The pi­rate of the Aegean Sea

Fear­less mariner Kostas Prasi­nos is still sail­ing around the Small Cy­clades at the age of 76

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY VICKY KATEHAKI

“The sea needs to be re­spected oth­er­wise you will end up a loser. I’m not afraid of the sea be­cause I re­spect it. The sea and I al­ways com­mu­ni­cate well to­gether,” says Kou­fon­isi na­tive Cap­tain Kostas Prasi­nos of a lifetime spent at sea. Now 76, he has no thoughts of re­tir­ing. Prasi­nos, or “the pi­rate,” as he is af­fec­tion­ately known, is also fully aware that par­a­lyz­ing fear can be deadly when fac­ing wind speeds of up to 9 Beau­fort.

“The boat and the sea are my life,” the old salt re­marked as he launched into a de­scrip­tion of feats that have es­tab­lished him as the most renowned liv­ing skip­per of the Small Cy­clades re­gion.

“I was born on Kou­fon­isi in 1941, dur­ing the Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion. My fam­ily was poor – 13 chil­dren – and our par­ents had trou­ble rais­ing us. I left school early. I wanted to travel from a young age,” Prasi­nos noted.

He got his first job at sea at the age of 15. Hav­ing ac­quired a sailor’s di­ploma, the teenager was hired to work on a cargo ship and ended up trav­el­ing around the world. A decade later, he re­turned to Kou­fon­isi, where he mar­ried and went about set­tling down. Soon af­ter bought his first boat.

“When I re­turned to the is­land in 1966, there were no boats to cater for lo­cals’ trans­port needs. I found out that a boat had been put up for sale on [nearby] Naxos, so I de­cided to buy it. I paid 500 drach­mas for it and brought it back to Kou­fon­isi. But it turned out to be a leaky old boat. My wife soon grew tired of help­ing me pump out the water so she asked a car­pen­ter to come and re­pair it. The boat was soon as good as new and I started my first short-dis­tance trips,” the cap­tain re­called.

Dur­ing his 51 years at the helm, Cap­tain Prasi­nos has of­ten ven­tured out in bad weather to travel to the sur­round­ing is­lands and help in emer­gen­cies. He has count­less sto­ries to tell con­cern­ing Amor­gos, Schoinousa, Donousa and Irak­leia, the Small Cy­clades where lo­cals in need of med­i­cal treat­ment have of­ten re­lied on Prasi­nos for trans­port to the hospi­tal on Naxos, the main is­land in the re­gion.

Re­call­ing one such story from 35 years ago with pride, Prasi­nos elab­o­rated: “A preg­nant woman on Amor­gos was in ur­gent need of a spe­cific medicine be­cause both she and her un­born baby were in dan­ger of los­ing their lives. It was night­time, with winds of 8-9 Beau­fort, but I didn’t think twice. I sailed all the way to Vo­lakas port on Naxos, bought the med­i­ca­tion, and took it back to her. For­tu­nately, it all turned out well.”

That coura­geous, life­sav­ing ef­fort was crowned by a touch­ing re­union just a few years ago on Amor­gos. “I was in [sea­side] Kalotari­tissa and met a young lady who ran a cafe there. She hap­pened to be the girl who was born on that night 35 years ago. She was told that I was the one who took her mother the needed med­i­ca­tion, so that turned out to be a very lovely mo­ment that I will never for­get,” Prasi­nos re­mem­bered. Prasi­nos has four chil­dren of his own, 10 grand­chil­dren, as well as two great-grand­chil­dren, all based on Kou­fon­isi. When his son turned 8, the cap­tain had the young­ster join him at the wheel. “Nowa­days, he’s the boss and I’m the guardian,” said the sea­soned sailor.

Ev­ery sum­mer, for the en­tire du­ra­tion of the tourism sea­son, lasting two to three months, fa­ther and son cover routes around both Ano Kou­fon­isi and Kato Kou­fon­isi, a vir­tu­ally un­in­hab­ited is­land, in sep­a­rate boats. From the early morn­ing un­til late at night they of­fer sea trans­port to beaches in­clud­ing Finikas, Ital­ida, Fanos and Pori, with day tick­ets cost­ing 5 eu­ros apiece.

Reg­u­lar and re­laxed work aside, Cap­tain Prasi­nos re­mains vig­i­lant. Hav­ing ob­served her fa­ther’s ways over the years, Ka­te­rina, his el­dest daugh­ter, re­marked: “Be­fore dawn, he’s up mak­ing cof­fee with the VHF switched on to fre­quency 12 to hear if emer­gency help of any sort is needed any­where.”

He has stared death in the face on numer­ous oc­ca­sions at sea. “We, his chil­dren, have felt con­cern about his safety many times. But he has never wor­ried about it,” Ka­te­rina re­flected. “Mum and I al­ways say that my fa­ther is a seag­ull at sea. He is a dig­ni­fied, pleas­ant man who places the con­cerns of oth­ers above his own, which is why he is a re­spected fig­ure through­out the is­land.”

‘ The boat and the sea are my life,’ says Cap­tain Prasi­nos af­ter 51 years on the waves.

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