Focus on Hydra
Map of Hydra Island
A special word to the short-term-visitors of Hydra
Mansions: "archontika"
Ancient findings at Chorisa
The sailors of Hydra
Koula: My Life as a Shepherdess
The life of a carpenter on Hydra
A recipe for "Fava"
Giorgos: The Life of a Hydriote Stone Mason
The Monastery of the Assumption of the Mother of God ("Theotokou")
The "Albanians" on Hydra
Iannis Gavalas tells about the special beauty of Vlychos/Episkopi
The Driopes
The Feast of the Blooming Almond Tree
The Song of the Blooming Almond Tree
HIKE  10
"Kyria Maria the Candle-Maker"
Iannis Gavalas about the life of a donkey man on Hydra
HIKE  11
HIKE  12
Tassos and the Sea
The book
Anna Barry

Tassos and the Sea
In the port of Hydra you will see small crowds of enthusiastic paterfamilias crooning over the morning's catch of fish.
In their wake equally large numbers of cats gather for a lucky hand-out. Freh fish are considered a delicacy in Greece and they are bought directly from the fishermen's boats.

Although most people rely on "professionals" to catch their fish, some Hydriotes enjoy the challenge and pleasure of catching their own. Tassos is one of them. He explains the system of licensing for fishermen on Hydra:
There are only fifty to sixty licenses currently extant and there is a lid on the number of new ones being issued. A license costs about 3000 Euro. Most fishermen inherit theirs and the license is not transferable from one boat to another. There are 10 "kaikia" (large wooden boats) operating currently and 6 to 7 "varkes", smaller boats resembling dinghies. In addition there are two very large trawlers which use the "Trata"- method involving enormous nets.

There is a controversy arises between Tassos and his friend Iannis Gavalas about which kind of boat is preferable. In essence they both agree that no self-respecting fisherman would choose a plastic boat, but these are gaining in popularity because of their easy upkeep. Tassos' wooden boat requires a lot of labor.

"Two times a year I have to take my boat out of the water", he tells us. "I have to remove all of the old paint and then repaint it with three coats." The wooden boats have Diesel engines which are slow but sturdy. The plastic boats are powered by high speed gasoline motors. The island can have abrupt weather changes and then it is very hard to moor a wooden boat.
To his own satisfaction Iannis concludes: "If you want to feel the life, if you have a soul, you must have a wooden boat!"

View on the Straight of Petasi

The popular wisdom is that fish are fast disappearing from the Mediterranean, but Tassos tells us otherwise.
"If the 'Trata' boats were suspended for two years only, the island's waters would be teeming with fish. The area around Vlychos, especially, is a nesting place for many fish and other creatures such as octopus and sea urchins. They like to lay their eggs among the shoals there. But even with the 'Trata', we can find a lot of fish, because we fishermen have our secrets..."
And Tassos brings out, with evident pride, an ingenious book he has made, filled with precise diagrams of his secret places to find fish. He has measured angles from landmarks on the shore and around the various small islands around the gulf. Some places might yield squid; others have swarms of "barbounia", "skorpii", or "chani".
However, Tassos admits that luck plays a big part in the operation. "Sometimes, I come home with buckets full of fish, and on other days, it's just enough to feed the cat."

Tassos has an arsenal of complex, homemade gear designed for the different methods of fishing. There are all sorts of lovingly constructed gadgets. Long lines with multiple hooks are reeled in by hand. Hand- made lures mimic the prey of the fish. A particularly impressive lure is the one used to catch "kalamaria". It has a phosphorescent core and "whiskers" that are apparently very tempting. It must be dangled constantly to be effective.
There are laborious and indolent fishing methods. The large nets ("apohes") that are sunk to the bottom to tempt "barbounia" with a bait of sea urchins need no further attendance, but the long lines with the many hooks ("kathetes") must be constantly moved and need to be closely watched. Some of them are as long as 3 km. These are used to catch lobster and big fish that can only be found at a depth of five meters or more. Another fishing method, used at night, is the "pyrofani", the lighting of the surface of the sea by acetylene lamps, which attracts the fish. To make the surface smooth, the fisherman first sprinkles olive oil mixed with sand on the water. Then it is easier to see the fish rising to the attraction of the lamps. This method, like several others, is seasonal. It is used from February to May only.

The practice of dynamiting is illegal. Since as much as 250 kilos of fish can be hauled in one "killing", it is easy to see how quickly the fishing grounds could become barren if this method were to be used. It also kills small fish along with the adults, thus destroying the breed. Dynamiting has often resulted in the maiming of the fisherman himself. Nevertheless, Tassos says, there are still some criminals who go dynamiting in hidden places.
"I am not really a fisherman by trade", Tassos says as he leads us into the kitchen of his nearly 300 year old house in Kamini. He sits at a small table next to the indoor well, while his mother hunches over her crocheting.
Tassos was a radio operator in the merchant marine and later had a business in the USA, but ultimately, like so many islanders do, he returned to Hydra.
Now one of his great pleasures is fishing.
Why does Tassos fish?
He beams at us when he answers: "I feel free out on the water. It is beautiful. And you must understand that I don't go to fight with the fish or the sea. I go to measure myself with myself."

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