The sea is an endless resource provided for the human race. Todays civilization is based on the meeting of the endless mystery and human race. The day begins with the red sun rising above the deep blue sea at one of the most impressive corners of Anatolia.
Here is a sailors village where blue and green meet, Bozburun. This place is well known around the world with its schooners made by people who have reshaped the trees with their hands. Bozburun has been a residential area since the ancient times. It is also known as Bosprina. It is located in Datça peninsula surrounded by green mountains, orange and lemon trees. It is an alternative holiday resort where the life is based on the color blue.
The main sources of income of the resort are tourism and fishing. The main reason of Bozburuns the world—wide fame is the schooners which are the consequence of people endless effort, experience and creativity. The years have left deep lines on the people from Bozburun who give life to the trees. The most important component of the schooners is their being hand—made. It increases the importance of the experience and knowledge of the chief who works on the production.
Some characteristic features of the way of production show the schooners area of origins. It is not only the area, even the master who made the schooner can be identified from the details of production. The schooner production business is inherited from father to son in Bozburun. The beginning is told to be based on the Simi Island across the shore.
“We have been doing this job for 35 years. I have been doing it since I was 13—14. My granddad saw it on one of his vacations to Rhodes. He has learnt doing it by just looking but not practising. Later he applied on and we have learnt it from him.”
Schooner production starts with the project drawing taken by the order. The initial calculations are done carefully before construction process. The selection of the wood is the most important part of the schooner production. The trees are imported according to the project design. They are mainly mahogany which is pretty common. You can pick any type of tree though the cost depends on the type of course. The trees are bought as logs that are turned into planks. Later, they are dried and put in the oven.
The production process contains numerous difficult steps. The schooner masters work on their impressive artifacts 1 or 2 years according to the length of the boat. The development of the technologies has caused ultimate changes in the production process. The only thing which has ever been changed is the beginning of the story.
The drawing of the project and the selection of the wood are followed by a very difficult process. The production starts with the construction of the keel, which is called carina, and the skeleton of the boat. Skeleton is fixed by the screws. There is only one main element to put the models necessary to finalise the main construct together; the experience gained throughout the years by the eye of the schooner master, named Akif tells the story of the process.
“In order to start constructing of the boats, the models are prepared according to the length of the boats. The models for front and back sternposts and keel are made. Some sort of iron constructs called centreboard are made under the boats more than 12 meters tall. Those constructs are made heavier by concrete and place inside the keel by pinning with bolts.
Later, the middle posts are prepared. The middle posts are usually the models made according to the length of the boats. We usually draw them on the material that will be used and nail them exactly like the shape of the middle post and tie in the middle. Thirdly, we start to shape the boat. We use our experience we gain by looking at the boats for years. Then, we carefully inspect the boat in order to detect the defaults.”
The most important part that separates schooners from the other boats is the stern called ayna (mirror). The expertise of the human hand shows itself during the production of stern. There are different techniques to make schooner. Although the system called masonry, used in Ottoman times, leaves its place to laminate systems, it is still consider as the most durable and cost saving technique.
The surface of the schooner is covered after the ribs were placed. Later caulking starts. The contact with water is being cut by driving the strings made by tar and fiber between planks and plates with steel wire nails. Later the surface is covered by a kind of cement formulated at the Ottoman times. This increases the life time of schooner by decreasing the effect of water. Man tries all the ways to provide longer life to the tree that he has cut.
The captain says:
“After checking the post part, now we are looking at the completed boat. The caulking is started now. The aim of this part is to cut the connection between the water and the boat. Actually, that helps to extend the life of the tree. The areas that the caulking applied are covered by mastic. Later, a special mixed is prepared to cover the whole boat. The special mix is made by the tree abstract — resin. Later, the mix is covered by some special mastic and the painting of the boat starts.”
There is another technique to build schooners which is costlier than the traditional one. In this technique schooner is built by laminating with epoxy. As the post maintenance costs are much cheaper, this recent technique receives more attention these days. Boat producer named Halil prefers this technique…
“In the old boats, the rowlocks were cut—off. They used to be cut according to the shape of the boat. It was followed by the caulking. To land the boat every year used to be a necessity for the maintenance. The rowlocks and the bottom of the boat are made by using the new technologies. They are pasted layer by layer with epoxy and strongly clamped.
