Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

George Orologas

I met Georgos Orologas (Γιώργος Ωρολογάς) in Finikas, Syros where he spent his summers. He was in his eighties. He was born and grew up in Pythagorio, Samos then called Tigani, where his family owned and operated one of the most well-respected traditional shipyards in the Aegean. They were renowned traditional shipwrights for generations. For some reason his father moved to Ermoupolis, Syros when Georgos was in his teens, but after he had worked for a few years in the shipyard.

Later in life, Yiorgos owned a successful chandler’s store in Ermoupolis. The store is still active today and is now owned by his niece, since Georgos had no children. During all the years that Georgos was operating his store he longed to work on wood and to make “beautiful boats.” When he finally retired, he started making models of all shorts of boats: traditional Greek caiques, trehanteria and peramata, replicas of sailing boats that won the Greek War of Independence in the 1820’s, clipper ships etc. With his knowledge of shipbuilding he made these models accurate down to the minutest detail, and they were as beautiful as their proud originals. It was while admiring one of his models that I first heard of him and then sought him out. His models are magnificent works of love complete in every detail of the rigging and deck gear, all made by hand. The last time I saw Georgos in 1996, he took Corinna and me to his home and showed us many of his models under construction. It took years to finish one because Yiorgos was a perfectionist.

In addition to making beautiful boat models, Yiorgos was a great story teller and had a great depository of anecdotes from Samos. The Samos of bandits and pirates whose stories he would tell us with great relish over wine and food. He also knew all sorts of poems relating to the now lost sea faring traditions of the Aegean.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Yiorgos and wish that I had recorded somehow all of his stories and poems. Here are three poems that I could not resist scribbling down on napkins, as he recited them for me while eating and drinking at his favorite restaurant in Finikas.

The first he told me to make sure to give to my brother Nikos whose Faneromeni George greatly admired. It is about the swift Perama:

The Perama Poem
Βρὲ μπροστινό μου Πέραμα
για μάϊνα τὰ πανιά σου·
κι’ ὃλος ὁ κόσμος ἔλαμψε
ἀπὸ τὴν ὀμορφιά σου.
Perama in front of us
loosen your sails;
all the world is illuminated
by your beauty.
Δέν τὰ μαϊνάρω τὰ πανιά,
δέν ἀμολῶ τὴ σκότα
ὡς που νὰ ἔχω μουσαμὰ
θὰ τὸ κρατῶ στὴ ρότα.
I will not loosen the sails
I will not let go of the sheet
as long as I have canvas
I will hold my course.
Πέραμα, ὂμορφο σκαρὶ
στὴ Πόλη πῆγες κ’ ἒφερες
φορτίο πλουμισμένο.
Perama, beautiful hull
praised in a thousand songs,
you went to Constantinople and brought
the fancy cargo.
Για μάϊνα τώρα τὰ πανιά,
ρίξε τὴν ἂγκυρά σου·
σὲ καμαρώνει ὁ ντουνιὰς
κ’ ἡ καπετάνισσά σου.
Loosen your sails,
drop your anchor;
the whole world is admiring you
as well as your master’ wife.
Δώσ’ του δώσ’ του πέρα
δώσ’ του φουστανιοῦ σου ἀέρα·
δώσ’ του δώσ’ του πέρα
οἱ στεργιὲς βγάζουν ἀέρα.
Give, give, away
give wind to your sails;
give, give wind
the land is giving you wind.

The second is a captain’s love poem:

Love Poem
Στὴ σκότα τοῦ τουρκέτου μου
σ’ ἔχω ζωγραφισμένη,
κι’ ὂταν μαϊνάρω τὰ πανιά
σὲ βρήσκω μπερδεμένη.
On my foremast’s sheet
I have painted you,
and when I lower the sails
I find you all tangled.

Finally, in the third the captain is thinking about his death:

Death Poem
Σὰν πεθάνω στὸ καράβι,
ρίχτεμε στὸ γιαλό·
ν’ ἄρθη ἡ τράτα νά καλάρη,
νά μέ βγάλη ζωντανό.
When I die onboard
throw me into the sea;
when the trawler pulls her nets,
she will bring up alive.