A Symian vessel
at the port of Naoussa?

You may not have heard of the so-called “Simian basin”, an unusual traditional vessel exclusively built in Simi, one of the sponge-fishing islands in the Aegean Sea with a great ship-building tradition.

A very successful sponge-fishing vessel, the Simian basin was particularly flexible and extremely fast, it carried the sponge gatherers to the coast of Northern Africa, where they got the sponges from. During the Ottoman times it was the fastest vessel, that’s why it was used for post delivery. This way the Simians became the couriers of the Ottoman Empire.

According to the Nautical Museum web site «the oldest testimony for the existence of this type of vessel dates back to the 17th century, while the last vessels of this kind could still be found in Simi until 1935-36. Today there is none left, but the reputation of this small swift vessel sailing the Aegean Sea holds to the very date…»

If this is really so, then how come there is a Simian basin called Athina at the port of Naousa? And why do its impressive sails remind us of a Chinese boat, just like a far-eastern stroke of the brush in the blue landscape of the Aegean Sea? These questions, all find their answer in a documentary soon to be released, made by Fivos Kondogiannis, who observed the design and building of Athina for 4 years by Nikos Daroukakis, a ship builder on the island of Egina.

At an age when traditional vessels disappear from the Greek seas, shipyards close down and ship builders, already rare, become fewer and fewer, structures such as Athena and initiatives such as that of Fivos Kondogiannis give us hope like lighthouses in a misty horizon. Happy sailing, Athina!

Watch the trailer HERE