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I: LISSA The Work Begins From the beginning, Elissa had been viewed as a living ship project-Karl Kortum, the great first-generation ship saver, had envisioned her sailing in San Francis-¡ co Bay, during the period he kept her alive with Peter Throckmorton, ten years before we set to work on her. This initial approach was reinforced by two compelling facts: first , that there is a lot of ocean between Greece and Texas, and second, that there was precious little of the original ship left. Elissa bore the hallmarks of a quality square-rigger, but through replacement and modification over the decades, her structure had become a patchwork quilt. Once the goal of an operational ship had been decided, the context for decisions was simple and clear. But what to renew was on thing; how to renew it or what to replace it with was something else entirely. In July 1977, an Elissa restoration crew headed by myself and Michael Creamer (both formerly of South Street Seaport Museum), began work aboard Elissa in Piraeus harbor. The other members of the crew were volunteers, some from Texas, some from New York, all who had paid their own way over and worked for room and board and $150 per month. We started out with four volunteers and they stayed varying lengths of time from one month to the duration. In the year and a half we worked in Greece 22 people worked as volunteers. We could not have gotten the ship where she is without their contribution. The high hopes and extreme innocence in which the Greek campaign began encountered some rude shocks. Athens and Piraeus were noisy, crowded and suffered incredible air pollution from congested traffic (it took a half hour to drive the six miles to work every morning). The harbor is a foetid mix of urine, solid wastes, bunker and old lube oil, folded into a sludge of dead fish, jettisoned paint, various indescribables, with a certain amount of salt water (we did not go in swimming during lunch hour). This stygian ooze had to be traversed constantly by dinghy to reach the Elissa, a hundred-odd yards offshore. The dinghy was so slimy she earned the name Sea Turd. The work was occasionally dangerous, frequently hard and invariably filthy. The first step was removal of tons of rust, rotten planking and assorted junk that had to be lightered ashore in small boats and dragged up the beach. The reverse was true for getting supplies aboard. The ship's cargo-handling gear needed a com-

SEA HISTORY, FALL 1979

Nikos Pagamenos and his ship. Widely known and respected, he handled yard dealings for Elissa.

plete overhaul before anything heavy could be removed. The fine paneling in the officer's quarters under the poop had to be completely disassembled to permit shell plate renewals in the stern. The fo'csl was set up as a shop. On the good side, the food was consistently fresh and the wine excellent and cheap. The midday sun was blisteringly hot, but the late afternoon light on the clouds and rocky hills gave a soft warmth and a crystalline clarity at the same time. I've never seen anything like it elsewhere. We were fortunate in having a good house available in Piraeus. It was Peter Throckmorton's base of operations for years, and we came in as he was moving out. An old building, the rooms were grouped around a courtyard garden and reached by a tunnel from the steep street. The most amazing aspect of the project

was how smoothly the house ran and how well everyone got along. This is not to imply that tensions and minor quarrels were not present, but on the whole the house was a harmonious one. Considering that we had a group of people who were previously strangers to each other and perhaps to communal living, spending 24 hours a day in company at a job that was a disappointment after initial expectations, it could easily have been a formula for disaster. Yet, with only a few exceptions, we are all still happy to see each other. There were delays waiting for the arrival of our materials and delays getting them through customs. And still more delays arranging a contract for the haulout and repairs. It was assumed all along the waterfront that we could afford any price. Since we were interested in a cen17

Sea History 015 - Autumn 1979  

9 THE ELISSA: THE LONG SEA CAREER, Peter Stanford • 12 THE PURCHASE OF A SHIP, Peter Throckmorton • 15 THE DREAM, Michael Creamer • 16 THE R...

Sea History 015 - Autumn 1979  

9 THE ELISSA: THE LONG SEA CAREER, Peter Stanford • 12 THE PURCHASE OF A SHIP, Peter Throckmorton • 15 THE DREAM, Michael Creamer • 16 THE R...