Posts tagged: romilda

That Was The Year That Was – 2011

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If, as I do, you attribute to passenger ferries some of the characteristics of human beings, the cycle of life can be unsettling and, occasionally, brutal. How did those jumbo ferries with which I grew up suddenly become middle-aged? Why are the outside decks of the cutting-edge Norsea caked in years of rust? What calamity has befallen the shiny, new Fiesta that has caused her to go for scrap?

In the times of plenty, old favourites would head south for long and, hopefully, fruitful careers. Today, with the Greek economy in particular in ruins, no home can be found for them there. Instead, the scrap yard beckons all too soon and the production line of replacement new ships has all but dried up. Those which did appear in 2011 often seemed to be more dysfunctional than historic.

The veterans which survive often seem to be clinging on, just one unpaid subsidy away from the end. Happily, if you look in the right hidden corners, more than a few remain, shyly eking out a living at the margins of the ferry industry. 2010 was spent saying farewell to some quite well known, doomed, elderly ships; the ferry year of 2011, perhaps more than ever before, was focussed on the marginal, the half-forgotten, the never-remembered.

Based purely on subjective feelings on the 66 ships sailed on or visited in 2011, here are some of the bests and worsts of the year.

Like a trip through space: Abel Matutes

Like a trip through space: Abel Matutes

Best new ferry
The well documented difficulties of the Spirit of Britain somewhat preclude her from taking this title and the only other 2011 newbuild sailed upon was the functional but somewhat derivative Stena Transporter. New to me this year, however, were Balearia’s 2010-built Abel Matutes and SF Alhucemas. Like the Martin i Soler two years ago, these Spanish-built ferries capture a suitably stylish sense of adventure with hints of practical luxury. The Abel Matutes is a large ro-pax whilst the ‘Alhucemas’ is more like a smaller version of the Martin i Soler. Although neither is perfect, they represent an appropriately modern vanguard for the Spanish ferry industry in the second decade of this century.

Stena Superfast VII leaving Belfast

Stena Superfast VII leaving Belfast


Best conversion
The lack of a particularly vintage crop of new vessels leaves the Stena Superfasts as the most impressive ferries newly sampled this year. Whereas in their previous incarnations the pair were comfortable and pleasant overnight ships the new-found, peculiar genius of Figura has seen them transformed into something quite special. Alongside the new port in Cairnryan they form the centrepiece of a determined attempt to wrest back Stena’s lost dominance on the North Channel – a project which deserves to succeed, if nothing else than for its breathtaking boldness. One does wonder if (or over how long a period) the revamped operation can possibly repay all the investment.

On the down side, see also ‘Worst food’ below.

The Rosella at Mariehamn

The Rosella at Mariehamn


Worst conversion
I found the work done by Viking Line to the Rosella somewhat underwhelming. The surviving bits of the ship’s original interiors are clearly much smarter than the new – it’s that bit too apparent that the designers were working to a strict budget. The conversion of former cabins on Deck 4 to public toilets by the expediency of removing the bunks and adding a “W.C.” sign outside the en-suite sums this one up.

The veteran Maria Maddalena at Ponza.

The veteran Maria Maddalena at Ponza.


Best classic ferry

The Maria Maddalena was built in 1955 as the Ærøskøbing for Danish domestic service between her namesake hometown and Svendborg. Sold after just four years, she has spent the past half century in Italian coastal service, and now serves the remote island of Ponza for SNAP. This little ship is a remarkable survivor and, on board, retains more than could be expected of her original outfit, from the wooden planked vehicle deck to the vintage bridge.

Favourite crossing
When boarding the Ionian King for a departure from Brindisi to Corfu, Igoumenitsa and Zante in August the ship was surprisingly busy. Having planned to sleep, in line with Brindisi tradition, beneath the stars we found that we were able to negotiate a quite beneficial ‘cash only’ price for a cabin at the purser’s desk. This turned out to be a quite swish Japanese original, complete with shoji screens and Shin Nihonkai blankets. By the time we finally awoke the following morning, with our intermediate ports of call long behind us, we found the ship virtually and delightfully deserted for the eight hour leg to the so-called party island. Further exploration of this big and beautiful overnight ferry reconfirmed my previous thoughts: that the Ionian King and Ionian Queen were truly the finest ferries on the southern Adriatic. Sadly, within weeks, the ‘King’ had left Europe and returned to Japan for operation as a neo-cruise ship between Shanghai and Nagasaki. This sailing was the perfect way to say goodbye.

