Posts tagged: penelope a

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.

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 – April 2010

  • During the 1960s DFDS commissioned three remarkable little ro-ro ships specifically to handle the bacon trade from Denmark into the English port of Grimsby. The Somerset, Stafford and Surrey carried bacon and butter in refrigerated containers over to the UK before taking the “empties” back home again – (the crews complained of the strong smell of rancid bacon in the unwashed containers on the runs back to Esbjerg!). Designed to fit through the narrow lock at Grimsby port, the ships served into the 1980s (the last and largest, the Surrey, remained with DFDS until 1992).

    Thereafter, the ships have had interestingly varied careers, all three surviving into the new century before the ex-Surrey was scrapped in 2005. This vessel had in between times been converted to a passenger ferry by A K Ventouris, under whom, as the Anna V, she was mysteriously sunk by a bomb in Patras harbour. Repaired, she saw sparing further service as the Jupiter, being laid up for a prolonged period in Brindisi and then Elefsis before sailing for scrap as the Pit.

    The Jupiter (ex-Surrey) laid up in Brindisi in July 2003 with the Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett) astern.

    The Jupiter (ex-Surrey) laid up in Brindisi in July 2003 with the Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett) astern.

    The Surrey’s earlier sister ships have both met slightly happier fates, although the future now looks uncertain in each case. The Somerset of 1966 became a livestock carrier but this picture from July last year shows her in a very poor condition. Her AIS is still on however and she is currently listed as sailing through Greek waters. On Ships Nostalgia (registration required) there is an astonishing picture of the ship, as the Afroditi, aground near Waterford in the 1980s with huge piles of hay on her after decks.

    The Atlantis laid up, July 2005.

    The Atlantis laid up, July 2005.

    The Stafford (1967) was quite horrifically converted first into a Greek passenger/car ferry (named the Voyager and then the Monaco) and then into a cruise ship for operation out of Miami. She is seen here in her Voyager guise in the mid-1980s and, following her return to Greek waters, as the cruise ship Atlantis at Santorini in the early 2000s. Subsequently sold to American owners, the ship has been laid up for some time in Elefsis, latterly Elefsis Bay.

    Despite this, she shares top billing on her owners’ enthusiastic website with the Casino Royale, originally HML’s famed second purpose-built car ferry the Castalia. A press release from January 2010 notes that the company is “currently evaluating port locations in East Asia and the United States for the establishment of its initial operations… Each vessel is anticipated to have a capacity of approximately 1,200 passengers and will offer the Company’s patrons a full entertainment experience. Upon completion of the intended renovations, the shipboard entertainment venues on the m/v Casino Royale will include a 100 seat full service gourmet restaurant, a 300 seat buffet restaurant, a casino, a sports bar, a VIP lounge, and a covered outdoor entertainment deck, while the m/v Island Breeze will offer a 100 seat full service gourmet restaurant, a 300 seat buffet restaurant, a casino, a sports bar, a high energy nightclub, a VIP lounge, and a 400 seat showroom. ”

  • 80 passengers lost their lives when the Express Samina sank in September 2000. The wreck still attracts interest however, as these images show.
  • The Caledonian Steam Packet’s little motor ship the Maid of Argylle (1953) ultimately became the Greek City of Corfu and it was under this name that she caught fire and sank whilst alongside her namesake island in 1997. The wreck lay there for many years and was documented in these pictures from 2002.
  • The Penelope A

    The Penelope A

  • Here is a nice video documenting a crossing on board the Penelope A (ex-Horsa) in the Summer of 2008.

    Sticking with the website’s title ships, here is an unusual image of the Vortigern, near the end of her UK career, at Dieppe.

    Lastly the Hengist and perhaps her most famous moment, the grounding off the Warren in 1987, was captured on video. Meanwhile, the ship’s current operators, Ventouris Sea Lines, at last have a proper website, complete with a good selection of on board images of the most carefully maintained veteran ferry sailing in Greek waters.

  • Piraeus remains the world’s greatest ferry port, but perhaps a little of that greatness has rubbed off in recent years as the Greek fleet has slimmed down and speeded up – whilst the place itself has been slightly sanitised. This month’s selection of Greek youtube links present glimpses of the port in days past:

    First up, Piraeus (and surrounding areas) in 1968.

    Some extracts from a 1970s film which highlights some of the quayside structures, including the long gone passenger walkways.

    In Piraeus port 1995, a cast of dozens of classic ships line up for the camera – this was before the demise of Ventouris Sea Lines later that year and the Apollo Express 2 is seen in operation, whilst the Milos Express (Vortigern) is seen just out of refit.

    And lastly the brief but strangely mesmerising Classic ferries of Greece

    At the end of the latter film comes footage of the Sappho (ex-Spero) and scenes aboard this ship feature heavily in these extracts from a 1970s film. It is readily apparent that her interiors were almost completely unchanged, right down to the large map of the North Sea adjacent to the information desk. Some more on board video can be found here (from about 3:25 in & turn the sound DOWN!).

