Posts tagged: horsa

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Things seen – October 2011

  • The Villandry is captured on Youtube in the 1960s in these timeless home movie reels – she is seen at Newhaven here and here and at Dieppe here. The ship also makes an appearance in this video which captures some excellent scenes of Britons at leisure in the 1960s but the star of the show is undoubtedly the Falaise, arriving at Newhaven stern-first.
  • Later in her life, the former Villandry is studied in this video at Kefalonia in 1990 and here arriving at Delos.
  • The Villandry and Valencay, as built, joined the Dieppe-Newhaven car ferry pioneer, the Falaise, and that ship’s first season is captured at the start of this Pathe newsreel, which continues past the ferry operation with a consideration of Dieppe and the surrounding area.
  • The former Heysham steamer Duke of Lancaster remains something of an enigma but the dukeoflancaster.net website now has dozens of past and present pictures which help to answer a few of the questions as to what she is like aboard.
  • The Arran steamer the Marchioness of Graham had a notable career, staying close to home through the Second World War and surviving locally until the late 1950s. Later rebuilt in Greek service, this video documents her launch back in 1936.
  • The Munster of 1968.

    The Munster of 1968.

  • Alongside modern coverage of Stena’s Irish Sea ships, this remarkable retrospective featured on RTE’s Nationwide programme includes footage of and on board B+I Line’s 1960’s Munster. “Form filling and tiresome customs delays have largely disappeared. A visitor only needs a current driving licence, an international motor insurance card and a pass covering the temporary exportation and re-importation of his car…”
  • A couple of years ago the former Hovertravel AP1-88 Double-O-Seven found herself in trouble in her new home of Sierra Leone. On a related theme, James’ Hovercraft website has had an overhaul and is worth a look.
  • The hoverport at Boulogne is captured in its heyday in this video from 1982.
  • Trouble for the Tor Anglia in 1976.
  • The famous Danish motorship Jens Bang, which went on to have a lengthy Greek career as the Naias, lives on in this outstanding model by Per Rimmen which came up for auction a couple of years ago. Meanwhile some classic DFDS views of a vintage similar to the Jens Bang can be found here.
  • This significance of this remarkable video, including close-up views of the open bow visor and ramp arrangements of the Wasa King (ex-Viking Sally, later Estonia) arriving at UmeÃ¥ is self-evident.
  • Was Gothenburg the coolest place on Earth in 1973? One would think so from this video – and if, like the folk seen from 10:15 onwards, you could sail in and out on the Stena Jutlandica, Stena Olympica, Prinsessan Christina and Tor Anglia or jet around on those Finnair or KLM DC-9s who can argue?
  • The Stena Danica of 1965 at Gothenburg.

    The Stena Nordica of 1965 at Gothenburg.

  • The first Stena Nordica burnt out in Venezuelan service in 1980 but the wreck remains off the island of Cubagua where it is popular with divers. The original Stena bow markings are still visible in this shot.

    What, meanwhile, has become of the ‘Nordica”s sister, the first Stena Danica? The ship saw lengthy service after 1969 as the Lucy Maud Montgomery in Canada before disposal in 1999. The most recent images I can find of her are as the Lady Caribe I, laid up in Key West in the early 2000s. In late 2007 Shippax reported her sold to “Dominican buyers” but there the trail goes cold.

  • Jadrolinija capers in Drvenik Mali. The ship is the PeljeÅ¡canka, locally-built in 1971 and based on the design of the earlier trio of ships bought by the company from Greece.
  • It is not always plain sailing in Croatia as this rough weather film taken aboard the Ero (ex-Aero) in the late 1960s demontrates. This ship was laid up several years ago and reported sold for scrap in late 2009; however as of May 2011 she still lay amongst the Jadrolinija reserve fleet in Cres.
  • The Lovrjenac seen during her terminal lay up at Mali Losinj in August 2008. The bridge of her similarly retired fleetmate, the Novalja, can be seen to the left.