Leaving Zante on the Ionian Star. Even the rusty hulk of the long laid-up Odysseas Elytis must be better than this.

Leaving Zante on the Ionian Star. Even the rusty hulk of the long laid-up Odysseas Elytis must be better than this.

Worst crossing

The very next sailing after the Ionian King was Tyrogalas’ Ionian Star from Zante to Kyllini. In contrast, this ship was filled to the brim to the degree that many motorists retreated to their cars whilst for many of the rest of us the only ‘seats’ to be found were the stairs leading up from the car decks. An unpleasant experience.

Spirit of Britain: before and after

Spirit of Britain: before and after

Worst maintained ship
The generally decrepit Seatrade of Ventouris Ferries was probably the most unsettling ferry sailed on this year. However, the disgraceful decline of the outside decks on P&O’s brand new Spirit of Britain between my first sailing in January and most recent in October outdo even the most lackadaisical of Greek operators. Despite the ship’s widely-reported operational problems, there can be few excuses for this lack of basic maintenance.

Special mention should also be made of the small but stinky brown deposit left on the wall by the lavatory of our otherwise clean bathroom aboard Polferries’ Scandinavia. Whoops.

Not so Taste-y: Stena Superfast VIII

Not so Taste-y: Stena Superfast VIII

Worst food
No self service. Just fast food. In a box. Even the menu in the Plus Lounge on the Stena Superfasts has been dumbed down. A big, big shame.

Elsewhere, the Marrakech was predictably dismal whilst both of the ships of St Peter Line struggled badly to produce much edible on the smörgåsbord front.

Stena Lagan: dessert selection

Stena Lagan: dessert selection

Best food
It might seem unlikely, but the restaurant on board the Stena Lagan conjured up the most memorable ferry meal of the year on a December sailing between Belfast and Birkenhead. Moderately priced and perfectly formed, one can only hope that this hidden treat isn’t brought into line with the rest of the Stena fleet anytime soon. Honourable mentions also to the Scandinavia and to the Pride of Rotterdam.

The Bore

The Bore


Biggest disappointment
On a hot July evening we found ourselves one of three parties overnighting on the Bore, now in static use in Turku. The lack of ventilation, musty cabins and more than occasional power cuts made for a memorable, if not particularly comfortable, stay. Much remained to be done but, in the ship’s defence, her owners admitted that one of the reasons it was so difficult to book a stay on board was that they had yet to complete all the work they wanted to before having the full, formal launch.

Seafrance Rodin

Seafrance Rodin


So. Farewell then.
I have always felt an affinity for Seafrance; for here, Wightlink apart, were the last true inheritors to the Sealink tradition – including the strikes, the sometimes off-hand (or worse) service and even some of the ships. It contradicts received wisdom to call them a success, but on the surface they were: who, following the end of Sealink in 1996, would have imagined it would be Seafrance rather than Stena that, at their peak, would accommodate as much as 45% of Dover-Calais freight.

However, the whole project was built on financial sand and the end has come as violently for the company as it has for the two ships upon which it was founded: just after the Seafrance Renoir and Seafrance Cezanne headed for the beaches of Turkey, Seafrance stopped sailing. I travelled on the ‘Moliere’ days before the end; unlike deadly crossings earlier in the year on the ‘Rodin’ and ‘Berlioz’, here everything was open, the restaurant served decent food and, if you let yourself day dream just a little, maybe there was a future after all. It was not to be.

Unlike Seafrance and their early ships I cannot say I have great memories of the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII) but I feel I should at least make mention of her demise. She always seemed to appear on the horizon about thirty minutes beyond which queuing in one of the quayside cattle pens stopped being bearable; arrivals were always just after hoteliers and barkeeps had gone to bed; and the ship was always just that fraction more dilapidated than can be endearing. But still, this was a ship with a heart and when both sailed on routes through the western Cyclades, there was the happy opportunity to compare the Romilda to her longstanding rival, through both British and Greek careers, the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist). Her familiar presence in Piraeus will be missed.

The Romilda, July 2008.

The Romilda, July 2008.