  • The Ryde, October 2006

    The Ryde, October 2006

  • The demise of the paddle steamer Ryde has been long and agonising. There has however been one entrepreneurial idea for a novel form of preservation of at least part of the ship…
  • The end for the Manxman seems just as certain so, if you have half an hour to spare, sit back and enjoy this superb radio documentary, A Day Excursion to Douglas recorded aboard the ship late in her operational career:
    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
  • The Moby Vincent (ex-St Brendan/Stena Normandica) has recently received a big ‘duck tail’ extension aft.
  • The Italian train ferry Cariddi was virtually a metaphor for the story of Italy’s railways in the Twentieth Century: constructed in 1932 she entered service between Messina and Villa San Giovanni as the most advanced ship of her type in the world. Diesel-electrical propulsion was employed and the ship reflected the huge amounts of money being poured into the railways and national communications under Mussolini’s fascist regime.

    The ship sank twice – the first time was during the Second World War when she was scuttled in Paradiso Bay, just north of Messina, the day before Sicily fell to the Allies in August 1943. She remained submerged for six and a half years before being raised, rebuilt and restored to service in 1953. Finally retired after a 59-year career, she was sold to the local authority in Messina and intended to become a maritime museum. Neglected and abandoned, she sank for a second and final time in 2006.

    This link, from the Internet Archive, documents the ship’s career and dates to before her 2006 sinking but prophetically notes that “neglect, incompetence, disinterest and abandonment are pulling the Cariddi down again.”

    A more complete history of this route, one of the outstanding ferry experiences in Europe, can be found here.

  • A similar fate, but with rather more tragic consequences, befell the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand’s Wahine which was lost within Wellington Harbour in April 1968. There is little one could like to know about this powerful-looking green-hulled ship and her demise that isn’t covered on Murray Robinson’s outstanding website.

    The website notes that the Wahine’s foremast has recently been placed in position as a monument on the rocks near to where survivors came ashore on the morning of the disaster.

  • The Kalliste - in classic grey livery.

    The Kalliste - in classic grey livery.

  • Le Kalliste – tout blanc!
    Quelle horreur!
  • Mystery still surrounds the future of the Ugo Foscolo (ex-Mikhail Sholokhov) which has been laid up in Zakynthos for over half a decade. The local port authorities seem determined to remove her and one unlikely venture is this proposed conversion to a cruise ship involving Alexandros Panagopoulos, from the family behind Superfast and Royal Cruise Lines.
  • ANEK’s Elyros has been a very popular addition to the Piraeus-Chania route since her entry into service in late 2008. KEH’s earlier rebuild proposal however called for an even more radical silhouette, including a Royal Caribbean-esque ‘Viking Crown’ lounge forward of the funnel.
  • The Stena hotel in Frederikshavn, before its 'tropical adventure'.

    The Stena hotel in Frederikshavn, before its 'tropical adventure'.

  • The previously fairly run of the mill Stena Line hotel in Frederikshavn is now The Reef Resort! As ever, Figura have been entrusted with the interior design work.
  • A fascinating glimpse of the early days of cross-channel car ferrying can be seen in this remarkable series of slides posted to flickr, including a couple on board Townsend’s Forde just before the outbreak of war as well as others aboard the Maid of Kent and Twickenham Ferry. The link goes direct to those images tagged ‘ferry’, but the entire collection is worth a look.
  • This is only marginally related to shipping but: The Sud Express is gone! OK, the name lives on, but the classic 1950s Wagons-Lits ‘UH’ class sleeping cars have been dispensed with and, with them, goes the final vestige of the last of the most famous trains of the Wagons-Lits, so many of which used to commence their journeys at Boulogne, Calais or Oostende in connection with generations of packet steamers.

    The Sud Express was established in 1887 and ran through to Lisbon from Paris and Calais (later it was just Paris to Lisbon and later still Paris to Hendaye/Irun, change trains, and then Hendaye to Lisbon). Alas, it’s not just a case of “another one bites the dust” – this truly was the last of the great loco-hauled Grand European Expresses. The Sud outlasted the remnants of the (real) Orient Express by a couple of years. The Nord Express, the Train Bleu, the Peninsular Express, the Oberland Express etc all fell by the wayside long ago. The relevance of these long-distance luxury train connections to the ferry industry died out decades ago with the onset of mass air travel, but the train/ship/train link was before then vital for anyone who wanted to travel significant distances in Europe.

    And just how useful would the Paris/Oostende-Oslo cars of the Nord Express (via the Nyborg-Korsør and Helsingør-Helsingborg train ferries) be today for ash-bound Continental shipowners wishing to get to the Shippax conference starting on the Color Magic on Tuesday…?

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

    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.

    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.

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