Farewell Cornouailles, Havelet, Sveti Stefan

The Sveti Stefan of Montenegro Lines, originally Brittany Ferries’ Cornouailles of 1977, this afternoon arrived off Aliaga in Turkey prior to being scrapped.

The ship had been ordered by Brittany Ferries from the Trondheim Mekaniske Værksted following the company’s earlier charter of the Prince de Bretagne (ex-Falster, later Vega), which had been delivered by the Norwegian shipyard two years earlier. The Prince de Bretagne had lacked sufficient passenger space and was considered prone to rolling in even moderate seas but the French evidently saw enough in the basic design to order a similar vessel for themselves. Although the Cornouailles was built with significantly more accommodation, she did inherit some of the poor seakeeping characteristics of her half-sister and, most notably, nearly sank in an incident off Cork in 1992 when, in one of her final periods of service back with Brittany Ferries, she encountered a “freak wave” and barely made it into port.

The design of the Cornouailles was derived from that of the Prince de Bretagne (ex-Falster). She is seen as the Vega at Corfu in 1999.

The design of the Cornouailles was derived from that of the Prince de Bretagne (ex-Falster). That ship is seen as the Vega at Corfu in 1999; she was scrapped at Aliaga in 2004.

The Cornouailles replaced the smaller Penn-Ar-Bed as the mainstay of the Roscoff-Plymouth route but passenger traffic continued to grow and, in 1984, she was chartered out to SNCF for two years, being replaced in BF service by the Benodet (1984) and Tregastel (1985). Painted in full SNCF livery, the ship replaced the smaller Valencay and served as one of two French ships on the Dieppe-Newhaven operation, alongside the Chartres and the British Senlac.

Returing to her owners in January 1986 she initiated freight-only service on the new Ouistreham-Portsmouth route before being deployed that summer on a new passenger option on the Cherbourg-Poole Truckline operation that Brittany Ferries had acquired the previous year. This proved successful and for 1989 the ship was replaced by the Tregastel and transferred to BF’s other affiliate, British Channel Island Ferries, and renamed the Havelet. There she would begin over a decade of service to the islands, running as second ship to the Rozel (ex-St Edmund) between 1989 and 1992 and the Beauport (ex-Prince of Fundy, Reine Mathilde) from 1992 to 1993. When BCIF was taken over by rivals Condor/Commodore in 1994 she operated in support of the car-carrying catamarans until the arrival of the new Commodore Clipper in late 1999, after which she was laid up.

The Havelet eventually found a buyer in the form of Montenegro Lines, who had inherited the Bar-Bari route of Prekookeanska Plovidba which had maintained a car ferry service since the 1960s. The original ship, the first Sveti Stefan (ex-Djursland) operated on the route for three decades and, for a brief period in the 1980s, was joined by the Njegos – a ship which subsequently followed the Cornouailles in service at Roscoff and Poole as the Tregastel.

In 2003 Montenegro Lines acquired a second passenger ship in the shape of the Sveti Stefan II, originally the third Prinz Hamlet and latterly Polferries’ Nieborow. A shorter derivation of the KEH design that had produced the Gustav Vasa (later Norrona) and Nils Dacke (Quiberon), the ship was deployed primarily on the longer crossing from Bar to Ancona. The two ships operated together for a decade until, in early 2013, the newly-published summer timetables indicated that only a one-ship service would be offered to Bari with the Ancona route closed. The Sveti Stefan II was retained and the smaller Sveti Stefan was sold for scrap. Having maintained the core service through the winter, the ship made her final scheduled sailing from Bari to Bar on 16 April. Arriving the next morning, she was promptly destored and sailed straight for Aliaga just two days later.

I first travelled on the ship as part of a three-day visit to Montenegro in the summer of 2003. The Adriatic ferry scene has changed much in those ten years and most of the old ships we encountered on that trip have succumbed to the breakers. We had disembarked in the morning in Brindisi from the venerable Poseidonia of Hellenic Mediterranean Lines, the most famous of all Greek operators themselves no longer with us. That ship was originally the Belfast Steamship Co’s Ulster Queen of 1967 and we arrived in a Brindisi which, that summer, was served by an array of aged tonnage which once served the British Isles such as the Kapetan Alexandros (ex-Doric Ferry), Media V (ex-Viking I), Egnatia III (ex-Saint Killian II) and Penelope A (ex-European Gateway).

After taking the train up to Bari we walked around the breakwater to inspect the Orestes (ex-Cerdic Ferry) which was enduring the long lay up which preceded her final demise. Not long removed from the port was the abandoned Sirio (ex-Cambridge Ferry) whilst in regular service were the Dubrovnik (ex-Duchess Anne), Marko Polo (ex-Zeeland), Azzurra (ex-Olau West), Siren (ex-Dana Gloria) and Polaris (ex-Dana Futura). The ship which had been replaced by the Cornouailles during her two year SNCF charter, the Valencay (by then the Pollux) was in her final season running from Bari to Albania whilst Marlines operated the sole rival operation to Montenegro using their Duchess M, once the Cornouailles’ Brittany Ferries fleetmate the Breizh-Izel.

The Duchess M (ex-Breizh-Izel) at Bari in 2007 in a picture taken from the pontoon berth used by the Sveti Stefan.

On that first crossing the budget did not stretch beyond a place on deck and, after a brief inspection of the accommodation inside, we set up camp for the night on her port side promenade deck. As we sailed to Bar, the ship encountered what appeared to be tremendous seas, and she rocked and rolled alarmingly through the night. We woke the next morning, with our sleeping bags covered in sea salt, to another beautiful and perfectly calm day and with the Duchess M following us into port. Already alongside was Montenegro Lines’ little freighter the Alba, which in an earlier life had served the UK as the Neckartal on charter to Sealink and, latterly worked for Schiaffino Line.

During our 2003 visit to Montenegro we stayed up the coast at Budva, and were able to stop briefly en-route at the small island town of Sveti Stefan after which the ships are named – well, we were able to stop outside it, for the island itself is a private and exclusive hotel, perhaps not the best situation for one of Montenegro’s most famous tourist sights.

Sveti Stefan itself, 30km along the coast from Bar.

Sveti Stefan itself, 30km along the coast from Bar.

Seven years later I had the opportunity to sail on the Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II once more, the former from Bar to Bari on the night of the 2010 football World Cup Final, which delayed departure from port as the crew preferred to wait and watch the conclusion before setting sail. The pictures below are from that sailing and the ship remained in satisfactory condition given her age and limited size – and certainly a world away from the fairly squalid state of her fleetmate.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II together at Bar.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II together at Bar.

A close look at the ship's funnel reveals the painted-over original Brittany Ferries' markings.

A close look at the ship's funnel reveals the painted-over original Brittany Ferries markings.

Bar's modern ferry terminal, whose excellent restaurant provides a much superior dining experience than that generally enjoyed aboard the ships of Montenegro Lines.

Bar's modern ferry terminal, whose excellent restaurant provides a rather superior dining experience to that generally enjoyed aboard the ships of Montenegro Lines.

An afternoon scene on the pier in Bar.

An afternoon scene on the pier in Bar.

Approaching the ship to board our evening sailing to Bari.

Approaching the ship to board our evening sailing to Bari.

The ship's compact main vehicle deck with the ramp leading to the upper deck visible.

The ship's compact main vehicle deck with the ramp leading to the upper deck visible.

The upper car deck...

The upper car deck...

...complete with old-style turntable at the forward end to assist with manoeuvring vehicles.

...complete with old-style turntable at the forward end to assist with manoeuvring vehicles.

For this crossing we had booked a four-berth cabin; as with many of the cabins aboard, this had a basin but no en-suite bathroom.

For this crossing we had booked a four-berth room; as with most of the cabins aboard, this had a basin but no en-suite bathroom.

Across the corridor were public showers.

Across the corridor were public showers, still with original signage.

Cabin signage.

Cabin signage.

A Havelet-era safety plan with the present name surreptitiously added by sticker.

A Havelet-era safety plan with the present name surreptitiously added by sticker.

Passengers crowd into the lounge area to watch football.

Passengers crowd into the lounge area to watch football.

Heading out on deck, the Sveti Stefan II was laying over until her next sailing to Ancona.

Heading out on deck, the Sveti Stefan II was laying over until her next sailing to Ancona a couple of days later.

Early the following morning, the ship was back on time and motoring towards Bari.

Early the following morning, the ship was back on time and motoring towards Bari.

