The Story

The desire to own my own boat came very early in life.

From early childhood I was dreaming of owning a boat.

But the only boat that I could realistically acquire was a canoe, and at that time-the decade of the 50’s-a canoe cost 300 drachmas (about $20). For a long time I went to sleep and woke up dreaming of my canoe. I never realized this dream.

But later, when Byron, my younger brother, and I were still in grammar school, we decided to construct our own boat: a raft.

This drawing of the raft was made by my childhood friend Tasi Papaioannou.

Operation Raft began in the winter months.

At that time, in Voula, the seaside suburb of Athens where we lived, the power company was installing new wooden electrical poles. This gave us the idea that we could use the poles to construct our raft. So we decided to appropriate some of those poles and move them home.

But there were three big problems:

* The posts were too heavy to be lifted and transported by two young boys.
* The whole transport operation had to be conducted during the night, away from prying eyes.
* Everything had to be done when our parents were away from home.

And so one night we harnessed our dogs and with the help of some friends we dragged home the electrical poles. Finally, after we had enough of the necessary material, the shipbuilding commenced.

It was summer when the construction was at last complete. The raft now had only to be transported to the sea. We then realized that, even though our house was not far from the sea, the raft was extremely heavy to move.

So a new plan was devised. The plan called for mobilizing the whole gang of friends and once again harnessing the dogs, like slaves. The dogs pulled and the friends pushed. Progress was slow: one meter every 10 minutes. It took the whole day to cover the 200 meter distance from our house to the sea.

However, that day was one of the most significant days of my life… It was indeed one of the most significant but also one of the most disappointing.

We did transport the raft and we did launch her at the place called Kokkinos Vrachos (Red Rock). Today the restaurant Bo is located there. At that very spot my father had made a small breakwater where he moored his small fishing boat. Further out to the sea, my father’s larger boat, the Samiopoula, was in her mooring. The raft floated well. Everything was terrific. All the friends who had helped climbed on her, and she became a submarine. The whole crowd was ecstatic!!

The next day we woke up at dawn so that we could take her for a sail, but… the raft had been stolen.

It was a dream come true, but it lasted only a few hours…

If I could have found the thief, I would have killed him.

Needless to say that whole summer was spent searching everywhere for the raft. After that tremendous disappointment, I became determined that when I grew up I would get my own boat.

At the age of 15 I visited the island of Hydra.

There I met the American explorer, diver, and writer Peter Throckmorton, considered by many to be the “father of underwater archaeology.” Throckmorton wrote widely on the subject of underwater archaeology; perhaps his best-known work is The Sea Remembers.

He had then lived in Greece for many years and was the owner of a traditional Greek Perama caïque (wooden boat) called the Archangel.

Peter Throckmorton's Perama type caique, Archangel.

From Sam Low's website.

While in Hydra I visited Archangel, and I was so impressed by her that I told myself that when, one day, I do get my own boat, she will have to be a traditional caïque.

From that day on, and for many years, I waited to realize my dream: to own an old and traditional boat and to cruise the Greek seas with her.

One day it came true.

At the end of 1986, Thanasis Dritsoulas, who was aware of my desire to own a caïque, informed me that there was a Perama (Πέραμα) caïque for sale on the island of Poros. She was owned by Yiannis Kakouris, a local captain.

In March of 1987 Thanasis and I went to the island of Poros to inspect the caïque for sale. I fell in love with her at first sight. Without delay I became the seventh owner of the perama “Faneromeni.”



At the bow of “Faneromeni,” Yiannis Kakouris, her sixth owner, with his then wife, Maria. The picture was taken just before I purchased the caïque.

Poros island, March 1987.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

Caïques of the type Perama (Πέραμα) are traditional Greek wooden boats. Before the Greek islands were connected by ferry-boats, peramata (plural: peramata - περάματα) ferried cargo between the islands. They were sail-powered and had a variety of sail-plans.

“Faneromeni ” right after her purchase in the harbor of the island of Aegina.

March, 1987

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

The original sail-plan of the “Faneromeni” was that of a schooner with gaff sails. She had a small one-cylinder 30 hp auxiliary engine of Greek manufacture made by Kanakis. This engine was used only for docking. All her passages were under sail.

With the passing of time, the boat had been significantly modified from her original condition. At time of purchase she, of course, had no sails. Her two masts were replaced by a single small mast supported by rusty iron rods, of the sort usually used in the building trade.

“Faneromeni’s” restoration was done in stages, with strict regard to traditional caïque construction. Although the major work was accomplished in three years, it took several more years to complete the details. 

“Faneromeni” is hauled out at the Halkites shipyard.