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)
  • Greece in November: the abandoned ships of Piraeus

    A trip to the Greek islands hadn’t been part of the plan for 2010 – with interesting and untested ships to sail on across the rest of Southern Europe together with a whole host expected to be in their final seasons, the domestic Greek scene, for once, didn’t seem a priority. However, the cancellation of a short cruise on the Island Escape (ex-Scandinavia) in mid-November led to a quick search for alternatives and a five night trip to Greece, out of season, suddenly became very attractive.

    Initial plans to focus on the more interesting ex-Japanese tonnage now in operation were partly scuppered by the recent collision with Piraeus’ Northern breakwater (and subsequent absence from service) of Hellenic Seaways’ Nissos Rodos (ex-Kiso) and by ANEK pulling their Lissos (ex-Ferry Hamanasu) from her sailings to the North Aegean. In the event however it turned out to be a remarkably successful short visit – in many ways, the aforementioned scheduling problems apart, the timing was completely fortuitous: each day was sunny and with none of the strong winds that often lead to Greek domestic cancellations. Meanwhile we just missed the 24 hour (later extended to 72 hours+) strike of Greek seafarers which commenced on Tuesday the 23rd – on the European Express from Chios we were one of the last overnight ships arriving into Piraeus that day, actually berthing an hour or so after the official start of the industrial action.

    The most notable difference being in Piraeus and its surrounding areas in November compared to the peak season is the large number of normally operational ships laid up – both those in seasonal use (mostly fast craft and cruise ships) or those which happened to be out of service for their annual refits. In addition, there remain the ships of GA Ferries and SAOS, operators whose financial troubles have forced them largely out of business. Whilst the SAOS fleet is dispersed across the country, with only their Panagia Agiasou laid up in Piraeus outer harbour, the ships of GA’s passenger fleet can all be found locally – five in the inner harbour and three more adjacent to the ‘Agiasou’. Other than the fast craft Jet Ferry 1 all have recently been offered for sale by the harbour authority which, in one of the less attractive pitches to prospective purchasers, describes them as “dangerous and harmful”.

    I will add more pictures from this trip in due course but for starters here are some of those GA ships and their long-term SAOS co-resident. For the record, the title of this entry is perhaps slightly misleading – the ships aren’t entirely abandoned and it seems that one ship in each of the two batches has at least one watchman on duty with the Rodanthi and Anthi Marina serving as their respective basecamps.

    In the outer harbour, adjacent to the current berths of the Blue Star Rhodes and Crete ships can be found the Anthi Marina (ex-Spirit of Free Enterprise/Pride of Kent), Milena (ex-Ferry Gold), Dimitroula (ex-Verga) and SAOS's Panagia Agiasou (ex-Hakata).

    In the outer harbour, adjacent to the current berths of the Blue Star Rhodes and Crete ships can be found the Anthi Marina (ex-Spirit of Free Enterprise/Pride of Kent), Milena (ex-Ferry Gold), Dimitroula (ex-Verga) and SAOS's Panagia Agiasou (ex-Hakata).

    From a distance the Anthi Marina doesn't look that bad given her two years laid up.

    From a distance the Anthi Marina doesn't look that bad given her two years laid up.

    Up close she is rather more decrepit - although still by far the most likely of GA Ferries' conventional ships to see any further service. A few more images of this ship will be posted in the next week or so.

    Up close she is rather more decrepit - although still by far the most likely of GA Ferries' conventional ships to see any further service. A few more images of this ship will be posted in the next week or so.

    The Dimitroula was originally one of Tirrenia's eight-strong 'Poeti' class - indeed she was the last of the eight ship-class. Like her identical sister the Deledda she was slightly different to the earlier six and was not stretched by her original owners. Thus she was in pretty much original condition when she passed to GA in 1997. Now the last-surviving Poeti, it seems almost impossible she will ever see service again.

    The Dimitroula was originally one of Tirrenia's eight-strong 'Poeti' class - indeed she was the last of the eight ship-class. Like her identical sister the Deledda she was slightly different to the earlier six and was not stretched by her original owners. Thus she was in pretty much original condition when she passed to GA in 1997. Now the last-surviving Poeti, it seems almost impossible she will ever see service again.

    The Dimitroula from astern - as with all these ships, the stern ramp is lowered, but the car deck has been rudimentarily barricaded to prevent squatters or the otherwise curious.

    The Dimitroula from astern - as with all these ships, the stern ramp is lowered, but the car deck has been rudimentarily barricaded to prevent squatters or the otherwise curious.