Turning into port.

Turning into port.

The port-side promenade where, back in 2003, we had spent the night out on deck, sleeping on the lifebelt lockers as the ship rolled and pitched her way across the Adriatic.

The port-side promenade where, back in 2003, we had spent the night out on deck, sleeping on the lifebelt lockers as the ship rolled and pitched her way across the Adriatic.

Heading back inside, this is the lobby area on Deck 3; the room to the right was serving as an additional shop but was marked on the Condor-era deckplan as a cinema. Other than this, the ship was largely unchanged from her days serving the Channel Islands.

Heading back inside, this is the lobby area on Deck 3; the room to the right was serving as an additional shop but was marked on the Condor-era deckplan as a cinema. Other than this, the ship was largely unchanged from her days serving the Channel Islands.

The rather gloomy kids play area.

The rather gloomy kids play area.

Up on Deck 4, aft was this large seating lounge.

Up on Deck 4, aft was this large seating lounge.

Moving forward, this starboard-side arcade connected the main public spaces - the entrance to the Clipper Restaurant is on the left.

Moving forward, this starboard-side arcade connected the main public spaces - the entrance to the Clipper Restaurant is on the left.

The Clipper Restaurant.

The Clipper Restaurant.

Looking aft in the large space forward on Deck 4, which in addition to the pictured central area was divided into several smaller sections with the Wheelhouse Coffee Bar (to port), Compass Bar (to starboard) and a comfortable seating area forward.

Looking aft in the large space forward on Deck 4, which in addition to the pictured central area was divided into several smaller sections with the Wheelhouse Coffee shop (to port), Compass Bar (to starboard) and a comfortable seating area forward.

Coffee shop serving area.

Coffee shop serving area.

Coffee Shop.

Coffee shop.

Forward seating area.

Forward seating area.

The Compass Bar on the starboard side.

The Compass Bar on the starboard side.

This further reclining seat lounge was located forward on Deck 5.

This further reclining seat lounge was located forward on Deck 5.

Our ship reflected in Bari's passenger terminal.

Our ship reflected in Bari's passenger terminal.

The Cornouailles was a workmanlike, unglamorous ship, almost always overshadowed by her fleetmates. She was rarely given first ranking – whether it be the Armorique, the Senlac and Chartres, the Rozel, the Beauport, the Condor fast cats or, latterly, the larger Sveti Stefan II, she was always a useful second ship, able to economically cover the routes with lower loads and with less expectations. Only when she headed up the Truckline passenger service and her initial period with Montenegro Lines (2000 to 2003) was she the lead ship. Yet this was still a useful function – she was able to set up new operations and, latterly, maintained Montenegro Lines’ services year round when the use of the larger vessel could not be justified. In her final guise, she also played an important part in the recovery of Montenegro’s tourist industry which had been shattered by the Balkan wars.

Time catches up with all ships in the end, however, and in a continuingly difficult economic climate Montenegro Lines’ downsizing meant the Sveti Stefan had to make way. There was a hope that, as with some other ferries, she might get a reprieve, that some entrepreneurial operator might see some worth in her as she sailed past Piraeus for Aliaga. But it was not to be. She sailed on, under her own power and only a couple of days after carrying her final passengers – a workhorse to the end.

That Was The Year That Was – 2012

2012 was an exciting year of travel with a first, but most definitely not last, ferry-centric trip to Japan where a whole new world of ships and shipping culture was revealed to us. The Japanese experience was, taken as a whole, the most memorable event of the year: after more than nine years of deliberation and 28 months of planning it went almost completely without a hitch and the Japanese were unfailingly helpful, polite and tolerant towards this small band of Europeans who had come to sail on their ships for no other reason than their being there.

Home waters were not neglected and plenty of European ferries were road tested this year; the ongoing economic gloom in Greek and Italian and Moroccan waters are perhaps the greatest concerns for the immediate future and one wonders just where things will end – with long-established operators withdrawing virtually overnight how many of 2012’s ships will make it to the starting line of the 2013 summer season?

In total, 84 ships were sailed on or visited this year, of which two were museum ships and one a floating bar. 27 nights were spent at sea and the average age of the 84 ships was 22 years old compared to 23 in 2011.

Based purely on subjective feelings on those 84 vessels, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

The Piana at Bastia.

The Piana at Bastia.


Best new ferry
Of recently-delivered ships sailed on for the first time this year, the Ishikari is a fine and modern Japanese coastal cruise liner, the Spirit of France solves a few of the issues identified with the Spirit of Britain and the Blue Star Patmos is a superb Aegean ferry, lavishly finished and, sadly, possibly the last purpose-built Greek ferry for a generation. The best new ship of the year, however, has to be the Piana of CMN. She endured a tortuously late delivery, is little to look at from the outside and even managed to lose the tip of her bulbous bow in January. Onboard, however, she is a wonder, the latest work of the specialist French interior designers, AIA. AIA’s recent output had been weaker, hamstrung by smaller budgets and less imaginative briefs than they had been accustomed to in the era of the Danielle Casanova, Mont St Michel, Pont-Aven and Seafrance Berlioz. The 2009-built Armorique failed to impress and the firm themselves virtually disowned the conversion of the Seafrance Moliere. On the Piana it is as if pent-up frustration has been unleashed and the ship is a beauty, and, in some respects, is possible to see where they might had gone with the Armorique had the money and corporate imagination been there.
Piana.

Piana.

Mercandia IV

Mercandia IV


Best conversion
The fifteen Sunderland-built Superflexes can be found across the globe, serving routes both mainstream and marginal, with all sorts of conversions having been made to better suit them to their current service. I can’t think of any which could ever be called even vaguely luxurious, however, until the Stena-owned Mercandia IV (ex-Superflex November) was refitted for her role as fourth ship on the joint operation with Scandlines between Helsingborg and Helsingør. The ship has been outfitted in the same style as the three larger purpose-built vessels, which itself is a derivation from the designs for Stena’s longer routes. The result is a ship which looks like no Superflex before.

In Italy, Moby-owned TOREMAR have made moves to improve the offering on their ships and the Oglasa for Elban service was changed beyond recognition. As with the Mercandia IV, the redesign has taken cues from the parent entity and where Moby have long been affiliated with Looney Tunes cartoon characters, on the Oglasa, Andy Capp makes an appearance in on-board signage. Crazy or genius?

Andy Capp on the Oglasa.

Andy Capp on the Oglasa.

Penelope A (ex-Horsa)

Penelope A (ex-Horsa)


Best classic ferry
28 of this year’s ships were more than a quarter of a century old, the most aged being the Italian train ferry the Iginia, still in regular operation between Messina and Villa San Giovanni. Whilst some classics were to be found in fairly poor condition, others such as the Agios Georgios, Stena Danica or the Kriti II were in pretty good shape all things considered.

Stena Scanrail: it's fairly safe to assume that a ship fitted with builder's ashtrays as well as a builder's plate hails from another era.

Stena Scanrail: it's fairly safe to assume that a ship fitted with builder's ashtrays as well as a builder's plate hails from another era.

All of the above and more were worthy of consideration but, in the year of their 40th birthdays, the former Hengist and Horsa win out as 2012’s best oldies. Sailings on the Agios Georgios and Penelope A in September reconfirmed that these veteran Channel ferries remained excellent performers in their second careers. The Penelope A’s four decades of service have now been equally split, save for the aberration of the 1990 summer at Holyhead, between the Folkestone period (1972 to 1991) and twenty years operating out of Rafina (1992 to 2012). The news in December that she had been withdrawn due to the financial woes of her owners Agoudimos Lines was, if not surprising, a warning of the fate which awaits many of the Greek coastal fleet in times when the Greek government cannot be relied upon to pay the subsidies shipowners rely upon to serve the islands.

Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) at Serifos.

Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) at Serifos.

Favourite crossing
Frederikshavn to Gothenburg sailings on the Stena Danica and the Stena Scanrail were real highlights, as was the day-long transit with the Ferry Azalia from Tsuruga to Niigata and overnight on the Kitakami from Tomakomai to Sendai. However, the two night sailing between Venice and Patras with ANEK Lines’ Kriti II in August was really special, on an elderly ferry which was subsequently withdrawn. Departure from Venice through the Canale della Giudecca was spectacular and the sail down the Croatian coast, to Igoumenitsa, Corfu and finally the old port of Patras was memorable. ANEK’s occasionally average service standards were not an issue on this sailing and even the food was pretty good. One cannot imagine quite the same experience will be enjoyed aboard the replacement Italian ro-paxes which have now been deployed on the route.

