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Report from the Marmaris Charter Show

marmaris charter show 2009

marmaris charter show 2009

The docks here in Marmaris, Turkey, are positively packed with charter yachts for this week’s industry-only boat show. Typically, there are about 40 to 50 charter yachts on display. This year, there are about 60–and I’m happy to see reputable brokers here checking them all out. In this market, you really can go right or wrong in very big ways when it comes to choosing a charter yacht. You have to be careful and work with knowledgeable, reputable people when it comes time to book.

Historically, Turkish gulets (the style of sailing boats in the photograph above) have had a reputation for being of lesser quality than “proper” charter yachts in the Western Mediterranean and Caribbean, specifically in terms of boat construction and crew service standards. Every time I attend this boat show, I am reminded that some gulets in Turkey still have a long way to go. The local fleet has definitely improved in recent years–and some gulets are as nice as motorsailers that you’ll find in any other country–but there are still a fair number of gulets that, while appearing to be a good deal on paper, actually look as though they are falling apart when you step aboard in real life. There are definitely some boats being marketed here as luxurious when, in fact, their guest cabins rival the rooms at roadside motels.

The only way to tell whether you’re getting your money’s worth when booking a Turkish yacht is to work with a broker who has been here, gone aboard the gulets, talked to the crews to see if they really do speak English as advertised, tasted the food prepared by the chefs who claim to cook international cuisine, and so on. Sadly, precious few brokers fit that description, especially with economic times being bad and travel expenses being costly. Only four U.S.-based brokers, for instance, are here this week (according to the show organizers): Missy Johnston of Rhode Island-based Northrop & Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters, Rikki Davis of Florida-based Rikki Davis Worldwide Yacht Charters at Churchill Yacht Partners, Beverly Parsons of California-based Interpac Yachts, and Mary Crowley of California-based Ocean Voyages.

They, like the attending brokers I have seen from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, certainly will have the inside scoop on which yachts are ideal for Turkish charters this summer–when there is lots more availability than there has been in years past. Each of the gulet owners and managers I spoke with today said that they are booked, mostly by repeat clients, for the most popular summer month of August, but that their calendars are fairly well open in June, July, September, and October. That’s highly unusual this late in the year.

“We have three weeks booked so far,” one owner of a lovely and successful charter gulet told me. “Normally by this time of year, we have 11 weeks booked.”

All reasonable offers are thus being considered, especially for charters in September and October, several management company owners said. (One actually told me: “Please write that we are taking price requests.”) That means there are bargains to be had in a destination that is already considered one of the best chartering values in the world–and where the yachts that are of the highest quality really are quite beautiful with great food and well-trained crew.

I’ll have more from the Marmaris docks tomorrow, including photos from lunches and dinners onboard some of the nicest gulets, to give you an idea of what you can expect if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities to charter in Turkey this summer.