Posts tagged: normandy

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.

Things Seen – November 2009

The Lincoln Castle

The Lincoln Castle

  • The paddle steamer Lincoln Castle is up for sale for £20,000. The last of the trio of ships built for the New Holland-Hull ferry service of the LNER, this ship, along with her two earlier routemates, the Tattershall and Wingfield Castles, eventually passed to Sealink in whose unlikely hands the service closed in 1981 upon completion of the Humber Bridge. The Lincoln Castle had been withdrawn in 1978 however and has served as a bar and restaurant ever since, for the past twenty years in Grimsby.
  • The call of the Oasis of the Seas at Southampton in early November, en route to Fort Lauderdale on her delivery voyage, brought the chance to compare sizes with the local Isle of Wight ferry fleet, such as the St Clare, seen here in the Daily Mail. An even more astounding comparison however was this picture of the ship with Brittany Ferries’ Mont St Michel – one of the largest cross-channel car ferries, but completely dwarfed by the ‘OOTS’.
  • Several months ago we looked at B&I Line’s first purpose-built car ferry, the Munster of 1968. irishships.com has an interesting series of photographs from on board, both general views and crew scenes.
  • The Maersk ‘D’ class have a series of artworks on board by different modernist Danish artists – Jan van Lokhorst on the Maersk Dunkerque, Anne Vilsbøll (Maersk Delft) and Per Arnoldi (most recently famous in the UK for his work on Michael Winner’s National Police Memorial in London) on the Maersk Dover.
    Van Lokhurst’s website has a series of images of his work on the first ship including pictures of the creative and manufacturing process whilst Vilsbøll can be seen here working on some of her paintings for the ‘Delft’.
  • Sessan & Stena at Frederikshavn

    Sessan & Stena at Frederikshavn

  • Over on LandgÃ¥ngen they have been discussing in minute detail the changes to the berthing arrangements at Frederikshaven between the Stena and Sessan terminals. Meanwhile on the Nautilia messageboard there are 143 pages discussing the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and 57 pages on ‘Historic Photos of Piraeus port’.

    In many ways it is a shame that there is no equivalent all-encompassing British forum for the analysis of not only the endlessly trivial minutiae but also the broader fascinating history of the British short-sea passenger shipping scene. It would perhaps be impossible to rival nautilia’s seemingly comprehensive catalogue of Greek ferries, where every ship, historic or modern, has its own thread, but it would be nice to try.

  • The Prince of Wales was the last-built of the SRN-4 hovercraft, being delivered as late as 1977, five years after the previous example, the Sir Christopher. Withdrawn after just 14 years service, she was destroyed in 1993, whilst laid up in reserve, by an electrical fire. Together with other period images, here are some photographs of the craft being broken up after this event on the hoverpad at Dover. The SeaCat berth at the Hoverport was under construction at the same time.
  • Not quite as successful as the SRN-4s were the French SEDAM Naviplanes. The tortuous delivery voyage of the Ingénieur Jean Bertin, the only example of the type to actually enter service, is chronicled here.
  • The Diana II

    The Diana II

  • The much heralded conversion of former overnight ferries into ‘Accommodation/Repair Vessels’ (ARVs) has hit trouble. Work on the ARV 2 (formerly the Normandy, St Nicholas, Prinsessan Birgitta) has been halted before even starting. Shippax reports that the ARV1, which was delayed during rebuilding, was the other contender for the 18 month accommodation contract near Perth won by Hurtigruten’s Finnmarken. The former Meloodia/Diana II therefore remains laid up in Singapore. Some coverage of the ship during her extensive refurbishment can be seen here and more details of what has been done can be gleaned from the ship’s new General Arrangement plan.
  • Now travelling between Bari and Albania, the ice breaking capacity of the Rigel sees little use. That was not the case during her previous life as the Baltic Kristina of Riga Sea Lines, as this photostory demonstrates.
  • Having mentioned the early Trasmed. car ferries last month, it would be remiss not to point readers in the direction of trasmeships.es which has a host of interesting photographs from various ship through the history of the Spanish company. With the volume of ships covered it is a little hard to pick out favourites, but the Ciudad de Tarifa, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Ciudad de Valencia (now Mary the Queen), and the Ciudad de Sevilla are particularly interesting, the latter page including startling images of the ship’s determined attempt to sink herself off Palma in October 1982.
  • The Ciudad de Valencia at Ibiza in August 2003.

    The Ciudad de Valencia at Ibiza in August 2003.