The Kriti II leaving Venice in August.

The Kriti II leaving Venice.

Best food
The lasagne on the Superspeed 2 and the buffet on the Hamlet were excellent, our ability to nearly cause a fire whilst self-cooking waffles on the latter notwithstanding. The Steam Packet’s Manannan amazingly conjured up an excellent plate of pasta. Best of all, however, was “Le Piana” restaurant aboard CMN’s new flagship. Locally-sourced and beautifully presented, this company consistently serves up the best food on any Mediterranean ferries.

Dinner on the Piana.

Dinner on the Piana in July.

Dover in June.

Dover in June.

The weather
2012 was supposedly the wettest summer in Britain for 100 years and yet almost every time I ventured to sea this year the sun was shining. When the weather did turn, however, it went wild with a vengeance. Heading out on a day trip in the worst typhoon Japan had seen in 53 years was perhaps ill-advised, leaving us stranded for the night on the island of Shodoshima. Happily the good people at Kokusai Ferry kindly took us under their wing and arranged a stay in a splendid local hotel and onward travel which got us back on track the next day.

2nd April - a perfect sunny day in Takamatsu.

2nd April - a perfect sunny day in Takamatsu.

3rd April - typhoon in Shodoshima.

3rd April - typhoon in Shodoshima.

Kokusai Maru No 32 trying and failing to berth at Shodoshima.

Kokusai Maru No 32 ('Giraffe Ferry') trying and failing to berth at Shodoshima.

Worst ferry
I can struggle to think of any redeeming features of the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s Ben-my-Chree. She may be a reliable freighter but the experience for the general passenger is woeful with poorly thought-out and dreary saloons. When Bornholmstraffiken ordered a subsequent pair of this off-the-shelf design they instructed the best in the business to try and bring some dignity to the passenger spaces but even Steen Friis Hansen could improve things only marginally. Absent any such guiding hand, the Ben-my-Chree remains a real stinker.

Worst crossing
Grandi Navi Veloci’s Splendid, sailing between Genoa and Olbia in June, was late, dirty and had the rudest crew members I’ve seen in years, with some in the cafeteria hurling abuse at passengers and another in one of the bars who took my money and then tried not to provide the paid-for drinks. The ship was a great advertisement for the competing services of Moby and Tirrenia.

Splendid?

Splendid?

Pride of Burgundy, January.

Pride of Burgundy, January.


Worst maintained ships
What is wrong with P&O?

Pride of York, June.

Pride of York, June.

Pride of Kent, October.

Pride of Kent, October.

Most decrepit ferries
A distinction can be made between poor general deck maintenance and the pits of on-board decrepitude that befalls some Southern European ferries when some passenger spaces fall into disuse. As with the Seatrade in 2011, venturing into certain areas of the Theofilos and Ile de Beaute made one wonder just how things had got into this state.

Theofilos's indoor swimming pool.

Theofilos's indoor swimming pool.

One of Ile de Beaute's abandoned toilet blocks.

Inside one of the Ile de Beaute's abandoned toilet blocks.

The Eurovoyager at Oostende, 2008.

The Eurovoyager at Oostende, 2008.


So. Farewell then.
Quite a few familiar ships have headed to the scrapyards in the past twelve months, including the Eurovoyager (ex-Prins Albert), the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica), the Manxman and the Rosalia. I will, however, perhaps most remember the passing of the two British ferry flagships from my childhood: Sealink’s St Nicholas (ex-Prinsessan Birgitta, later Normandy) and P&O’s ‘Chunnel Beater’ Pride of Dover. The latter headed for the scrap yard in the same year as representatives of the two previous generations of Townsend ferries: the former Free Enterprise V, and the Spirit of Free Enterprise.

To me, the 1979 Spirit class showed Townsend Thoresen at their very best, the sheer arrogant brutality and originality of their design in many ways epitomising TT in their peak years. Somehow the Pride of Dover and her sister lacked a similar dynamism but perhaps this was partly through choice: entering service under a post-Herald cloud, the flamboyance and aggressiveness that defined TT had now suddenly to switch to an era in which P&O European Ferries were a sober and reassuring cross-Channel choice. Externally, by adding length but not height to the Spirit class, they were always too squat to claim either conventional attractiveness or the eye-catching brutalism of their predecessors. The ‘Dover’ looked her best with a P&O full blue hull; she was not helped when P&O adopted the current “pants pulled down” livery.

On board, the pair really were scaled-up Spirits and whilst they expanded on the successes of that class and proved formidable freight movers over more than two decades, even when delivered their interiors were disappointing. In 1987 Shippax memorably published an image of one of the Pride of Dover’s old-fashioned seating lounges, contrasting it unfavourably with other recent ferries. To avoid embarrassing her owners in front of the industry they did not name the ship but the point was harshly reinforced within a couple of years when Sealink’s Fantasia and Fiesta were delivered, which prompted the first of a couple of significant refurbishments. Despite these modifications, few of the original passenger saloons ever really achieved coherence or attractiveness.

Nonetheless, with their scale and reliability and with the express operation P&O were able to subsequently pioneer, the two ships helped to show how the ferry industry could survive in a post-Tunnel era and the demise of the Pride of Dover without any chance of a second career is regrettable.

I will miss the Normandy rather more, even though by the time I got to know her she was well past her best (some would say the ship was in decay from the moment she was handed over to Sealink in 1983). There was nothing old-fashioned or miserly about Sessan’s final ferries; from the lavish dining saloons to the vast tiered show lounges, these beautifully-appointed jumbo ferries had a significant influence, even if the operator who ordered them had been subsumed into Stena before they fully entered service. Almost unthinkably the Kronprinsessan Victoria (now Stena Europe) has gone on to become Stena’s longest-serving passenger ship; but her sister passed from operator to operator over the years, never really being looked after by anyone, least of all her neglectful final owners who abandoned the ship to the ravages of the Singaporean climate, making her demise sadly inevitable.

Deckplans

The deckplans page has been updated:

http://www.hhvferry.com/deckplans

Things seen – October 2012

  • We start once again in Newhaven and a pair of remarkable films from the SNCF archive showcasing the Villandry and Valencay:

    Chateaux sur mer
    and
    Car Ferry des années 70

  • Newhaven port has fallen some way in importance and in maintenance since those halcyon days of the 1960s and, as these urban explorers discovered, the grade 2 listed former marine workshops are in a sorry state.
  • Fifty years later, and just before the end of the final incarnation of SNCF’s ferry fleet as Seafrance, the crew of the Seafrance Rodin were captured at work.
  • Few Dover-Calais car ferries of the 1990s remain in that service but reminders of what was, at times, a slightly tawdry era were recorded by a Frenchman with a camcorder:
    Stena Invicta

    Stena Empereur

    Stena Challenger

    Seafrance Renoir

    Pride of Kent

    Pride of Dover

  • Pride of Burgundy

  • Not being in a position to mock others for their obscure interests, one can only salute Beno and his Youtube Elevator Tours.

    Whilst it is noted that the Pride of Burgundy has nice Lutz lifts, the reviewer is more impressed with the “really retro 80s Lutz lifts on the Pride of Dover”.

  • Beno’s website also has some images of abandoned and decaying Folkestone harbour.
  • Thoresen’s overlooked freighter, the Viking IV, was a product of the Trosvik shipyard in Norway and she had a sister ship, the Mandeville, which was owned by A F Klaveness & Co, who would later become one of the three founder companies of Royal Viking Line. The Mandeville had an interesting career, tramping across the North Sea and seeing initial service on charter to Grimaldi and operating to Libya.

    Both ships ended their days as livestock carriers, the Mandeville as the Murray Express prior to being scrapped in the late 1990s. The Viking IV met her doom in more unfortunate circumstances: as the Guernsey Express she was caught by Super Typhoon Dale as it swept through the Pacific in November 1996. The ship sank, taking nearly 1,600 helpless cattle down with her in what became one of the most controversial reference points in the debate about Australia’s live export trade.

