about the advantages of owning a gulet, Dave Stanley of Southern Cross Blue Cruising chuckled and said “The cheapest part of owning a boat is the purchase!” Having bought the classic small gulet, Southern Cross Timer, more than ten years ago, he has once again had to employ a Bodrum shipyard. There, she has spent the past winter under the hands of carpenters and crew, who are installing a new teak deck, and replacing the deckhouse. He might be forgiven for speaking of the happy pain that boat owners share when he says, “When you think about buying a boat, or a gulet, you have to ask yourself will you own it privately, never to charter, or own to charter to cover running costs, or actually try to make some money on it?” In his opinion gulet ownership will rarely make a lot of money – it is something to enjoy as a unique business in a unique and mostly friendly industry, and sometimes you even get to enjoy your own “free holiday aboard!”

What is the general guideline for breaking even or making a profit when putting a gulet out for charter? Stanley researches the business side of gulet owning and chartering and, having tracked the changes in costs and profits over the past ten years, he now estimates that a gulet needs to be chartered for ten weeks before it is a break-even proposition. He applies that guideline to all sizes of gulets, from economic to ultra-luxury, as the costs and the charter fees are at the same scale. Once the charter returns have reached break-even point, then on the high-end gulets the owner will make more profit.

Azimut Magellano 66

However if the charters don’t reach that point, the luxury and ultra-luxury gulets will cost a great deal more to run and maintain. At the other end of the scale, the smaller gulets will not take so much in profit-making charter fees, but will cost less to run if the charters don’t add up to cover costs.

Stanley lists the costs to consider: maintenance, crews, mooring, registration and licenses, the compulsory drydock (for gulets) every two years to take out of the water and maintain the wooden boat, and says it could easily cost a small 18-meter gulet TL25,000 for one winter. It takes money to look after your yacht, so chartering is a method of ensuring that investment is protected and maintained. However chartering has to be considered and operated as a business, either by the boat owner or the owner company or delegated to a charter broker.

Back in Bodrum Bay, despite all that work and cost, Dave Stanley glows with pride when looking over his own classic gulet gleaming with new varnish and woodwork, and pointing out modifications made during the winter maintenance. He is looking forward to the next “free” holiday, when he tells the captain to pull up anchor and they check out of Bodrum Harbour for a sail escape to small bays on the nearby Greek Islands. Now that is the advantage of owning a gulet, or indeed any yacht!

Magic Carpet Cube yatı, Wally Yachts

International yacht companies in Bodrum

As the only high-capacity space for megayacht mooring in Turkey, Yalıkavak Marina is the hub for luxury megayachts with space for 69 megayachts 40 meters or more long among its 710 berths, plus technical service in its fully – equipped boat yard. It is also a center for entertainment, with a plethora of dining, drinking and nightlife venues to keep everyone – from land or sea – happily occupied.

Going for motor power

Ask a yacht broker about the ratio of sales of motor yachts to gulets or sailing yachts, and you will get an answer such as this: “ Powerboats, motor yachts are without out a doubt the main sellers, and the majority of the boats available, not just on the Turkish coast but all around the world,” Sinan Paul Suleiman of the Fraser Yacht Bodrum office at Milta Marina told The Guide Bodrum.

David Özgündüz loves his life as a traveller and as the owner of a 11m/35’ motoryacht which is kept moored in D-Marin, Turgutreis where he has his home and business. Therefore he has use of his boat for approximately eight months of the year. He gets a lot of enjoyment and use out of it, and that it is quite a high-powered motor yacht for its size. Two 200 Hp engines giving up to 17mph speed class it as a ‘speedboat’. Özgündüz is regularly motoring along the coast or checking out from the Turgutreis customs port to motor over to Kalymnos and other Greek Islands. He has sailed before, and enjoyed it. “Boating is a case of needs and wants, and how much time you have. Sailing takes more time, and if owning a sailboat, for the longer term it is a more pragmatic, economical decision rather than owning a powerboat,” he said. 

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Powerboats are, of course about speed and power, and for those who simply do not want to sail but rather be on the water, powerboats are the choice. It is also simpler to be owner-captain of a small-medium powerboat, or to hire a captain to prepare the boat for the time needed for actually getting out and about around the coast, sharing with friends and entertaining guests aboard. According to Özgündüz, “powerboat ownership is a lifestyle choice, so buying is guided by what the prospective owner wants out of the boat. Is it high performance for daily use or for cruising and how far?  How much use is planned for the boat, and how much accommodation is required. If extended stays aboard are planned then cabin size and fittings are a major consideration. Will the owner and guests be entertaining aboard? Do they want a fly bridge? What luxury touches do they want on board, and how many crew?”