    The Lovrjenac seen during her terminal lay up at Mali Losinj in August 2008. The bridge of her similarly retired fleetmate, the Novalja, can be seen to the left.

  • The latest edition of Ferry & Cruise Review includes a picture of the Lovrjenac (ex-Norris Castle) being scrapped at Aliaga, to which she was towed, along with the Novalja (ex-Kalmarsund V) in late May. The Lovrjenac’s Red Funnel and Jadrolinija fleetmate the Nehaj (ex-Cowes Castle) also found her career at an end this year – like the Božava she was scrapped near Venice.

  • With her interlude as a floating bar in Mali Losinj apparently not a success the veteran Marina (ex-Kronprinsessan Ingrid (1936)) has been relocated to Rijeka which will hopefully be better able to support her activities.
  • Although it is hard to establish whether the Middle Eastern operator Namma Lines are still operating, a few months ago the company did post some Youtube guides to two of their ships: the Mawaddah (ex-King Minos) and the Masarrah (ex-St Columba).
  • The sister to the Mawaddah, the former N Kazantzakis/Shiretoku Maru is today the Kowloon-based cruise ship Metropolis.
  • The Lissos.

    The Lissos.

  • ANEK’s Lissos was sent for scrap earlier in the year and her arrival in Alang was captured for the record. The Lissos was an interesting and slightly-awkward looking ship but one I will miss. Certainly the officers of the cargo vessel featured in this near-miss video will not quickly forget her.
  • The final demise of the GA Ferries fleet was extensively recorded locally – here is an interesting video taken on board the Daliana just before her departure for the scrapyard whilst the final, slow, death march of the Romilda out of Piraeus can be seen here. Similar videos can also be found showing the final departures of the Daliana, the Marina and the Samothraki.
  • This 1994 video of Chandris’s The Azur (ex-Eagle) transiting the Corinth Canal shows what an exciting part of any voyage on any ship this is for passengers.
  • Crazy drivers in Piraeus are nothing new it seems – various classic passenger ships make cameo appearances in this clip from the movie The Burglars of 1971.
  • © hhvferry.com

    © hhvferry.com

  • The author of the the guidebook Greek Island Hopping, Frewin Poffley, sometimes appears to be lacking in any real understanding of the ferry business but has managed to carve out a niche selling his book to travellers to the Greek islands. Good luck to him – but repeated requests that he address the unauthorised use of the Aqua Maria image featured here (taken by me on the quayside at Drapetsona on 23 November 2010 and included in this post last year) have met with no response. Poor show old chap.
  • If you are going to plagiarise images from across the internet, then at least there should be the upside of creating a useful resource; this plundered collection of photographs of the Greek Naxos show the ship throughout her Greek career.
  • Another locally-built Greek ship, a few years younger than the Naxos, was the Santorini which subsequently passed to Indian owners, remaining there until apparently being withdrawn earlier this year. The ship is pictured here alongside the former Suilven (now Bharat Seema) in India whilst there are some interal pictures here and an outstanding voyage report here.
  • The Kefalonia.

    The Kefalonia.

  • Since the original company was absorbed into Attica several years ago it has been a rare sight to see more than one Strintzis ferry in port at a time. On the occasion that the current pair of ships of the revived Strintzis Ferries switched routes in July, however, it was possible to view the Eptanisos and the Kefalonia side by side.
  • The state of the Greek economy means rumours fly around regarding the futures of several of the ferries owned by operators in that country. Whilst Endeavor Lines earlier in the year strongly denied those concerning their operations, their Ionian Queen has recently appeared as a ‘premium listing’ on the website of a well-known ship broker. For six years this ships and her sister, the Ionian King, have been the best ships in Southern Adriatic service and the sale of the ‘King’ back to Japanese owners by Agoudimos Lines earlier this year was tempered somewhat by the survival of the ‘Queen’. The departure of both ships would be a sad loss to the ferry operations out of Brindisi and Bari.
  • Endeavor’s other operational ship is the Elli T which one has to think stands a chance of heading to the breakers rather than further service were she to be sold. Leaping back to her original life as the Japanese Okudogo 3, this series of images show what an eccentric but fascinating ferry she was (and to large degree still is) aboard.
  • A ship which sailed from Japan to Greece in 2010 was the 1991-built New Hiyama, purchased by ANENDYK for local Cretan service. The ship, renamed Sfakia I, berthed in the port of Souda (Chania), ostensibly for rebuild, but has remained there ever since – to the intrigue of locals. An interesting video providing a tour of the accommodation has appeared on Youtube.
  • Last but not least:
    Hengist (as Agios Georgios)
    Horsa (as Penelope A)
    Vortigern (as Milos Express)
  • Things Seen – February 2010

    The Nikolaos, still with a red hull, at Perama in September 2009.

    The Nikolaos, still with a red hull, at Perama in September 2009.

  • After many years laid up at Elefsis and Salamis the first of the Sunderland-built Superflexes, the Superflex Alfa, saw service in 2008 as the Nikolaos between Igoumenitsa and Corfu for Ionion Lines, still with her original red hull. There she operated in competition with her former sister, the much rebuilt Pantokrator (Superflex Foxtrot). The operation did not seem to have been a success and for nine months the ship was laid up in Igoumenitsa. In July last year she moved to Perama for attention; however, there she remained, with work seemingly halted. The reports now are that it has been completed and the company’s website offers a glimpse of the new look – the red hull is gone and some new openings on the upper vehicle deck indicate that the changes are more than superficial. With her sister the Gitte 3 (ex-Superflex Delta) having recently departed for the scrappers, time is starting to catch up with this class of ship, most of which have experienced uncertainty and lay up at one stage or another through their fairly troubled history. Hopefully, the lead ship will be able to make a success of her operation this time around.
  • The stylish Swedish train ferries Trelleborg (1958) and SkÃ¥ne (1967) were built for the Trelleborg-Sassnitz service, operated in co-operation with the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn, whose ships were rather more austere.

    Comprehensive pictures of and on board the Swedish pair in both their early years and latterly when they each headed to Southern Europe can be found here:

    Trelleborg and Skåne

  • The sad wreck of the Jassim (ex-Kattegat of 1961) is picked up quite clearly on Google Maps.
  • Rather more haunting is the wreck of the Salem Express, the former Fred Scamaroni and Nuits Saint Georges which sailed direct from layup following her aborted UK service to trade in the Red Sea in 1981. The ship tragically sank in December 1991, taking at least 470 people with her. A deep breath is required before viewing some of these 2005 images of her interior, and of the remains of some of her doomed passengers.
  • The Express Adonis (ex-Ailsa Princess/Earl Harold) rather disappeared off the radar when sold by Hellenic Seaways back in 2006. She has, however, embarked on a new career as a casino ship in Indian waters, firstly under the name New Caribbean Princess and most recently as the New Cambay Prince. Passengers appear to frequently arrive at the ship via tender which provides a few interesting youtube videos. Her operator’s website seems adequate enough but some of the reviews have been less flattering: how’s about “That’s not to suggest that you’re taking a ride in a rat-infested boat (or perhaps the rats have already jumped ship)” for a back handed compliment?

    Meanwhile, the headline ‘Disgusting!’ sums up environmentalists’ concerns about the ship’s alledged dumping of garbage in the Arabian Sea.

  • On the following link, Prince Philip asks some unilluminating questions during the construction of the Finnjet (h/t LandgÃ¥ngen)
  • The cutaway diagram is a staple for ferry operators trying to showcase their newest and best vessels to the discerning public. Most modern versions are fairly sanitised, but let’s look back to the early 1980s and Trasmed’s image of the Ciudad de Badajoz. Zoom in up-close and check out the detail of what the people on board are actually up to. Towelling themselves off after showers, stuck on lifts between floors, but mostly peacock-like showing themselves off to best advantage. And, just to the right of the lift, what is that man doing in the washbasin?
  • Barely a month seems to go by without a current or former Superfast ship changing hands. This picture of the Superfast IX (now Atlantic Vision) in dry dock seems to fit the mood as the Attica fleet seems set into decline – just a sliver of red remains, the vast bulk being extinguished by a sea of blue. The days when Superfast changed overnight and then dominated the Greek international ferry market seem ever more distant.
  • Pilot’s model ships have quite a following with examples passing for not inconsiderable sums on eBay. This website showcasing Bruce Peter’s collection snuck onto the web, unheralded, a couple of years ago.
  • © Bruce Peter