  • Staying briefly with livestock carriers and it is interesting to see images of the Linda Clausen, which must be the only Cunard passenger ship ever so converted. Originally the Cunard Ambassador, the ship sufferred an on board fire when just two years old in 1974. Declared a total loss, the wreck was rebuilt and served for a further decade before a further fire in the engine room saw her head for scrap in 1984.
  • The fates of the three Wappens Von Hamburg continues to be played out. The trio were built as successive passenger ship generations in 1955, 1962 and 1965 for HADAG service to the small German archipelago of Helgoland. The youngest was the first and, so far, only one of the three to go for scrap. Here is a somewhat distressing video of the ship being demolished by a digger in Esbjerg.

    The first and second HADAG ships of this name survive but the future in each case remains uncertain. The 1955 version remains laid up in the United States, now under the name Aurora. Her owner’s website contains some more information, together with a plea for donations.

    The Wappen Von Hamburg of 1962, which briefly saw 1960s service with Stena as the second Stockholm-based “Jatten Finn”, soon returned to HADAG and remained with the company until the 1980s. She continued to serve Helgoland until 2000 but now finds herself named the Supper Clubcruise 2, laid up in Istanbul.

  • The third “Jatten Finn” was Stena’s own Poseidon and this picture of the little ship is worthy of reference, if only for the oustanding backdrop. To complete the story of Stena’s early escapades in Stockholm, the very first ship to be bestowed with Jatten Finn titling was another HADAG ship, the Helgoland which was chartered in 1964. She returned to Stena in 1972 as the Stena Finlandica having been chartered in between times to the Red Cross for use in Vietnam as a hospital ship – in which guise she was covered in the harrowing 1970 documentary Nur leichte Kämpfe im Raum Da Nang. The Helgoland/Stena Finlandica survives as the Galapagos Legend.
  • The same Esbjerg scrapyard which dealt with the 1965 Wappen Von Hamburg also scrapped five Wightlink ships in recent years, including the Our Lady Pamela.
  • The Vitsentzos Kornaros at Piraeus

    The Vitsentzos Kornaros at Piraeus

  • Time for a quick look inside the engine room of the Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount).
  • The ‘Viscount’ also features in this collection of recollections from the Townsend Thoresen era.
  • Michele Lulurgas has written a fine appreciation of his personal favourite, the Ionian Island (ex-Albireo, later Blue Island, Merdif 1) on the Adriatic & Aegean Ferries website. An intriguing image of the ship in her final guise can be found here.
  • Car deck difficulties for the Penelope A.
  • It is difficult to imagine any company which had a more interesting passenger ferry fleet than Sol Lines, the Cyprus Liners, who operated for less than a decade from the late 1970s. The company acquired second hand ships with all sorts of backgrounds, starting with the remarkable Sol Phryne, originally the 1948-built Taisetsu Maru and followed up with the Sol Express (Sealink’s Dover), Sol Olympia (the first Stena Britannica), Sol Christina (Trasmed’s Juan March) and Sol Olympia II (Trasmed’s Santa Cruz de Tenerife).

    The website of Solomonides Shipping has an excellent section which details the Sol Lines era. All ships are covered through the ‘History’ menu but particularly recommended are the pages covering the company’s general history, the Sol Phryne and the ill-fated Sol Olympia II which burned in dry dock in Elefsis in 1985 and brought the entire operation to an end.

  • The Sol Olympia’s time as the Wickersham is remembered in this blog post.
  • One ship which has survived a near-death experience is the 1962-built Ambriabella. For many years she could be found rotting in Elefsis as the Panic but a couple of years ago she was discovered by a group of Italians who sought to restore her as a luxury yacht. The ship was originally built for Italian north Adriatic coastal service before heading to Greece in the 1970s. Her new owners have launched a website and restoration of the ship is planned to take place in Trieste.
  • The sister to the Ambriabella is the Dionea and several years ago this ship was similarly converted to a yacht.
  • The despatch of the Scotia Prince for scrap has provoked a fair amount of remorse in North America. The ship’s final period of operation in Europe saw her working for Marmara Lines in their final season between Italy and Turkey; she is seen here passing through the Corinth Canal.
  • The first of seven interesting pages of archive of material relating to one of the Scotia Prince’s Portland-Yarmouth predecessors, the Prince of Fundy, can be found here (click ‘Next’ to proceed).
  • The Nindawayma laid up in Montreal, June 2006

    The Nindawayma laid up in Montreal, June 2006

  • The Nindawayma (ex-Manx Viking) was reported to be finally scrapped a couple of years ago. The ship lay unwanted in Montreal for seven years before being towed to Sault Ste. Marie where she lay for some time, although a certain amount of work was done to enable both stern and bow doors to be properly opened.

    Fotunately, one astute photographer managed to completely document the ship as she was just before leaving Montreal.

  • Some radio controlled ferry models:
    Polaris
    Towada Maru
    Norsea
  • Jumbo Ferry's Ritsurin II

    Jumbo Ferry's Ritsurin II

  • Japanese operators love nothing more than to promote their services through catchy jingles and accompanying videos. Here are a couple of the very best from over the years:
    Jumbo Ferry (as played on board at all port arrivals)
    Higashi Nihon Ferry Rurururu Rurururu Car Ferry…
    The original Sunflower
    More Sunflower – a classic
  • The ship depicted in the last video is the Sunflower 11 which went on to operate for the ill-starred Sulpico Lines as the Princess of the Orient for whom she sank in The Philippines in 1998 with the loss of 150 lives. Film of a dive on her wreck can be found here.
  • Lastly, rough weather affects ships all over the world and a few videos have caught the eye in recent months:
    The Hamnavoe is seen caught in heavy seas leaving Stromness.

    A difficult arrival at Mikura-jima for the Camellia-Maru.

    Rough weather for the Theofilos at Lemnos.

    The Corsica Express Three leaves a trail of destruction in Samothraki during her brief Greek sojourn.

    The Cruise Olympia in difficulties at Ancona.

    The Olympic Champion rolling into Heraklion harbour.

  • A few hints on using the conditions to your advantage can be taken from the skipper of this small passenger ferry on the Mekong River in Thailand.
  • To Sendai on the Kitakami

    . . .

    This mid-April journey begins in the port city of Tomakomai on Hokkaido, in the distant north of Japan; farther south the country had just been battered by a once-in-a-half century typhoon but, before that, it had been possible to stroll around in t-shirt and shorts. In Hokkaido the winters are harsh and even with cherry blossom blooming across the country, up here snow could still be found lying on the ground and everywhere trees remained wrapped in their winter straw overcoats.

    Tomakomai is perhaps the most important port on the island of Hokkaido, with overnight ferry routes heading south along the eastern, Pacific coastline with Taiheiyo Ferry (to Sendai and on to Nagoya) and MOL/Sunflower (to Oarai, nearer to Tokyo). A shorter service is provided by Silver Ferry to Hachinohe. A few kilometres from the main port lies Tomakomai Higashi (East) port, from where the masters of the Sea of Japan, Shin Nihonkai, maintain a regular service down the western coast of Honshu. This confluence of routes has seen companies serving the Tomakomai area receive perhaps the four most significant new Japanese ferries of 2011 and 2012 in Shin Nihonkai’s soon-to-be delivered Suzuran and Suisen, Silver Ferry’s Silver Princess and the new Ishikari of Taiheiyo. The latter was delivered in 2011 and has received many plaudits but, for this crossing, we are sailing on the earlier half-sister of the old Ishikari, the Kitakami of 1989.

    The Tomakomai-Sendai-Nagoya is served by three ferries of which the Kitakami is the eldest.

    The Tomakomai-Sendai-Nagoya is served by three ferries of which the Kitakami is the eldest.

    A taxi from Tomakomai train station brings us to the port where earlier clouds have cleared to reveal clear blue sky. Passengers are free to amble along the quayside where we obtain up-close views of our vessel and of the adjacent Sunflower Furano. This pair of ships hold particular interest for admirers of the Greek ferry scene for they have each had close relations sailing there in recent years. The Nissos Rodos (ex-Kiso) of Hellenic Seaways has seen sparing passenger use since being sold by Taiheiyo in 2004 but was previously a close sister of the Kitakami. The Sunflower Furano, meanwhile, is the sister to the pair that for many years maintained ANEK’s Venice service, the Lefka Ori and the Sophocles Venizelos – those robust and speedy ships have recently left Greece for new lives in South Korea.

    Tomakomai ferry terminal.

    Tomakomai ferry terminal.

    The Kitakami.

    The Kitakami.

    Sunflower Furano.

    Sunflower Furano.

