Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο

In a small cove south of Ermoupolis, two friends, fourth generation representatives of the traditional shipbuilding families Mavrikou-Tzortzis, rest in a small ouzeri built a short time ago in the shipyard area, they realise in this time of crisis the weight of the history of the master craftsmen of Syros. At other times, working for their livelihood with these craftsmen, they have worked to make the shipyard known around the world.

The heart of the boatyard has not stopped beating for more than a century and a half, since Michalis Mavrikos came in 1860 as a refugee from Chios and settled in Ermoupolis, the nation’s first commercial port. Syros had been proposed as the capital of modern Greece, but Nafplion proved the stronger candidate.

The magical hands of the shipwrights proved golden and actively participated in building the dream that Ermoupoli become one of the most important cities in Greece. After the Revolution of 1821 leading the reconstruction of the merchant fleet which had been destroyed.


The tough but magical craftsmanship of the traditional shipbuilding yard sent the city from the centre of the Cyclades to the stars. The traditional shipbuilding yards of the islands and surrounding area were destroyed and a massive wave of refugees from Chios, Psara, Samos, Crete and Asia Minor arrived in Syros, so making it the most commercial centre with the most active shipyards. Joining forces, the families of Mavrou and Tzortzis raised the shipbuilding miracle with new equipment and nurturing the secrets of the teachers of the art of working with unique wooden hulls.

Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο
Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο

Descendant of the founders, Michalis Mavrikos who even as a child in 1976 recognised that this yard boasting the art of wooden shipbuilding was an endangered species and as one of the main ingredients of Greek culture was a valuable treasure to carry on the tradition . The shipbuilders and shipwrights of Syros knew how to manage their cultural heritage in order to help the growth of the country. “The wooden hull craftsmanship would give wings to the dynamic labour of the country as in Turkey with four shipwright schools for the production of traditional boats”. Unfortunately as yet no government agency has shown interest in limiting the stagnation and decline of this craft. A period of decline in wooden shipbuilding already exists due to the presence of plastics chosen for the most luxurious Ferretti yachts.

“What you get are customers concerned with fashion” says Michalis. “They do not judge on the basis of quality, but drift along buying as they would a piece of furniture, a bedside table without hull or line. The appearances prevail in the market and the consumer reflects the social model. The opulence of the house is transferred to the boat. Out of ten, nine are seeking luxury, a little over half searching for delivery of quality. The simple luxury of a wooden hull will go to Turkey where with no duty to pay, the cost is much less than if bought from a Greek shipyard. The few remaining are attributable to tradition”. A 20 metre fast sailing boat made of pine now costs 60,000 euro, but fully equipped can reach between 80,000 and 2,500,000 euro. A wooden hull is much cheaper, and due to its strength can last up to 100 years. The lovers of wood want to continue this type of construction and say with sincerity “the creation of the traditional boat is not routine but a part of you as though you are a mould, it is your child”. From the hands of the shipwrights passed the special wooden hulls that have made history sailing on the waves of the Aegean. These works of art are displayed in the outdoor museums of the Syros shipyards: traditional ships, cargo ships, fast sailing boats…

In 1918 his grandfather built two traditional 90 metre commercial cargo vessels, the “Aris” and the “Nereus” each with 850 tonnes they sailed in all seas. When his grandmother was pregnant, the siblings of his grandfather were fighting over which of them should baptize the baby. In fact she gave birth to twins and they were named after these two ships Aris and Nereus. One ship was burned off Crete during WWII and the other shipwrecked in the Black Sea. The grandfather was proud of having built these ships and always told that the most difficult thing was to transfer the plans and envisage how to make it float correctly and run quickly.

Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο
Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο

The Tarsanas boatyard and shipyard of today is able to meet the demands of their modern day customers. Here they can build and maintain commercial vessels of up to 500 tonnes and retrofit fishing vessels for tourists. Machine workers and electricians can be found within the yard and all works – painting, caulking, polyester, hydroblasting make up the backdrop of this modern shipyard.


In this historic place of Ermoupolis, from the 1920s to 1987, the third generation of the Mavrikou family built more than 5000 vessels of over 20 metres, with 60 workers able to simultaneously work on 20 vessels. This living organization began to decline during the years of WWII, but started to flourish again following the occupation with shipbuilding and restoration of caique and small boats. In 1962 electrical tools appeared in shipbuilding and at the shipyard of Mavrikou a 40 metre sailboat “Kima” was built as a gift of the wife of the ship-owner Embeirikou. 28 years later having already changed hands, it caught fire and sank off the island of Skopelos.

The creation of ship hulls at this historic yard exceeded and continues to exceed as in all shipyards the difficult struggle for livelihood of the craftsman to maintain their skill. As testament to this known history, proven by one of the last traditional Aegean sailing ships “Evangelistria” on display next to the battleship “Averof”. Built by his father Michailos and his children to the account of Mykonos shipbuilder Anthony K. Boni. In August 1987, his son donated it to the Aegean Naval Museum.

Craftsmanship as evidenced by the Symian vessels, the 20 metre sponge diving vessel built 5 years ago, Michalis continues to deliver on behalf of an Ikarian man for touristic purposes. The creation of wooden hulls is an art capturing the emotions, ideas and vision of the craftsman. It is a living workshop of ideas and debate.

Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο
Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο

Nearly a century and a half ago, in 1879, when the shipbuilding business was at its peak, the shipyard workers of Ermoupoli protested their struggle in the city and on 14th February organised the first strike in Greek workers history. They demanded higher wages, reduced working hours, the abolition of drudgery plus two hours compulsory working on Sundays, since due to the monetary crisis there had broken out price increases on consumer goods and reduced wages.

 

In the shipyard, the crisis of the 21st century, the economic and social crises facing the country, there is more than ever the need for communication between the workers and the residents of the island. The reopening of the café in the area of the shipyard with the conversations of the evening in the tavern with music and the organisation of cultural events accompanied by the smells of the sea and wood marking the characteristics of the shipyard creates a vision to carry on the traditional nautical family Mavrikou-Giorgi: a workshop of ideas and controversies, because they believe that the boat is life, and life is like the sea. The water, swimming or walking on the boat is a way of escape.

Ιστορία Ταρσανάς Ναυπηγείο