Posts tagged: andros

Beyond Sealink: A final sailing on the Horsa

In August 1970, the British Treasury approved the construction of a pair of new multi-purpose passenger car ferries for operation by British Rail from a new Folkestone car ferry terminal. Approval was also given by the Bank of England for the ships, which became the Hengist and Horsa, to be built in France. British Rail executives celebrated clearance of “the complete caboodle”, for this had been a somewhat tortuous process, with much political hand wringing and redrafting of the proposals.

One area which had come under particular scrutiny was what the future would hold for these ships upon the completion of the Channel Tunnel, then expected to be in 1978. Attention was therefore paid to both the estimated useful life of the vessels and their resale value come the opening of the tunnel. This was of particular importance for the business plan, for the the ships had to make an adequate return by 1978 to cover the difference between their construction cost and, it was presumed, the amount the ships would be sold for in that year.

BR/Sealink consulted J S Daniels at the Board of Trade for an independent evaluation and the Daniels memo noted that “it is important that the ships are not so specialised to a particular route and service that they cannot be readily adapted for use elsewhere”. The final business plan assumed a twenty year useful life, with a resale value of each ship in 1978 of £2.415m (compared to the £3.6m build cost). Correspondence with the Ministry of Transport reassured the minister’s team that the ships would find willing buyers and that “there was a continuous demand for this style of ship for numerous Scandinavian, German and Mediterranean routes on which they can be used” although “a need for similar ships will arise on the Heysham/Belfast route by 1981 and it could be more advantageous to transfer them”.

As it turned out, the key assumption upon which this entire section of the business plan was based turned out to be flawed. The 1970s Channel Tunnel project was cancelled, and so the ships sailed on. More than a decade later, when the tunnel was eventually authorised, the ships were nearing the ends of their Channel careers and were sold two years before it opened to Greek owners for good prices (when the Hengist was sold by her first Greek owners Agapitos to Ventouris Sea Lines in 1993, the price achieved was approx £7.5m). The ships proved more adaptable than J S Daniels could have possibly imagined, almost perfectly suited to Greek inter-island ferry operation in the 1990s. So on they sailed, well past the 20 year lifespan Sealink’s calculations had given them, into their third decades and then their fourth decades and fifth decades.

The Horsa passed in 1992 to Agoudimos Lines who placed her in service from Rafina to islands in the northern Cyclades – Andros, Tinos and Mykonos. For four years from late 1999 she fell under Hellas Ferries control as the Express Penelope, but she remained based at Rafina. For more than two decades the port was her home, and she usually sailed through the winter when most of her competitors retired for seasonal lay up. Agoudimos Lines got their ship back in 2004 but by late 2012 the company was in severe financial difficulty and the Penelope A entered a period of uncertainty, out of service. She was in operation around Easter 2013 and then again in late June that year before her crew went on strike over unpaid wages. A settlement of sorts was reached and the ship re-entered service for the summer peak on 23rd July.

The Penelope A at Tinos

The Penelope A at Tinos

27th August 2013 marked 15,000 days since the ship had entered service at Folkestone back in August 1972. Seven days later came the end, both sudden yet expected – she was again taken out of service by her crew, still largely unpaid. In between times, on 31st August 2013, I made what I knew would, in all likelihood, be a final crossing on this proud old veteran.

For the Penelope A (named after Penelope Agoudimos and locally pronounced, Penelope Alpha), this time there were to be no second chances. The crew settled down for the long haul, occupying their ship where she lay – in the port of Rafina, prominently at the bottom of the cliffs from the residence of the former Prime Minister. The crew, seemingly abandoned by the operator, ran out of food and power, their plight featured in national and international media. In January 2014 the last crew members left the ship and, eventually, the Rafina port authority paid for a tug to tow the Penelope A, dead ship, over to lay up in Elefsis bay where she has remained ever since.

