A Legendary Boat that Binds Two Nations
Istanbul is defined and surrounded by water; the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Late in 1932 our own Hiawatha, a 50-foot motor launch built by American Car & Foundry in Wilmington, Delaware, arrived in the world’s only city to straddle two continents to support the U.S. Mission to Türkiye. Hiawatha went to work, shuttling America’s envoys from one side of Istanbul to the other as well as meeting U.S. ships as they arrived in port. With a single captain, Naci Gülten, for its first 50 years ending in 1982, Hiawatha became one of the best known vessels on the strait. Now, 90 years later, the Hiawatha – much like Longfellow’s romantic ode for which it was named – has become legendary. Hiawatha is the oldest and longest-running ship of its kind sailing from the Golden Horn, passing İstanbul’s iconic sites.
The plucky vessel, brass fittings gleaming, became a constant American presence as the ancient city grew into a modern metropolis. Today we celebrate Hiawatha’s storied history as we look to secure her future.
Turbulent Times Test Hiawatha
In the 1980’s, Hiawatha hit choppy waters due to federal budget cuts; when Istanbul’s first bridge spanned the Bophorus in 1973, the practical need for Hiawatha diminished. Energetic Consuls General, Bill Rau and Tom Carolan, worked with the Consulate’s employee association to save Hiawatha from risking the auction block. Then in 1989, a terrorist group, aware that Hiawatha symbolized U.S.-Turkish friendship, firebombed the boat. Badly burned but still sound, an extensive renovation under the expert direction of philanthropist Rahmi Koҫ, with whom the Consulate has had a lengthy and steadfast partnership, saw the Hiawatha beautifully restored and returned to service.
After 90 years of elegant diplomacy on the Bosporus, the Hiawatha needs help.
With a spirited character and American flag snapping in the breeze, Hiawatha has survived many trials to continue inspiring Istanbul’s ship-spotters and those lucky enough to view the Bosporus and Golden Horn from her gently rolling deck.
Her annual running costs and maintenance requirements cannot be covered solely by user fees: To keep Hiawatha in prime condition, ready to thrill future generations of Americans and Turks as an enduring envoy of friendship, an endowment of $2 million must be raised This will carry Hiawatha to its 100th anniversary and beyond, ensuring:
- Annual maintenance to the high standard required for a historic vessel;
- Routine refits every five and ten years on a predictable, professional basis; and
- Continued, ongoing support to America’s diplomatic efforts in Turkey.
Please consider contributing to this legend as she sails toward her centenary of diplomatic service!