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"The nicest feeling for me is to travel alone in the morning, because that's when I can get away from my problems. It is wonderful for me to see the lighthouses and estimate the place where I am standing. Every lighthouse blinks in its own way, each one unique. Even though I have a GPS I don't use it, I prefer finding my way by trial and error. At nights I look at the sky, I see the Southern Cross and orient myself".
Covered with scirroco
The shipwright Stelios Katagas uses every penny for the beautification of his boat, located in the port of Saint Nicholas at Keratsini. It is covered and externally dressed with iroko, a tropical, sturdy kind of wood, while its ladder is made of the ‘immortal’ teak, an even better kind of wood that costs from three to nine thousand euros per cubic metre, depending on the quality. The parts of the boat that get wet are covered with a special waterproof paint, in order to avoid seaweed and oysters sticking on it. It also has orifices all around the deck, for the water to go out when the waves are too big.
Stelios's boat, called Nadia, after his wife, is eight meters long, not counting the walkways and the bows. It is so beautiful that it was used in some Brazilian TV serie called "Bellissima" and in a Russian movie. In the latter, Stelios had a small part too. Two girls allegedly stole his boat and he started shouting: "They're taking my boat, they're taking my boat". When he finished his line he asked the director: "We're done now, how was it?". But he spoke too soon and ruined the scene because they had not yet finished the shot. They had to reshoot the scene and Stelios was awesome, since he said his lines and then kept silent.
He has travelled all over the world
Saint Nicholas port is filled with wooden boats and has nothing in common with the luxurious marines that are crowded with yachts made of polyester. Most of the amateur fishermen of Keratsini are former seamen and have travelled around the world on ships. They spend their shabby pension for the beautification of their boats. There are no golf courts near the port, only funnels and cranes. They don’t brag and compete about who has the best or more modern radar, but about who can travel at night, guided just by the stars.
When Stelios and the Nadia come out of the tiny port, they have to maneuver around the huge commercial ships that look like mountains. "I reached in Kythnos Island recently and I would have gone even further if I hadn’t been considering fuel expenses. I have a 200 horse Mercedes diesel motor with six nozzles, which is fuel-consuming, but has never let me down".
Stelios is not a beginner in the sea and knows perfectly well how to handle his boat, just like a Rally driver knows how to handle his motorbike. As a captain, he has travelled all over the world and has guided huge ships in very threatening seas. He explored the macrocosm as a captain and now he struggles to know the microcosm as a humble boatman. He has literally gone everywhere, and has the photos to prove it. He has taken photos next to Papua aborigines and crocodiles.
He travelled to Russia during the soviet regime and married a Russian girl with which he has two children, both of them following great studies. "The Soviet Union's system was good, although it needed some small corrections. They used to give medals to the workers, which unfortunately cannot be eaten. In my opinion medals, everywhere, not only in Russia, were discovered by employers in order to avoid financial reward. For those who haven't got one of them to envy and struggle to obtain them".
Images from the past
Athenians, who on Sundays ponder on where to take a walk, have nothing to lose if they visit the coastal zone of Keratsini. There they can see mixed pictures of decline and progress, like ship graveyards, factories, fish markets, ouzo restaurants, giant cranes and containers, all of them loose near the sea. They will also meet devotees of high-levelled outdoor seamanship drinking ouzo and tasting divine delicacies.
TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS