The Journal of Blue

The Journal of Blue

The year is 1925… Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (1890-1973), renowned as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus (Halikarnas Balıkçısı), was sentenced to three years of confinement in Bodrum for his article titled “How Those in Prison Who Are Sentenced to Death Go Knowingly to Be Hanged” and published in Resimli Hafta Magazine on April 13, 1925.

At first, it is not easy for him to accept to live in exile for years in such a place. However, this place, which is in the middle of nowhere, is Bodrum and as soon as they arrive, all dark clouds begin to lift. The fisherman pursues the beauties of the place where he was sent into exile and discovers before everyone else. He looks at the Aegean Sea from Bodrum and starts his blue adventure with these lines: “The day was a blue light now. So blue, that a man would open his palm to the sky to gather the blue and wonder why his hand didn’t turn blue.”

Do not rest in peace but live

He begins to strive for Bodrum where he admires every season and every corner. “You don’t rest in peace but you live in peace in here,” he says for Bodrum. He fishes, sponge dives, guides people in Bodrum. He does not give up writing and explains the characteristics of this region in his articles. He surrenders to the blue, he finds freedom in the sea he sails. Thousands of years old gulets were sailing in the same blue then. Fisherman, who laid the foundations of the blue voyage in Bodrum, opened up to the blue with a drive of discovery. “I resembled the city to Aphrodite a little. In the early hours of the morning, she was born white from the sea. The sun was holding her by the arms and taking her out of the sea.” This is how Cevat Şakir, the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, recounted his first encounter with Bodrum in his book “Blue Exile” (Mavi Sürgün).

An invitation to the blue

The Fisherman wants his friends to see the sea and the untouched bays that he explored with the tirhandil he called “Yatağan” because it careened nicely in the wind. The Blue Voyage exploration trip started under the guidance of the Fisherman for the first time has become a ritual, a passion that continues ever since to widespread. A letter arrives from Bodrum to Sabahattin Eyüboğlu, Director of Translation Department of the World Classics Series of Ministry of National Education in one of the spring days of 1945. Since it was still a place of exile at the time, there was no road to Bodrum and it was only possible to reach here from the center of Kuşadası or Muğla by horses or donkeys. This letter is an invitation to the blue voyage. Let’s listen to the next part of the story from writer and translator Erol Güney’s first blue voyage narrative, which takes place at the beginning of the book “Blue Voyage Notes”, the diary kept by Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu on his blue voyage:

“We’re in Ankara, early summer. There is a very hopeful ambiance in the city. The war is over, the United Nations is established, everyone is talking about democracy and multiparty elections. Right then, the Director of the Translation Department of the Classics Series of the Ministry of Education and my best friend Sabahattin Eyüboğlu entered my room:

– I have an offer for you.

– What’s up, I wonder what it is?

– I got a letter from Cevat Şakir from Bodrum. He says to gather a few friends, come south, see what beauty is. The Fisherman has already told me about such a trip, but time was not appropriate. Now it seems to be the right time for such a trip. I talked to Bedri, he’s already accepted. How could a painter not? Now I’m asking, can you come, too?

– Of course, do I miss the opportunity to see the south and meet with the Fisherman in person?

– Yes! So find another person, we should be eight or ten, we share the costs, it’s cheaper for everyone.”

And the team was organized that day…

The voyage and the beginning of a tradition

The Fisherman is about to realize his dream, entertain his friends, but there is an obstacle; transportation. A solution is found; the Fisherman and his best friend Paluko, sponge diver and octopus hunter, go to İzmir by their sailboats to pick up their first blue passengers. A delightful team is ready: Sabahattin Eyüboğlu, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Sabahattin Ali, the poet Fuad Ömer Keskinoğlu, Erol Güney, his childhood friend Benya, Necati Cumalı and the Fisherman of Halicarnassus who knows the blues like the palm of his hand… The Fisherman and his friends discover untouched coves, impossible to reach through the land, explore archaeological remains that have never been noticed before, do research about the long-standing history and past of Western Anatolia, meet the marine culture.They adopt a lifestyle that fits the spirit of the blue voyage. The traditions of this first expedition from İzmir to Gökova create the basis for others. Cheese, water, sea biscuits from İstanköy, and bait to fish… They did not read the newspaper; they did not turn on the radio; they slept at the deck; they fished… While the foundations of the blue voyage were laid, production did not stop; poems, novels, articles on ancient cities were written. For example, the poem titled “Paluko’s Sail” (Paluko’nun Yelkeni) was written by Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu on the boat…

Blue notes

Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu begins keeping a journal for the trips in his first trip and has 12 journals kept for different years. His son Mehmet and his daughter-in-law Hughette Eyüboğlu kept the archive of Bedri Rahmi very well for many years and put together the paintings and unpublished poems that had not been displayed before, and brought them together in the Blue Voyage Notes. Published by Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Publications, the Blue Voyage Notes is actually a diary enriched with painting, poetry, and writing. A striking assessment of the past and present of the blue voyages is a comment made by Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s son Mehmet Eyüboğlu, who is no longer alive today: “I think, here is the most important difference between the old and the new Blue Voyages… Passengers of the past had their hearts and minds full, but their wallets empty. Now the wallets are full but hearts…”

Cannot be replaced

The beautiful sea of Bodrum, which Homer calls “the land of eternal blues”, its bays, its history with all its glory are in place; however, we can only remember those naive days of the Blue Voyage nostalgically.   That passion for the sea and the lifestyle which settles down with what nature has to offer no longer exist; there are tour boats that fill the bays… Still there is no other way of traveling that can replace the blue voyage. Nothing can replace the feeling of washing your face with sea water in the morning.