The outside of the boat is covered 4—5 times with fiber. The top is covered by epoxy which becomes the paint of the boat. You don’t have to land the boat every year with those techniques. You can even land them once every five years. For instance, the old boats used to live for about 100 years, nowadays boats can remain for about 200—300 years.”
After covering the skeleton with strips, the exterior surface of the boat is covered with fiber. The interior construction of the boat starts only after the finalization of the construction of the surface of the boat which has direct connection with the water. The decks of the schooners are designed according to purpose of the usage and to meet the need of the daily life.
As the schooners are used generally for tourism purposes, the back of the boat is designed for eating and resting while the front deck is mainly for sunbathing. Although these modern boats still have the traditional looks they have more modern accessories and equipment comparing to the old ones used for the fishing and transportation. The bedrooms and the baths are designed to have the closer comfort to home. A 26 meters schooner would have one master and at least 8 cabins.
There are boats about 30—40 meters tall. At the moment you can see 40 meters tall wooden boats. However, the coasts increase as they become taller. The annual maintenance and the hoisting out costs are increased as well. A boat which is suitable for a family to sail around can be around 18—24 meters tall. The boats taller than 24 meters become a little bit luxury and more suitable for charter. A cabin could have size of a room of a family house. There is no limit for sort of things, you can even buy gold door handles.
When the sun raises high, all the boat masters disappear. Some goes for a lunch break some stands next to the sea, source of their life. The voice comes from a masters hammer disturbs the silence of the lunch break. Everybody is at work at the shipyard The shipyard workers do not work only to build new schooners. The old schooners from the last summer are brought back to the shipyard for maintenance. The captains, who are the owners of the schooners while they are on the sea consider their boats as their children and give them to the masters experienced hands by the end of summer season.
Here another tired schooner comes back home after tough summer season…
These boats come from all over the world are going to spend winter in Bozburun shipyard. When the summer comes they will go back to the sea. The maintenance is as important as the production. The bilge of the landed boat is emptied first then boats are sandpapered and left to dry out. The surface of the schooners cracked because of the water is renewed. Later, the wood of the surface is protected by caulking as the production process.
“When the boats come here first, they are placed on the slips side by side in a special order. Our job mainly concerns the outside of the boat as you can see. The bottom of the boat which called centerboard is cleaned from the stain completely. The rest of the boat is cleaned similarly with the spirals. If you paint the boat before cleaning it completely, there can be blisters and deformation.”
“Therefore the boat can be defected in 3—5 months instead of remaining 2—3 years. That means you wasted your time. The defect show itself in 3—5 months depending on the condition of the boat. We usually work on a boat 3 weeks on average. It, of course, depends on the weather. Because we work during the winter, even the rain prevents us working sometimes. We have to wait until it stops.”
The schooners are taken to the sea, the place they originally come from, like brides after dressed up by the paint workers. As the sun set in the sky the voices of the hammers, sandpaper and whipsaw left its place to the voice of chess players. The moves are calculated very detailed as in the boat making.
As the last lights of the sun leave the shipyard, schooners start resting in the sea waves. Some cannot stay away from the scent of old wood comes from the shipyard, some boat masters find themselves in Bozburuns village cafe. The old schooner masters still have things to teach to the new generation. The occupation, descents from father to son, master to student, seems to provide enough for the families in the future too.
“When the keel and timber were formed, I took care of the vessel every second until her ending. As I saw her final status, I threw a glance at her and “Master Leyla” I said. You are “Leyla Sultana”. She laughed at me. She went as I put her onto the sea. Now, how does she swim in the open sea?”
“I am an old boat. Full with life and memories. I take offense at neither the load I carried nor the wars I have seen or the fishes fallen at my deck. With wind beating against my sail, waves smashing into my hull, whose life is full of storms, I am an old boat. I am old enough at least as sea…“