Posts tagged: istra

Things seen – November 2010

The Anthi Marina, Milena and Dimitroula laid up in Piraeus outer harbour.

The Anthi Marina, Milena and Dimitroula laid up in Piraeus outer harbour.

  • The laid up GA Ferries fleet in Piraeus has been put up for auction by the port authority. The following starting bids have been specified:

    DIMITROULA €1,277,000
    ANTHI MARINA €2,128,000
    ROMILDA €979,000
    MILENA €957,000
    MARINA €1,309,000
    RODANTHI €1,383,000
    DALIANA €957,500

    One wonders which shipboard delights make the Daliana €500 more valuable than her sister the Milena. Truthfully, I doubt many will miss most of these ships all of which were fairly grim clunkers at the very bottom of the market by the time GA Ferries finally gave up the ghost. The Dimitroula, whilst not an exception to that comment, was perhaps the most interesting, retaining many of her pocket Italian liner stylings through her Greek career. The fast craft Jetferry I, tucked up in the inner harbour adjacent to the berths of the smaller Blue Star ships, has already been repossessed by her secured creditors so is excluded from the list.

    There are some slightly haunting videos of the ships in the outer harbour, creaking and groaning at their berths here and here.

    The same set of videos also features a close up consideration of the Mediterranean Sky, once of Karageorgis Lines and before that Ellerman’s City of York but now a sunken, rusting hulk in a corner of Elefsis Bay.

    Meanwhile, near to the end of her operational days, life on board a Christmassy Romilda was captured by a nautilia user with the highly commendable name of ‘vortigern’.

  • The final departure of the Athens from Igoumenitsa en route for scrapping was captured for posterity – the vessel had served Ventouris Ferries for approaching a quarter of a century and had survived through all of the troubles of the family’s shipping operations – being right on the spot of disaster on occasion as pictures of her, freshly painted, alongside the sunken Grecia Express (ex-Norwind) prove.
  • Another former British ferry whose operational career in Greece was cut short at an early stage was the Theseus (ex-Dundalk, St Cybi). She did see service for a while however, as evidenced by this highly entertaining video of her berthing in rough weather at Kythira in 1993. Comedy highlights include the lost tyre bouncing around behind a disembarking vehicle and, somewhat cruelly, the lady who manages to drench herself as she attempts to embark by running up to and over the vehicle ramp.
  • ‘Mr Snail’ has a fine collection on flickr of images of and on board many of the lesser lights of the currently operational Greek domestic fleet, large and small.
  • The recent collision of the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) with the pier in Tinos rang a bell and a quick search revealed a similar incident in Andros a couple of years ago – with rather more dramatic consequences for those on board.
  • The many and varied incidents which have affected BC Ferries’ fleet are documented in this remarkable youtube video which formed part of local TV coverage of the sinking of the Queen of the North.

    Meanwhile, this series of videos shows Tsawwassen terminal and the Queen of New Westminster being pounded by wet & wild weather in 2007.

  • Whilst Corsica Ferries seem somehow less accident-prone than rivals Moby, this image of the stern of the Mega Express shows that they still have their share of mishaps.
  • Continuing the theme of accidents and incidents, the former Ursula of Scandinavian Ferry Lines, latterly the Cozumel II, was washed ashore at Chinchorro Bank in Mexico during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. In May of this year she was finally released from her predicament as evidenced by this local television report.
  • Staying in Mexico, it is nearly three years since the Victory of Grandi Navi Veloci was sold to Baja Ferries where she operates as the Chihuahua Star alongside the California Star (ex-Stena Forwarder). She appears to have settled down quite well in operation, but, as can be seen from this voyage report, remains very much a GNV ship onboard.
  • Sessan Linjen was one of the more prestigious and upscale early car ferry operators and the company’s absorption by local rivals Stena Line in 1982 remains in many ways regrettable The vast majority of Sessan’s fleet were purpose-built and some interesting images are found here and here whilst a snatched recording of cars boarding the Prinsessan Desiree in Gothenburg in the early 1970s can be seen here. Today, Sessan’s Gothenburg terminal is the only remaining local link with the company, it now being home to Stena’s Kiel operation.
  • Mention of Stena and their early, rapid, growth prompts a quick link to one of my all time favourite ferry photographs, from the Dover Ferry Photos website, showing the little Stena Danica of 1965 in Dover alongside the Free Enterprise III and the Roi Baudouin. Stubby and small, she still manages to somehow outshine her equally modern rivals.
  • That Stena Danica image was taken during her brief charter to Townsend over the Winter of 1967/68 and just a couple of months later Pathé news ventured aboard the brand-new Dragon on her promotional visit to London to film this footage of one of the more attractive British-registered car ferries. The recording also resolves a minor query I had as to just what the Dragon featured in her main lobby, where her sister Leopard had a leopard clambering up the liftshaft (below). To the surprise of nobody it was a dragon (below x2), but still it is nice to see just what it looked like. As can also be seen both ships had Bayeux Tapestry extracts around the lobby’s upper circle.
    A leopard on the Leopard...