    © Bruce Peter

  • The Nereus was a smart little ship, built as the Scania for Rederi Ab Svea she was later the Scania Express and Polhelm before passing to Agapitos Lines in 1981. In Greece she was deployed on an almost incomprehensible schedule involving 30+ ports, mostly smaller islands with tiny populations. She was lost off the coast of Crete in 1989 and for many years the wreck was visible off Sideros.

    A couple of rather charming videos of the ship during her Greek career can be found here and here.

  • Stena Line’s predilection for tinkering with their ships’ interiors shows no sign of abating. Here are some images of the most recent remodelling of the Kiel ships ‘Germanica’ and ‘Scandinavica’.
  • Maritime historian Peter Knego recently wrote about his visit to the Faithful (originally the first Wappen Von Hamburg (1955) and later the Delos and Xanadu) which, after several years where it seemed she was just another old ship doomed to be scrapped, appears to be having one last chance at survival. His pictures make a fascinating contrast to this snippet of film relating the Delos’s maiden arrival in Greece in 1961. (h/t Nautilia)
  • In the last ‘Things Seen’ we touched on one of the Baroness M (ex-Lion)’s more dramatic moments when she was attacked by Syrian gunboats in 1990. For sixteen years after being delivered in late 1967 until sale to the Greek Cypriot Marlines the ship was a familiar sight around the coast of the United Kingdom, and she was once more when chartered for a much commented-upon spell back on the English Channel for British Channel Island Ferries in 1987. In between times however the ship spent one Summer operating for Marlines on a long, once weekly, Ancona-Igoumenitsa-Patras-Izmir routing, via the Corinth Canal and it is during that 1986 season that she is captured here and here looking quite splendid as she passes through the canal with what appears to be only a modest sprinkling of passengers aboard.
  • The Candia.

    The Candia.

  • For years I paid little attention to the Candia and Rethimnon of ANEK, dismissing them as just another pair of Japanese ferries diverting attention from the real Greek beauties, the ex-North European tonnage. That rather narrow view of Greek ferry history still pertains to a degree, but what mustn’t be overlooked is the impact these ships had when introduced – they were virtually brand new and were an amazing contrast on routes to Crete to Minoan’s famed Minos and the Kydon, ANEK’s own original ship. Here, dignatories are shown around the Candia as she is inaugurated in 1973.
  • Comedy capers with a current ANEK ship as this video of the Prevelis demonstrates that the so-called ‘Mediterranean moor’ isn’t as easily executed as it sometimes appears.
  • The remains of the former Sealink Isle of Wight ferry Freshwater continue to languish at the former scrapyard in Garston, Merseyside to which she was sold back in 1996. This fascinating video tour of the ship just before she left Sealink service is a reminder of rather happier times.
  • Lastly, as the ships head towards their 38th birthdays, here is a nice image of the Hengist and Horsa together off Folkestone very early in their English Channel careers.

    For the record, the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) had a hiccup with an engine failure a couple of days ago, returning to Piraeus to discharge her passengers. She has since resumed her regular services.

  • The Agios Georgios at Piraeus.

    The Agios Georgios at Piraeus.

    Please send any contributions for ‘Things Seen’ to admin@hhvferry.com.

    Hengist, Horsa & Senlac, Summer 2009

    Although Ventouris Sea Lines’ unprepossessing website gives little away, the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) remains the key conventional ship on operations from Piraeus to the Western Cyclades. New competition has emerged this year in the shape of the rebuilt Adamantios Korais of expansion-minded Zante Ferries which has effectively replaced the Romilda, but the Agios Georgios remains the only conventional ship to offer daily departures from Piraeus. There are also regular calls at Milos by ANEK’s passing Prevelis which has taken over a roundabout Piraeus-Rhodes circuit similar to that previously operated by the Vitsentzos Kornaros. Fast ferry connections are offerred this year by the Speedrunner IV (ex-SuperSeaCat Four) and Hellenic Seaways, having long left the conventional sailings to the Agios Georgios, provide a daily round trip with the Highspeed 3, whilst Sea Jets‘ passenger only Super Jet daily connects Piraeus-Milos-Folegandros (-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi).

    Peter Kidman sends these pictures of the Agios Georgios, taken in July. VSL made further investment during the ship’s refit earlier in the year, which resulted in the addition of eight rather unsightly square windows on the starboard side forward enclosed promenade (part of the First Class accommodation).

    The Agios Georgios loading in Piraeus

    The Agios Georgios loading in Piraeus

    Arriving in Serifos.

    Arriving in Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    At Serifos.

    A similar view of the ship at Milos before the recent modifications.

    A similar view of the ship at Milos before the recent modifications.

    Over at Athens’ secondary port, the Penelope A (ex-Horsa) remains on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos route she has maintained ever since she first came to Greece in 1992. Competition on this routing remains hot, but unchanged from last year, with Blue Star’s Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) theoretically perhaps the main rival, with the insurgent Aqua Jewel and Theologos P of Alpha Ferries and Cyclades Fast Ferries (sic) respectively also competing. The Seajet 2 and Highspeed 2 also buzz around in and amongst the conventional ships.

    Patrick Vandeputte has sent these recent images of the Penelope A at Tinos.

    The third sister, the more elusive Apollon (ex-Senlac) has been in service for European Seaways throughout the Summer, operating alongside the rather less appealing Ionis between Bari (Italy) and the port city of Durres (Albania). The Dover Ferry Photos Forum has recent pictures here (registration required). These are but two of at least thirteen conventional ships operating on the Bari-Durres route this Summer, of which the most notable to North Europeans perhaps are the Rigel (ex-Baltic Kristina/Ilich/Bore I) and the Arberia (ex-Wasa Queen/Orient Express/Bore Star).

    With thanks to Peter Kidman and Patrick Vandeputte for the 2009 pictures of the Agios Georgios and Penelope A respectively.

    Hengist, Horsa, Senlac: The Rafina Summer of 2004

    Although built together for Sealink, being delivered in 1972-73, the Hengist, Horsa and Senlac never operated together as such, the Senlac being Newhaven-based. There were a few occasions when the Senlac ventured east, with Newhaven-Boulogne even being operated as an emergency service on occasion when Dieppe was out of action. However these were never anything other than temporary measures.

    When Hellas Ferries was created in 1999/2000, the ships, by then all operating for different Greek operators, once again came together in one fleet. Agapitos Lines’ Panagia Ekatontapiliani (ex-Hengist) became the Express Artemis, Agoudimos Lines’ Penelope A (ex-Horsa) became the Express Penelope whilst Agapitos Express Ferries’ Express Apollon (ex-Senlac) retained her name.

    They remained together in the same fleet, generally operating rather different itineraries to one another, until early 2004, when the former Hengist and Horsa were sold by Hellas Ferries to local competitors – the Hengist to her original Greek owners, Ventouris Sea Lines, and the Horsa back to Agoudimos Lines.

    2004 was Olympic year and for that season only Hellas Ferries made the decision to deploy two ships out of Rafina rather than the main but busy port of Piraeus, namely the Express Apollon and the Express Aphrodite (ex-St Columba). Rafina had been the home to the Penelope A/Express Penelope for the duration of her Greek career. Along with the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) there were therefore four ex-Sealink ships engaged in the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos trade that Summer.

    The ‘H Class’ connection was complete when the Hengist, renamed Agios Georgios, was given a licence to operate Rafina-Paros-Naxos-Santorini sailings, being hurriedly introduced into service on 8 July.

