Meet the… boat charter operator

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meet the… boat charter operator

My husband, Hakan, and I offer cruises on our luxury motor yacht, the Flying Fish

Most of the time we do private day and fishing trips but we also let couples and small groups charter us for a few days. A typical day on board would involve a mid-morning start, a cruise to some quiet bays for swimming, lunch followed by snorkelling, some fishing, a ride in the speedboat, perhaps a little snooze and then a final swim, before getting showered and ready for a sunset barbecue. Our aim is to give people the chance to escape the rat race and really relax.

I first got to know Altinkum through holidays and in 2001 I invested in an apartment here with a friend

When I decided to take a career break in 2005, it was the perfect place to come to. That's how, in 2006, I came to meet Hakan, when friends chartered his old boat. We got married in Altinkum - yes, on a boat! - in 2007 and now have a daughter, Hülya, who'll be two in August. On Boxing Day the same year, having decided to upgrade to a more luxurious craft, we travelled to Istanbul to buy the Flying Fish. Hakan, who has more than 20 years experience as a boat captain, then piloted it back down to Altinkum and we opened for business in spring 2008. Starting off on a tiny budget with Hakan's existing clients, we've managed to expand the business to what it is today.

Before meeting Hakan I had no boating experience whatsoever

My career had been exclusively office based! While I loved my job in London, working in the London HQ of a Europe-wide company was very stressful - I could probably count the number of lunch breaks I had away from my desk on one hand. Things are very different now. Currently I'm looking after Hülya fulltime, so I'm responsible for the land based operations of the business. This includes taking care of our website, banking and accounts, guest relations and marketing. Hakan runs the boat, assisted by one crew member. It's hard work - in summer he typically works 14-hour days, seven days a week!

Setting up a business here was a big challenge

The costs are quite low but the red tape is intense and the process is only easy if you're a bureaucrat! Being able to speak Turkish, or having someone with you who does, is absolutely essential and everything has to be done in person, by hand, at a particular desk, in a particular office and in a particular location. For example, before Hakan and his brother could sail the Flying Fish down to Altinkum, it took them a month to get the paperwork sorted in Istanbul. Then it took another few months - and thousands of kilometres driving between Didim, Izmir and Gulluk - to be able to launch as a commercial enterprise. Each year of operation we need to go through much of the same process again.

About 90 per cent of our customers are repeats and they are typical of the different types of people you find in Altinkum

These include: British and Turkish tourists, especially families; local companies wanting to treat their clients; couples celebrating special occasions, such as marriage proposals, wedding ceremonies, honeymoons and anniversaries; British and Turkish celebrities wanting to enjoy some peace and quiet; and international visitors who arrive on the cruise liners and want to experience the Aegean coastline close up.

We live in a two-bedroom apartment, a short walk from the beach and harbour, and close to the local school and shops

We have a large garden with shady fruit trees and a terrace, and our neighbours are a mix of Brits and Turks. It's usually just myself, Hakan and Hülya at home but in summer, just as Didim's population swells, so does ours! When not working we like to take the boat out, just the three of us or with friends, and do what our guests do while on board: relax, swim, eat
good food and enjoy the scenery.

www.didimyachting.com

Author

A Place In The Sun