Set out below are some images from that final crossing, four days before the end of the ship’s long career. It’s fair to say she had seen better days and, although it is not immediately obvious here, a lack of maintenance and long-term care was apparent. But the ship had lasted in operational service far longer than anyone could have imagined back when she and her sister were ordered in 1970, and it was an honour to be given the chance to sail on her for one final time in her Indian Summer, and to say goodbye.

Early morning in Rafina: one of the ticket agencies representing Agoudimos Lines.

Early morning in Rafina: one of the ticket agencies representing Agoudimos Lines.

Boarding in Rafina: from left to right, the sterns of the Ekaterini P, Blue Star Ithaki, Penelope A and Theologos P, all engaged in service to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Boarding in Rafina: from left to right, the sterns of the Ekaterini P, Blue Star Ithaki, Penelope A and Theologos P, all engaged in service to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Theologos P of so-called 'Fast Ferries', whose crossing times are no speedier than the other conventional ships.

Theologos P of so-called 'Fast Ferries', whose crossing times are no speedier than the other conventional ships.

Penelope and Theologos.

Penelope and Theologos.

The Penelope A pulling away from Rafina, with the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) on her berth awaiting departure.

The Penelope A pulling away from Rafina, with the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) on her berth awaiting departure.

View from the bridge.

View from the bridge.

Plotting our way to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Plotting our way to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Penelope A bridge detail.

Penelope A bridge detail.

Time for a quick wander around before we arrive in Andros...

Time for a quick wander around before we arrive in Andros...

Port side promenade (aft section).

Port side promenade (aft section).

Starboard promenade.

Starboard promenade.

Forward end of the port promenade, part of the Distinguished/First class accommodation.

Forward end of the port promenade, part of the Distinguished/First Class accommodation.

Distinguished Class lounge, forward on what is now Deck 6. This was once the Mercia Bar with an adjacent coffee lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge, forward on what is now Deck 6. This was once the Mercia Bar with an adjacent coffee lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge.

The forward staircase, still decorated by the two-deck high work by Franta Belsky, albeit now missing its Horsa centrepiece.

The forward staircase, still decorated by the two-deck high work by Franta Belsky, albeit now missing its Horsa centrepiece.

The forward lounge on Deck 5. For many years in Greek service this retained most of the decor of its 1980s incarnation as the Venice Simplon Orient Express lounge, but was refitted during a refit in the mid-2000s.

The forward lounge on Deck 5. For many years in Greek service this retained most of the decor of its 1980s incarnation as the Venice Simplon Orient Express lounge, but was refitted in the mid-2000s.

Heading aft on either side are the two side lounges, still with their original seating which was manufactured by Burgess Furniture in Feltham, Middlesex.

Heading aft on either side are the two side lounges, still with their original seating which was manufactured by Burgess Furniture in Feltham, Middlesex.

What was originally called the tea bar, amidships between the two side lounges, was an original feature designed to be 'more modest in conception than the other bars in order to maintain a quiet atmosphere'.

Amidships between the two side lounges which it served was what was originally called the Tea Bar, intended by British Rail to be 'more modest in conception than the other bars in order to maintain a quiet atmosphere'.

Forward of the tea bar on the ship's centreline was once the Duty Free shop is now an additional, windowless, area of seating. This has inherited some of the generic chairs (from Primo in London) which were installed in the cafeteria upstairs during the late 1980s.

Forward of the Tea Bar on the ship's centreline what was once the Duty Free shop is now an additional, windowless, area of seating. This has inherited some of the generic chairs (made by Primo in London) which were installed in the cafeteria upstairs during the late 1980s.

The aft lobby with two different reception desks. In the foreground left behind the current mirrored panel was originally the passport office, to the right the bureau de change and far left the Purser's desk.

The aft lobby with two different reception desks. In the foreground left behind the current mirrored panel was originally the passport office, to the right the bureau de change and far left the Purser's desk.

Still retaining its original Burgess seating is the aft lounge, originally a non-smoking lounge. The area of the original discotheque, to the right of this image, has been absorbed into the lounge.