    A leopard on the Leopard...


    ...and a dragon on the Dragon.

    ...and a dragon on the Dragon.

  • The branch lines serving former railway ports still capture the imaginations of many and video tributes to those at Folkestone and Weymouth have found their way onto youtube. The Weymouth version includes some entertaining footage of cars being moved out of the way of the train as it passes along the quayside. Over at Folkestone, spread over three parts are some excellent clips of trains transiting the harbour line:
    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
  • The departure of the SNAV Sicilia (ex-Norland) for scrap is a reminder that this ship was once very famous indeed in her homeport of Kingston-upon-Hull. The Norland pub in Hessle remains a well-known local hostelry, whilst the name of Norland ARLFC continues to bring a wry smile to ferry enthusiast observers of the Hull & District League (this may indeed be a very limited number of people). Meanwhile a house on Norland Avenue doesn’t sound too bad a proposition, although that may depend on one’s view of the merits of living in Hull.

    The East Yorkshire version of the BBC’s Look North carried a decent segment on her demise (no longer available on iplayer but a related news item is here); the Hull Daily Mail predictably missed the story altogether.

  • It comes as a rude shock that some people don’t take ferry enthusiasm as seriously as this blog ceaselessly strives to. An entertaining critique of Brian Haresnape’s book Sealink, a revered tome in the eyes of this writer, can be found on the four pages of this link to an irreverent car forum – page 2 onwards are frankly not for the faint hearted.
  • Staying with Sealink and the ITN website has some interesting coverage of newsworthy events from the 1980s:
    ‘Save Our Senlac’
    On board the strikebound Earl Harold
    Refloating the Hengist
  • Lastly, the arrival of the Istra for scrapping in Aliaga didn’t go undocumented and below are some links to a series of images of and on board the old ship as she was prepared for cutting up (click on the thumbnails to go to the original urls):
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    (h/t Brodovi i pomorstvo)

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

    Mediterranean Massacre – Part One

    The revised SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) regulations which came into force on 30 September were expected to cause several casualties, but the speed and number of older ferries which have been sent straight for scrapping has still been quite startling.

    Although we will take a more detailed look at a couple of these ships in due course, for now here is a quick run down of both the higher-profile 2010 Southern Europe scrappers and a few lesser lights which passed for demolition with little remark or remorse. In a second post there will be a look at those ships which could be next – assuming more haven’t passed over in the meantime.

    Starting in the west and the Sara I (ex-Djursland II) was despatched by COMARIT before the Summer even began. She spent her final years owned by El Salam but, on charter, she was a regular on Moroccan routes until the end.

    Starting in the west and the Sara I (ex-Djursland II) was despatched by COMARIT before the Summer even began. She spent her final years owned by El Salam but, on charter, she was a regular on Moroccan routes until the end.

    Sara I.

    Sara I.

    Of the four ferries Stena had built in Yugoslavia in the early 1970s now only one, the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica) survives. 2010 saw the end for the Euroferrys Atlantica (ex-Stena Jutlandica). Slightly grim towards the end, her teak-lined promenade deck was still one of the best in the business.

    Of the four ferries Stena had built in Yugoslavia in the early 1970s only one, the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica) now survives. 2010 saw the end for the Euroferrys Atlantica (ex-Stena Jutlandica). Slightly grim towards the end, her teak-lined promenade deck was still one of the best in the business.

    For over 20 years the Ouzoud (ex-Fedra, Peter Pan (1974)) was one of the most recognisable ferries in Southern Europe. 15 years with Minoan Lines was followed by a sale to El Salam where she remained on charter to COMANAV for their Tangier-Genoa line. As with the Sara I, the COMANAV-COMARIT tie-up allowed the ship to be returned to her owners, who immediately sent her for scrapping in India.

    For over 20 years the Ouzoud (ex-Fedra, Peter Pan (1974)) was one of the most recognisable ferries in Southern Europe. 15 years with Minoan Lines were followed by a sale to El Salam, who chartered her seasonally to COMANAV for their Tangier-Genoa line. As with the Sara I, the COMANAV-COMARIT tie-up allowed the ship to be returned to her owners, who then sent her for scrapping in India.

    Ouzoud.

    Ouzoud.

    The Giulia D'Abundo (ex-Nils Dacke, Quiberon) had a strangely quiet end to her career. No longer required after owners Medmar ceased their longer distance services, she saw intermittent charter use but after 2007 was permanently laid up in Naples before passing to Indian scrappers in early 2010 as the Abundo. She is seen here in July 2008.

