(extracts from an interview of A. Patrinos, the captain of the ship in the years it was used for the training of Marine Cadets)
I had this moment, a moment, I remember, a calm, 3-4 on the Beaufort scale; now for sailing vessels 3-4 force is nothing. We were out on training voyages for fifteen, twenty days. Every 20 days we would have a new group, I mean a school, a school in, another one out and it was late summer I remember, the end of summer; it must have been September, schools were about to start. We had started uphill. Our journey was the
Dodecanese and the Cyclades. We had gone around the Dodecanese and now we had set sail for the Cyclades and then Piraeus, that whole circle must have been a fortnight or so, I remember, something like that.
We had just rounded Ophoidousa (this is the southwest part of Astypalaia) and as we turned up the north wind, NNW, starts to blow, 6 and then 7 force, we hoisted sails, all over again we hauled sails, the more the wind blew the more sails we made. There was a moment when we had three booms and five jibs and the winds turns to 9 force, 10-9-10 and we were sailing close hauled, if not 90 degrees, 80-70 degrees, under heavy canvas; hard to pull them down. All the while, we had to reach Nio. Nio was 82 miles away. Tsallis was with us then. His last journey, it was. While we were at it, I turn to him: 'say, Captain Costas, why don't we take some of these jibs over there in, help the sails stand it? She is an old one'. 'How would I know', says he, 'now they are up and we are on our way', says he, 'what to do?'
..'Let us get closer to the wind', I answer, let's ease the sails'. Now, by 'ease sails' we mean, to reduce the angle of attack to the wind. In other words, to get the wind just a little from the bow, so speed goes down.
But it was noon already, at 6 o'clock it would be dark, let's not bother, we'll see what we'll do. And on we sail. It took us 4 hours and 10 minutes, that I remember, to get from Ophoidousa to Nio, 80 miles, 18.5-19 miles an hour, she was straining and rattling, the whole thing was. For sure there were hands enough, there were the trainees, so they, too, took part in it; they were not passengers, right? When we got into Nio it was duskish. It was raging but we turned her head to the wind and sailed in. 'Let's haul the sails' goes Tsallis. He loved that ship. Her sails, travelling under sail, I mean he was crazy about all that. And the vessel did not heel, not a lot, in spite of such canvas. But, of course she had some ballast, 600 tons no less...
[...] Another time from Chios, hugging the wind again, at 3 booms and 3 jibs. 15, 16 miles from Chios, at Kalogeroi (the little island midway to Andros) 15 miles to Cavo d' Oro, all hell broke loose, sheets squeaking, 'now they'll break', we thought, but, ok, you may worry, she is an old vessel, isn't she? But she took it. Truth be said. I have made good speed more than once; I have had some good journeys. At times, ropes do break at the upper works and someone has to go aloft and tie them. It is not easy. ...At one time we were on our way to Rhodes, after Kos it was, toward Rhodes the weather was at the aft quarter and yards were breaking from up top, runners we call them, hard on the runners this type of weather is. Now, imagine going for your watch and the vessel rocking, when the weather is at the aft quarter, the vessel rocks, a lot it does, right? She is not easy to govern then. You have to get the right person aloft. I had a couple of guys, little lean ones but strong, one has to be lean and lithe, like Tsallis was...
[...] And the poor guy gets up on the rat lines, night was closing in, and we were on our way to Rhodes, imagine 40 metres up, hey? Up on the crosshead, with the bowline knot, the mast; he has to hug it, to clasp the sails, as we say, right?
When we reached Rhodes it was dark, no way could we get in. It was, how shall I put it? The weather had got rough, it was ugly. We tried to get into port, there was no way you could get into Rhodes, we went down to the new port and we came to anchor in the deep of night; it was midnight by then. We cast anchor 4-5 shackles, deep, over there it is 40 fathom deep, we lowered the shackles. As we were lowering, it got torn, not a sail mind you; let me see, how shall I say it, its halyard, the topping lifts, those things you tie, all those parts we bundled up there and we anchored three days on the sea lanes and we could not make the port. It was raging in Rhodes 8-9 force, and there is no way you can get into the port of Rhodes.
...I, too, would get into the old port; I would tie at the columns. Everyone was shouting at me: 'where are you going? What are you doing - going in there'. Yet, I went in well, two anchors astern, over there, a bit off Mandraki, but if you are stuck with the weather, and it is a wicked, the wave rebound in there gets stronger and is about to push you ashore, on the peer. It's a ghastly port, a dirty old port... [...] We came alongside. Well, of course, then we would go back to the dockyards, now for this, now for that. To oil we went to Amphiale, across from there, I wouldn't let a tugboat get me in there. I've got bad memories of tugboats, from my cargo ship time; they can ruin your manoeuvre. Why, me, have those tugboats towing me in the dockyards, make me lose face? It is not an easy thing the tugboat, pull here, pull there, do this, do that. The tugboat men are not like in the big ports with the proper tugboats they now have...
In any case, I went through a lot in the ship. I had some hard times, indeed, and storms and one and the other, the bridge on the weather, wind and rain, you should have been on that bridge. Once, for two whole days and nights we were going around Samothrace, 50 people with the trainees, crew 80 in all with the crew, and for two days the weather was raging and us going around Samothrace, because the mountains are tall there and the weather comes down.
It does so everywhere, you go this way, the weather is east, you turn that way you see it west, still that way it scowls... and we going round and round trying to find a lee spot to shelter; some wind speed, I tell you, I had no choice but to head for Imvros and Tenedos. There I got to a lee and the Turkish patrols came. To be sure, on that day they did not harass me at all, they could tell what the vessel was - well as a matter of fact they knew her. The only thing they said was 'follow us, we'll take you to a lee bay'. Like seamen they treated me and it is to their honour, and I had nothing to complain about, and when I sailed off, they, tiny little Turkish patrol boats they were, went out to see me off farewell. They were glad, so to speak, but I had no choice, because there was nowhere one could anchor in Samothrace, the taller the mountains, remember this - I'm telling everyone, keep away when there's a wind, keep off the shores. At Ikaria, it brings stones down, rocks. Get 3-4 miles off and it get cool, the weather does not come down, get close and down it rolls.
... Where mountains are high, there are gusts, the wind tumbles hurling down. Where mountains are high, keep away from the shore, we have gone through a lot there, I have had some hard times, beautiful ones, bless the Lord..
... Look, I have this manner of thinking things, I'll tell you, or it is that it has stuck with me from listening to the old captains, real teachers they were; They said to me: 'remember, Andreas, at sea, think ten times act once; whatever it is you are to do, you must have thought it over and rethought it over, because the sea forgives no mistakes, in other words you have to be prudent, you have to show a lot of prudence in what you do, think ten times - act once; you shouldn't say, now I have made up my mind and I'll do it, now I want it, now I'll do it [...] because when you are doing it, if it was a wrong decision, well beware the sea, the sea does not forgive, and the sea's master has not been found yet nor will he ever'. I'm saying that now I am a seaman, an old wolf and no doubt about it. You cannot master the sea. It is a saying old Greek captains have: the master of the sea has not been found yet, it is very important...
... So, what I came to learn in my life is that I have to be very prudent. Better they should call me faint-hearted, so to speak, or a coward than insolent, because the sea will bring you some mishap. Thank God, I have been in ships for so many years, I had 32 years in my discharge book, 32 years and all of them travelled they were, not a nose bleed, not a scratch to a vessel, no damage anywhere, not a broken gasket. I took care of them, I looked after them. The ship is a living soul; you have to take care of her..."