My connection with Greece started in 1983, when I was skipper (captain) of a Dutch 12m sailing boat, taking groups of small boats on a two-week round tour to the south of Peloponnesus. I recognized characteristics of the Greek idiosyncrasy with those of ours in Argentina: the welcoming attitude, the permanent moaning about the state of the economy, the solid resolution to survive any coming bad times, the very strong feeling of the universe ending at the limits of their comfort zone.
When you sail for pleasure, what is important, as Kavafis stated, is to make way, but it is the arrival which always creates a very strong impression. An arrival always touches the heart. It can generate comfort, disappointment, worry, happiness, safety. Greece has the blessing of generating pleasure, happiness, comfort, authenticity. Maybe it is due to the fact that they have been welcoming boats for over 3000 years that has refined this almost religious feeling? Maybe Poseidon decided to make it happen forever?
Everybody loves Greece and the Greek nautical industry seems to ignore it. Is it to protect the country against modern invaders that could spoil the coastal natural resources? If so, I find it a bit of an extreme reaction: Greece is very far from a boat density that could harm the environment, far from a saturation that would spoil the beauty of its coastal features, both continental and islands. I feel a missing pride of the great Greek seafaring nation, and its modern development as a nautical industry. It seems Greeks live with their back to the sea. Is it lack of knowledge of the great yachtsmen of a non-so-distant past? Onassis invented the superyachts with his “M/Y Christina” in the early ’50. He made Monaco his homeport, but all the cruises with politicians, singers, actors and socialites from around the whole world were done on the Ionian and the Aegean seas. Stavros Niarchos bought his “S/Y Creole” around the same time, both boats remaining classic beauties. The Livanos and the Latsis families have yachting histories, dating back to then times when they were the rulers of the world’s shipping routes. When “Greek” was synonymous with shipowner.
They really ruled the waves in a far more realistic way than the British. But I guess that is not taught at schools and not for lack of opportunities or events. Little celebrating was done when King Constantin II won a gold Olympic medal in the Dragon class in 1960. The yachting tradition is fading away and is resuscitated by the nautical tourist, who is good, but cannot replace a national culture, tradition, and pride. It is not difficult to take steps to bring Greece back to the nautical scene but it is the nautical industry that must make it happen. We must spread the word, of course in publications and conferences but in schools, associations, and social gatherings. We must make the effort to broadcast the message and not wait for people to come to us. We can tell stories of ancient and modern sailors, of traditions, of curiosities, of sustainability. We can organize short outings during weekends in municipality boats (police, fire fighting, garbage collecting), brokers and shipyard boats, and voluntary boat owners. We can include people as crew in regattas, both as participants as well as organizers, creating regattas to emulate ancient travel as Troy to Crete or Hydra to Rhodes. We can organize visits to both shipyards and workshops, training sessions for people interested in a career in yachting. The list is unlimited if some effort is made.
I am now thinking that a simple magazine with yachting and nautical stories and facts could be published monthly and distributed through local marinas, harbour offices, brokers, and yacht agencies. Another way would be to elect a Prime Minister that is already a consummated yachtsman, more difficult but not impossible😊. But those shock moves and reactions fade as fast as they happen. I believe in consistently laying the groundwork and creating the foundations for something to grow and transcend. Over time it can reach the critical mass necessary to generate the momentum to keep the activity in motion. It is us who can initiate it, and the young generation (no exclusions) that must perpetuate it. Greece has the enormous advantage of being able to learn from the mistakes of other Mediterranean countries. Greece is pure and unspoiled; the deep blue of her sea and her infinite coast is there to be loved and enjoyed by locals and visitors.
Oscar Siches, CMP, GMBA Spain
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