  • The abandoned wreck of the poor old Assalama (formerly Trasmed’s Ciudad de la Laguna and originally the Bore Line (Silja) Botnia of 1967) remains at Tarfaya, over one and a half years since she sank just after leaving port.

    Some interesting footage from that day in April 2008 can be seen here and here.

  • The very first ship of freight operator Truckline Ferries was the Poole Antelope which, 11 years before the company was purchased by Brittany Ferries, entered service in 1973 between Poole and Cherbourg, followed shortly after by her sister the Dauphin de Cherbourg. This pair are slightly glossed over in histories of Truckline, being too small, too slow and sold within a couple of years. Whilst the second ship has rather passed into obscurity (she became an oilfield research vessel in China named Bin Hai 504 (sometimes seen as Rin Hai 504)), the Poole Antelope was ultimately converted into a passenger ship and at present is offering regular ferry services for Ukrferry between Odessa in the Ukraine and Istanbul in Turkey under the name Caledonia. Ukrferry also offer cruises on the ship and the website for this side of the operation has plenty of photographs together with a deckplan.
  • Ukrferry also operate the former Scandlines vessel Greifswald and, since her return from charter to ISCOMAR for Ibiza sailings as the Begoña del Mar, the Yuzhnaya Palmyra (ex-Silesia). The latter has her own website here and maintains the Odessa-Istanbul service in Summer.
  • The Express Santorini (ex-Chartres) is back in Greece, presently operating for ANEK on a subsidy-munching Piraeus-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Symi-Rhodes routing. This after another Summer on Charter to Atlanticoline in the Azores. According to this report, she continued to make a favourable impression and is in excellent condition “due to good maintenance, since it is owned by Hellenic Seaways”. That last point is, to be fair, not as unlikely as it sounds; HSW are not GA Ferries.

    Nonetheless, it seems the ship did have a little trouble with that side ramp installed for use on the charter. Back home, and with the demise of GA Ferries and SAOS, there must be some demand for smaller, cheap-to-run ships for use on the subsidised routes beyond just refit cover so the ‘Santorini’ may yet have a future in Greece. If so, it would be nice to see that side door removed altogether.


  • The Porfyrousa (ex-Canbulat Pasa) at Drapetsona in July 2008. On the left of the photograph is NEL's Panagia Tinou and in the background the same company's former Aeolos Kenteris, by then the Red Sea I.

    The Porfyrousa (ex-Canbulat Pasa) at Drapetsona in July 2008. On the left of the photograph is NEL's Panagia Tinou and in the background the same company's former Aeolos Kenteris, by then the Red Sea I.

  • In September’s Things Seen I mentioned the fleet of Fergün Shipping of Turkey. The company’s website is not the most up to date, but I, sort of, implied that the Canbulat Pasa as the newest member of the conventional fleet was probably still in service. Richard Seville rushes to correct, reminding me that we in fact encountered the ship whilst visiting the Aegean Heaven mid-refit at Drapetsona in July 2008. She was in the process of being renamed Porfyrousa and has since taken up service on the local routes out of Kythera.

    There are some interesting thoughts, upon which it would be wisest not to comment, on the happenings which preceded the introduction of the ship in Greece here.

  • Mention of Drapetsona prompts me to draw attention to the redevelopment plan for the area. You’d have to think this has a fair chance of never happening, but what a revolution it would be. I can see the Beach Club, the Family Entertainment Zone and the Retail Zone/Marina. But where is the long quayside where ferries of all kinds go to lay up – many forever? Is that what Sunset Park is maybe?
  • What would Drapetsona be without the laid-up Alkyon?

    What would Drapetsona be without the laid-up Alkyon?

  • The wreck of the Express Samina is the rather haunting location for this video on youtube.
  • Little knowing the unfortunate fate of their new ship, this video from Greece shows happy dignitaries on board the Arion (ex-Nili, Jamaica Queen etc) as she was entering service for NEL in 1975. The ship was subsequently bombed in Haifa in 1982. (h/t nautilia.gr)
  • The act of boarding the modern ferry has perhaps through familiarity lost some of the excitement of days gone by but this video from 1995 of Minoan Lines’ Fedra at Venice shows that even lorry drivers can make something interesting from an otherwise mundane day to day experience.
  • Ghosts from the past can live forever on the internet, and that is the case with Hellenic Mediterranean Lines whose website is still offering sailings from Brindisi to Corfu, Igoumenitsa, Paxi, Zakynthos, Cefallonia and Patras on the Egnatia III and the Poseidonia, just as if it was still 2003.
  • Another operator living in the past is Skenderbeg Lines, where it is forever 2004. Their Europa I remains laid up in Brindisi, as she has been since 2007. Her heroic past was remembered on 30 October however, 18 years to the day since the ship, then Jadrolinija’s Slavija I, led the ‘Libertas Convoy’ to Dubrovnik in an attempt to help stop the destruction of the latter city during the Croatian War of Independence. With numerous tourist and fishing boats following and with on board, amongst others, Stipe Mesić, today the President of Croatia, the ship sailed down the coast to besieged Dubrovnik.