Perama, Piraeus, March 1987.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

 Μastro-Pachos Papastefanou, a traditional wooden boat shipwright, and his son, Yiorgos, played a decisive role in the restoration. They are descendants of a family of shipwrights from Symi, an island with a long nautical and shipbuilding tradition. 

mastro Pachos working on the “Faneromeni”.

Glyfada, spring 1989.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

“Faneromeni” was built on the island of Skiathos in 1945 by a famous shipwright of the day, George Mytilineos. She was built to order for Fanouris Vasiliou, her first owner, who was from Ay-Yiannis in the Pelio area.

My first task was to discover what she was like in her original form. This was not an easy task because most of the people who would have known her at that time were no longer alive.

In my effort to gather as much information as I could about shipbuilding of that period, I had to interview a number of elderly shipowners and shipwrights from various islands. I also studied models of old caïques and researched archives in the National Library in Athens.

When I felt that I had enough background material and information, I started the actual restoration project.

The first step was to remove the old bridge in order to construct a replacement deckhouse. This new deckhouse had to be low so as not to impede the sails. It also had to be attractive yet made in the old traditional way, compatible with the time when “Faneromeni” was built.

The old bridge is removed from “Faneromeni”.

Perama, April 1987.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

Once the old bridge was removed, all the necessary work on the hull came next: burning, re-nailing, and caulking. All these tasks were performed in the Halkitis shipyard, in the Perama region of Piraeus during the Spring of 1987.

Another job was the meticulous reconditioning, performed by the Mpekatoros brothers, of the existing engine. She is a heavy-duty 6 cylinder, slow RPM, 112 hp engine manufactured by KELVIN in Scotland.

“Faneromeni’s” engine compartment after the removal of the bridge. The Kelvin engine before her reconditioning.

Perama, Piraeus, April 1987.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

While the work described above was going on, two issues occupied my thoughts the choice of colors to paint the boat and the selection of her name.

In the meantime, following completion of the service to her hull, the boat was launched and moved to Marina 4 in Glyfada where her restoration continued.

“Faneromeni”, after her launch at the Halkitis shipyard, is under way to Marina 4 in Glyfada, her homeport up to now.

Perama, Piraeus, May 1987.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

The new deckhouses were constructed by mastro-Pachos, placing recessed panels along the sides, as is the traditional technique. He made three deckhouses, all low enough so that their height would not interfere with the sails:

•The stern deckhouse, over the engine room. This is the “Faneromeni’s” pilothouse. It houses all her instruments as well as a small sitting room with two couches.
•The central deckhouse over what used to be the hold. The hold was converted to a saloon with a small galley, two cabins with double berths, and two bathrooms.
•The fore deckhouse. This has one berth and can serve as the cabin for crew.


View of the saloon


Another view of the saloon.

When the deckhouses were complete, the masts and rigging were next in line.

In the Greek tradition of boatbuilding, masts were made from the trunks of cypress trees. According to the lore of old shipwrights, the cutting of trees destined for masts is done during the full moon in the month of January. This is the time when the trees have all their sap, and masts made of wood from such trees will better resist the rigors of sea and time.

I faced considerable difficulties in finding suitable cypress trees. To this end I traveled to several places in Greece. Finally, in January of 1988, accompanied by the shipwright Pachos Papastefanou, I went to the island of Lesvos to meet the wood cutter Stratis Afaloniatis, from the village of Papados, a wonderful man, who was highly recommended to me.


The lumber yard of Stratis Afaloniatis on the island of Lesvos
where the proper trees were selected and cut.

Lesvos, January 1988.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

We selected suitable tree trunks in order to fabricate two masts, two booms, two gaffs, a jib boom, and a bowsprit, a total of eight trunks.

After selection and initial preparation in the lumberyard, the trunks were transported to Glyfada (a suburb of Athens) where, according to the recommendations of the old-time shipwrights, they were submerged into the sea  for three months. During this period they had to be turned every few days so that the same side did not always face the sun.

This process tempers and ages the wood so that it becomes more resistant to the rigors of the marine environment. After three months of submersion the trunks were left ashore for three more months, in the shade, to slowly dry and avoid cracking.

When they were dry, the trunks were transported to mastro-Pachos’ workshop where he carved them and gave them their final round shape.

The trunks are unloaded by crane in mastro-Pachos’ workshop.

Perama, August 1988.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

The cypress tree trunks had to be carved and planed with absolute accuracy. The expression of the old Greek shipwrights is: orthostaphania (ορθοσταφνιά). They must slowly taper in diameter from a wider base to a slimmer top. After the masts are carved and planed, their spear ends are installed.

