Postcard from Syros

Kaikia, the small, traditional wooden boats found in the Ionian and Aegean, are usually built without plans by the boatbuilder’s memory alone. Designed as fishing boats, tenders or to transport goods, livestock and people, long before there were any roads or ferries, these boats were built to last. They are part of the postcard view of any Greek island port, and yet they are becoming scarcer — during the past 30 years, almost 14,000 have been destroyed under an EU directive designed to prevent overfishing. As well as giving up their fishing licence, fishermen must scrap their vessel to qualify for a generous subsidy.

Only twenty traditional boatbuilders remain in Greece – six of them on Syros, an island with a long and illustrious shipping history. Here, a handful of shipwrights continue to practise their craft — stubbornly, patiently, lovingly sanding decks, caulking hulls, occasionally even coaxing planks into frames. And you can take a gentle cruise around the island on one such boat, the beautifully restoed Kallia M.