Polidoulis Boatyard | Boatbuilding on Syros Today

For five generations, the Polidoulis family has upheld the tradition of maintenance and caulking of wooden boats; today, Dimitris Polidoulis and his son Kyriakos, the latest in the family to practice the trade, maintain the Polidoulis boatyard located in the “karnagio” former industrial zone of Hermoupolis. Caulking of seams between planks is an essential task required to keep traditionally built boats watertight, and is accomplished by applying a linseed oil putty mixed with red lead powder, and the hammering of a slightly twisted yarn of pure cotton between seams. The boatyard provides a range of other services, including drydocking, annual maintenance, deck replacements and painting.

In Dimitris’s grandfathers’ era, over 750 caulkers existed on the island, attending to the huge volume of wooden boats arriving from Syros, the Cyclades and beyond; today, only a handful remain. The photos and newspaper in this collection attest to the boatyard’s multigenerational history, and to small but enduring details: a hand-built wooden off-ramp, or a method of preparing a traditional lubricant for boat launching.

1 Newspaper clipping from “To Vima” featuring the Polidoulis maintenance yard, Jan. 19, 1994.

2 Disassembly of a boat. From left: Zannis Bougioukas, Kyriakos Polidoulis, c. 1955.

3 Dimitris Polidoulis and a crew hauling boat out for drydocking, c. 1965.

4 Georgios Polidoulis, second generation caulker, c. 1920.

5 Georgios Polidoulis at work, c. 1970.

6 Dimitris Polidoulis resting on a wooden ramp, c. 1975.

7 Dimitris Polidoulis repairing the “Agios Nikolaos,” c. 2018.

8 Kyriakos Polidoulis preparing a traditional ramp lubricant, c. 1960.

9 Dimitris Polidoulis on a wooden ramp, preparing for a drydock, c. 1985.

10 Kyriakos Polidoulis caulking, c. 1985.

11 Unknown man by wooden ramp, c. 1975.

12 Kyriakos Polidoulis repairing a boat, c. 2000.