    Walking to the small park adjacent to the port we observe the arrival of the brand new Silver Princess, a ship for whom pink is the new black and which boasts a slightly chavvy promotional theme. She turns and reverses onto the berth to the stern of the Kitakami. Returning to the terminal, a small port museum is located upstairs with models of some famous Tomakomai ships. More models can be found in the check-in area downstairs, where we are swiftly dealt with by the Taiheiyo Ferry staff. Although we have made a reservation, in Japan this does not involve payment in advance, so we hand over our 10,000 yen each for accommodation in capsule berths on tonight’s sailing to Sendai.

    The Silver Princess.

    The Silver Princess.

    A model of an earlier Sunflower Sapporo in the museum - this ship is now Agoudimos's Ionian Sky.

    A model of an earlier Sunflower Sapporo in the museum - this ship is now Agoudimos's Ionian Sky.

    A fine model of the first Ishikari - which went on to become the Eritokritos of Minoan Lines and, later, Endeavor Lines before going for scrap after the 2010 season.

    A fine model of the first Ishikari - which went on to become the Eritokritos of Minoan Lines and, later, Endeavor Lines before going for scrap after the 2010 season.

    The Shiretoko Maru - more familiar to European eyes as Minoan's N Kazantzakis.

    The Shiretoko Maru - more familiar to European eyes as Minoan's N Kazantzakis.

    The Kitakami in all her scaled glory.

    The Kitakami in all her scaled glory.

    Taiheiyo Ferry check in.

    Taiheiyo Ferry check in.

    Tomakomai ferry terminal, seen from the ship.

    Tomakomai ferry terminal, seen from the ship.

    Kitakami deckplan. Click for larger image.

    Kitakami deckplan. Click for larger image.

    Boarding is permitted an hour and a half before departure and a quick look around confirms that this is a truly splendid ship. The five vehicle decks show why Hellenic Seaways were content to use her sistership initially only as a freighter but that was always a waste of the passenger areas. On the Kitakami these are spread over two decks, B Deck and C Deck. Accommodation is essentially split fore and aft with the forward sections primarily cabins; aft on C Deck are a small driver’s area, a small cinema and the public baths. The presence of the latter is important on Japanese ferries and helps to explain why, generally, so few of the cabins have en-suite facilities. The Japanese convention is to go to the public bathing areas, have a shower, followed by a quick five or ten minutes or so in the scorching hot baths. Many early bathers may subsequently be seen around the ship for the rest of the evening in the company-branded kimonos and slippers which are waiting for them on their berths.

    Entrance to the men's bathhouse with storage lockers adjacent. With so much open-plan and shared accommodation the latter are an important feature although theft is, frankly, unlikely.

    Entrance to the men's bathhouse with storage lockers adjacent. With so much open-plan and shared accommodation the latter are an important feature although theft is, frankly, unlikely.

    Public bath.

    Public bath.

    There is a quite broad range of accommodations. At the top end, there is a small selection of deluxe suites forward on A and B Decks. First and special class cabins, the latter without facilities, come in both ‘Western’ and ‘Japanese’ styles (i.e. with beds or bunks or, in pure ‘Japanese’ rooms, only tatami mats). “A-bed berths” are the capsules in which we have reserved for the evening – on this ship these come with upper and lower capsules in a room accommodating 48 in total. “B-bed rooms” are dormitories with bunk beds. Traditional Japanese ferry travel persists in the form of open plan rooms, where a blanket and thin fold-out mattress are provided to lay across the floor. This is the cheapest option and still very popular.

    Suite, as found forward on A Deck.

    Suite, as found forward on A Deck.

    Deluxe Japanese-style cabin.

    Deluxe Japanese-style cabin.

    First class cabin corridor.

    First class cabin corridor.

    Western style cabin.

    Western style cabin.

    Special class cabin corridor.

    Special class cabin corridor.

    Central passageway running through the "A" and "B" bed areas forward on B Deck. Whilst the Kitakami is a one class ship in her public spaces, there is a clear hierarchy with regard to the accommodations and the corridors reflect this, becoming progressively less luxuriously finished the further down the scale one travels.

    Central passageway running through the 'A' and 'B' bed areas forward on B Deck. Whilst the Kitakami is a one class ship in her public spaces, there is a clear hierarchy with regard to the accommodations and the corridors reflect this, becoming progressively less luxuriously finished the further down the scale one travels.

    "A bed" capsules.

    'A Class' capsules.

    Complete with personal TV, air conditioning and reading light this capsule will be my home for the night.

    Complete with personal TV, air conditioning and reading light this capsule will be my home for the night.

    "B Class" dormitory.

    'B Class' dormitory.

    The cheapest way to travel is in the open plan sleeping areas, as shown.

    The cheapest way to travel is in the open plan sleeping areas, as shown.

    It would be the height of rudeness for passengers to enter this area in normal footwear so these are discarded at the entrance in favour of either slippers or stockinged feet.

    It would be the height of rudeness for passengers to enter this area in normal footwear so shoes are discarded at the entrance in favour of either slippers or stockinged feet.

    Aft on the port side of C Deck, freight drivers are given their own dormitory .

    Aft on the port side of C Deck, freight drivers are given their own dormitory.

    Drivers also have this separate lounge area.

    Drivers also have this separate lounge area.

    Entrance to the small cinema, amidships on C Deck.

    Entrance to the small cinema, amidships on C Deck.

    Inside the cinema.

    Inside the cinema.

    C and B Decks are linked by the ship’s grand staircase which opens onto lobby spaces on either level. With the lack of en-suite facilities, ample toilet and washbasin facilities are provided nearby. On the upper level can be found reception and a small shop along the forward side with a bar counter aft (the ‘Ferryca Club’). No alcoholic beverages are available here, however; for whatever reasons these can only be procured from the myriad number of vending machines found in corners all over the ship.

    The Kitakami’s overarching design theme is that of an English country house or hotel and aft of the B Deck lobby can be found, to starboard, the Grosvenor House buffet restaurant. Echoes of the Red Bar and the Rink Bar at the Grosvenor House hotel can be found in details through the ship in styling, ceilings and colour schemes. On the port side is the main arcade, a most comfortable place to recline with a drink or a book whilst, right aft, is the Star Dust show lounge.

    The lower lobby, complete with English-esque telephone kiosk.

    The lower lobby, complete with English-esque telephone kiosk and vending machines discretely concealed behind curtains.

    The dramatic central staircase.

    The dramatic central staircase.

    Lobby at B Deck level.

    Lobby at B Deck level.

    Reception...

    Reception...

    ...and the adjacent shop.

    ...and the adjacent shop.

    The 'Ferryca Club' bar area.

    The 'Ferryca Club' bar area.

    On the starboard side, just forward of the entrance to the Grosvenor House restaurant.

    On the starboard side, just forward of the entrance to the Grosvenor House restaurant.

    Inside the restaurant, looking aft.

    Inside the restaurant, looking aft.

    Looking across to port in the central section of the Grosvenor House.

    Looking across to port in the central section of the restaurant.

    Back on the port side of the ship, this is the main arcade heading aft.

    Back on the port side of the ship, this is the main arcade heading aft.

    The entrance to the 'Star Dust' showlounge, aft.

    The entrance to the 'Star Dust' showlounge, aft.

    The lounge awaiting the evening's entertainment.

    The lounge awaiting the evening's entertainment.

    This saloon has a rather more informal, European-style feel to it when compared to the equivalent spaces on the ship's fleetmates, which lack the booth seating, tables and corner bar counter in favour of a more rigid theatre-style layout.

    This saloon has a rather more informal, European-style feel to it when compared to the equivalent spaces on the ship's fleetmates, which lack the booth seating, tables and corner bar counter in favour of a more rigid theatre-style layout.

    The last of the public spaces, and one perhaps easily overlooked by many travellers, is the forward observation lounge – certainly it enjoyed little patronage on this overnight sailing but when the ship used to sail south to Nagoya during the day it may have been better used. The Kitakami travels that path infrequently now, primarily being restricted to back and forth operations between Tomakomai and Sendai with the legs farther south being covered instead by her two more modern fleetmates, the present Kiso and Ishikari.

    Forward observation lounge.

    Forward observation lounge.

    The company goes to the trouble of advising “first time” (and other) passengers of an appropriate timetable of events to ensure they get the best from the crossing. Not wanting to look out of place, this we duly follow with buffet in the restaurant being taken just before departure; the food was fine, with Taiheiyo Ferry branded wine accompanying cooked-to-order steaks.The evening’s entertainment in the show lounge commenced at 8pm and, headed by a team of three shamisen players, lasted an hour or so after which we turned in for the night.