    Adjacent to the Dimitroula, SAOS's Panagia Agiasou.

    Adjacent to the Dimitroula, SAOS's Panagia Agiasou.

    The Panagia Agiasou from astern.

    The Panagia Agiasou from astern.

    The Jet Ferry 1 (ex-Kattegat) has been seized by the bank which had originally mortgaged her. She is laid up in the inner harbour adjacent to what are normally nowadays the berths of the smaller Blue Star ships - right in the traditional heart of Piraeus ferryport, over the road from the electric railway station.

    The Jet Ferry 1 (ex-Kattegat) has been seized by the bank which had originally mortgaged her. She is laid up in the inner harbour adjacent to what are normally nowadays the berths of the smaller Blue Star ships - right in the traditional heart of Piraeus ferryport, over the road from the electric railway station.

    (Jet Ferry 1)

    (Jet Ferry 1)

    The other batch of four GA Ferries can be found adjacent to the berth of Ventouris Sea Lines' Agios Georgios. From left to right, the Marina (ex-Green Ace), the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII), the Rodanthi (ex-Virgo) and the Daliana (ex-Ferry Pearl).

    The other batch of four GA Ferries can be found adjacent to the berth of Ventouris Sea Lines' Agios Georgios. From left to right, the Marina (ex-Green Ace), the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII), the Rodanthi (ex-Virgo) and the Daliana (ex-Ferry Pearl).

    The Marina.

    The Marina.

    The Romilda was one of the last of the fleet to stay in service, but has been in quite poor internal condition for many years.

    The Romilda was one of the last of the fleet to stay in service, but has been in quite poor internal condition for many years.

    The Romilda from astern.

    The Romilda from astern.

    What does the future hold...?

    What does the future hold...?

    The Romilda at night.

    The Romilda at night.

    The Rodanthi.

    The Rodanthi.

    The Rodanthi, Romilda and Marina.

    The Rodanthi, Romilda and Marina.

    The long-term movement of the stern ramp against the quay has in several cases caused some quite notable damage to the quayside - as seen in this image at the stern of the Rodanthi.

    The long-term movement of the stern ramp against the quay has in several cases caused some quite notable damage to the quayside - as seen in this image at the stern of the Rodanthi.

    Daliana and Rodanthi.

    Daliana and Rodanthi.

    Daliana.

    Daliana.

    Daliana.

    Daliana.

    Daliana at night.

    Daliana at night.

    The sterns of the laid up ships are popular locations for local fishermen.

    The sterns of the laid up ships are popular locations for local fishermen.

    Mediterranean Massacre – Part Two

    After the recent cull of Southern Europe’s elderly ferry fleet, which ships will be next? There remain plenty of veterans out there, and the list below is a bit of idle speculation. Quite a few vessels are now laid up mainly because they have recently finished seasonal service rather than anything more sinister. A couple, like the little Don Peppino in the Bay of Naples (ex-Malmø, 1964) and Jadrolinija’s Porozina (ex-Esefjord, 1971) have seen service this year after previous bouts of inactivity left them looking doomed, so nothing is certain. Particularly for the Croatian ships, domestic service under local, less strict, safety rules might be a solution once a vessel can no longer be used on international services – this may prove a valuable factor for Jadrolinija’s little Liburnija. Sadly however, it is likely that several of the ships listed below may be gone within the next twelve months.

    The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

    The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

    Two ships which have been sold for scrap since the original instalment are the Ancona and the Split 1700. Between them they helped to make Blue Line the dominant operator from Split to Ancona, in the process seeing off the Italian state operator Adriatica whilst the Croatian equivalent, Jadrolinija, operating their Dubrovnik, are outclassed. However it was always clear that 2010 would be the end for the 1966-built pair – indeed, the Split 1700 had been laid up throughout the Summer since the company acquired better and larger tonnage. The only question was whether anyone would be able to preserve the Ancona but, perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was no and the pair have been sold to Indian breakers.

    The Ancona.

    The Ancona.

    Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

    Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

    Starting in the West, on the routes to Morocco the situation is fairly critical in terms purely of age with a whole host of ships nearing or over 30 years in age – the Al Mansour (ex-Stena Nordica, Reine Astrid), Atlas (ex-Gelting Syd), Banasa (ex-Mette Mols), Berkane (ex-Napoleon), Biladi (ex-Liberté), Bni Nsar (ex-Ferry Akashi, Dame M), Boughaz (ex-Viking 5), Ibn Batouta (ex-St Christopher), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess), Mistral Express (ex-Esterel) and Wisteria (ex-Prinses Beatrix, Duc de Normandie). TransEuropa Ferries’ Eurovoyager is also presently in the area.

    Quite what to expect here is difficult to say – other than the Eurovoyager most of the above named are in regular service. There have been a couple of casualties from the area in 2010 already in the Sara 1 and Euroferrys Atlantica but with a reportedly disappointing Summer perhaps there is scope for some further cutbacks. The most likely vessel perhaps, other than the Eurovoyager, might be the oldest – COMANAV’s Bni Nsar has created a notably negative public reputation but has, however, remained in service beyond 30 September.

    The Habib.

    The Habib.

    Tunisia’s 1970s ship of state, the Habib, is a lovely 1970s veteran – sort of an Africanised, originally two-class-version of TT Lines’ Peter Pan and Nils Holgersson of 1974/75. With the new Hanibal due for delivery in 2012, if the Habib is compliant with the safety requirements of the so-called ‘Stockholm Agreement’ one would expect her to return for one final fling in 2011 – but crew members were adamant 2010 was her final season when we sailed on the ship in June.

    Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

    Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

    Both Sardinia Ferries and Moby on their longer passenger routes have a collection of 1970s-built ships matched with vessels from the past decade – and not too much in between. Moby’s Drea, Otta, Vincent, Fantasy and Corse are all vital parts of the network and one cannot imagine them being replaced in the near future – the Fantasy continually punches above her weight on the Olbia-Civitavecchia route and is perhaps the weakest of the classic ferries. The Moby Vincent (ex-Stena Normandica, St Brendan) is the oldest but both Moby and their yellow-hulled rivals seem content to each employ one of these Rickmers-built ferries as their regular ships on the Livorno-Bastia route. If one or other was replaced with something new I can imagine the rival operator would respond pretty quickly – but who will blink first?

    Both Moby and Corsica Ferries have been able to add capacity seemingly at will in recent years, and the latter’s elderly ladies seem equally secure – for now. The Sardinia Vera and sister Corsica Marina Seconda, the Sardinia Regina and sister Corsica Victoria plus the Corsica Serena Seconda all appear in the Summer 2011 timetables.

    The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

    The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

    Moby’s five Babies on the Elban routes have an average age of 37 years and recently the company made statements about ordering six new ships to replace them, together with the Bastia on the Santa Teresa-Bonifacio run. Nothing firm has happened on that front yet – so these classics look set to continue for some time to come. The 1966-built Moby Baby (ex-Svea Drott, Earl Godwin) is the now surely the oldest ship operating for anything like a mainstream multi-route operator in the EU (save maybe for Balearia’s Arlequin Rojo) but the even smaller Moby Ale (ex-Mikkel Mols, 1969) would seem likely to be the first to go if Moby were to have a cull. For now that doesn’t seem likely as all five ships are hard-pressed on the busy Summer Saturdays.

    The Primrose at Piombino.

    The Primrose at Piombino.

    Upstarts Blunavy made an entry onto the Piombino-Portoferraio route in 2010 and, after an apparently relatively successful season, claim they are looking for a different ship to the Primrose (ex-Princesse Marie Christine). Something with a better air conditioning system might be a good idea. The sweaty, beaten-up old Primrose has to be high on the list of likely ships to head straight for scrap from here.

    The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

    The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

    One elderly ex-Moby ship which has thus far evaded the scrappers is the Don Peppino of Gestur. Originally the Malmø of 1964, she spent 24 years with Moby as the Citta di Piombino but was subsequently laid up for a period in Naples. Reactivated in 2008 she is a sweet little thing but can’t have too many years left now. There remain several other interesting ships laid up in Naples but the largest two – the Medmar overnight pair Donatella D’Abundo and Giulia D’Abundo – have now both gone for scrap.

    The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

    The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

    The most disappointing departures from Italian domestic service after 30 September were SNAV’s ex-North Sea Ferries pair SNAV Campania and Sicilia (ex-Norland and Norstar). Originally rumoured to have been sold for scrap, they are now both at anchor off Jeddah awaiting use, presumably as pilgrim ships for the Hajj in November, after which their futures remain unclear.

