Greek Wooden Boats: The history of traditional craftsmanship

Caressed by a gentle sea breeze and illuminated by the glorious sunshine, Greek wooden boats have a proud and long-standing tradition of sailing the Aegean Sea. As time goes on, this great trade will become more precious. Today’s boat makers can embrace their history and preserve traditions so that the generations to follow will have a bitter sweet story to tell.

Greek Wooden Boats: Greek Boat Building 

For some, wooden shipbuilding yards surge a deep feeling of nostalgia. The boats lined in these work places are of historical importance and part of a craft which is in danger of extinction.

The sweet smell of wood, the grounds scattered with wood chips and tools, the cutting sound of a hammer as it touches a plank and the buzzing shrill of the saw cutter, all harmoniously co-exist in the birth of a Greek wooden boat.

Greek wooden boats or caïque: the culture of Greek boat building 

The history of the Greek shipbuilding dates back to the prehistoric times. Over the centuries, the craftsmanship transitioned through various stages and today’s traditional wooden shipbuilding is shaped by the diverse elements adopted from the Middle Ages and the Byzantine Empire.

During the Ottoman Empire, the sultans would use their imperial caïques for ceremonial and daily excursions around the Bosporus. The caïques were adorned with impressively carved decorative items to show off the wealth of their owners.

The Greek wooden boats known as kaiki are deeply rooted into the culture of the Greek boat building traditions. They served as traditional fishing boats for fishing and trawling in the Mediterranean. Today, they are mostly used for tourist boat rides on the islands.

The techniques and knowledge of this complex traditional craftsmanship has been passed down from generation to generation. The secret of the successful shipbuilding craft lies in the mastering of specific tasks in the construction phase and the graceful manipulation of natural materials. The skilled masters would first use their imagination to visualize and then to create their unique masterpieces.

The famous shipyards and the skilled Greek craftsmen

The Greeks have always had a special relationship with the sea. Most grew up on the islands where they spent their childhood days playing on the beach. The shipyards and workshops are usually situated right on the waterfront, where the masters can enjoy the fresh sea breeze under the open sky.

A study conducted by the Traditional Boat Association of Greece, recorded 14,500 wooden boats sailing in Greece about 20 years ago out of which 12,500 have been destroyed following a law imposed by the European Union in 1996 to prevent overfishing. As a consequence, only a few boat builders are left in Greece and most are small family businesses which have passed their techniques and knowledge from father to son.

In the port city of Perama, one of the pioneers in the classic Greek wooden boats building is Thodoris Tsikis, the third generation of skilled craftsmen who continues his family tradition started by his grandfather Mastro Thodoris in 1912.  The island of Spetses is also home to one of the few remaining workshop’s where Dinos Korakis who is well over 90, continues to practice his craft with his son.

Takis Psarodelis practicing his craft on Lesvos

On Lesvos, Takis Psarodelis has been practicing his craft for over 60 years in his workshop located on the shores of Skala Kallonis. When Psarodelis speaks about the subject of making wooden boats, we could see the sorrow in his eyes. After all, his son was not keen on learning the techniques he has honed for decades.

The future of the Greek Wooden Boats 

Today, the trend of renting motor sailor boats to enjoy a holiday sailing in the Aegean and Ionian Seas has prevailed, leaving the future of the Greek wooden boats craftsmanship in a challenging state.

Sailing in a traditional caïque feels like being placed inside a rare flower amidst the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, the warmth of the glistening sun’s rays playfully bouncing on the sea’s surface and gracefully enhancing the magical landscapes.

Caldera Yachting in Santorini Island. Photo credit:

For those who are seeking a top cultural sailing experience, can charter a luxury traditional Greek wooden boat and encounter a captivating journey through a history of time.

Have you ever been sailing on a caïque? Share your experience by commenting below.