To get to be the first to sail on a brand new boat is a privilege. To enjoy her maiden voyage, an even greater joy.
Our ride was the Vicem 107, the largest in this company’s classic line. Her name, voted upon by Vicem’s workers, is Moni, which in the Laz dialect of Turkey refers to the evil eye, a ubiquitous good-luck emblem in this nation. This shakedown trip, from Marmaris to Bodrum, was designed to wring out Moni as we delivered her to her home port for the season.
The roughly 100-mile journey to Bodrum at 10 knots took about 10 hours to complete. We traveled within the Turkish cell-phone coverage area and ducked in toward the coast to pass north of the Greek island of Simi. Sea conditions were smooth, with just a long swell left over from some earlier storms, and Moni handled it well — rising, falling and gently pitching in seakindly fashion. The coast’s rocky and steep landscape, scattered with trees and sparse green vegetation, looks barren from the sea. It gives the impression of having been bleached by the hot Mediterranean sun. Looking out to sea from here it’s easy to imagine another age, even as far back as the time of Odysseus. Then as now, the sea here would have been full of vessels sailing to and from what are now the Greek islands and the nearby mainland of Turkey.
Close to Simi the scenery changes. Here small houses are built up the hillside in clusters. In case that implies dense habitation, let me hasten to add that most of the island is uninhabited and as sparely vegetated as it must have been during the Bronze Age. Sailing past Simi and hugging the mainland we notice patches of brown, bare soil dotting the bleached hills, but the steepness of the terrain quickly dispels any notion of fertility. It is dramatic and undeniably appealing, with a wild feeling long missing from our mostly overbuilt world. Yet all too soon the signs of civilization return: more and more houses and a gently undulating line that indicates the location of a road along the coastline.
We stopped once, anchoring in an idyllic bay close by Marmaris, called Kumlubuk and home to a yacht club of the same name. Ashore, the countryside is a riot of early summer color, and the aromas of wild herbs were as much a joy to the nose as the vista was to the eye — fresh sage, wild oregano and pine are just a few examples of what we found. Dinner was served on the terrace of Hollandalı Ahmet, a delightful restaurant on the water’s edge.
Back aboard, I had a good look at Moni and marveled at the workmanship. She’s a composite vessel, built from cold-molded mahogany in one of the company’s three manufacturing plants in the free-trade zone of Antalya, in southwestern Turkey. She’s a modern-day testament to the age-old tradition of wooden boatbuilding, where craftsmanship is king. While many may argue that using vacuum-bagged cold-molded wood is nothing more than a standard composite construction technique, others will swear that it is at the pinnacle of wooden boatbuilding methods. It is only when talk turns to hull weight that the traditionalists begin to lose ground. Although cold-molded hulls weigh the same as, or less than, conventional GRP examples, the most sophisticated carbon fiber laminates and many resin-infused hulls are lighter. Our host, Sebahattin Hafizoglu, is chairman of Vicem, and his yard on the Bosporus was among the first to embrace blending traditional skills found in the construction of the Turkish gulet with emerging cold-molded wood-and-epoxy techniques. Pestered by local resorts and businessmen clamoring for anything he could build, he started Vicem. Twenty years later, the wider world, and in particular the North American market, have come to recognize Vicem’s great-looking designs and superb craftsmanship.
That artistry is evident in the 107’s main salon, which is traditional in its style, yet the light-handed touch of the designers has given it a contemporary twist. Wide open on two levels, a sole of sapele planks runs fore and aft with the wide boards pleasingly offset. Mahogany bulkheads are darker than the deck. Large side windows and an overhead covered in a light textile ensures that the space is not dark or cavelike. An L-shape sofa to port is finished in a pale mouse-colored suede and separates to allow flexible seating arrangements for five guests. Two low coffee tables on red-pattern rugs and two small matching side tables complete the picture. One step takes you up to the dining area, where a walnut table comfortably seats eight and can be expanded to seat 10. The bulkhead between the dining area and galley cunningly conceals a wine chiller and racks for stowing bottles. The multimedia entertainment locker houses an Apple TV, which may discourage conversation at dinner, and a Sonos sound system.
Lots of natural light streaming onto a central stainless-steel countertop floods the portside galley, where Gaggenau appliances await the chef. Opposite the galley is a day-head set beside a glass-wall staircase leading to the lower deck. Here we find the master suite aft, the VIP forward to starboard and a pleasing double to port. On the starboard side is a pair of double-bunk cabins, which is ideal for the kids. Cabins are arranged along a light-color companionway with plenty of headroom.