The fabrication of the mast and spars was completed with great success, thanks to mastro-Pachos’ skill.

The installation of the masts and their rigging was done under the supervision of one of the last surviving old-time riggers, the renowned 85-year-old Notis Mpilias from the island of Salamis.

Before the masts were installed, they were soaked in double-boiled linseed oil imported from the UK.

At this time I began to focus on a new concern. Up to this point I had focused on restoring “Faneromeni,” and my experience here demonstrated over and over that the era of wooden boat construction was rapidly coming to an end in the second half of the 20th century. Up to this time, caïques were constructed in a totally empirical manner. There never were construction plans to put on paper. In the near future, as I was now painfully aware, all the master builders and craftsmen that I had sought out would no longer be alive. And, moreover, there would be no successors to pass on the lore of building a caïque. With these thoughts in mind, it now occurred to me that, at a distant time when even the restored “Faneromeni” would no longer survive as a model, it might be useful for someone–whether studying such traditional vessels or wanting to built a replica–to have construction drawings available.

For this reason in 1988-89 the architect and student of traditional Greek naval shipbuilding Kostas A. Damianidis undertook to prepare a set of construction plans for “Faneromeni”.

Once the spars were in place, it was time to make the sails. The fabric for the sails was ordered in the fall of 1989 from the mill of Francis Webster Ltd in Arbroath, Scotland, where waxed cotton canvas sailcloth suitable for traditional sailboats is still manufactured. This mill has manufactured sailcloth since 1795 and supplied the most well known sailboats of that period.

Elias Veloudis from the island of Angistri, one of the last traditional sailmakers in Greece, undertook the cutting and stitching of the sails.
Four sails were made: mainsail (μεγίστη - μαΐστρα), foresail (πλωριά ράντα), main jib (αράπης), and fore staysail (κόντρα φλόκος).  

“Faneromeni” with a schooner sail plan.

Original plan by Kostas A. Damianidis.

Modified plan by Ellina Dallas

With the fabrication of the sails in the spring of 1990 we can say that “Faneromeniʼs” reconstruction was complete.

Now a new phase began; this was a time for cruising and enjoying a sense of satisfaction that validated all my effort and hardships.

Of course, I must admit that I started cruising from the first summer right after I bought the boat in 1987. Although cruising conditions were then far from optimum, they did not deter me from traveling with the “Faneromeni” between reconstruction tasks, which generally took place during the winter months. These trips were helpful as they showed me what further work I needed to do before the restoration was complete.

However, from the spring of 1990 these cruises took a diffrent aspect!!!

“Faneromeni” with full sails approaching the harbor of Livadhi, island of Serifos.

May 1990.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

In 1991, after completing several cruises with the “Faneromeni”, I decided to make a few additional modifications and improvements that would make the boat not only more seawothy but more comforable to live in.

So now “Faneromeni” reached a new restoration/reconstruction phase. For more details on the tasks involved see Restoration/Reconstruction.

In the autumn of 1991 my painter friend Sophia Lamnatou-Kondi was going to exhibit in a show at the Piraeus Yachting Club. The theme of the show was: Under Way (Εν Πλώ). Sophia asked me if she could make a painting of the “Faneromeni” and include it in the show. This she did. And her show was a great success. Later I invited Sophia and her husband Takis, to my house for dinner. When they arrived, they had with them, as a gift, her painting of the “Faneromeni”. I was not expecting this and I was very touched. Since that evening this painting hangs prominently in my living room.

Painting of the “Faneromeni” by Sophia Lamnatou-Kondi.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

 In 1992 I replaced “Faneromeniʼs” keel. I decided to do this for two reasons. The first reason was that the old iron bolts (τζαβέτες) were dangerously corroded. The second reason was to add ballast to the keel and thus to improve the vesselʼs stability under sail.

This work was very successfully performed at the Kouperotis Shipyard on the island of Salamis. A new keel, made of a single piece of wood, coupled with a false keel consisting of four pieces of lead ballast having a total weight of 1,000 kg (2.205 lb), was installed.


The new keel prior to installation. mastro-Lefteris Gaitaniós is about to paint it with a minium.

Salamis, April 1992.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

In 1997 the Greek Ministry of Culture classified “Faneromeni” as a "preservable monument". This classification prohibits any alternation that will change the shape or character of the boat. The prohibition applies not only to me but to all future owners. I must admit that, although the classification provides no financial gain such as a subsidy or tax benefit, the prohibition is of great value for me since it guaranties the preservation of “Faneromeni” into the future. I was deeply gratified by this recognition, especially because it is an honor for the “Faneromeni”.
In 2000 a significant task was successfully completed by the Koupetoris Shipyard, namely the replacement of the gunwale

Yiorgos Karayiannis fitting a section of the new gunwale.