    The little Redentore Primo (ex-Langeland, Solidor) was latterly one of Medmar's local ferries serving the bay of Naples area. She had an interesting career, from her initial role as a duty free day trip link between Germany and Denmark to the pioneer Channel Islands-France car ferry. Her final 20 years were spent in Italy, from where she headed for Aliaga in September having seen only limited seasonal use in recent times.

    The little Redentore Primo (ex-Langeland, Solidor) was latterly one of Medmar's local ferries serving the bay of Naples area. She had an interesting career, from her initial role as a duty free day trip link between Germany and Denmark to 12 years as the pioneer Channel Islands-France car ferry. Her final 20 years were spent in Italy, from where she headed for Aliaga in September having seen only limited seasonal use in recent times.

    In a remarkable twist of fate, the two pioneer ships of North Sea operator Tor Line were beached near to each other in Aliaga days apart - nearly 35 years since they had last operated under the same ownership. The delightful Baia Sardinia (ex-Tor Anglia. 1966), seen here off Palau, was the older of the pair and much less altered than her sister.

    In a remarkable twist of fate, the two pioneer ships of North Sea operator Tor Line were beached near to each other in Aliaga days apart - nearly 35 years since they had last operated under the same ownership. The delightful Baia Sardinia (ex-Tor Anglia, 1966), seen here off Palau, was the older of the pair and much less altered than her sister.

    The Baia Sardinia's sister, the former Tor Hollandia of 1967, was latterly the F-Diamond. After a very successful second career in Greece, her final years were rather miserable: painted in an all-over black livery as a party ship for Fashion TV she was later abandoned in Genoa, before finally being sold at auction. She is seen here in July 2010, with the similarly forsaken Italroro Three astern.

    The Croatian state operator Jadrolinija have tended in the past simply to place redundant ships into prolonged layup rather than immediately scrap them. This was not the case however with the Istra (ex-Mette Mols) which, after 29 years service with the company, arrived in Aliaga in May. She is seen here arriving in Split in 2007.

    The Croatian state operator Jadrolinija have tended in the past simply to place redundant ships into prolonged layup rather than immediately scrap them. This was not the case however with the Istra (ex-Mette Mols) which, after 29 years service with the company, arrived in Aliaga in May. She is seen here at Split in 2007.

    The Istra's little fleetmate, the Vanga (ex-Bastø III, 1968) found her way to the beach in a more roundabout fashion, passing from Jadrolinija to a Slovakian buyer, supposedly for further use. This was not to be the case however and she was at Aliaga by September. The Vanga is seen here leaving Split in July 2005, with the cruise ship Jason arriving in the background. One of three ships built by the Italian government as post-World War 2 reparations to Greece, the Jason passed for scrapping in late 2009 after a brief final period as the Ocean Odyssey in India.

    The Istra's little fleetmate, the Vanga (ex-Bastø III, 1968) found her way to the beach in a more roundabout fashion, passing from Jadrolinija to a Slovakian buyer, supposedly for further use. This was not to be the case however and she was at Aliaga by September. The Vanga is seen here leaving Split in July 2005, with the cruise ship Jason arriving in the background. One of three ships built by the Italian government as post-World War 2 reparations to Greece, the Jason passed for scrapping in late 2009 after a brief final period as the Ocean Odyssey in India.

    The Guglielmo Mazzola, seen here laid up in Bari in July 2010, was originally built as the Vittore Carpaccio. Her final two decades saw sporadic, almost random service: very briefly she ran as a car ferry from Brindisi to Corfu, an attempt was made to use her to break into the Elba ferry market whilst by 2005 she was serving as a party ship at the South Italian town of Gallipoli. Abandoned in Bari for several years, she was scrapped at Aliaga.

    The Guglielmo Mazzola, seen here laid up in Bari in July 2010, was originally built as the Vittore Carpaccio. Her final two decades saw sporadic, almost random service: very briefly she ran as a car ferry from Brindisi to Corfu, an attempt was made to use her to break into the Elba ferry market whilst by 2005 she was serving as a party ship at the South Italian town of Gallipoli. Abandoned in Bari for several years, she was scrapped at Aliaga.

    The Grecia and Venezia (top) were two of a class of four ships built for Adriatica in the 1970s. The pair passed to the Greek-controlled Halkydon Shipping who operated them from Italy to Albania but were sent for scrapping, in Turkey, straight after 30 September. They are survived by the other two sisters - Hellenic Seaways' Express Pegasus and Adria Ferries' heavily-rebuilt Riviera del Conero.

    The Athens (right) of Ventouris Ferries was built in Australia for domestic coastal service as the ro-ro Brisbane Trader in 1969. She came to Greece in 1986, acquired additional passenger accommodation and was an Adriatic regular for the next 23 years, passing for scrap in April. She is seen here alongside Adria Ferries' Riviera Adriatica (ex-Orion, Daedalus) at Durres, Albania in September 2009.

