Thinking about chartering in the Mediterranean this summer? Turkey offers some amazing experiences at charter prices far lower than most in the Western Med. Our charter aboard the 98-foot motorsailer Clarissa is a good example.
A charter onboard the 98-foot Clarissa in Greece
and Southwest Turkey is like cruising into history with all of today’s modern comforts
By Kim Kavin
As I walk through the ancient, stone-walled city on the Greek island of Rhodes, I realize that I have no real history. Or at least that I don’t like my own time in history, now that I see it a bit more for what it is.
There is such solid beauty in the centuries-old, pebble passageways on Rhodes, all of it marred, if
not forever scarred, by the cheap trinket shops that
now fill every stone archway and corner. I feel the same way about the no less than seven (seven!) cruise ships docked in the nearby harbor, ready to assault this old stone fortress with thousands of fat-walleted tourists who buy T-shirts and then quickly leave.
All eyes aren’t on them, though; they’re on Ilona, the massive motoryacht docked a few hundred feet away. She is certainly a modern thing of beauty, but she suddenly seems so ephemeral to me, like the wares in the trinket shops on shore. Ilona’s profile is gorgeous against the ancient stone-walled city, but she certainly will not last for centuries herself. Heck, she might not even make the list of the Top 100 biggest yachts in the world just a year from now.
These are the thoughts swirling in my mind as I walk past Ilona down the dock to Clarissa, a far smaller but, to my eye, just as beautiful 98-foot yacht built in traditional Turkish motorsailer style—a gulet that, on this day in this place, looks almost like a throwback to a simpler age.
In another time, say a half-century ago when gulets were carrying cargo everywhere along these shores, I probably wouldn’t have noticed Clarissa at all. But today, I appreciate her for what she represents: the best of the old and the new in a timeless charter destination.
An Owner’s Vision
Clarissa’s owner is a Danish businessman who chartered a gulet in Turkey for vacation about ten years ago with his wife and young children. He remembers being inside, holding his baby in his arms, while his 3-year-old daughter, Clarissa, played outside on the foredeck with her nanny.
“All of the sudden the deckhand was yelling,” he recalls. Clarissa had fallen into the sea.
“We didn’t see it,” the owner says. “I jumped overboard and started swimming. It was open ocean, and she was only 3 years old. I saw her, and she was lying in the water with her face down. She was okay, but my wife had a breakdown. It was a nightmare.”
He and his wife really enjoyed cruising—in fact, they wanted to sail around the world on a gulet—but the experience left them understandably nervous. And so after looking at gulet after gulet, trying to find one where they felt comfortable, they began to build their own, called Clarissa, in the Turkish town of Bodrum.
“I visited 54 times from Denmark,” the owner recalls, explaining how he bought a house for the 18 craftsmen he flew in from all over Turkey to work on the boat for two full years. “I had everything shipped in and certified in Denmark. She has the look of a gulet, but her hull is built to Lloyd’s [top insurance standards]. She is very safe.”
The family cruised onboard Clarissa all over the Mediterranean and then across the Atlantic Ocean, staying in the Caribbean for a year before sailing back. He earned his 1,000-ton captain’s license along the way, and his wife earned an engineering designation so they could make sure the boat and crew were operating properly. Today, they use Clarissa three or four times a year and offer her on the charter market the rest of the time.
Their continued personal interest in the yacht accounts for her high level of maintenance, with lovely African and Turkish mahogany varnished to offset the Burmese teak accents throughout. That the owners are so involved with the boat also speaks to the quality of her systems, which are built to international standards. She has MAN engines, Onan generators, and 316L stainless steel—high-quality items that can be difficult to find on other gulets built in Turkey. He spent $1.8 million to build Clarissa, with the job ending in 1999.
“Today, you can buy boats this size that have the same look for $1.2 million,” he says. “But in two years, they won’t look like this. Everybody says it is the same, just look at the pictures. But it is not at all the same.”
Having seen more than a few of the gulets available for charter in Turkey, I must agree. Clarissa may have all the charm and style of a classic gulet, but she is a modern motorsailer—well worth a higher weekly rate if quality and safety are among your priorities when choosing a charter yacht in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Cruising into History
If history is also among your priorities for a charter in this area, then don’t limit yourself to Greece alone. Its Dodecanese Islands, including Rhodes, are certainly interesting to see, but they’re also right next door to the southwest coast of Turkey—which I personally found more dramatic in beauty and just as filled with archaeological adventures to enjoy ashore.
There are a few things you need a reputable charter broker to help you with in arranging a Greece-to-Turkey charter, including border-crossing taxes and logistics. But in my opinion, making the extra effort is worth it. My memories from southwest Turkey are just as good, if not better, than those I have of Greek islands like Rhodes.
One Turkish excursion not to be missed is a flat-bottom riverboat tour up the Dalyan River near Ekincek Bay. Our host for that tour, Abedin Kurt (shon in the photo at right) of Sardes Travel, brought our 36-foot riverboat right up alongside Clarissa in the nearby harbor so that we could board easily and enjoy a scenic cruise on our way to the river itself.
Once up the river, we were treated to a walking tour of Caunos Archaeological Park, which includes the remains of a 5,000-person Roman amphitheater as well as a basilica and bathhouse. And, a bit further up the river after a little more cruising, we got to see the 3,000-year-old Lycian rock tombs that are carved into the sides of mountains in stunning relief.
“Wherever you go in Turkey, you step on history, right
on top of culture,” Kurt said. And he’s right—both onshore and onboard a charter yacht like Clarissa. It’s a fascinating place full of interesting gulets, some, like ours, with unique histories of their own.
I’m happy to have had this particular charter experience as part of my own personal history, for sure. It’s unique in the worldwide charter market, and I learned as much about myself and my own culture as I did about Greece, Turkey and the creation of one fantastic charter yacht along the way.