“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea.”
– Nikos Kazantzakis
Nick Giameos was born in 1950 on the Greek island of Patmos, among the Dodecanese islands in the southeastern corner of the Aegean Sea, and in crucial ways, it was from the sea that he developed the work ethic, devotion to family, and sense of adventure that would shape his life.
Patmos is a bit over seven miles long north to south and consists of two hilly massifs, all stone and olive trees, joined like the halves of an hourglass by a narrow isthmus where the whitewashed buildings of Skala are situated. It was the kind of place, remote and undeveloped, where childhood could unfold largely out in the fresh air. And for the same reason, it was also a place where childhood could include grown-up responsibilities.
Nick was constantly in and out of the house, and when he was out, he could usually be found by the harbor in Skala with a line in the water. Fishing was an early and abiding passion. It was also a way for Nick to help feed his parents and siblings.
Nick’s father, Marinos, was born on Agathonisi, an even smaller and less populated island than Patmos about twenty-five miles to the northeast. He had worked as a laborer on the nearby island of Leros before the Second World War when Italy controlled most of the Dodecanese. When he relocated to Patmos he started working at the general store in the town square. Nick’s mother, Dimitra, was a homemaker who spent her evenings crocheting by the warm light of an oil lamp. Later in life, Nick would recount how sometimes things were so tight, and resources so scarce, that she would cut up old burlap sugar sacks from Cuba to sew underwear for him and his siblings.
When Nick was twelve years old, his mother died of leukemia, and his father needed more help than ever. He found work as an apprentice electrician in the village of Chora, clustered on the heights of southern Patmos around an 11th-century monastery. Next, he found work on a two-masted caique, delivering fruit and livestock throughout the Aegean Sea. But there was one profession above all to which a boy on the Greek Islands might aspire that offered not only an income but also freedom and adventure. When he was fifteen years old, Nick joined the Greek Merchant Marine.
One of his first voyages took him around the world on a supertanker owned by Stavros Niarchos, the great rival of fellow shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. More voyages followed over the next five years on tankers and cargo ships, punctuated by stops and shore leave at ports such as Naples, Marseille, Tunis, Dakar, Durban, Port Said, Karachi, Sapporo, the Marshall Islands, and beyond.
In Borneo, Nick dodged the coconuts with which the local monkeys greeted the crew. In Venezuela, he caught piranhas in the Orinoco – good eating, the local boatmen had assured him, with wide grins – and, upon frying one and biting into it, had the distinct impression of the sole of a shoe. In the port towns of China, he would watch as women with badges of Mao Zedong unloaded the ship, hunched in their uniforms with their eyes to the ground.
Between the ports of call were long stretches at sea. Nick kept busy with reading books set in the American West and taking care of swallows that would nest on the ship. He spent his days cooking for the crew and shopping for supplies at each port. Once, on a ship delivering Spanish guitars and soccer balls to Venezuela, a crate slipped and broke open amid rough weather. The crew took this as an opportunity to play soccer on the deck of the ship at sundown. Every few months or so, Nick would manage to get a letter or postcard back to his family back on Patmos. Finally, Nick himself returned to Patmos, opened a pizzeria with his brother whereby he had two fateful encounters that would change his life forever.
Among the pizzeria regulars was an American professor at Whitman College, in Walla Walla, taking a year-long sabbatical on Patmos. If you ever come to America, come to Walla Walla and open a pizzeria, he would tell Nick. Then, in 1973, a young woman named Marcia Rerecich, from Bainbridge Island was traveling on a small cruise ship to Israel that diverted to Patmos following trouble in the Middle East. She met Nick in Skala’s town square, and the two of them got to talking. When Nick visited Washington State a year later, he passed through Walla Walla to see the professor, but it was on Bainbridge that he would ultimately decide to stay.
Nick and Marcia were wed in 1975 on Bainbridge Island and later settled in Winslow. Before long their daughter, Marina, was born. Meanwhile, Nick set out once again to find work.
He began his search on the docks along the Duwamish River, in Seattle, but ended up as a night janitor at the JC Penney store downtown. The fatigue of commuting, plus parenthood, drew him back to Bainbridge. He picked up handyman and house painting jobs, then found work with an electrician in Poulsbo. It was his second encounter with the electrical trade, and this time he embraced it. He gained experience, studied contracting at Olympic College in Bremerton, and in the early eighties opened his own business, Nick’s Electric.
In August of 2006, the residents of a small street on High School Road put in their nomination for a new street name. Nick seized the opportunity to name the street where he resided Patmos Lane. Over time, he had come to belong not only to the island of his birth, nor only to the island where he made his adult life, but to both. There was Bainbridge, where he and Marcia raised their daughter, where he wired countless houses (in addition to homes elsewhere in the area), and where he indulged his passion for soccer as a long-serving member of the Bainbridge Blues Team. He seldom missed a chance to kick a ball around with old friends at Battle Point Park or the high school playing fields on a Sunday afternoon. And there was Patmos, where in later life he built a stone house and spent the summer months freediving, spearfishing, and communing with relatives and the memories of his youth. He died there on July 17th, 2021, after a day spent living as he liked to live best: on the water, family around him, fishing line out, sun above, and the glinting blue of the sea all around.
Nick Giameos leaves behind his daughter, Marina Giameos; his son-in-law, Nikos Passas; his granddaughter, Kleopatra Passas; his grandson, Nikolino Passas; his former wife, Marcia Giameos; his sisters Irini, Katerina, and Antonia; and his brothers, Tassos and Panayiotis. A graveside service was held on July 21st, 2021 in Skala, Patmos, and a memorial service was held on August 22nd, 2021 at a Monastery in Chora, Patmos.
“In the deep blue of the Aegean Sea, we held you in our arms. Our last voyage together to Apolu and beyond. Πατερα, you left us way too soon. We will carry you in our hearts forever.” July 17th, 2021 – Saint Marina Day