For many people, sailing the Greek isles on a chartered boat is nothing more than a dream. It’s like a perfect postcard in one’s mind, with images of a sparkling azure sea, glistening and revealing secret hidden beaches and caves throughout the isles.
One man, Dr. Lambros Karris, shares his passion for the sea while making travelers’ dreams come true as they sail the Greek isles, discovering Greece from an entirely new perspective.
This is not the typical Greek holiday — it is an exceptional Greek holiday. And it is offered to you by an exceptional man, who emigrated from Greece when he was just a teen, yet never lost touch with his Greek roots.
Dr. Lambros Karris is also known as “Capitan Lambros” to many. That’s thanks to the retired Greek-American professor’s lifelong love for the sea and his native land of Greece.
After immigrating to the U.S. from Thessaloniki in 1963 when he was eighteen years of age, Dr. Karris pursued his dreams, becoming a professor of psychology at the young age of 24. From there, he went on to teach for the next 38 years at Husson University in Maine.
But his adventures certainly didn’t end there. Dr. Karris went on to pursue another passion, taking up sailing in the 1980’s. He soon became a U.S. Coast Guard-certified Master Mariner, enabling him to serve as a captain on a merchant vessel.
After having sailed across the Atlantic in 1985 in a 40-foot sailboat, Dr. Karris went on to share the alluring beauty of the beautiful Greek Isles by offering chartered cruises on his new sailboat, the “Alexandros”. And the man himself is just as alluring as the Greek Isles.
In his own words, he is a “Greek-American, a professor of psychology, a businessman, teacher, husband, father, a lover of the sea and sailing, yet still an adventurer at heart — a modern-day Ulysses.”
Dr. Karris encompasses everything that is Greece. Not only does he share his love for the sea and Greek islands with people who book passage on his vessel, he is also a professional-level chanter in his church, St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bangor, Maine. He began chanting in his father’s church in Thessaloniki at the impossibly young age of three.
When asked how he become involved with chanting at such a young age, Dr. Karris told the Greek Reporter the enchanting story of how his father, an Orthodox priest, played a crucial role renovating, restoring and reopening St. George Church, near the Rotonda in Thessaloniki.
“I was blessed to grow up with family and friends endowed with exceptional voices and wonderful skills. My father, a Greek from Kalipoli, present day Turkey, came to Kali, Pella, during the exchange of populations in 1922. He was ordained a priest and immediately after WWII, he found himself negotiating with the Gregoriou Monastery at Mt. Athos, to renovate and begin services at St. George Church in Thessaloniki, which belonged to them but had been abandoned. By 1948, the church was made functional, beautified and had regular services that the faithful could attend!”
He went on to explain that a growing congregation gathered at the Church every Sunday and on feast days to hear the chants, which resonated into the souls of all in attendance.
“I was three years old and I found myself at the feet of the Protopsalti, George, a student of Taliadoros, and across from us, at the left analogion, was my brother Vasilis, an unbelievable tenor. At the Ieron was my father, with a soft and soothing voice, with perfect pitch and masterful half tones that brought you to peace, love and forgiveness.
It was not just a service, it was a liturgical approximation of heaven. This was the reason that the church was packed with faithful every Sunday, and during the week a plethora of people would come and ask for forgiveness prayers to be read to them.”
It was then that Dr. Karris was asked to chant the Eis Aghios, a “simple short chant ideal for a child to chant,” he explained. “I started learning all the eight tones of Byzantine chanting, all the Katabasies, all the Doxologies, all the Cheruvika in all of the eight tones.
“By the age of 13, my brother was ordained a priest and I took over his responsibilities as a left chanter. The Metropolitan of Thessaloniki would come to participate in the Vesper Service of the St. George feast day celebration, and here I am chanting in a packed church in front of the Metropolitan. I could sense my father’s anxiety to make sure that everything was beyond reproach, but did not let that affect me,” Dr. Karris added.
He went on to chant at other local churches during their liturgies, and eventually was invited to come and study for the priesthood at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, in Brookline, Massachusetts in the U.S.
On September 2, 1963, Dr. Karris arrived in at his seminary outside Boston, Massachusetts.
“I was a good chanter in Greece, but I was considered an exceptional chanter in America, because there were very few experienced Byzantine chanters here. For three years I was helping all the neophytes learn how to chant during the Orthros and Vesper services which were held every day. If there was a hymn somebody did not know how to chant, he would come to me, or I would be next to him at the analogion and chant it for him,” he explained.
Dr. Karris would continue his studies there for three years, until he realized that he was, in his words, “not willing to carry the Cross of priesthood.” However, he continued chanting around the country and the world, even chanting in Greek at a Syrian Orthodox church for a year, in El Paso, Texas, although the service was done in Syrian.
His love for the Church and chanting continues. He told the Greek Reporter, “In more recent years I have directed the choir at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, in Bangor. A small community of caring and loving people at the edge of the northeast of America.”
Dr. Karris truly is a modern-day Renaissance man if there ever was one.
He is even a Notary Public and can legally marry residents of the State of Maine! And did we mention he has been an IFR-licensed pilot since 1970, and he owned a Cessna 172 until recently which he loved piloting?
A proud Greek, Dr. Karris never forgets his roots, and he tries to help the people back in his native Greece as much as possible.
“I have no particular association with any organized mental health institution in Greece,” he explained to the Greek Reporter. However, once people catch wind that he has arrived, and they realize that he is a doctoral-level clinical psychologist and university professor from the U.S., they flock to him with their problems.
“I see a lot of anxiety and depression in Greece,” he explained. Mostly, he tries to refer people to local professionals, but when he can help, he does — whether it be providing short-term therapy to them while he is visiting during the summer months, or online. “I provide services to them, gratis,” the doctor explained.
When asked how he began offering chartered cruises for people interested in sailing the Greek isles, Dr. Karris explained to the Greek Reporter that “After retirement, a number of people asked me if I could charter my boat in Greece. I thought it made a lot of sense, and I bought “Alexandros” with a Greek flag and made it an inspected vessel with a commercial license. I started chartering it, but only to two groups at the most, for two weeks each.” But what lucky groups of travelers they are!
“I provide the opportunity to fulfill some people’s dreams of visiting the Greek Islands and important antiquities like Delphi and the Acropolis,” Dr. Karris said.
The sailboat “Alexandros” is even better than a hotel on water. It’s a Beneteau 445, approximately 45 feet long and 14 feet wide. It has four double cabins and two bathrooms.
Travelers aboard the vessel will find that they are not missing out on many modern conveniences, as there are two refrigerators, a stove, a dining room table in the salon, and another table in the outdoor cockpit for alfresco dining. As Dr. Karris says, it’s a “very comfortable and able sailing vessel.”
For more information about sailing the Greek seas with Dr. Karris, check out his website here.