Living In and Around Fethiye

Fethiye Boatyards

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 as you pass by the absolutely charming gate sentry at the Jandarma HQ and venture on through to the far side of Karagozler, 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 kizak 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 reckless scooter riders who choose to ignore their warnings risk 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 a 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 definitely do what he says!

Approaching the boatyard from Fethiye. It’s well worth a stop and wander up and down the road.
Winter is a busy time here. Most of these berths are empty in summer.
Currently one of the largest in the yard at just under 40 metres long, this substantial vessel was the runaway winner of the ”Best Blue Propeller’ award.
Driving through a full boatyard.
Getting ready to pull a vessel up the slip on the right and into the boatyard on the left. You can see the hauling cable lying across the road. When taut, these cables can be chest-high! Note the numerous scrape marks across the tarmac.
Sometimes, prows and sterns from opposite sides of the road meet overhead. I took this photo looking directly upwards. This is usually a fish’s eye view. Or a great big shark’s. ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat!’
Peering through a veritable forest of sturdy props. At least there’s plenty of places to shelter in the shade when it’s sunny.
Cosmetic giants, Garnier, have launched a new skin-tone exfoliating mask to deal with all those troublesome blemishes. Barnacles can be tough buggers to remove but…
…pressure washing is the way nowadays.
The feature photo the the top of this article shows the finished product whereas this shows what you’re dealing with after a busy summer season’s cruising. I hope they’ve bought plenty of Brasso to polish up those propellers!
I came across any number of dangling legs like this as I wandered around.
Two friendly faces taking a break. They’re sitting on an empty kizak, one of many steel sleds used to support the boats while they’re drawn out of the water.
A distant Fethiye seen between vessels of all shapes and sizes.
Lunch break.
‘I’m sure I put my hammer down around here somewhere.’
Bottom polishing. This may sound like a great career path, but it’s a hard, dusty, physical job.
Curving ribs resting on an iron keel create a graceful symmetry. These vital components are laminated and built up by bonding thinner strips together. As far as I can tell, each is cut and shaped by eye. That’s a skill.
Home made ladders. This is a place where you find a lot of men staring up!
Fitting a new mast.
Summer resting on her kizak. This network of capstans, pulley blocks and cables allow her to be manoeuvred in any direction. She hasn’t been out of the water long – her hull is still damp.
This strange-looking blue and yellow motorized boat lifter has been driven down the slip and out into the water on its chunky caterpillar tracks. It’s actually quite a big machine but, like an iceberg, almost all of it is underwater, allowing this catamaran to be be brought in and manoeuvred into the correct position above the submerged cradle. Hydraulics then lift the vessel, allowing it to be brought up onto dry land. The operation is controlled from the cab but the hardy guy in swimming trunks has the most important job – he dives down under the vessel to ensure it’s in the correct position before lifting commences. Even in Fethiye, the sea’s got to be almost as cold in February as it is in Skeggie, so give that man a well-deserved mug of hot chocolate!
The entire delicate operation, as you would expect, was overseen by the real boss…
…while his loyal foremen are always alert and on the job!

First published for Fethiye Times February 2022