Still retaining its original Burgess seating is the aft lounge, originally a non-smoking saloon. The area of the original discotheque, to the right of this image, has been absorbed into the lounge.

Moving back upstairs, this is the cafeteria, rarely used as such during the ship's second stint in Agoudimos service when it was only generally opened up on busy sailings as an additional seating area.

Moving back upstairs, this is the cafeteria, rarely used as such during the ship's second stint in Agoudimos service when it was only generally opened up on busy sailings as an additional seating area.

This still retains its 1980s British Ferries Pantry branding...

This still retains its 1980s British Ferries Pantry branding...

...and still promes a 'full traditional breakfast'.

...and still promises a 'full traditional breakfast'.

Even Sammy Sealink has somehow managed to survive over 20 years in Greece.

Even Sammy Sealink has somehow managed to survive over 20 years in Greece.

A corner of the ship's galley.

A corner of the ship's galley.

Concluding our tour of the interior accommodation this secondary Distinguished Class lounge, forward of the galley, was originally the ship's 48-seat restaurant.

Back outside, the ship is now approaching Andros.

Back outside, the ship is now approaching Andros.

Captain Costas Velalopoulos, master of the Penelope A from 2004 until 2013.

Captain Costas Velalopoulos, master of the Penelope A from 2004 until 2013.

The cathedral-like innards of the ship's giant funnel.

The cathedral-like innards of the ship's giant funnel.

Most of the ship's lifeboat davits all retained their small installation plates detailing test date (in this case 3rd September 1971) and the ship's yard number, CF2 (Hengist being CF1 and later sister Senlac CF3).

Most of the ship's lifeboat davits retained their small installation plates detailing test date (in this case 3rd September 1971) and the ship's yard number, CF2 (Hengist being CF1 and later sister Senlac CF3).

Aft deck machinery - supplied by Clarke Chapman in Gateshead.

Aft deck machinery - supplied by Clarke Chapman in Gateshead.

As we approach Tinos, there's time for a quick look down on the car deck.

As we approach Tinos, there's time for a quick look down on the car deck.

One of the upper mezzanine sections of the vehicle deck - as built, this was designed to accommodate two cars side by side.

One of the upper mezzanine sections of the vehicle deck - as built, this was designed to accommodate two cars side by side.

The vehicle deck hatch, forward, often open during the ship's final years as the Penelope A.

The vehicle deck hatch, forward, was often open during the ship's final years as the Penelope A.

Welcome aboard sign from the Sealink days...

Welcome aboard sign from the Sealink days...

... just like this one (picture from 1987).

... just like this one (picture from 1987).

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

At Tinos.

At Tinos.

Between 1974 and 1985 the Prince Laurent was a Sealink fleetmate; since 1993 the two ships have operated in constant direct competition out of Rafina. The former 'Laurent', now the Superferry II, is seen approaching Tinos.

Between 1974 and 1985 the Prince Laurent was a Sealink fleetmate; for 20 years after 1993 the two ships operated in constant direct competition out of Rafina. The former 'Laurent', now the Superferry II, is seen approaching Tinos.

Superferry II backing onto her berth, the painted-over RMT monogram can still be seen, welded to her funnel.

Superferry II backing onto her berth, the painted-over RMT monogram can still be seen, welded to her funnel.

Velalopoulos surveys the scene.

Velalopoulos surveys the scene.

Leaving Tinos for Mykonos.

Leaving Tinos for Mykonos.

Arrival at Mykonos new port.

Arrival at Mykonos new port.

Is somebody missing a chicken?

Is somebody missing a chicken?

After holding up trafic for a few minutes, the chicken was last seen being strung up by one of the crew members, very possibly en-route to the galley.

After holding up trafic for a few minutes, the chicken was last seen being strung up by one of the crew members, very possibly en-route to the galley.

Secure on the berth at Mykonos. Just four days later the ship would make her final sailings.

Secure on the berth at Mykonos. Just four days later the ship would make her final sailings.

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