    The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

    The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

    After the Sibari (1970) went for scrap last year, question marks hung over the remaining two classic train ferries on BluVia’s Messina-Villa San Giovanni route, the Iginia (1969) and Rosalia (1973). I travelled with the Rosalia in early September and she has clearly had a little bit of cash spent on her recently (although still retaining the faded glory look of all the ships on this route). Meanwhile the Iginia was to be found having some attention in dry dock in Messina so on this basis they seem secure for now. However the Logudoro, half-sister to the route’s more modern pair, the Villa and Scilla, remains laid up in Naples – if BluVia ever get around to instating her in Sicilian traffic, the lovely Iginia could be doomed.

    The Domiziana off Naples.

    The Domiziana off Naples.

    Just as the future of Tirrenia is unclear, so it is for their oldest ship, the Domiziana. A (relatively) unrebuilt member of the Strade Romana class she has been moved to the Southern Italian port of Crotone for disposal – scrap must be a real option although I would still bet on her being acquired by another operator looking for replacement tonnage.

    To the East of Italy the number of elderly ships under threat grows exponentially, first but not least with Jadrolinija. The Croatian national operator has, since the disposal of the Ivan Zajc in 2009, been reduced to four ships capable of realistic use on the coastal and international services. This has meant the Zadar operating Zadar-Ancona, the Dubrovnik on Split-Ancona, the Marko Polo the coastal service, Rijaka-Split-Stari Grad-Korcula-Dubrovnik and on to Bari in Italy, with the little Liburnija operating Korcula-Dubrovnik-Bari.

    The Marko Polo will be upgraded over the Winter to meet the new safety requirements but it seems inevitable that the Liburnija will henceforth be restricted to domestic use – if anything. She was Jadrolinija’s first car ferry of any real size and ever since her introduction in 1965 has been lovingly looked after. Now quite antiquated one can only wonder if she will return in 2011 and, if so, what route a ship with cabin accommodation would be suitable for if not the coastal/international lines.

    The Liburnija at Korcula.

    The Liburnija at Korcula.

    The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

    The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

    Of the other Jadrolinija ships in service in 2010 the most interesting threatened vessel is the 1965-built Vis, originally the Sydfyn. She has been with Jadrolinija for 34 years now but the feeling amongst her crew was that this was her final year. Aliaga awaits.

    Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

    Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

    Whereas a couple of Jadrolinija ships have headed for scrap the majority of the coastal fleet, once no longer wanted, appear to be sent to lay up in various parts of the country. For example the onetime Red Funnel pair Lovrjenac (ex-Norris Castle) and Nehaj (ex-Cowes Castle) have been mouldering in Cres and Mali Losinj respectively for several years now. The picture above shows Cres in August 2008 with the Nehaj, Porozina (ex-Esefjord) and Bozava visible and, beyond, the Ero, Ozalj and Zigljen. The Porozina has since seen further service but the future of the remainder looks bleak, with the Bozava reportedly already gone.

    The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

    The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

    If the fate of many of Jadrolinija’s old car ferries is uncertain, what then of the four remaining classic passenger ships? The Postira, Premuda, Ozalj and Tijat all still had niche roles in various parts of the country in 2010 but there are grumblings in some areas about the service offered. Many of these ship’s sisters and contemporaries have found their way into static use so one would expect the same might apply when the service careers of these veterans finally come to an end.

    The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

    The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

    The Montenegro Lines fleet is in varying states of disrepair. To all intents and purposes they are the only passenger sea line into the country so doubtless will carry on – but it would be nice if they could do something about the state of their ships, the Sveti Stefan II in particular. After seemingly disappearing for all of October, the latter ship returns to service at the start of November and is timetabled through to the end of the year. But what about her little red-hulled counterpart?

    The Azzurra at Bari.

    The Azzurra at Bari.

    One doesn’t know what the Azzurra of Azzurra Line is up to at the best of times so perhaps the most recent AIS signal from the 1964-built ex-Grenaa shouldn’t be a surprise – she is not laid up near her normal Bari-based Adriatic home but is instead at Tasucu in Turkey, having previously paid a call into in Northern Cyprus. Has she entered service on the Tasucu-Gazimagusa route?!

    The Arberia at Bari.

    The Arberia at Bari.

