Greek navigation is full of stories of ships whose history was engraved in the memories of the people of the area and beyond.
The legendary "Fairy" of Captain Giannis, according to Ioannis Latsis is such a ship. The ship that "served" as a passenger, rescue, floating hotel and retired as a floating museum. Mostly, however, this ship is known, as it resulted in an economic empire.
The Fairy was built in present-day Rijeka, Croatia between 1938-1939. His first name was Laurana. It was originally used in the Adriatic to serve ferry services in its ports. With the outbreak of World War II, the ship participated in military operations as a lifeguard, as it was a fast and agile hull that could easily go to shipwrecks and collect survivors and wounded.
Of the seven rescue and floating hospitals then ordered by the Italians, only Laurana survived. For the following years until the end of 1949, it was used in the Malta-Syracuse ferry connection.
Purchase of Neraida by Giannis Latsis
In December 1949, Giannis Latsis bought the ship and at the beginning of the following year set sail for the first time in the Saronic Gulf with the name he had received from its Italian owners, about 10 years ago.
Latsis had learned Italian as a child, taking advantage of his association with Italian carbonars in the port of his particular homeland, Katakolo, Ilia, where he tried to help the poor family table as a dock worker (he had 13 older brothers and a younger one). After school he studied at the School of Masters of the Merchant Navy of Pyrgos. A lover of the sea as he was, he boarded a small truck coming and going in Italy and reached the rank of lieutenant. His friendship with the truck owner's son, Loukas Nomikos, secured Latsis his first merchant ship on credit, making his dream come true.s
Nikolaos Plastiras attended the ship's maiden voyage in 1950, a few days before he was sworn in as prime minister. During the voyage, a vote was taken on the name of the ship and while the guests voted "Elli", "Neraida" was finally chosen. When the ship arrived in Hydra, the naming ceremony was held by the later prime minister.
For 25 years the "Fairy" operated daily the route Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros-Hydra-Spetses-Ermioni. Many remember Captain Giannis, tireless and immobile as he was, cutting his own tickets at the port of Piraeus, carrying his passengers' suitcases, untying the ropes and running to get in.
During these 25 years, the ship had the opportunity to "star" in the 1950s and '60s in many Greek films, but mainly in the Hollywood production of 1957 with Sophia Loren "The Child and the Dolphin". It was then that it was turned into a floating hotel, but also the headquarters of the filmmakers, as at that time Hydra did not have accommodation to accommodate a large number of visitors, not even electricity.
Over the years, the "Fairy" became unprofitable and "put in" its owner. Nevertheless, Latsis considered it his first and "lucky" ship. For this and when the years passed and it was time to become scrap metal, the Greek tycoon stubbornly refused. The ship remained decommissioned in Elefsina for over 30 years, as Giannis Latsis never sent the hull to the scrap yard. In 2007, four years after his death, his family decided to rebuild and turn it into a floating museum.
In September 2007, the ship was taken to the NCP shipyard in Sibenik, Croatia, a few hundred kilometers south of the city where he was "born". The architectural design was undertaken by the Patterson Buxton Consultants office in London, the construction of the interiors by the German company Metrica Interior and the museological study by Professor Alexandra Bounia.
The works, which lasted three years, were personally supervised by Latsis' only son, Spyros. The works were completed in April 2010 and after the necessary tests and controls, the "Fairy" began its journey back to Greek waters.
Today, the "Fairy" is the only floating museum in the country . It is moored in the Marina Floisvou , is funded by the Public Benefit Foundation Ioannis S. Latsis and admission is free. Visitors have the opportunity to learn through storytelling, photographs and audiovisual material the story of "lucky steamer" by Captain John and the business course of its owner.
In 2003, the year that Giannis Latsis, one of the greatest shipowners of the 20th century, passed away at the age of 93, Forbes declared him the No. 101 richest man in the world, with his fortune estimated at 5, $ 4 billion. The "Fairy" was the one who actually started the vision to create something so powerful.