    A slightly more surprising Ventouris Ferries casualty was the 1976-built Siren (ex-Dana Gloria). Displaced from her place alongside stretched sister Polaris (ex-Dana Futura) on the trunk route from Bari to Igoumenitsa by the Seatrade (ex-Stena Seatrader), in 2009 she served as a third ship on the Bari-Durres route. Through the Winter of 2009/10 she marked a Ventouris return after many years to Brindisi from where she operated to Igoumenitsa. With Ventouris forming a partnership with Agoudimos for 2010, this was not to be a permanent operation and the Siren was sent to be scrapped in Alang.

    Although it has been many years since she operated in Europe, mention should be made of the former Castalia which this year went for scrap under her final name, Casino Royale. Arguably the most stylish Greek-built ferry, she was completed for Hellenic Mediterranean Lines in 1974 and served them until a sale to American owners in 1988.  HML's similarly-styled cruise ship Aquarius (1972) survives and, having also left the Greek fleet in the 1980s, has recently been sold for further service in Cuba.

    Although it has been many years since she operated in Europe, mention should be made of the former Castalia which this year went for scrap under her final name, Casino Royale. Arguably the most stylish Greek-built ferry, she was completed for Hellenic Mediterranean Lines in 1974 and served them until a sale to American owners in 1988. HML's similarly-styled cruise ship Aquarius (1972) survives and, having also left the Greek fleet in the 1980s, has recently been sold for further service in Cuba.

    Castalia as St Tropez.

    Castalia as St Tropez (2005).

    The fate of the Apollon (ex-Senlac) has been covered on this website in some detail. She is seen here leaving Corfu in July 2007 - her first season for her final owners, European Seaways.

    The fate of the Apollon (ex-Senlac) has been covered on this website in some detail. She is seen here leaving Corfu in July 2007 - her first season for her final owners, European Seaways.

    Strintzis' Ionian Island and Ionian Galaxy caused a sensation on Greece-Italy operations when introduced in 1987/88. Converted from the Japanese Albiero and Arkas they set new standards of luxury in the final years before the advent of Superfast. After the Iraq War, both ships were sold and used to institute a service between Dubai and Iraq as the Merdif 1 and Merdif 2. Whilst the latter for now survives, the Merdif 1 was despatched for breaking in India in the Summer of 2010 but is seen here in happier days as the Ionian Island in August 1999.

    Strintzis' Ionian Island and Ionian Galaxy caused a sensation on Greece-Italy operations when introduced in 1987/88. Converted from the Japanese Albiero and Arkas they set new standards of luxury in the final years before the advent of Superfast. After the Iraq War in 2003 the two ships were sold and used to institute a service between Dubai and Iraq as the Merdif 1 and Merdif 2. Whilst the latter for now survives, the Merdif 1 was despatched for breaking in India in the Summer of 2010 but is seen here in happier days as the Ionian Island in August 1999.

    The Menhir, seen here laid up in Amberlaki in 2007, was built for Skagerrak use as the Christian IV in 1968 but whose career went on to encompass use as a troop transport, and later again as a ferry in Madeira. Displaced from this in 2003 she spent her final five years laid up in Greece before being reported sold for scrap in September 2010.

    The Menhir, seen here laid up in Amberlaki in 2007, was built for Skagerrak use as the Christian IV in 1968 but her career went on to encompass use as a troop transport, and later again as a ferry in Madeira. Displaced from this in 2003 she spent her final five years laid up in Greece before being reported sold for scrap in September 2010.

    The Panagia Hozoviotissa, seen here leaving Sifnos in 2005 in A K Ventouris colours, was sold by final operators NEL Lines for demolition in Turkey in May. Locally built in 1977, she spent all of her career in Greek waters except for an unexpected mid-life break in the Balearics where, as the Isla de Ibiza, she became one of Balearia's first ships.

    The Panagia Hozoviotissa, seen here leaving Sifnos in 2005 in A K Ventouris colours, was sold by final operators NEL Lines for demolition in Turkey in May. Locally built in 1977, she spent all of her career in Greek waters except for an unexpected mid-life break in the Balearics where, as the Isla de Ibiza, she became one of Balearia's first ships.

    Sold out of the Greek fleet in 2006, the Express Adonis (ex-Ailsa Princess, Earl Harold) spent her final years as a bottom of the market Indian cruise ship, the New Caribbean Princess. Broadly unchanged from her mid-life Sealink 'Sunliner' refit, she was sold to local breakers in April but is seen here towards the end of her Aegean career, in 2003.

    Sold out of the Greek fleet in 2006, the Express Adonis (ex-Ailsa Princess, Earl Harold) spent her final years as a bottom of the market Indian cruise ship, the New Caribbean Princess. Broadly unchanged from her mid-life Sealink 'Sunliner' refit, she was sold to local breakers in April but is seen here towards the end of her Aegean career, in 2003.