    With her fleetmates all gone for scrap, the Arberia (ex-Bore Star, Orient Express, Wasa Queen) of Halkydon Shipping, for now, ploughs on alone between Bari and Durres in Albania. If Halkydon do complete their withdrawal from the passenger shipping business, this ferry will have to find new owners – going for scrap seems unlikely but in the current climate anything is possible. Perhaps Mr Munk of Sunlink Ferries will finally get his ship?

    The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

    The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

    G Lines’ Santa Maria I (ex-Sansovino) seems to have found little success since first being tried on the competitive Bari-Durres service in 2008. Beset by machinery problems in her inital seasons, she has now retired once again to Drapetsona – will she ever see proper service again?

    Alongside her in the picture above is Ventouris Ferries’ Rigel (ex-Bore I). This ship and her three quite elderly Adriatic fleetmates (average age – 35) seem set to continue to operate – the Polaris is presently having a not insignificant refit with her place, for now, being taken by Agoudimos’ Ionian King.

    The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

    The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

    Brindisi and the Southern Albanian port of Vlore have been the last operational ports of call for a number of notable ferries, from Thoresen’s Viking I, through SNCF’s Transcontainer I to Sessan’s 1965-built Prinsessan Desirée. The route has in recent years been home to three further veterans, the Viking I’s sister, the Viking III of 1965 (now Red Star I), her ex-Townsend Thoresen fleetmate Free Enterprise V (1970, now Veronica Line) and Agoudimos’s sprightly youngster the Ionian Spirit (ex-Viking 3, Roslagen (1972)).

    The Veronica Line has again gone into hibernation for the Winter but the Red Star I and Ionian Spirit continue to sail. Whilst this route has a history of sudden disappearances the latter two seem quite secure for now. The Veronica Line may be a casualty of the Stockholm Agreement but there is every chance we won’t know about it until she fails to reappear for 2011.

    The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

    The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

    Now laid up in Igoumenitsa the Penelope (ex-European Gateway) appears simply to be bedding down for the Winter rather than anything else and there seems every likelihood this unusual ship will return for 2011.

    The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

    The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

    One of the most popular Greek ferries is the evergreen Theofilos of NEL Lines, which has sailed through the September SOLAS deadline and continues on an interesting Northern Aegean itinerary. The future is, however, cloudy for the former Nils Holgersson (1975) and one can only hope she will live to see another Greek Summer.

    The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

    The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

    ANEK Lines have a series of ex-Japanese overnight ferries which are more than 30 years old deployed in domestic service: the Ierapetra L, Kriti I, Kriti II, Lissos, Lato and Prevelis. Although the Lissos is engaged in heavy competition with NEL on the route up to Chios and Mytilene, far from ANEK’s usual base, the remainder are in use on core or subsidised services and there is no imminent prospect of replacement. For now the elderly ANEKs seem safe.

    The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

    The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

    Not such a happy future awaits the laid-up fleets of GA Ferries and SAOS. GA’s abandoned ships still dominate the Great Harbour in Piraeus whilst SAOS’s, including ex-British pair the Samothraki (Viking Voyager) and Panagia Soumela (Lady of Mann), are concentrated in Alexandropoulis in an increasingly decrepit state. It seems likely that the majority of these will head straight for scrap once the financial wrangling is finally concluded.

    The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

    The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

    The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

    The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

    There are also dozens of ships laid up in the shipyards around Piraeus – many of which will never see service again. One such is the Duchess M of Marlines, originally the Wanaka and later Brittany Ferries’ Breizh-Izel. The final season of the final ship of the once glorious Marlines was 2008 and she has been laid up in Elefsis ever since. A one-way journey to the scrapyard is the only realistic result for this ship and so many of the others, including the Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise) and the Alkyon (ex-Gotlandia).

    The Express Santorini (ex-Chartres) and the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica, top picture) have also arrived in the area recently – they are both now at Drapetsona. The former ship is scheduled to carry out relief sailings through the Winter and a further Summer on charter in the Azores apparently awaits in 2011. For the Scotia Prince the future has to be less certain – she had a heavy refit before the 2010 season which she spent on charter to Marmara Lines for service between Italy and Turkey. It would be great news if this was repeated, but will Marmara Lines be back for 2011?

    The Superferry II off Andros.

    The Superferry II off Andros.

