For love of a boat – Kalkan 2010

The purpose of this series is to observe the small, traditional working boats that are still out there.

And to do so without being too sentimental – times change – the world moves on.  Most of the boats I am looking at will have disappeared within a generation.

However,  it’s not just the boats that are disappearing.  There is a human element to this.

Local skills that have evolved over many lifetimes are being lost in favour of shorter-term technical skills designed to serve a blander, more uniform world – one that demands quicker and quicker solutions. I am not knocking  technical skills – I am using their product as a write.  However, the fact is that within a remarkably short time (years? no . . . months) this laptop will have been superceded by a more technically advanced unit. I will never really get to grips with this one because it will not last long enough for me to master it. It’s the speed (and, often, shallowness) of this continuous innovation and change that is the problem.

For each one of us, trying to keep up with change puts a permanent pressure on the deeper human values that bind individuals, families and communities. We have to continually adjust. The pressure will always be there. It’s the failure to acknowledge it that’s the mistake.


For example, this boat moored in the harbour of Kalkan.

How many men did it take to build it – one, two? How many men fish from it – three? How many people will it feed? Not many.

It has a small engine, but the thole pin positions would indicate a time before the engine . . .

Four nets are ready to set . . .

In the early evening, two men come out to lay the nets – one to work it, one to man the oars . . .

Early the following morning, they come back to bring raise them again, bringing an extra crew member . . .

Now there is now one man to raise the net, one to clear and stow it, one to steady the boat with the oars . . .


I hope these men will forgive my intrusion on their work, but their’s is part of a story that runs deeper than my images show. Like many people, they live in an area where the local skills to build a boat, to work with it and to make a living for their family is becoming less viable.

Tourism is now sweeping along this coast, and with it an infrastructure of villas, apartments and restaurants plus the inevitable increase in living costs. Local craft is caught up in the need to satisfy a universal demand.

I appreciate the economic benefits of tourism. For many, it is a good thing. A lifestyle becomes affordable that was never there before. But deeper down there is surely a change of identity as local attitudes are reshaped to cope with the new commercial reality.

As far as fishing is concerned,  the tourist industry needs all the fish it can get to cater for the fickle tastes of  the visitors – but on such a scale that the viability of the smaller boat is compromised.

Now bigger boats with their enormous nets moor snugly in the same harbour – travelling further, catching more fish, more often.

This is a worldwide phenomenon – the number of places where small scale fishing is still viable is decreasing, and with it the boats and the skills of the boat-builders. It is not necessarily that people find it a dissatisfying occupation, it is because it is more and more difficult to make a living from it.

I wonder if the young man on the tiller will be available next year to help the gentleman (his grandfather?) . . . or will he like so many others be swallowed into the tourist industry?

If I’m sentimental, it’s because the character of those that built and worked them are reflected in their boats – together with the coast they serve. I remember admiring such men when I was a child. Perhaps they still exist here. They are certainly less in evidence. As I say, priorities have changed now and with them a whole set of attitudes.

The friendliness, hospitality and sheer goodwill of those we met in the Kalkan were outstanding. We really enjoyed our time there as we have in so many parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean.

I wish these men in their fine boat good fishing.


For the origins and full set of images in this series, here.

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