Evidence shows that the first people who inhabited the island of Inousses were shepherds and farmers from Kardamyla, Chios. They initially settled in “Kastro”, because of the proximity to Northern Chios. However, the little boats that they were using could not effectively support the transfer of people and products to the opposite shores of Vroulidia. Hence, they developed larger transport means. This was the first commercial activity of the Inoussians. They start using Mandraki as harbor and later- on, it becomes the epicenter of the settlements. This first period comes to end due to the Chios Genocide by the Turks in 1822. At that point, the Inoussian settlers seek refuge in the Cyclades and other places in Greece.
Come 1827, the Ottomans proclaimed amnesty for the Chian people, due to their unique experience in the mastic cultivation and manufacturing, and because the mastic product trade was important for the Empire. On this occasion, the Inoussians also took the opportunity to return and begin the commercial and transport activity in a professional way. They use small vessels called “Latinia”, “Tsernikia” and “Boubardes” to transport firewood and charcoal from Athos Holy Mountain (Agion Oros), and from the Islands of Thasos and Samothraki to different ports of Minor Asia, serving an area from Aivali to Kousantasi. The whole population of Inousses diverts “from sheep to ships”, according to an English reporter’s relevant description.
In 1849, the Inoussians built their own ships in Plomari (Lesbos), since there was no ships available to buy on the market. During the next 20 years, everything changes on Inousses. The small community of shepherds and farmers transforms into a dynamicnaval family that constantly expands. Already, a 15% of the commercial fleet of Chios belongs to just twenty Inoussian families, with a total tonnage of 2000 tonnes.
Following the above, all of a sudden, this maritime endeavour acquires an unexpected “ally”, that was proven to become a big source of profiteering for the Inoussians: It was the Crimean war 1853 – 1856, where theymake substantial profits by executing transportations for the Turkish Army from Smyrna to the Dardanelles straits.
Referring to that period, the Great Greek Benefactor Andreas Syggros specifically mentioned among others: “During the Crimean War, one could earn all they wanted, as long as they showed some vigour and intelligence”.
This Crimean war profits were used as initial capital to build bigger vessels. Indeed, during the early 1860s the Inoussian shipowners build vessels of 120 tonnes average tonnage in the shipyards of Syros, Chios, and Ikaria. The ports of call expand further from the Black Sea to Egypt.
The Inoussian “brand” of shipowners, navigators, and seafarersis established in the maritime centres of the world. Merchants and older maritime houses recognize the capacity and engulf the Inoussian shipowners in their circles, surrounding them with their trust.
In late 1870s, the Inoussians order even bigger vessels, “schooners” and “barques” from the Italian shipyards in the Adriatic Sea. Inoussian vessels sail around the Mediterranean Sea, occasionally go even further than the Gibraltar straits, like for example Captain Yiannis St. Frangos who sailed to Sierra Leone on the West African Coast.
In 1890 K. I. Chatzipateras mentioned precisely: “Aignousa was the biggest Marina in the area. We had bought almost all the sailing vessels in Greece and the whole population was living happy. They were hard working people, they had the advantage of mutually supporting each other, they were conservative with their spending, and most of them were ethical individuals.
However, early 1900s, the sail ships industry declines and the development of the vapor boats begins.Steel vapor boats set gradually aside the timber sail vessels.
A.Laimos writes in the “Inoussian Chronicle”: “In the year 1900, the purchase of the first vapor boat starts the burial ceremony of the Inoussian sailing boat fleet and marks the beginning of the vapor boat one”.
The First World War finds Aignousa with a vapor boat fleet of 10 vessels with a tonnage of 3.500 – 4.500 tonnes. However, the adverse conditions created by the war force the shipowners to sell their vessels even at a loss.
In 1923, a new era starts and the Inoussians storm the London market. They buy second – hand ships and refurbish them to new ones. Antonis Laimos makes the following important references: “During the 1927-1933 financial crisis, the working conditions in the Inoussian ships were governed by an unwritten law of mutual respect and support between captains, ship owners and crews. With low salaries and budgets, they successfully survived the maritime crisis of that period, held on to their ships and, all together reached the better times that followed.
During the 2nd World War, the Inoussian fleet counted many ships, that were aged, but counted however an average tonnage of 8000 tones. Most of these ships perished mainly in the Atlantic Ocean, participating to convoys of the allies. The restoration of the global peace finds the island with a minimal number of vessels.
At this point, the Greek Government and Greek shipowners co-operate, negotiate and securein replacement of the war losses, one hundred “Liberty” vessels from the United States,under very favourable terms. Fourteen of those vessels have been offered to Inoussian shipowners. Nevertheless, many Inoussian ship – owners have been set aside from this distribution, despite of the fact that they had lost ships during the war.
The post war period was very profitable for the maritime industry. Mid 1960s, the Inoussian fleet counts 150 vessels. This number brings Inousses at the top of the global maritime industry, taking in consideration the small size and the population of the island.
Nowadays, the Inoussian maritime fleet has substantially decreased, not as much because of the heir’s idleness, but because they turned to other poles of enrichment.
Regardless, the maritime tradition of the island lives on with a significant number of Inoussians occupied in maritime professions or professions surrounding the maritime industry, while the Maritime Education adds to the revival of the island and the livelihood of the permanent residents.
The Maritime High School, the Tertiary First Officers College (AEN), as well as the Life Saving and Fire Extinguishing Equipment School, will keep the Inoussian maritime spirit and tradition very much alive in the years to come.