    The Erotokritos T of Endeavor Lines had, in her 19 year Southern Europe career, become one of the most famous Greek ferries. Built as the Japanese Ishikari in 1974, she was acquired by Minoan Lines in 1991 and converted for Adriatic use. Endeavor Lines acquired her in 2007 and she maintained their services out of Brindisi until the end. A classic of her type, her forward accommodation block was mostly intact Japanese from her original incarnation, including an intricately executed grand staircase.

    Farewell Mette Mols, Balkanija, Istra

    A few weeks ago, Jadrolinija’s Istra was sold for scrapping in Turkey. As the Mette Mols, Mols Linien’s very first ship, she was the lead vessel of what became a very successful class of four completed by the Aalborg shipyard between 1966 and 1969. Passing to Jadrolinija in 1981, initially as the Balkanija, the Istra is the first of the quartet to pass for scrap.

    Her demise is not entirely unexpected: for most of the past decade there have been rumours that every season may be her last. Her engines were in notoriously poor shape – one wonders if the engine room explosion which forced her passengers to flee in the lifeboats back in 1970 had any long-term impact. The Croatians made her work however and, although long since relegated from the coastal express or international services, she was still a local favourite as she chugged slowly along from Split to Stari Grad, Hvar Town, Vela Luka or Ubli.

    On board she was a time warp: although she had been modified in places over the years, particularly with the addition of a Duty Free shop and a small number of cabins in part of the aft cafeteria, she was in many places still that pioneering little Danish domestic ferry right to the end and was maintained in pretty good general condition, all things considered. In her final seasons, even the former first class restaurant on the upper passenger deck was tidied up, the Italian rosewood panelling polished, white tablecloths laid and the tiny galley pressed into action to produce some unexpectedly good lunches.

    The Istra's main lobby.

    The Istra's main lobby.

    But one knew it couldn’t last – with the local shipyards churning out new double-ended ferries at an alarming rate, supplemented by some second-hand Greek acquisitions of dubious quality, Jadrolinija’s fleet expansion was outpacing even the growth of the Croatian tourist industry and the older ships have, after decades of reliable and memorable service, finally started to make way. The Ivan Zajc was dispensed with for last year and even the glorious little Liburnija, the pride of the fleet, now faces an uncertain future.

    After 29 years, one civil war, several post-war refugee sailings and the odd mishap, the Istra, one of the “legends” of Croatian coastal shipping, left her lay up berth in Å ibenik on 6 May bound for Aliaga.

    Picture of the week: Istra (ex-Mette Mols)

    Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles today
    Tomorrow will be dying.
    Previous image

    Previous image

    That Was The Year That Was – 2009

    The Sorolla at Ibiza, May 2009.

    The Sorolla at Ibiza, May 2009.


    For the devotee of classic ferries, particularly classic British ferries, it has to be said 2009 has been a sad time with the scrappers claiming amongst others the Georgios Express (Roi Baudouin) and Sara 3 (St Edmund). The former was perhaps the most beautiful car ferry ever to sail from the UK whilst the latter hid her delights inside, representing the apex of the interior designs devised by Ward & Austin for Sealink in the 1960s and 1970s. Her interlocking QE2-style lobby spaces in particular were an inspired design solution. Also lost was the Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry), a 47-year old veteran with which I had become very familiar in the past few years and which was the last survivor of a class of, originally, freight ships of advanced design introduced by ASN.
    Farewell to the St Edmund.

    Farewell to the St Edmund.


    It has not all been sad however and in newly-introduced ships such as the Elyros, Martin I Soler and Cruise Roma/Barcelona, stylish new passenger ferries are carrying on the traditions of generations past. Whilst, inevitably, they struggle to achieve the sleek external looks of the Roi Baudouin, internally they achieve great things within the framework their basic design specification allows.

    On a personal level in 2009, 59 ships were sailed on, 26 nights were spent at sea, and one camera died (later resuscitated). I was told to stop taking pictures on board just once, a record low for recent years. That ship was Baleària’s Martin I Soler. Pointing out the company’s “Un Mar de Foto” competition, which stipulates that “Photographs should be taken on board Baleària ships” was the ideal response.

    Based purely on subjective feelings on those 59 ships, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

    Best new ferry
    Despite that one arsey crew member, the Martin I Soler, just about, was my favourite new ferry. All the 2008 or 2009 built ships which were new to me this year seemed to have some weaknesses. The Cruise Barcelona is perhaps a little too stark in places, the Baltic Princess rather over the top (although operating as primarily a minicruiser, this is perhaps considered appropriate). The interior and exterior of the ‘MIS’ are attractive within a modern framework and the ship has become a big success running from Majorca and Ibiza to Valencia. The forward saloon’s twin deck picture windows however make that lounge a sun trap and virtually uninhabitable when the ship is running directly into the sun – which she does on her daytime crossings to the mainland. Still, she was a ship I grew to like a lot during the five or six hours spent aboard.

