The drawing is from Kostas Gouzelis “Odes for the bracer Athina”, ed.Pontoporos 2012.
Text: Danae Tal | Photo: Giorgos Kavallis
For most of us miles are nothing more than the miles offered as a bonus on a Sea Smiles card. For some others the miles are real because they are miles they have travelled at full sail and with no intention of stopping. Among them was (and will always be) Kostas Gouzelis who in December 2016 merged into light, forsaking his body and leaving all of us devastated. He, the “small king captain” whose life was sealed by his love for the sea and the wooden vessels.
At first two or three friends met and agreed that Kostas would be pleased if all the wooden vessels gathered together, if his friends came to Naoussa and the other craft kept company to Athena, his schooner, which was also grieving. Without further ado, this feast was organized and soon it was given a name, an appropriate one: “Kapetaneika”. We call “Kapetaneika” the houses of captains because they were one of a kind, distinct from the mansions or the folk architecture houses on the island. They were like the houses built by Kostas Gouzelis who besides being an architect was alaso an excellent farmer: he sowed good deeds everywhere.
Well, that was it and then September 2017 came and on its second Friday the wooden vessels began sailing to Naoussa, Paros. ‘Tradition tells us the wooden vessels have a soul/Truth!!!/Organic artifacts moving in space changing form/They have places they like/ places they resent/In trouble, they show you they suffer with you”.
On that Friday, the wooden vessels which sailed to the new marina of Naoussa were elated at having anchored side by side “in their diffused languor”. We anchored nearby at a corner of the marina, unfolded a sheet and watched the documentary film of Foivos Kontoyiannis “Athena Ex Nihilo”. We quivered with the voice of the narrator, Kostas Gouzelis, and we swayed in the first trip of Athena. It was the director’s wish to give us a rough idea of how a schooner is built. Nevertheless, the night missed not only Kostas but also the scent of wood “Acacias of Kerkini / cut in the mountain / African iroco / abandoned at Shisto / a Cypress uprooted / at Pirgos of Ilia piled up / And the Pine from Samos / cut by its moon”.
Then Saturday dawn came, the day for the show. Athena took a position in the middle, off the port of Naoussa, a buoy for the other vessels which passed before her as the light September wind filled their unfurled sails. Without winners or runners up, only participants.
Swimming in the shallow waters close to Kolimbithres, I had the pleasure of finding myself at a unique art exhibition; swimming or walking in the water, I approached the vessels and I admired them, one by one. And then in the afternoon, back to Naoussa. For once the small port was empty as the locals had taken their vessels, making room for the guests! One by one the vessels moored at the small old port and as the dusk was breathing and the sun was sinking into the sea, Athena was the last to enter. The small port gave the signal and the feast began. The masts-“talking wood”, “speaking keel”-with their wire ropes and their thousands of meters of ropes on them were like antennas transmitting the feast everywhere but mainly to the stars- as close as possible.
The “Kapetaneika” was a marine feast; the English would call it a seamanship feast. This is the meaning of “Kapetaneika”, the man and the sea and what is in between, something born and grown when the miles are not a bonus but real sailing time “In a mass of organic material / Carrying Life inside / Life harnessed by human hands / altogether creating an organism in autonomous movement, / with the disciplined action of the seamen /A miracle…”.
Seamanship is also a miracle but I shall tell you about it some other time…
* The excerpts are from Kostas Gouzelis “Odes for the bracer Athina”, ed.Pontoporos 2012.