Gulet Master

Özgündüz recommeds for the prospective owner of a powerboat that they must consider the financial aspects, so haves to start with the idea of not only how much they want to spend, but how much to maintain the powerboat for its life. There is the question of depreciation of its value, much like a car, so the place to start is whether to buy new or secondhand.” However the car analogy stops there. He says: “Boats are far more complicated than cars to run, and so much more can go wrong with so many different mechanical and electrical systems included in the boat, plus the fresh water and waste water systems. There are also the regulations to consider, many are applied under the International Maritime Organization. Some of the main rules concern the universal duty of keeping the seas clean, by not littering or dumping wastewater in the sea. The IMO rule forbids dumping of wasterwater withing 3 km of the coastline, any coastline, which makes it imperative for boats from Bodrum sailing into the Aegean to have waste systems installed and to use the registered discharge points.” 

In Turkey the Blue Card is required on every motored boat. It is installed to monitor the proper disposal of the yacht’s wastewater or the ‘black water’ at Marinas and public harbors.  Boats are checked, as recently proven by a 12,000 TL fine imposed by the coastguard on a boat found cruising off from Turgutreis without a Mavi Kart. 

Özgündüz believes that one of the limits of ownership of powerboats on the Bodrum Peninsula is the limited number of berths available in the local marinas. There is great demand, which also results in prices being driven up.  However, it is possible to negotiate long-term yearly contracts for berths after the first year of berth rental.

Azimut 72 Flybridge

Charter the high seas

How can you achieve the dream of having a boat of your own? One sage piece of advice applies – charter before you buy. Chartering is the technical term for renting the yacht, which stands for both renting with crew or renting a “bareboat” without crew (if at least one of the renting party is a competent sailor), or with a skipper to sail. On a bareboat, the charterers supply and cook for themselves, and clean the boat. For crewed yacht charters, usually for bigger boats, the rental party arrives to a fully provisioned vessel. During the cruise they simply sit back in the sun, dine or swim, while the crew provides food and drink service, cleaning and navigation. Learn more about yacht chartering and best yacht charter companies in our article.

There are boats to fit every budget, or every shared budget. However, finding the right gulet or yacht among the 2,000 registered boats in Bodrum and along the coast is the most difficult part of charter preparation. Based in İçmeler, Cobra Yacht began its operations as a charter company and progressed to become one of the area’s major shipyards. With A-list clientele onboard, they make sure the charter services they provide are impeccable.

“Foreign visitors want authentic experiences,” Eren Baki said, highlighting the historical heritage aspect of ‘blue cruises,’ as well as foreign interest in the local culture. On the other hand, there are other visitors who simply want to get away – such as one of Cobra’s former clients, who paid Euro 70,000 for a two-week charter, only to spend the whole time alone, reading books.

Ace, Wally Yachts

As so many gulets are in single or family ownership and very few use management companies, the place of the middlemen or the charter broker is crucial. “A good charter broker tries to be impartial,” says Fatih Öztarakçı of Guletbookers, “but must respond to what the guest wants to do in their gulet holiday. I drive up and down the coast from Fethiye to Bodrum looking at gulets and meeting owners and crews. All charter brokers must know their gulets well.” He also must keep up with clients’ needs.

“It is not uncommon for a charterer to make an offer to buy the boat after a cruise!” Öztarakçı reels off a list of gulets sold in the last few months starting with the high-endInfinity, made by Cobra Yacht, including their classic Palmyra and the small and neat sailing Ayaz.
Bareboat companies work on a very different model from gulet charters, where management of privately owned sailing yachts is a large part of the operation. The yachts are moored, serviced and chartered for a return of the investment back to the owner, using a world standard model. As Elaine Akalın of Yıldız Yachting explains, all of their yachts are privately owned by individuals or in partnerships with other people, and only a few of the yachts are owned by Yıldız Yachting.

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Cobra Yacht

Bareboat yacht charter companies

  • Aura Yachting – Aura offers those aspiring sailors “solutions for making the most of yacht ownership.” Yalikavak Marina, Bodrum; T: 0252 385 54 77 or 0531 862 54 09;
  • Frankonia Yachting – For German speaking clientele. Turgutreis D-Marin, T: 0533 744 71 36;
  • Guletbookers – Independent yacht company based in Bodrum. T: 0533 956 99 42;
  • Sea Song Tours – Offers tours on a handcrafted wooden gulet around Bodrum Bay, as well as custom tours around Turkey. T: 0212 292 85 55;
  • Yıldız Yachting – Office in Bodrum, with 17 charter yachts based in Orhaniye and 20 in Fethiye. T: 0252 313 20 28;

Cruising the best routes around Bodrum

The cruising coast of Turkey is universally acknowledged to be the long stretch of indented coast from Antalya to Bodrum. It is a fascinating coast with many bays, rocky coves, wild place and forests down to the seas where sheltered moorings on the anchor are plentiful, peaceful and delightful. They are perfect for making sure that the noise of the world and its troubles are a long, long way away.