    Martin I Soler - lobby

    Martin I Soler - lobby

    Best classic ferry
    Last year I placed the Ancona in this spot, and this year I was most enamoured with another ship sailing from Split, the Istra of Jadrolinija (ex-Mette Mols, 1966). Mostly unchanged from new, she has been sailing for Jadrolinija for 28 years now and, like the locals who have protested about her imminent withdrawal, I find this little ferry beautiful and adorable. A round trip on her from Split to Stari Grad was the perfect farewell; for now however she remains in service and I cling to the hope that she may survive for one more year.

    The Istra, bound for Stari Grad. What's not to like?

    The Istra, bound for Stari Grad. What's not to like?

    Biggest disappointment
    There has been plenty said about how she is perfectly suited to the demands of her route and how she will make Brittany Ferries money but the Armorique was still not quite what I had hoped for or expected. Does everything have to be wipe-downable? Was it really necessary to drive home that “this is a ship built to a budget” message by even dispensing with individually-tailored facility names? ‘Le Restaurant’, ‘Le Bar’? Please.
    Whilst I respect their right to get an appropriate return on their investments, they also need to protect their brand. You’re Brittany Ferries, not P&O or Seafrance (at least not yet). Passengers expect certain things and whilst the Armorique delivers to a degree, as a whole she falls beneath the standards of ro-pax luxury set by earlier fleetmates. Not good.

    It's Okay, but It's Not Right.

    It's Okay, but It's Not Right.

    Biggest surprise
    Years spent tinkering to little acclaim on the interiors of Stena ferries had primed one to expect the worst from interior designers Figura. Their most recent work, on the Stenas Voyager, Adventurer, Nordica, Caledonia and Navigator therefore came as something of a bolt from the blue. It’s almost like they are over-compensating for a decade or more of Spike’s Sports Bar – parts of the Navigator are so Scando-trendy you half suspect she has been lined up for a later transfer to the Kattegat. Wall prints of the archipelago near Gothenburg; that stairwell-dominating tribute to famous Scandinavian chairs; and little vitrines full of expensively-acquired keynote Scandinavian designer trinketry sourced from the ‘Stena Plus Scandinavian Design collection’ – at least that’s what the museum-like explanatory labels said. And who wouldn’t be wowed by a Pinzke/Bergström designer cheese grater in a glass display case?

    'Rocking Horse' by Playsam on the Stena Navigator. In case the kiddies get the wrong idea, it is placed out of reach and firmly glued down. This is art for goodness sake!

    'Rocking Horse' by Playsam on the Stena Navigator. In case the kiddies get the wrong idea, it is placed out of reach and firmly glued down. This is art for goodness sake!

    Best conversion
    Last year it was the Ariadne, this year it is her rival-cum fleetmate-cum replacement, the Elyros of ANEK’s Piraeus-Chania route. One of my pet ferry enthusiast hates is people taking a random foreign ship and saying how good she would be for service on some local route with which the writer is familiar (usually something like the Silja Europa for the Isle of Man) but the Elyros instead of the Armorique out of Plymouth would really motivate one to make a series of day trips to Roscoff, regardless of what BF might say. She is, quite simply, a beauty.

    Thalassa Lounge, aft on the Elyros.

    Thalassa Lounge, aft on the Elyros.

    Worst conversion
    It took the best part of three years to rebuild her and finally the Mega Express Five entered service this April. She has all the relevant bits and pieces squeezed in, yet in design this is a cut ‘n’ paste job from previous Corsica Ferries ships and as a whole she just didn’t seem to have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ might be. She has a series of vast box shaped rooms with the same old furniture stuffed in any old how. Where the original Mega Express and her sister had some sort of creative hand holding things steady, and the ‘Three’, ‘Four’ and ‘Smega’ retained to a greater or lesser extent attractive facets of their original designs, the ‘Five’ is a disappointing mess. Tourship should take a trip to Chania and see how it can be done.

    She's big but not beautiful: the Mega Express Five at Bastia.

    She's big, but not beautiful: the Mega Express Five at Bastia.

    Best food
    Now onto the important stuff; after much pondering I narrowed it down to three ships – Pont Aven, Maersk Dover and Girolata. The ‘Dover’s Sunday lunch in the restaurant was superb indeed, but the French ships seemed to have something else. If only because Brittany Ferries’ Lamb Gargantua is almost passé now, I’ll plump for the Girolata. Was it a terrible social faux pas, when served fish soup in a tall glass, but with a spoon, to ‘drink’ rather than ‘eat’? Possibly so, but it was worth it. A triumph.