    Buffet food.

    Buffet food.

    A nice bottle of Taiheiyo red.

    A nice bottle of Taiheiyo red.

    The evening's entertainment was headed by a team of three shamisen-players and lasted an hour or so after which we turned in for the night.

    Another clear blue sky greeted us the next morning as we motored towards our 10am arrival in Sendai. A buffet breakfast was on offer in the restaurant but, after a stroll on the outside decks, I took a book to the observation lounge – but not before a further consideration of some of the ship’s idiosyncratic pieces of signage and artwork.

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    Kitakami miscellany

    The view from the observation lounge.

    The view from the observation lounge.

    What we casually refer to as the port of Sendai is actually in the city of Shiogama, and its official name is now Sendai-Shiogama Port. This was particularly badly devastated by the 2011 tsunami although, one year later, most of the evidence of that day has been removed and rebuilding has been carried out in earnest – look closely, however, and many hints remain, in particular the large amounts of scrap metal piled on the quayside.

    Waves coming ashore at Sendai.

    Waves coming ashore at Sendai.

    Glowering on a hillside in the distance is the Miyaga Stadium, one of the venues from the 2002 football World Cup.

    Glowering on a hillside in the distance is the Miyaga Stadium, one of the venues from the 2002 football World Cup.

    And so we bade a sorry farewell to the Kitakami, at the end of a splendid crossing on a splendid ship. Although Taiheiyo do not have any new vessels on order at present, this 1989-built classic is approaching the veteran stage, certainly by the standards of Japanese coastal and overnight ferries. Her sister, the old Ishikari, has been sold on to Chinese owners and, when the time comes, the market is such that this ship will probably remain in the far east rather than come to Europe. For now she continues to provide valuable and comfortable service on the routes for which she was built.

    A procession of cleaners head aboard as we disembark.

    A procession of cleaners head aboard as we disembark.

    Inside Sendai ferry terminal.

    Inside Sendai ferry terminal.

    A model of the old Ishikari remains on display here.

    A model of the old Ishikari (now the Grand Spring) remains on display here.

    The Kitakami at the port of Sendai-Shiogama.

    The Kitakami at the port of Sendai-Shiogama.

    Blast from the past: Sealink’s Hengist & Horsa

    29 April 2012 marks 40 years to the day since the launch of Sealink’s Hengist and Horsa, the purpose-built ferries delivered in the summer of 1972 by the naval shipyard in Brest. The sister ships saw service, primarily from their Folkestone home, until the final closure of the Folkestone-Boulogne route at the end of 1991. Thereafter, both forged remarkably successful new careers in the Aegean, where they remain in year-round operation as the Agios Georgios (Ventouris Sea Lines) and Penelope A (Agoudimos Lines).

    A third, slightly modified, later sister, the Senlac, was scrapped in 2010.

    In this entry we take a look back at the ships’ British careers through Sealink promotional material produced over their near two decades of service.

    The building dock in Brest showing the lower hull of the Hengist.

    The building dock in Brest showing the lower hull of the Hengist.

    One of the SEMT-Pielstick main engines is craned into place.

    One of the SEMT-Pielstick main engines is craned into place.

    The Horsa and Hengist near to the launch date.

    The Horsa (left) and Hengist.

    The cover of the shipyard's brochure commemorating the Hengist, Horsa and Senlac.

    The cover of the shipyard's brochure commemorating the Hengist, Horsa and Senlac.

    Cover of a menu for lunch and dinner as served on the Hengist's three-day trials. Main courses included 'Cabillaud à la portugaise' and 'Jambon braisé à la Florentine'.

    Cover of a menu for lunch and dinner as served on the Hengist's three-day trials. Main courses included 'Cabillaud à la Portugaise' and 'Jambon braisé à la Florentine'.

    The equivalent for the Horsa: 'Poulet à l'Américaine' and 'Côte de porc sautée' were the highlights.

    The equivalent for the Horsa: 'Poulet à l'Américaine' and 'Côte de porc sautée' were the highlights.

    The brand-new Hengist.

    The brand-new Hengist.

    Contemporary coverage of the Hengist's press voyage.

    Contemporary coverage of the Hengist's press voyage.

    The Horsa arriving at Boulogne.

    The Horsa arriving at Boulogne.

    An aerial view of the car ferry terminal at Folkestone, with one of the sisters on the berth. This image dates from after the construction of the first section of the Hotel Burstin (the tall white building on the far right) in 1974/75 but before the demolition of the frontage of its predecessor, the old Royal Pavilion hotel, in whose grounds the rather brutal 'Burstin' had been built.

    An aerial view of the car ferry terminal at Folkestone, with one of the sisters on the berth. This image dates from after the construction of the first section of the Hotel Burstin (the tall white building on the far right) in 1974/75 but before the demolition of the frontage of its predecessor, the old Royal Pavilion hotel, in whose grounds the rather brutal 'Burstin' had been built.

    The introduction of the Hengist and Horsa also saw the start of freight runs from Folkestone to Oostende.

    The introduction of the Hengist and Horsa also saw the start of freight runs from Folkestone to Oostende.

    img061 125_TN

    The standard Sealink restaurant menu for continental traffic in 1972 - as served in the A Deck restaurant when the Hengist and Horsa entered service.

    The standard Sealink restaurant menu for continental traffic in 1972 - as served in the A Deck restaurant when the Hengist and Horsa entered service.

    A photoreport of a trip to Boulogne on the Horsa in the 1975 Sealink brochure.

    A photoreport of a trip on the Horsa in the 1975 Sealink brochure.

    The ships starred in a spot the difference competition run by Sealink in regional newspapers in 1979 - nearly 30,000 people entered.

    The ships starred in a spot the difference competition run by Sealink in regional newspapers in 1979 - nearly 30,000 people entered.

    By 1986, the Folkestone-Calais and Folkestone-Oostende sailings had ceased and Folkestone was left with sailings only to Boulogne. The Hengist and Horsa were paired with the Vortigern until that ship's sale in early 1988.

    By 1986, the Folkestone-Calais and Folkestone-Oostende links had ceased and Folkestone was left with sailings only to Boulogne. The Hengist and Horsa, now in white Sealink British Ferries livery, were paired with the Vortigern until that ship's sale in early 1988.

    One final high profile appearance in marketing material was this image of the Horsa on the cover of early editions of the 1986 Sealink brochure.

    One final high profile appearance in marketing material was this image of the Horsa on the cover of early editions of the 1986 Sealink brochure.

    1991 Folkestone-Boulogne ferry guide - the route closed at the end of the year.

    1991 Folkestone-Boulogne ferry guide - the route closed at the end of the year.

    Boat Train to Elba

    . . .

    The Freccia dell’Elba (the ‘Elba Arrow’) leaves the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella in Florence every morning at 0535. The departure point is a railway masterpiece that ranks highly even amongst the many other fascist-era Italian stations and one could spend many hours just staring around in wonderment.

    Firenze Santa Maria Novella

    Firenze Santa Maria Novella

    We have arrived at this early hour to be whisked to Piombino, from where ferries can be caught to the island of Elba. The Freccia dell’Elba is the one daily train which provides a direct service from here to the port station, avoiding the need to change at least once, usually at the little station of Campiglia on the Pisa-Livorno-Rome main line, a couple of hours into the journey. It is at Campiglia that the branch line to Piombino diverges, at first meandering through fields, then sailing through the tiny station which serves the site of the all-but-abandoned Etruscan city of Populonia. Suddenly, this calming vista is interrupted, like a scene from the end times, and the train is surrounded by aged and abandoned heavy industry. These are the industrial ruins of Piombino’s troubled metal industry which, where it survives, continues to belch smoke and dirt and provides a dramatic backdrop to the ferry port.

    Aboard the Freccia dell'Elba

    Aboard the Freccia dell'Elba

    Soon, we are at Piombino station which appears to be a terminus and, as the conductor, driver and most of the remaining passengers disembark, it is easy to be fooled into thinking this really is the end of the line. The driver is just changing ends, however, and soon we are away again, trundling through the unkempt, weed-strewn branch that leads to Piombino Marittima. Whereas Piombino’s town station has the faded glory look of a village station which probably once had a proud station master, porter, dedicated signalman and a variety of ticket clerks, the port station is an altogether more modern, personnel-free affair. It was constructed in 1991 to replace the quayside tracks after an unfortunate incident in which a train rolled off the quay and into the sea.