Salamis, March 2000.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

 In the years following 2000 I have cruised a great deal with the “Faneromeni,” always accompanied by a canine friend. In the first years, Argos was my constant companion.

Argos peeks from the “Faneromeni’s” porthole.

Approaching the island of Rhodes, August 1991.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

Later, Naxos joined my adventures. With one or the other of my dogs sailing with me on the “Faneromeni”, we have visited nearly all of the Greek islands, most of the coast of Turkey to the east, and the Dalmatian coast to the west.

Naxos in the S/Y Thetis, the sailboat of my brother, Vasilis

Island, September 1999.

(Courtesy of Vasilis E. Riginos)

These cruises filled me with great satisfaction and included many touching moments. I describe two of them below.

I wanted to meet all the previous owners of the “Faneromeni” and for this reason I traveled to various islands in order to find them. The information about the names and locations of the previous owners was given to me by Yiannis Kakouris, “Faneromeni's” last owner (from whom I bought her), who knew the her entire history.

I traveled to island of Kalymnos to locate Vasilis Vallas, the second owner of the “Faneromeni.”

When Vallas saw the “Faneromeni” he was greatly moved, and he invited me to his home for dinner. At the end of the evening, with tears in his eyes, he removed a framed picture from his living room wall. It was a hand-colored BW photograph of the “Faneromeni” on some plastic material. This technique used to be fairly common in Greece and it was used in the past on favorite photographs of beloved relatives, homes, and boats. He offered it to me with the words: “This now belongs to you”. 

The framed painting of the “Faneromeni” given to me by Mr. Vasilis Vallas.

(Archive of Nikos E. Riginos)

 Later, in 1998, I fulfilled another one of my dreams by traveling with the “Faneromeni” along the coast of Asia Minor, to Troy, Imbros and Tenedos, to the Bosphorus, to Halki, to Pringipos, and on to Istanbul (Constantinople)—where I was fortunate and honored to meet the Patriarch Bartholomew. Finally I sailed into the Black Sea, reaching as far as Amastra. My friend Kostas A. Damianidis embarked on the “Faneromeni” and accompanied me for the whole Black Sea trip. He disembarked in Istanbul (Constantinople) on our return.

“Faneromeni” anchored in Therapia near Istanbul (Constantinople).

June 1998.

(Courtesy of Kostas A. Damianidis)


Voyage of “Faneromeni” in the Black Sea 1998. The purple line depicts her course. The places I visited are in green.

I  was inspired to plan this trip when I read Odysseas, a Ship from Ithaka, 1837-1841 by Yiannis Vlassopoulos. This book records the trips, 150 years ago, of a Greek sailing cargo ship from the island of Ithaca to the Black Sea. It was my pleasure to meet the author at an international conference on the island of Chios in 1994.

The imposing Hagia Sophia (Αγία Σοφία) in Istanbul (Constantinople) as we are approaching with the “Faneromeni”.

June 1998.

(Courtesy of Kostas A. Damianidis)

 I include here an excerpt from “Faneromeni’s” logbook. (Note that my older brother, Vasilis Riginos, who had embarked in Mytilene and disembarked in Istanbul (Constantinople), helped substantially during the difficult moments that you will read about below):

“06.06.1998. With my brother, Vasilis, in addition to my constant crew–Argos—we left Halki, one of the Princess Islands, and were heading to Istanbul (Constantinople). Although it was fine day, the weather suddenly started to seriously deteriorate.

A bad squall hit us. Visibility went down to zero. It felt as if ten buckets of water per second were falling on your head. The radar only showed a dark smudge.

We had approached the European shore and were heading to the Atakoy Marina, one of the two marinas in Istanbul (Constantinople). In that region there were many large commercial ships. Most of them were anchored off but some were under power. In addition, the depth was about 10 meters, far too shallow for comfort, and as a result our anxiety level was very high. Also, all these ships were blowing their horns as a warning because of the low visibility, thus increasing our tension level.

Because of the low depth we were afraid of running aground. All this was compounded by a very strong wind. Under these conditions the danger level was very high.

This lasted two hours, but they felt like twenty…

Slowly the weather started to clear. The appearance of the Hagia Sophia on the skyline from the Bosporus during that moment was a sight beyond description. It was moment of intense emotion. Our emotions, overwhelming since our visit to Troy, had now reached their peak. This is the moment when you feel that all your travails and tribulations were worthwhile”.

Nikos E. Riginos