    Worst food
    The pasta on the Excellent might have been OK had it been hot. The pasta might have been hot had there been more than one person serving a queue of about 500 passengers. All might still have been saved had the reheating microwaves not all been broken. Alas, it was not to be. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost.

    An Excellent ship. Shame about the food.

    An Excellent ship. Shame about the food.

    Favourite crossing
    Finnmaid – 27 hours from Helsinki to Travemünde in April. The crew might be able to give you a long list about why the ‘Star’ class are impractical in one minor way or another but there was something indefinably magical about this long crossing on a deluxe ro-pax.

    Worst maintained ship
    I was not in a particularly positive frame of mind when I boarded the Sharden in July – SNAV’s codeshare with Tirrenia meant I had been bumped off one of SNAV’s ex-Olau sisters and onto the state operator whose new ships I would normally choose to avoid. Inside she was OK but outside there was little evidence of any deck maintenance since she had been delivered in 2005. A poor performance, even by Tirrenia standards.

    Sharden-freude? A little, perhaps.

    Sharden-freude? A little, perhaps.

    Worst crossing
    Perhaps not the faults of the ships themselves as such, but making a round trip to Tinos, out on the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) and back on the Penelope A (ex-Horsa) on a day when thousands of pilgrims were sailing to and from the island was a bad move. Although I ultimately found a peaceful haven on the Penelope’s always-open bridge wing, given it was raining things weren’t ideal. Just watching her load hundreds of foot passengers was a revelation – crowds gathered first at the two main staircases aft on the car deck, then hundreds decided to bypass this by moving forward to the stairwells in the centre casings usually used by motorists; the really experienced grannies then scrambled up the ramps to the car deck mezzanines to try and beat the crush at a higher level. Good to see the ships still earning their keep, but sometimes it can be just too busy.

    Passenger pandemonium on the Penelope A.

    Passenger pandemonium on the Penelope A.

    Things Seen – September 2009

    The Istra (ex-Mette Mols) at Split, August 2009.

    The Istra (ex-Mette Mols) at Split.

  • Firstly, apologies to regular readers for the month or so of no updates – hopefully the break will have been worth it, with plenty of new material gathered during a 3 week trip to Southern Europe where plenty of ferries were seen, sailed on, photographed, and, in the case of at least three, farewells made as they are understood to be in the final weeks of service.
  • The Istra (ex-Mette Mols, 1966) has since been put up for public sale by Jadrolinija, although the expectation is that she will follow former fleetmate the Ivan Zajc to Turkish owners. As Slobodna Dalmacija ruefully notes, there will be some criticism of the sale, as the ship “had its admirers, especially among Lastovo and Korčula [residents], who praised its comfort” compared to the more modern vessels. The ship has also been widely used to cover longer lines, such as for example the during the recent mechanical failure of the Petar Hektorović. She was however proving too small at times, and when I sailed on her in late August she was forced to leave cars behind in Stari Grad. Doubtless this is frustrating when the next sailing back to Split isn’t for another four hours!

    Also for sale are the Vanga (ex-Basto III) and the little Borik, latterly second ship to the Kijevo at Biograd. There remain several other Jadrolinija ships laid up in various ports around the country and Hans de Graaf continues to do a public service with his photographs of several of the many and varied ships of the White Fleet, a few more having been uploaded in recent weeks here.

    Meanwhile Fleet File Rotterdam has a fairly thorough section on Jadrolinija, correct up to a couple of years ago.

  • The Borik (1978) in Biograd.

    The Borik (1978) in Biograd.

  • Fergün Shipping of Turkey operate a fleet of mostly-forgotten ex-North European ships on routes between Northern Cyprus and the Turkish mainland. Quite what current operations are like is open to question, the company’s website being more than a little out of date: at least two of the ships featured have been sold, one most definitely for scrapping having been seen on the beach in Aliaga in 2007.

    The fleet as listed however was a fascinating collection and pictures of and on board all are shown on the site. With links to the images, the four fast ferries were:
    Fergün Express (ex-Storesund of Norwegian Haugesund A/S, 1974)
    Fergün Express III (built as the Venture 84 in 1982, from 1983 to 1998 she was Emeraude’s Trident/Trident III)
    Emeraude Express (built for Emeraude in 1986 she survives without change of name).
    Prince of Girne (ex-Gimle Bay, 1981, primarily used in Yugoslavia/Croatia as the Poreč I until sale to Fergün in 1994.)