    Piombino town station

    Piombino town station

    Down to the port - a branch line off a branch line.

    Down to the port - a branch line off a branch line.

    Piombino Marittima

    Piombino Marittima

    Piombino ferry terminal

    Piombino ferry terminal

    The ferry terminal at Piombino stands parallel to the station, overlooking the car loading lanes. Inside, Moby and TOREMAR ticket desks glower at each other in a pretence of rivalry (they are now under common ownership). Tucked into a corner, the one ship service of Blu Navy try gamely to compete with their succession of poorly-chosen one ships. Most people just choose Moby, a carefully-crafted public image and buckets of bright paint more than compensating for a terrifically aged local fleet.

    For this crossing we have the thrill of sailing on the oldest of them all, the Moby Baby. Her name is deceptive – completed in 1966 there is a fair chance she will last until her half century. Built for Rederi AB Svea as the Svea Drott, she sailed under the Trave Line name between Helsingborg, Copenhagen (Tuborg) and Travemünde. Derived from the design of the Thoresen Vikings, she proved a great success and was replaced in 1974, passing to Sealink for Channel Islands service, first on charter and later as the Earl Godwin. This lasted for 16 further years whereupon she was acquired by Moby for service to Elba – and there she has remained ever since.

    The Svea Drott arriving at Helsingborg early in her career.

    The Svea Drott arriving at Helsingborg early in her career.

    The Earl Godwin passing half sister Earl William (ex-Viking II) in the 1980s.

    The Earl Godwin passing half sister Earl William (ex-Viking II) in the 1980s.

    The Moby Baby approaching her berth at Piombino.

    The Moby Baby approaching her berth at Piombino.

    Turning onto the berth.

    Turning onto the berth.

    Foot passengers board over the pair of gangways to the left - each of the local ships fits one or other.

    Foot passengers board over the pair of gangways to the left - each of the local ships fits one or other.

    Moby's theory of life: Love => Baby => Ale.

    Arriving at Piombino is the Bastia of 1974, Moby's first purpose-built ship and now dedicated to the 'low cost' Piombino-Cavo route. The rest of the company's Elban fleet sails solely to the main port of Portoferraio.

    Arriving nearby is the little Bastia. Delivered in 1974 she was Moby's first purpose-built ferry and is now dedicated to the 'low cost' Piombino-Cavo route. The rest of the company's Elban fleet sails solely to the main port of Portoferraio. In the background is the Moby Aki.


    Moby’s peak season schedule provides for a departure every hour from either end; for some time now the ships providing this service alongside the ‘Baby’ have been the Moby Ale (ex-Mikkel Mols), Moby Lally (ex-Kalle II) and Moby Love (ex-Saint Eloi) with the Bastia and/or Giraglia in support. The crossing takes one hour, which provides just enough time to avail oneself of a slice of overpriced pizza, quickly explore the ship and watch the passing scenery.

    Although never truly an overnight ferry as such, the Moby Baby was certainly designed for longer crossings than this and the cabins beneath the vehicle deck, as well as the restaurant on the upper passenger deck, have been effectively abandoned; the tea bar forward of the restaurant also sees very limited use. The scene is similar on the other ships – although they can all get very busy, passengers tend to head out on deck and hence, even with large saloon areas closed, the ships can generally cope with the loads.

    Passengers board into the lobby, amidships on the main passenger deck.

    Passengers coming aboard the Moby Baby enter into the lobby, amidships on the main passenger deck.

    Beneath the lobby staircase is an arresting detail - for the sailing ships are three versions of the logo of the Svea Drott's builders, the Öresundsvarvet in Landskrona, the Swedish flag at the stern now painted as the Tricolore Italiano. This emblem still forms the logo of the current Oresund Heavy Industries.

    Forward is a classic Sealink seating lounge.

    Forward is a classic Sealink seating lounge.

    Aft of the lobby is a shop...

    Aft of the lobby is a shop...

    ... and a further large open-plan lounge.

    ... and a further large open-plan lounge.

    Deck space aft.

    Deck space aft.

    A locked and abandoned seating lounge, just aft of the former restaurant.

    A locked and abandoned seating lounge, just aft of the former restaurant.

    The former restaurant area.

    The former restaurant area.

    Just forward of the restaurant entrance is this upper lobby, with the stairs leading down to reception and the closed doors to the forward saloon in the distance.

    Forward of the restaurant entrance is this upper lobby, with the stairs leading down to reception and the closed doors to the forward saloon in the distance.

    The forward lounge seen on one of the rare occasions it is open; with its view ahead it is probably the most pleasant saloon aboard.

    The forward lounge seen on one of the rare occasions it is open; with its view ahead it is probably the most pleasant saloon aboard.

    Re-starting engines...

    Re-starting the engines.

    Most passengers find a sunny spot on the outside decks.

    Most passengers find a sunny spot on the outside decks.

    Look carefully at some of the door portholes on the upper decks and it can be seen that they too bear the ship logo as well as the name of the Öresundsvarvet, Landskrona.

    Look carefully at some of the portholes on the upper decks and it can be seen that they too bear the ship logo as well as the name of the Öresundsvarvet, Landskrona.

    As we approach Portoferraio, the Marmorica of TOREMAR makes her departure.

    As we approach Portoferraio, the Marmorica of TOREMAR makes her departure.

    In port, the Moby Love is to be found laying over between sailings.

    In port, the Moby Love is to be found laying over between sailings.

    Disembarkation for foot passengers can be via the gangways, as at Piombino. Those more impatient however can make their exit via the vehicle deck.

    Disembarkation for foot passengers can be via the gangways, as at Piombino. Those more impatient however can make their exit via the vehicle deck.

    Before we get off, there is just time for a peak downstairs.

    Before we get off, there is just time for a peak at the former cabin area, downstairs on Deck 2.

    Down here things are largely derelict, a contrast to most of the Mobyfied saloons upstairs...

    Down here things are largely derelict.

    Back upstairs to exit via the crowded car deck.

    Back upstairs to exit via the crowded car deck.

    The Moby Baby is a fun little ship to cross in, although she offers few diversions other than the pleasure of being at sea. The acquisition of TOREMAR and the wider group’s involvement in Tirrenia may mean that investment in replacements for Moby’s own brand fleet might be lacking in the next few years. And so, mechanical failures aside, the Moby Baby and her aged fleetmates will have to sail on as part of the sea connection in the Elba Arrow for some time yet.

    Recent cuts to the schedules of FS, the Italian state railways, have been quite savage in certain areas; mercifully the Piombino branch line has been preserved, enabling passengers to continue to take the boat train, just as one could to Weymouth in the Earl Godwin’s Sealink heyday.

    Bretagne laid up at Dunkerque – 28 January 2012

    Picture of the week: Nordlandia

    The Nordlandia (ex-Olau Hollandia) at Helsinki, January 2008.

    The Nordlandia (ex-Olau Hollandia) at Helsinki, January 2008.

    Previous image

    Previous image

    Farewell Svealand, Stena Seatrader, Seatrade

    . . .


    A couple of weeks ago Ventouris Ferries’ Seatrade departed for scrapping, under the name Sea Project. The ship, originally delivered in 1973, had operated for the Greek company on the Igoumenitsa-Bari route for the past three years, before which she enjoyed a 35-year north European career. For the first 16 years she traded on Sweden-Germany routes, initially as a train ferry, before a sale to Stena Line in 1989 preceded nearly two decades of UK service, as a freighter on the North and Irish Seas.

    Shortly before the end I joined the Seatrade for a heavily-laden crossing to Italy. Ventouris Ferries are a peculiar operation who for several years had operated a pair of former DFDS ro-paxes on the Bari route in the Siren (ex-Dana Gloria, 1976) and her lengthened sister Polaris (ex-Dana Futura, 1975). The arrival of the Seatrade for 2009 displaced the Siren, which went for scrap in 2010; the Polaris followed in early 2011. This left the Seatrade, the eldest and, from a passenger perspective, by some distance the least agreeable of the trio and for the summer of 2011 she was paired with the chartered Olympus (ex-Ropax 2).

    The realities of the Ventouris Ferries business on the Igoumenitsa route are clear from these moves – this is a company which is predominantly focussed on freight and the passenger market they most enjoy is “camping on board” in which passengers drive their camper vans aboard and, for the most part, stay there. Freight drivers are, of course, welcome but there doesn’t seem to be much desire to cater for motorists, less still foot passengers, and the company website reflects this, barely mentioning the Bari-Igoumenitsa route and instead being almost totally dedicated to the more mainstream Bari-Durres (Albania) operation.