Bozburun Yat Külübü
  • Fethiye – Kaş – Kalkan – Demre: A vista of turquoise seas and rocky bays backed by the panorama of the mighty Taurus Mountains, where the mysterious Lycians left the fabulous sarcophagi littered in the water and hills. Kaş and Kalkan are charming small towns worth a stop and an explore, and have excellent restaurants.
  • Fethiye and Göcek share a wonderful gulf and the Twelve Islands so popular with day cruises also, but in the evenings there are plenty of moorings for everyone in the green forested coves. Göcek is a popular port being  a mere 25 mins from the Dalaman airport.
  • The green coast of Göcek – Marmaris can include a stop at Ekincik, and a possible side trip on river boats up the Dalyan river past awe-ispiring rock tombs, the charming village of Dalyan, the sulphuric mud baths on Lake Köycegiz shores, and the return to the long sandy beach where the loggerhead turtles nest in early summer. You may well see one of the large turtles out to sea.
  • Cruising from buzzing harbour of Marmaris westward takes the yacht around the long rugged peninsula of Loryma complete with intriguing ancient ruins. Ancient sites and small villages vie with rocky hills and patches of forest for special views. Sail into Bozburun, with a possible side trip to the Greek Island of Symi, if the customs post is open for the summer, otherwise cross from Datça town.
  • Between Datça and Bozburun are the beautiful bays of Selimiye, Orhaniye and Bencik, and Hisarönü itself- which gives its name to that beguiling Gulf , an area that is a great favourite with every yacht cruise.
  • The long, thin Datça Peninsula with forests, high mountains, and crystal clear waters is reputed to have the cleanest air of the Mediterranean, while the small villages and many almond and olive groves give more hints of healthy lives lived there. The small beaches and bays have the most glorious turquoise coloured sea. It is hard to leave for the next anchorage.
  • At the very tip of incredibly rocky steep shores lies the remains of Knidos, the once splendid city of 2,000 years ago, heart of the cult of Aphrodite, and perhaps of loving life too. Theatres, stadiums, harbours tell tales of folk living beside the twin harbours where boats of old sheltered and traded.
  • Turn north around the Knidos Cape, they say, and you sail into the Aegean from the Mediterranean Sea. The long, deep, green Gulf of Gökova is where the first gulet cruises of the 1950’s ventured away from Bodrum exploring along the northern coast, discovering deep sheltered bays such as English Harbour, Löngoz and Seven Islands on the south. A cruise cannot miss a stop at the fabled Cleopatra’s Island, before turning home for Bodrum relishing the wind in the sails. 
D-Marin Turgutreis

Day cruise routes

Many visitors to Bodrum enjoy their first cruise on a daily boat trip on the small gulets in Bodrum Harbour, where they may buy a ticket to be on a shared cruise or better still enjoy a private hire for the day.  The day cruises may take guests to the furthest island possible at Orak, or around the undisturbed shores of Black Island to Poyraz Bay, Rabbit Cape, or west to the Aquarium, Bitez Bay and Camel Beach. It is all great fun to have a swim, a snorkel, sunbathe on the boat and dine on fresh food with the salt, sun and sea breeze. Daily cruise boats also depart from Yalıkavak, Turgutreis and Gundoğan harbours to explore their part of the Peninsula coastline, where there are still quiet coves off Kudur Peninsula, Paradise Bay and the small islands offshore to snorkel and swim around from the boats. From Turgutreis to Torba is also the popular coastline for short or day trips by motoryachts, not matter what size, perhaps to swim or to get around from Yalıkavak to a Turkbükü beachclub, or a Gümüşlük restaurant. 

Dropping the anchor around Bodrum

  • D-Marin, Didim – 37° 20’ 26’’ 37 N, 27° 15’ 34’’ 19 E;
  • D-Marin, Göcek – 36° 45’ 10’ 01” N, 28° 56’ 39’ 6” E;
  • Ece Marina, Fethiye – 36° 37’ 29.85” N, 29° 6’ 6.54” E;
  • Marmaris Yacht Marina, Marmaris – 36° 49’ 05” N, 28° 18’ 32” E;
  • Martı Marina, Marmaris – 36° 45’ 30” N, 28° 08’ 30” E;