“Everyone expects support, help and solutions from the state. But do you know who the state is at the end of the day? Me and you! We can do things for others without waiting for the government to first tell us what to do.”
Yiannis Fostieris, captain of the Skopelitis, the vessel that connects the islands of the Lesser Cyclades, whether at the height of summer or in the depths of winter, believes these moving words to his core.
When one ferry company suddenly changed its schedule a couple of months ago, it created a severe problem for people with kidney disease on the island of Paros, as they would no longer be able to take the necessary day trips to the neighboring island of Naxos three times a week for dialysis.
But even before the Ministry of Transport and the Paros Municipality sought a replacement service, Captain Yiannis offered to adjust his own schedule to meet the islanders’ needs. And so, on another ship, the Artemis, the patients were still able to visit the dialysis unit until normal services are restored.
“For us who live on the [more isolated] islands of the Cyclades, the ship is our home and the crew our family. I have often sailed routes without passengers in order to drop off medications, money or food at a port. The ship is our connection to the world and not even 11 Beaufort winds will stop me from heading out to sea and doing what needs to be done,” the captain says.
It is little wonder that all the residents of the islands raise a glass to his health, as they did to his father, Captain Dimitris, who had the nickname “Skopelitis” (meaning one from Skopelos) due to one of his ancestors hailing from that Sporades island. The family later moved to Symi, before finally settling for good on Amorgos.
Captain Dimitris’ first vessel, a caique named Panormitis, began delivering the mail around the Lesser Cyclades in 1958. In those days, the islands were not connected to each other by ferry, only to Piraeus.
Over time, Captain Dimitris, who was also a superb violin player and the soul of every village festival, stood at the helm of many vessels. He was famed for his courage in heading out in wild seas in order to transport a pregnant woman, say, or someone who had fallen ill – to save lives in danger.
In 1985 his son Yiannis took over the helm, and today his grandson Dimitris has chosen the same path. After all, he must live up to the song written for his father: “The weather is stormy, the waves are getting fierce, all the ships are moored, but one is at still sea. That one is Skopelitis, immune to the waves, and it has as its captain always you, Yianni.”