    The Girne

    The Girne


    The conventional ferries are more interesting still:
    Canbulat Pasha. Purpose built, 1997.
    Girne. The ex-Saltholm (1967) of Svenska Rederi Ab Öresund’s Limhamn – Dragör route until 1979, then the Gozo Channel company’s Mgarr until sale to Fergün in 1996. Scrapped 2007.
    Fatih. An astonishing survivor, originally being the Mersey pilot vessel Arnet Robinson (1958), passing to Fergün in 1988 where she was converted to a small car ferry. Compare this picture of her in her original guise with this image after conversion. Another picture of her as Fatih reveals the tall funnel remains unobstructed.
    Güniz. Built as the Kraakerø in Norway in 1964 she had an itinerant early career before settling down as Rederi AB Gotland’s Polhelm between 1964 and 1972. Later one of Tourship’s first vessels, the Corsica Ferry until sale in 1976 to Jadrolinija as the Lastovo I. She remained, with a couple of name changes, with Jadrolinija until 1996 and has sailed in Turkish waters ever since, latterly for Fergün although she was sold in early 2009 to operate between Turkey and Russia.
  • Some interesting images of Turkish/Russian ferries can be seen on the four pages of this link to a Russian shipping forum including the aforementioned Güniz and Ivan Zajc (now the Besyildiz), but also the Lider Avrasya (once Sealink’s Ulidia), Lider Clipper (ex-Agios Spiridon), still bearing her HML name the Apollonia II (ex-Travemünde, 1964), the Trabzon (ex-Panagia Tinou, sold by NEL Lines earlier this year) and the Erke (formerly Agapitos Express/Saronikos Ferries’ Express Danae), amongst others.
  • The Zeus Palace has been an interesting stopgap on Minoan Lines’ Patras-Igoumenitsa-Venice route this Summer, following the sale of the Pasiphae Palace. The return of the former Prometheus has been rather underwhelming for many passengers – although she looks nice enough in these pictures by Dominik Wagner, in reality she has been just a little too small for the route.
    Dominik also has recent images on board Agoudimos’ Ionian Sky. She is essentially unchanged since her Strintzis rebuild as the Ionian Victory in 1998.
    The Ionian Sky at Corfu

    The Ionian Sky at Corfu

  • We have lingered over the demise of the Kapetan Alexandros several times on this blog, and the guys over at Nautilia clearly felt the same way about the end of this veteran, getting on board the ship in Keratsini just before she sailed for scrap to take some final photographs, including a series in her quite antiquated bridge.
  • Apropos of nothing, I was taken with this dramatic image of the Princess Kathleen of Canadian Pacific sinking in 1952. The ship, built in Glasgow in 1924, originally made Vancouver-Victoria-Seattle coastal sailings but was latterly employed on cruises up to Alaska, meeting her fate after running aground near Juneau. Many more pictures of this dramatic event, in which no lives were lost, can be found at Alaska’s Digital Archive.
  • The Queen Elizabeth 2 may not technically have been a ferry, but she was certainly, as built, a beautiful example of the very best of 1960s British design. This was sadly diluted in later years to a slightly naff kind kitsch look. However, as Bruce Peter notes in the authoritative Britain’s Greatest Liner the ship had direct design influences over many cruise ships and ferries in the subsequent decade or more. Bruce also references the famous 1969 article in Shipping World and Shipbuilder which compared and contrasted the QE2 with the equally new and forward-looking Vortigern, produced by Swan Hunters in the same year.

    For anyone wondering just what influence it was the epoch-making Vortigern had on the QE2, some superb images of the latter ship, as built, can be found here.

  • The Caesarea and Duke of Argyll were two of the last surviving ex-Sealink steam ships, and both had final days in Hong Kong, the ‘Argyll’ burning out there under the name Zenith in 1995. There are some fascinating images on flickr of both ships in those days, including the burnt and broken Zenith.
  • Mention was made of the Älvsborg Bridge last month and, with perfect timing, over on LandgÃ¥ngen there materialised a thread with pictures of various ferries sailing beneath, including the Prinsessan Birgitta in her one season operating for Stena in 1982 before starting her career as the St Nicholas for Sealink.
  • Although special Lego kits have been sold by many ferry companies for years, how many of us regretted their incompatibility due to inconsistency of scale with the minifigs of Legoland? Just me huh? Oh well, this model of the 1974 Prinsessan Birgitta would certainly have been an improvement:
    Picture 1
    Picture 2

    (link from Landgången)

  • Tallink certainly aren’t my, or many other people’s, favourite ferry company at times, some superb ships such as the Star notwithstanding. The crassness of the company’s management is a primary reason for distaste, the famous incident on the Silja Symphony being the confirmation of previous suspicions about the company.

    The quote from one of the Tallink directors, “our level of drunkenness was normal for a cruise of this kind” was memorable, but the signature indiscretion of that fateful cruise was the attempt to “grill” some fish from the SmörgÃ¥sbord in the toasters, conventionally used for bread. On my most recent trip on the ‘Symphony’ I made sure to have my picture taken next to one of the toasters; however, I wish I had known that there were even better permanent reminders of the event. Now: how does one get onto Tallink’s Christmas card list?

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