Husayin Coban

(by Giuliana Rogano)

Turkey, Amasra – May 6, 2015

Unexpected meetings are the most beautiful, are the surprises that the journey gives you, are the surprises of the Mediterranean, are the surprises of our project.

Half an hour after we arrived at Amasra harbour a bearded man, good looking, with a tablet in a hand and pointing at the screen, says us “Welcome on Amasra, Mediterranea! Murat Belge is my friend “. He shows Belge’s picture and the synthesis of the interview with him in Istanbul, on our website. He is Hüseyin Coban (*), a naval architect and founder and owner of the shipyards “COBANA Boat“.

On next day, in the afternoon, he came back with two friends/colleagues with a book on the history of the sailboats of the XVIII and XIV century Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea.
He tells us “Tomorrow, if you’re still here, why not have breakfast at my office?”. We already thought to stay in Amasra a day more, because it is really beautiful. “Perfect” we say, “it is a pleasure for us. Well, tomorrow at 10 o’clock in the morning”.

We have visited his design studio, many drawings of boats, mostly sailboats, many pictures, many books on the history and design of the boats. A table is prepared with so many goodies and lots of chai (turkish tea).
He shows us his website and its videos, its boats, about 50 in 25 years, and then slides all the pictures of Mediterranea on the screen of his PC. He tells us about his work, designs and builds wooden boats coated with three layers of composite material, but all made of wood, its unique patterns, ancient building techniques and new technologies. He started working in Istanbul on construction sites for the maintenance and repair of cargo ships. “It was not nice, I did not like it. I wanted to do something nice. I returned to Amasra and I started designing boats, all of wood. Then I started to build them. I called the best carpenters and I started to build my first boat. Now I have so many people working with me and 2 shipyards. Now, in the first shipyard, we are building a boat of 42 feet, the CsB42, and in the meantime, in Kurukaşile, we are working on a boat of 44 meters, the “Sirius“. Will you come with me to see these boats? “

What question is this? Do you think that we say “no”? Ready! we get in the car and we go.

Huseyin, as all Turks, is a generous man, kind, helpful, friendly, hospitable, proud and humble. Humble, yes! He is the best in his job, he confesses at low voice, there’s no one who designs and builds wooden boats. And then of 44 meters! He is one of the few in the world. The “COBANA Boat” goes around the most important boat shows in Europe and the world. Slowly, we begin to understand that we are in front of a true artist, architect, designer, engineer, builder of sailing, but also carpenter and sailor. A sailor, yes, because usually he sail around troughth the Black and Aegean sea.

The first stop is at home of his friend, so he says. We find that the man is working on a boat, it has wooden planks beside him, his face wrinkled, excavated, bright eyes and shiny. He is 80 years old and is a shipwrights. Even his father is. We have understand right? His father is?! Yes! The father is 106 years old. “This job extends the life,” he says smiling (Huseyin translate for us). He opens the door of a shed and shows us the boat that he is constructing. Madiere, keel, keelson, planking, neat, beam, stem, bull whole frame in a boat of about 7 meters. We wide-eyed look at it, touch it, do the questions, in Italian and English and he answers in turkish. He does not understand us and we do not understand him but do not know why in the end we all understood the meaning of it all.

We continue the journey by car and arrive in Hisarköy Koyu, the first of the shipyards “COBANA Boat”. Quiet harbor, men at the bar drinking chai, others are working at many, more or less small, wooden boats. The wood is everywhere. We stop in the shed of another carpenter who is building himself his boat. It’s amazing how many shipwrights there are still here in the province of Bartin. It’s amazing, really, how this craft has now disappeared in our country. And then we enter the hall “COBANA Boat” where, open the door, appears to our eyes the CsB42, wooden frame covered with three layers of composite material. I must confess, I had never seen a shipyard of wooden boats and this meeting today excites me a lot. The hull is now complete, just missing to finish it shows. Huseyin is almost excited as we are. He observes me, notes my joy. I touch the hull of Csb42 with my hand. “It’s iroko, wood of Africa,” he says. “Yes, nice wood, I know it, I’ve always liked, it is often used in homes .” A carpenters comes and brings me a smooth, well-polished platter “this is for you. This is made by the same wood of the boat, worked well.” Now, it is aboard Mediterranea.

After drinking a chai we continue the trip.

“Now we look at the big boat,” Huseyin says and smiles between mustache.
Why he is smiling? I understand it a little later.

We get to Kurucaşile. Stop the machine next to a shed really great. Huseyin opens the door to look inside, enters and closes the door. We still out. Then he opens the door again and we catch a glimpse from outside. We see a huge stern. We enter. A boat of 44 meters, the Sirius is here in front of our eyes in all its beauty and grandeur. It’s really beautiful. Here wood is yet in sight. A long, steep flight of steps leads up. We climb. “Welcome aboard”

We look curiously. We go down under the dinette, the cabins, the kitchen, the bathrooms, we go out again, the bow, the cabin crew. Let’s go back to the stern, the dinette outside, the corner bar. It is a three mast-ship, but they are not on, because it still takes a little to complete. “Sirius will be ready in a year,” says Huseyin. We ask the Turkish translation of some seafaring terms, the parts of the boat, “What’s its name in turkish? How you call the bow?And the stern?” – “As in Italian, the terms are Italian sailor, here the Genoese sailors came.” he tells us. It is obvious that it is not so, but he wanted in this way to emphasize the importance of the Italian ships in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

In the meantime I take pictures and videos, so he looks at me and smiles, “You’re a journalist?” he asks. “NO, Huseyin! I must remind all of this, five years of a sailing journey is a long time. So I’ll need to review the images and videos to remember these good moments. ”
He has understood my joy. He’s glad and happy, because we’re happy. He is proud of his work.
Thanks Huseyin, you made us a great gift.

Now we return to Amasra, but before we eat together. The return trip is all in silence, thinking about what we saw. Huseyin’s mobile rings continuously. For him, this is a day of work, he is a busy man. But he has dedicated this day to us, guests of his country, his city, his shipyards and there is no one except for us.
“Are you a man from the Mediterranean, Huseyin?” I ask. “Certainly. I am a man from the Mediterranean, because I build mediterranean boats“.

How much beauty there is in these boats, how much beauty in this work, how much beauty in this day and in this place. What beauty!
I want to do something nice.

* Hüseyin Coban is the founder of COBANA Boat and of Amasra Sailing Club and president of TEKKEONU-PIRIREIS, Cooperative construction of boats. He has carried out studies for the opening of the first “Anatolian Vocational High School for Wooden Boat Building” in the country of Kurucaş