Written for Fethiye Times and with photos by Mike Vickers
Feature photo above: With a freshly-painted red bottom and shiny polished bronze propellers, this lady’s ready to return to the sea. Love the coat hanging from one of the blades
If you take the only road through central Fethiye, carry on past the amphitheatre and marina, wave to the charming gate sentry at the Jandarma HQ as you pass by, and venture on through Karagözler, you’ll eventually reach the Fethiye boatyards. Tucked away at the furthest point of the bay – and therefore the most sheltered from the sea – these yards are in an ideal location for the manufacturing, launching, and maintaining of traditional wooden boats of all shapes and sizes.
There are actually two boatyards here, both accessed via the peninsula road. You can’t really miss them. Apart from the sight of boats propped up all over the place, the road actually passes through the first yard and because of this, you may occasionally find your progress temporarily halted by a vessel being hauled across the tarmac on a massive steel sled, known as a kızak in Turkish. Thick hawsers drag these heavily-laden sleds out of the sea along a temporary track of oiled timbers by powerful capstans very firmly bolted to the ground. The shipwrights stop the traffic during these operations as the quivering cables are drum tight and often at chest height, so any reckless scooter rider who chooses to ignore their warnings risks decapitation! Frankly, any Health and Safety inspector would have kittens!
The boatyards are much busier in winter than summer when all the day boats and gulets are out working. In fact, only very recently I saw a truck drive through town heading for Karagozler loaded down with two very large and very shiny brand new marine diesel engines. Winter’s definitely the season for modifications, servicing, bottom-scouring and repainting, and the place positively hums with purposeful industrious activity.
So, here’s a collection of photos I’ve taken over the years showing some of the different aspects of the boatyards. Because of the continually changing nature of their work, with craft constantly in and out, the photos I took a few days ago are indistinguishable from those I took over a decade ago. For an ex-engineer land-lubber like me, it’s an endlessly fascinating place populated by highly skilled men who, by eye, take bare timbers and planks and shape them into lovely jaunty vessels. It’s well worth a visit next time you’re down that end of town, and if a guy’s standing in the middle of the road telling you to stop, then my advice is to definitely do what he says…
This article, as well as many more on life in Turkey, can be found on my website: mickvicktravels.com …