    Thus for one glorious Summer, late in their careers, the sisters were based together at the same port. Tasos Papanastasiou was able to capture these unique images of the three ships, once again operating for different companies, but this time coming head-to-head against each other in Rafina. For each picture, click for a larger image.

    The Penelope A (ex-Horsa, left) chases the Express Apollon (ex-Senlac, right) into port.

    The Penelope A (ex-Horsa, left) chases the Express Apollon (ex-Senlac, right) into port.

    At the port entrance...

    At the port entrance...


    ... it's single file only.

    ... it's single file only.

    Together at Rafina

    Together at Rafina

    Another view of the three sister ships

    Another view of the three sister ships

    Lastly a unique, never to be repeated view showing five ex-Sealink ships together at Rafina. From left to right: the Penelope A, Express Aphrodite (ex-St Columba), Express Apollon, Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) and Agios Georgios.

    Lastly a unique, never to be repeated view showing five ex-Sealink ships together at Rafina. From left to right: the Penelope A, Express Aphrodite (ex-St Columba), Express Apollon, Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) and Agios Georgios.

    Images courtesy Tasos Papanastasiou & originally posted to nautilia.gr.

    That was the year that was

    The Scania of SSC at Heltermaa, January 2008

    The Scania of SSC at Heltermaa, January 2008

    It’s been another memorable year of ferrying – here are some high and low-lights from a year which saw the demise of Speedferries, the end of the Finnjet, Black Watch, Caledonian Princess and (we think) St George, the further growth of LD Lines and Tallink and, perhaps, the final end of the Europa I, one of Europe’s few remaining British-built international car ferries.

    Off the top of my head, the latter point reduces the total to just four of note – the Pride of York (ex-Norsea), Ibn Batouta (ex-St Christopher), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess) and Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry). Make it six if you count the operational HH Ferries Superflexes.

    Farewell to Speed Ferries

    Farewell to Speed Ferries

    The Á la carte restaurant on Tallink's Star

    The Á la carte restaurant on Tallink's Star


    Best new ferry
    I can only assess ships which I’ve sailed on this year but based on that Tallink’s Star is the consummate new delivery of the past 24 months. Stylish and efficient, her introduction together with the Viking XPRS swept away any need for separate fast ferries on Tallin-Helsinki. But she is more than just fast – she is big, stylish and beautiful. Tallink have their detractors, (my main suggestion to them would be to keep the Tallink brand away from Silja as much as possible because it seems to only do harm there amongst Finns and Swedes) but you have to admire them when they produce newbuilds of this standard.

    The Star's Sunset Bar

    The Star's Sunset Bar

    The Dubrovnik (ex-Connacht/Duchesse Anne) and the Ancona at Split

    The Dubrovnik (ex-Connacht/Duchesse Anne) and the Ancona at Split


    Best classic ferry
    I think the Ancona of SEM/Blue Lines will win this every year. The ironic thing is that she was pretty much anachronistic when delivered, with sub-optimal vehicle decks and slightly old-fashioned passenger spaces. Yet perhaps her biggest strength has been the almost old-fashioned quality of her build, which sets her apart from many of her 1960s contemporaries. A good compare and contrast is with her fleetmate the Split 1700 – same year, same designers but a world away in style. SEM seem to know it and the Ancona is their undoubted flagship, a ferry every enthusiast should try and sail on at least once if they can.
    Sunset in Split, from the Ancona

    Sunset in Split, from the Ancona

    The Ariadne at Piraeus.

    The Ariadne at Piraeus.


    Best Jap
    We tend to be slightly dismissive of Japanese ferry conversions, but I think the reality is that the dismissal should be on the conversion, not the Japanese. Pre-conversion they are incredibly fascinating ships to sail on but since almost all of the ships that come to Europe sail into the hands of the Greek shipyards, their charm is obliterated (see amongst others Prevelis, GA’s Marina, Rodanthi etc etc). Done well however and things can be different – so the best for me this year was ANEK/HSW’s Ariadne, which is virtually a newbuild and the epitome of modern Greek shipboard design. The Ionian Queen of Endeavor was also pretty good. For an unchanged Japanese original, check out Jadrolinija’s Lubenice or Brestova.
    On  board Jadrolinija's Lubenice

    On board Jadrolinija's Lubenice

    Dinnertime on the Ariadne.