    The Slavija I made several, increasingly harrowing, return trips, and the Diary of Dr Slobodan Lang gives a detailed account of the period, including a final sailing:

    The ship was intended for 600 passengers, but there was a crowd of 3,500 people on board. We approached the ship coming through the Gruž harbour which was littered with sunken, capsized or burnt down ships. Smoke was rising out of the burning installations for days. We were being watched by those on the top of the hill, not being able to do anything but think they would start to shoot at any moment.

    On board that ship, I was contemplating about the ships crowded with Jews on their way out of Germany in the late thirties, as well as the abandonment of Saigon. We were at the very bottom of the ship’s garage. It was simply not possible for the cars and trucks to embark because the ship was crammed with men, children, women, elderly and sick people. The sick were lying on the metal floor, with their I.V. drips hanging up in the air. Tears and silence were hand in hand. Faces were totally changed with crying, haggard because of the silence. People were lying on the stairs in positions I had never seen before, fifteen persons per cabin. One could step between human bodies only too carefully. As we sailed out, huge waves were tossing the ship up and down, so many people vomitted, were nauseous, felt psychical discomfort. Doctors were sought on all sides, painful crying expressed a thousand year old Croatian suffering, agony of yet unborn children to 90 year old people.

  • The Europa I (ex-Slavija I) laid up in Brindisi, August 2009.

    The Europa I (ex-Slavija I) laid up in Brindisi, August 2009.

  • The Dieppe-Newhaven steamer Lisieux was one of the more beautiful post-war passenger ships. Her career with the SNCF was relatively brief however and she followed her former Dieppe partner the Arromanches into the fleet of Nomikos Lines in 1966 as the Apollon (the Arromanches became the Leto). Both ships can be seen in excerpts from the Greek film ‘La Parisienne’ of 1969; the Apollon is seen at Mykonos. (h/t nautilia.gr)
  • Following on from the British Pathé website mentioned in October, this month it is time to investigate a French equivalent, ina.fr. Having just mentioned the Arromanches, it does not seem inappropriate to begin with coverage of her launching in March 1946.

    Other videos of note are:

    The ruins of Boulogne, Calais and Marseille, January 1945

    The maiden voyage of the Côte d’Azur, 1951

    Departure of the Ville de Tunis from Algiers, 1956

    Coverage of the introduction of SNCM’s Napoléon in 1978

    Coverage of the building of the Scandinavia in 1982

    The evacuation of PLO troops from Tripoli using the Vergina (ex-Dan, Bilu), December 1983

    Further footage of the Tripoli evacuation, this time with footage of the Ionian Glory (ex-Compiegne) and, briefly at the end, the Odysseas Elytis (ex-Svea Regina)

    A mini cruise on the Corse, 1984

    Coverage of the introduction of SNCM’s Danielle Casanova in 1989

    The return of the damaged Baroness M (ex-Lion) to port after her encounter with Syrian gunboats, February 1990

    A few historic adverts:
    Sealink Ferries SNCF, 1983
    Sealink Ferries SNCF, 1984
    Townsend Thoresen, 1984
    Sealink SNAT, 1992
    P&O European Ferries, 1993
    Sealink SNAT, 1993
    Corsica Ferries, 1997

    And, lastly, some epic coverage of the maiden voyage of the France.

  • The Skagen of 1958, built for KDS’ Kristiansand-Hirtshals route, was a fine early example of what now seem quite small passenger and vehicle ferries designed by Knud E Hansen. The ship passed later to Fred. Olsen before she was sold in the 1970s for use as a ‘mother ship’ for mini submersibles used in oil exploration. Latterly renamed the Pan Trader, she survives in Norway to this day, and these pictures on Flickr demonstrate that much of her original interior is still intact (compare with these ‘as built’ images on Fakta om Fartyg).
  • Please send any contributions for ‘Things Seen’ to admin@hhvferry.com.

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