Replacement of the Keel

As mentioned in the main text, in 1992 I decided to replace “Faneromeni’s” keel for two reasons:

The first reason was that the iron old bolts (τζαβέτες) had been dangerously corroded and the second that I wanted to add ballast  into the keel to improve the vessel’s stability under sail.

The replacement was very successfully performed in the Kouperotis Shipyard on the island of Salamis. A new keel, made of single piece of wood, as well as a false keel with four pieces of lead ballast having a total weight of 1,000 kg (2.205 lb), was installed.”

But the decision to replace the boat’s keel was not easily made because of the difficulty and complexity of this task. Once I made the decision to go ahead and replace the keel I was faced with the next difficult decision: which shipyard would be the best for the undertaking.

My first choice was, of course, mastro-Pachos’ workshop. He and his son, Yiorgos, had successfully completed the restoration, and I had great confidence in their skill.

The fact that their yard was not directly on the water created an obstacle. In order to perform a keel replacement we needed a yard by the water.

We thought of finding a yard by the water where mastro-Pachos and Yiorgos would be allowed to work on the boat.

Finding such a yard was not easy. So I began a search. I went to several places in Greece where there were suitable yards: Syros, Samos, Patmos, Chalkidiki Peninsula, Kiládha in the Argolic Gulf, Aegina, and Perama in Piraeus.

I settled in the end on the island of Salamis and the Kouperotis Shipyard where “Faneromeni” was annually hauled-out and where the personnel had gained my trust. Moroever, I had the approval of Mastro-Pachos in this selection, although he would not be able to do any work there. And so “Faneromeni” was hauled into the Kouperotis shipyard and the work began.

The keel replacement made my hair grow white. Here is why:

After the old keel was removed, the garboard strake (the first plank after the keel) and the second plank were also removed. The boat was now supported only by her braces (timber tyings). Her ribs were totally exposed.

I was overwhelmed with fear when confronted with this sight. I thought that this was the end of the “Faneromeni” and that she will never float again. Knowing that this task was extremely difficult, I felt very foolish to have undertaken it.

“Faneromeni’s” old keel has been removed and her ribs are exposed.
This sight fills me with dread.

February 1992.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

At night, I lost my sleep with anxiety. By day, here’s how I spent my time:

I woke up every day at 5:00 AM and got ready to go to Perama. From Perama I took the ferry to Salamis, drove to the yard, and was there before 8:00 AM before any work started. I wanted to be present and observe all the details of the task.

We decided that the new keel, the garboard strake, and the second plank were to be fabricated in Iroko hardwood. I also wanted the keel to be constructed from a single piece of wood and not by two pieces joined together by a tackle, as is the usual practice. 

The drawing shows a keel made of two pieces of wood joined by a tackle.

Drawing by Elina Dallas.

The personnel in the yard told me that it would be difficult to find a single beam of Iroko wood of the necessary size for the keel, but that they would try their best to find it. After some time–and all the while I insisted that a single beam of such a size must be available somewhere–they informed me that they had tried all their sources and that they could not obtain the needed beam of wood. Following my own stubborn streak, I then undertook to locate the wood by myself. I began an endless round of phone calls—there was no Internet then—searching for the precious wood. After days of searching “from pillar to post” I located a wood merchant in Thessalonica who indeed had the “object of my desire”. When I announced to the shipyard that I had in fact located an iroko beam of the size required, they did not believe me. And they kept up their skepticism until the beam arrived by truck in Salamis and was unloaded in the Koupetoris yard.

The large iroko beam for the new keel on arrival from Thessalonica at the entrance of the Koupetoris yard on Salamis.

February 1992.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

After this the value of my stock rose in the eyes of the Koupetoris clan.

The next hurdle was to transform the large beam into a keel with the necessary notches for the ribs to fit precisely. It had to be perfect. This seemed to me an almost impossible task, and again I lost my sleep. Now the Koupetoris clan showed their mettle. They all worked together, the whole clan. They worked with eagerness to utilize their skills as shipwrights, skills accumulated over many years. Overseeing the work was the second generation, the able shipwrights Spyros Koupetoris, Dimitris Prasinos, and Yiorgos Karayiannis. From the third generation there were Mimis, Manos, Titos, and Dimitrakis Koupetoris as well as Yiannis Prasinos. By their hands the large beam was transformed into a keel with notches fitting the ribs perfectly.

I could not believe my own eyes.

I enclose a set of photographs that illustrate this task.