    Dinnertime on the Ariadne.


    Best food
    Theoretically ferry food has come on leaps and bounds over the years, but some operators just don’t seem to have cottoned on. SNCM’s Napoleon Bonaparte was a good (bad?) example, which makes an interesting counterpoint to their main rivals Corsica Ferries where I’ve always found the food pretty good – the buffet on the Mega Smeralda (ex-Color Festival/Svea) in particular was excellent.

    Other good meals were had on the Mariella, Seafrance Berlioz and breakfast on the Oleander. The to-order pancakes on SSC never disappoint (the Ofelia being good this year) but for an overall experience the Ariadne again proved hard to beat. Prices for the waiter service were literally about 20 Eurocents more than the self-service yet the experience was unbeatable and rounded off by the waiter delivering complimentary rounds of Ouzo. Now I’m not a big fan but didn’t want to appear ungrateful so downed it, at which point he promptly filled the glass up again, and again. So that ended up being a very long night…

    Room for one more? Squeezing them all in on the Duchess M.

    Room for one more? Squeezing them all in on the Duchess M.


    Worst ferry
    It seems a little harsh but there are always going to be some howlers. The Duchess M (ex-Breizh Izel) of Marlines was dirty, overcrowded and miserable. The interior passenger spaces were restricted to an upstairs bar and a downstairs self-service and when the latter wasn’t open you weren’t allowed in. Passengers without a cabin had a truly miserable time and since the cabins were fairly grotty that’s saying something.

    However I’ll forgive that ship a little simply due to her age. To me even worse was the much more modern Blue Star Ithaki. Ill-advised by guidebooks such as Frewin Poffley’s Greek Island Hopping, backpackers subject themselves unnecessarily to hours of torment on ships that are too small for the operations they are used on – or perhaps more pointedly, the loads they take. It was a case of find a seat and cling to it for the entire voyage. Painful, miserable and, since it’s an everyday occurrance, unforgivable.

    The Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras, May 2008. The latter remains probably the best ferry on the Straits of Gibralter, but on our sailing the catering standards were notably inferior to the former.

    The Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras, May 2008. The latter remains probably the best ferry on the Strait of Gibralter, but on our sailing the catering standards were notably inferior to the former.


    Worst food
    I’ll usually eat pretty much anything but the Red Star I (ex-Thoresen’s Viking III) was truly awful. And, after a superb meal in the restaurant on COMARIT’s Boughaz in 2007, the Banasa in 2008 plumbed the depths, including plastic plates, knives and forks. And food come to that.
    What was particularly galling was that the freight drivers had full service and a full menu in their section, served by the same staff, from the same galley. Since we were pretty much the only non drivers on board it wouldn’t have been hard to go that bit further.

    The Penelope A

    The Penelope A


    Biggest Disappointment
    It’s doesn’t feel right saying it but Agoudimos Lines’ Penelope A (ex-Horsa) was in pretty squalid condition this Summer. The new furnishings given to the ship last year in the forward two bars were already ripped and worn. Since it took 20 years for the previous fittings installed by Sealink to fall into similar disrepair I think we can draw some conclusions. The 2007 refit was carried out primarily by the ship’s crew during the Winter and it doesn’t appear to have been of the highest quality, the best intentions of the crew notwithstanding. The company and the ship still have a loyal following on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos run but the competition is stiff and often superior. The Horsa’s sister, the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) in contrast is in superb condition so it shouldn’t be too difficult if Agoudimos had the intent.

    So that’s it – hopefully 2009 will offer as much variety and fun as 2008. Things have shut down a little for the Winter, which gives scope to write up a few voyages from last year. Starting, perhaps, with the Ancona herself.

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