For this Greek conservationist, boat life isn’t just about kicking back on 50 metre Zaliv III. There’s also a huge supply vessel, Typhoon, to take care of cleanup and research missions, says Charlotte Hogarth-Jones
Speaking to Greek-born yacht owner Evi Lazou, it’s almost impossible not to want to fly to her homeland immediately. “As long as I can remember, summers have had the smell of sea breeze, suntan oil and grilled octopus,” she recalls evocatively, “and the taste of salt, sweet tomatoes and cold watermelon.”
With the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, and more than 6,000 beautiful islands to explore, growing up in the country without some kind of deep connection to its waters is almost unheard of, she explains. “In the winter, it’s even traditional to determine our overall health by the number of days spent by the sea, or by the number of swims we’ve taken, so strong is the belief in its healing properties.”
Zaliv III in the Greek islands
Credit: Dimitris Benetos
Thankfully for Lazou, there are two yachts in her life, and plenty of opportunities for enjoying restorative “bania” (literally meaning baths) off the Greek coastline. The first is Zaliv III, a sleek 50 metre Mondomarine semi-displacement aluminium yacht that underwent a refit last year. Lazou worked with SMK Interiors by Silvina Macipe Krontiras to refresh all the fabrics inside and out, and added a rug and coffee-table arrangement on the main deck. “My favourite part of Zaliv III is the flybridge,” she says. “It’s perfect for enjoying breezy evenings under the stars with good company, nice music and fresh fish caught that day by local fishermen.”
The second boat, Typhoon, is a rather different beast. A 73 metre DWT oil platform supply vessel, she was bought in 2018 by the Athanasios C. Laskaridis Charitable Foundation, with the function of both hosting researchers on board and enabling beach cleanups with ease.
Taking part in a vital cleanup operation – Typhoon has visited more than 800 beaches in the past year
Credit: Palinor Media Productions
Lazou is chairman of the organisation, which was founded by her husband, Greek shipowner and businessman Thanasis Laskaridis. Laskaridis and his brother are the majority stakeholders in Lavinia Corporation, a shipping group holding company, and the family is well known in Greece. For many years, they chartered the yacht Zaliv I, which sadly burned in a fire off the island of Kythnos about 20 years ago. They then bought Zaliv II from her previous owners to enjoy while Zaliv III was being built. The family also owns hotels around the world, including the English country retreat Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, and the King George and the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens.
“His father was a marine biologist, and he got into shipping very early in his career, so for him the ocean is a lot more than a passion or a pastime,” Lazou explains. “It’s hard to choose a single highlight throughout my work with the foundation, but on a personal level, what makes me proud is when I see a hint of approval on his face. My partner is quite an exacting judge who rarely expresses admiration, and I’m proud that he’s trusted me with the materialisation of his vision.”
Typhoon’s crew readies her RIBs for a cleanup mission
Credit: Palinor Media Productions
The couple’s work in ocean conservation started slowly but surely. “We were seeing the same familiar places that we travelled to every year getting dirtier every time we returned; finding plastic in remote caves or on otherwise pristine sandy beaches, and it urged us to correct the problem,” she says.
At first, it was a simple tradition of packing litter bags along with sunscreen, hats and towels, and the family – Lazou’s 11-year-old son, his five older half-siblings and six nephews and nieces – gathered rubbish as they went. “The turning point came in 2015 when we had our first semi-organised cleanup operation with friends and family on Dokos, an uninhabited island in the Argo-Saronic Gulf next to Hydra,” Lazou explains. “There were no more than 15 people involved, and over the course of a few hours we filled 40 large garbage bags. It was a shock to understand the sheer scale of the problem.”
Typhoon’s cleaners scour a beach for discarded rubbish
Today, Typhoon and its team of 10 cleaners work every day of the year carrying out beach cleanups. Typhoon is the mother vessel, and several landing craft on its open deck are then deployed to allow access to the more remote and inaccessible areas of the Greek coastline.
Typhoon was found in a well-kept state, although she had been laid up for around two years, and was taken to the Astander shipyard in northern Spain for a refit, including restoring the dynamic positioning system and adding additional firefighting and oil-spillage-cleaning equipment. “The first time we stepped on board it was a very wet and rainy day in Yarmouth, and initially I was overwhelmed by its size and the complexity of its engine rooms,” Lazou remembers.
Since arriving in Greece in July 2019, Typhoon has visited more than 800 beaches and collected 80,000 kilograms of litter. She has also hosted researchers from the University of Patras who were exploring the litter concentration on the seabed of the Saronic Gulf. The foundation also runs a number of initiatives, including funding research and educational programmes, as well as Fishing for Litter, a scheme where professional fishermen collect the litter accumulated in their nets and dispose of it in an eco-friendly way. At a time when there’s a lot of talk about ocean conservation, action can be slow, yet the foundation’s work is effective. Lazou also sits on the board of BOAT International’s Ocean Awards, rewarding the efforts of others around the world.
“My experience of starting small and doing what we can has been hugely rewarding,” says Lazou, “and I now know that small actions add up, it makes a real difference.” Nevertheless, cleanups are often seen as a Band-Aid that doesn’t tackle the wider issues at play. “They can’t solve a pressing international problem,” she agrees. “We need to rethink the materials we use, and yacht owners need to reduce their CO2 emissions by slow steaming, as well as engaging with proper, strict waste management.”
Zaliv III has a wealth of toys and tenders to keep guests occupied
If all this sounds exhausting, life on board Zaniv III is somewhat more relaxed. “Outside of the foundation, our days are usually very leisurely,” Lazou explains. “We sleep in, enjoy our morning coffee with the newspaper, and it’s only around noon that we are ready to explore.”
With six cabins, an onboard gym (including an elliptical trainer and treadmill), a steam bath and a spa pool, it’s easy to see why it’s tempting to stay on board, winding down on the elegant sundeck or in the restful saloon, decorated in soothing neutral shades and natural materials. But the yacht’s enormous array of water toys, including three jet skis, an electric surfboard and Seabobs are on hand to beckon guests into the water.
Her sundeck is equipped with a bar, barbecue and spa pool
“Each one of us has a favourite toy, and Chris, the cinematographer of the family, always makes sure we have one proper, edited video of each summer cruise,” she says. “We explore remote beaches, have impromptu barbecues and picnics and occasionally bike or hike inland, discovering the unique beauties of the islands – their picturesque villages, monasteries, archaeological sites and trekking paths.”
Living in London for the past few years, Lazou relishes in sourcing fresh fruit, vegetables and fish to enjoy on board. “It’s not for no reason that Greek produce is loved around the world,” she explains. “The produce here has a very special taste. Food and music play an essential role in the Greek summer experience, and we enjoy both a lot on board Zaliv III.”
“I love to see the sea calm and like oil, as we say in Greece, as well as angry and stormy,” she continues. “I was always a fan of sandy beaches with clear turquoise waters and rather nervous of dark, deep seas, but since I met Thanasis and started cruising on the yacht, I’ve trained myself to let go of that fear and explore parts of the deep sea that I would never have dreamt of before.”
Whether deep or shallow, there’s no shortage of beautiful waters to explore, and Lazou loves the lush vegetation and beautiful monasteries of the Sporades group of islands (Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonnisos and Skyros). “The best part is stargazing in Kyra Panagia,” she says, “and the Ionian islands, especially Ithaca, with its beautiful sunsets and special energy. And Elafonisos is stunning – just leave me there forever!”
First published in the September 2020 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.