    At peak season, and with the limited space aboard the Seatrade, it proved rather difficult to find tickets for her on our crossing but we managed to secure a pair of places on deck. Having observed the ship’s arrival at Igoumenitsa from Bari in the morning we sailed over to Corfu for the day, returning to embark a couple of hours before the scheduled departure time at which point the loading of freight was already in full swing. The difficulties of squeezing a near-full load of freight and camper vans onto the ship were demonstrated by the prolonged period over which this process took – having commenced at around 5pm the ship did not depart until past 10pm, over an hour late.

    Below are some pictures from one of the more memorable crossings of 2011.

    Link: Stena Seatrader, 1995 profile deckplan

    The Seatrade, arriving from Bari in the morning, reverses onto her berth in Igoumenitsa.

    The Seatrade, arriving from Bari in the morning, reverses onto her berth in Igoumenitsa.

    The offices of Milano Travel, Ventouris Ferries' local agents, where they display a selection of fine images of scrapped Ventouris ships in the Polaris, Athens and Siren.

    The offices of Milano Travel, Ventouris Ferries' local agents, where they display a fine selection of images of scrapped Ventouris ships in the Polaris, Athens and Siren.

    Boarding the Seatrade over the main vehicle deck with the base of the railway lines still clearly visible. Until very late in the ship's Stena ownership the rails remained intact, with wooden boarding surrounding them.

    Boarding the Seatrade over the main vehicle deck with the base of the railway lines still clearly visible. Until very late in the ship's Stena ownership the rails remained intact, with wooden boarding surrounding them - they were removed in 2007.

    Embarking foot passengers ascend all the way to the top freight deck - where they find the former aft docking bridge...

    Embarking foot passengers ascended all the way to the top freight deck to the former aft docking bridge...

    ... latterly in use as a reclining seat lounge.

    ... latterly in use as a reclining seat lounge.

    The international terminal at Igoumenitsa.

    Seen from the Seatrade is Igoumenitsa's international ferry terminal.

    The top deck during loading. This was primarily used for tourist vehicles and, in particular, passengers "camping on board".
    Some lorries were also squeezed in here...

    Some lorries were also squeezed in up here...

    Access forward from the aft bridge area was via this narrow alleyway alongside the camper vans on the port side. It appears a few passengers never got this far - the following morning some who had overnighted in the aft bridge enquired if "there was anywhere else" on board!

    In a bid to increase the ship's passenger capacity, a pair of charming "lounges" were added on former open deck space, just aft of the bridge wings - here is the starboard side version.

    In a bid to increase the ship's passenger capacity, a pair of charming 'lounges' were added on former open deck space, just aft of the bridge wings - here is the starboard side version.

    The recesses beneath the lifeboats provided a small area of traditional outside deck space.

    The recesses beneath the lifeboats provided a small area of traditional outside deck space.

    Aft of the saloons on decks 7 and 8 were a variety of cabins, many of which had been spruced up by Stena in the ship's 2007 refit.

    Aft of the saloons on decks 7 and 8 were a variety of cabins, many of which had been spruced up by Stena in the ship's 2007 refit.

    At some stage the ship lost her small sauna, which is seen here in late 2006, before both the final Stena and Ventouris refits.

    At some stage the ship lost her small sauna, which is seen here in late 2006, before both the final Stena and Ventouris refits.

    Forward on Deck 8 was the former cafeteria, complete to the end with its Stena 'Truckers Lounge' identity.

    Forward on Deck 8 was the former cafeteria, complete to the end with its Stena 'Truckers Lounge' identity.

    Truckers Lounge bar counter; out of picture to the right is the small cafeteria servery area.

    Truckers Lounge bar counter; out of picture to the right is the small, enclosed, cafeteria servery area.

    Another view, looking across from the starboard side.

    Another view, looking across from the starboard side.

    The deck below, Deck 7, featured this lower lounge.

    The deck below, Deck 7, featured this lower lounge.

    Ventouris installed this small additional lounge, complete with bar and reception desk, aft of the forward saloon on Deck 7.

    Ventouris installed this small additional lounge, complete with bar and reception desk, aft of the forward saloon on Deck 7.

    Time to head below decks...

    Time to head below decks...

    The cabins on Deck 2 were used until very near the end in the Stena days but, with Ventouris, they were abandoned and derelict.

    Moving back up a deck, Deck 3 was the main freight deck.

    Moving back up a deck, Deck 3 was the main freight deck.

    This still bore many clear signs that the ship had once been a train ferry.

    This still bore many clear signs that the ship had once been a train ferry.

    Deck 3 - looking aft from adjacent to the centre casing.

    Deck 3 - looking aft from adjacent to the centre casing.

    On board the ship during the Stena days, before the railway lines were properly removed.

    On board the ship during the Stena days, before the railway lines were properly removed.

    Later in the crossing, this view shows the stern door closed with some of the tourist traffic collected in Corfu just in front.

    Later in the crossing, this view shows the stern door closed with some of the tourist traffic collected in Corfu just in front.

    The second freight deck, Deck 5.

    The second freight deck, Deck 5.

    In one part of this deck there appeared to be evidence of there having been a lorry fire at some stage during Ventouris service.

    In one part of this deck the charred deckhead appeared to indicate that, at some stage, there had been a lorry fire.

    Returning to the top freight deck via the funnel casing.

    Returning to the top freight deck via the funnel casing.

    Some interesting gas cylinders could be found here...

    Some interesting gas cylinders could be found here...

    ... test stamped March 1972.

    ... test stamped March 1972.

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Seatrade Miscellany

    Back on the top vehicle deck, with loading still progressing slowly.

    Back on the top vehicle deck, with loading still progressing slowly.

    Other, more mainstream, competitors came and went as we slowly squeezed our heavy load of freight on board.

    Other, more mainstream, competitors came and went as we slowly squeezed our heavy load of freight on board.

    Night fell and the bolted-on plastic seating areas turned a lovely shade of blue, a lighting choice more commonly associated with landlords trying to drive away drug addicts.

    Night fell and the bolted-on plastic seating areas turned a lovely shade of blue, a lighting choice more commonly associated with landlords trying to drive away drug addicts.

    The engines are ramped up for departure and a huge plume of acrid smoke comes out of the old ship's funnel.

    The engines are ramped up for departure and a huge plume of acrid smoke comes out of the old ship's funnel.

    The ship's bell.

    The ship's bell.

    Sunrise the following morning - it comes as no surprise to learn we are running four hours late.

    Sunrise the following morning - it comes as no surprise to learn we are running four hours late.

    Those passengers who have spent the night wrapped up against the cold on the aft docking bridge wing wake to the first signs of another beautiful day.

    Those passengers who have spent the night wrapped up against the cold on the aft docking bridge wing wake to the first signs of another beautiful day.

    Down on Deck 5 the difficulties in loading the ship are shown in just how tightly packed together the lorries are.

    Down on Deck 5 the difficulties in loading the ship are shown in just how tightly packed together the lorries are.

    Time to get the camping stove out and cook breakfast...

    Time to get the camping stove out and cook breakfast...

    Finally the great port of Bari is in sight; we are headed for the modern terminal used by the Greek ferries and cruise ships but on the berth at the older terminal are vessels on routes to Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. From left to right: Bari (ex-St Anselm), Riviera Adriatica (ex-Daedalus), Ionian Sky, Ankara and Sveti Stefan (ex-Cornouailles).

    Finally the great port of Bari is in sight; we are headed for the modern terminal used by the Greek ferries and cruise ships but on the berths at the older terminal are vessels on routes to Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. From left to right: Bari (ex-St Anselm), Riviera Adriatica (ex-Daedalus), Ionian Sky, Ankara and Sveti Stefan (ex-Cornouailles).

    The Superfast II, deployed on Bari-Igoumenitsa-Patras route, overtook us shortly after sunrise and is already fully unloaded by the time we approach our berth.

    The Superfast II, deployed on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari route, overtook us shortly after sunrise and is already fully unloaded by the time we approach our berth.

    Embarkation of the Bari pilot.

    Embarkation of the Bari pilot.

    Safely on the berth - four hours, forty minutes late.

    Safely on the berth - four hours, forty minutes late.

    Fin.

    WordPress Themes