    Although Blue Star Ferries have spent the money to repair her following her coming together with a pier in Tinos, the Superferry II is under threat from the new ships, Blue Star Delos and Blue Star Patmos, currently being built in Korea. The subsequent reshuffle of ships upon their delivery in will almost certainly see the end of the former Prince Laurent.

    The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

    The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

    Lastly, are Ventouris Sea Lines’ Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and Agoudimos Lines’ Penelope A (ex-Horsa) under threat? Not just yet it seems and both have a Winter of Greek domestic sailing ahead of them.

    To Sifnos and back

    July 2007
    We arrived in Piraeus on board the Theofilos of NEL Lines, all the way from Mytilene, up in the distant north Aegean. Our ship was originally TT Lines Nils Holgersson, direct predecessor of the ship of the same name which went on to become Brittany Ferries’ Val de Loire and is now the current King of Scandinavia. She remains a rather fun overnight ferry, but the highlight was the arrival in Piraeus that morning – dozens of cruise ships and ferries all lined up against the rising sun – a truly spectacular sight. Attention was immediately caught however by a pair of ferries lying next to each other – the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII).

    To our chagrin we later found that the Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise I) had called into Piraeus main port the previous day, surely her first call in years, supposedly before she sailed to Crete to begin a season day cruises. In the event, we found the ship a week later laid up again in Perama and the only movement she has made since then is to sail into Elefsis Bay where she remains laid up.

    The Theofilos arrives in Piraeus

    The Theofilos arrives in Piraeus


    Agios Georgios & Romilda

    Agios Georgios & Romilda


    We’d been working on the not unreasonable assumption that the Theofilos would get onto her berth late but as it turned out she was actually rather early and we found ourselves disembarking at about 7.10am. That opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities – we’d intended on spending the day poking around the shipyards of Elefsis and Salamis prior to sailing out to Milos in the early evening on board the Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount/Pride of Winchester) of LANE Lines. Instead, a quick hop onto the port bendy bus followed by a lung-busting gallop to our friends at the Poseidon Travel agency saw us grab tickets for the Agios Georgios’ departure at 7.25am and sprint round to her berth. The knot-in-stomach feeling you get when you have a ticket, can see the ship’s stern door 400 metres away but know it could shut at any minute is a sort of recurring Piraeus nightmare – so far our luck has held.

    On this occasion we shouldn’t have worried: Piraeus rush hour is when you can soon establish which operators are “in” and which are “out”. Understanding this inside/outside dichotomy is informative to understanding how the Greek ferry scene hangs together. Suffice to say, if you are Blue Star Ferries or Hellenic Seaways you are “in”. If you are, for example, the new Kallisti Ferries, you are most definitely “out”. And if you are Ventouris Sea Lines, you’re somewhere in between.

    HSW & Blue Star ships – the insiders get the best berths

    HSW & Blue Star ships – the insiders get the best berths


    The Agios Georgios and VSL then fall into the “tolerated” category– as in you’re fine but don’t ideas above your station; and know your place. Which, when leaving Piraeus, is after all the Blue Star or HSW ships that want to leave at a similar time have already left. So the Agios Georgios strained at her ropes for a good 20 minutes as the Blue Star ferries sailed all the way out of the inner harbour (they get the best berths, right next to the railway station), past us and out.
    We’re away at last! Farewell to the Romilda!

    We’re away at last! Farewell to the Romilda!


    Finally allowed to cast off, we headed out of the port, passing by both of HSW’s admirable modern sisters, the Nissos Mykonos and the brand new Nissos Chios. The Agios Georgios’ schedule for our sailing was Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Kimolos-Milos. This was the route for many years operated by Lindos Lines and their famed Milos Express (ex-Vortigern), and you can still find this ship on plenty of postcards on her namesake island. In 1999, Lindos were absorbed into Hellas Ferries – the ‘V’ lasted with them until 2003. The attitude of locals on this chain of islands towards Hellas Ferries/Hellenic Seaways was somewhat strained – the real test of a ferry operator for the islanders is what happens in the Winter when the fast ferries can’t run – in this case, HSW latterly took to putting what were deemed “substandard” ships on the route, the poor old Express Adonis (ex-Ailsa Princess) being a particular figure of hate by some accounts. In later years, HSW abandoned the route altogether.

    It was this resentment that VSL tapped into when they first deployed the Agios Georgios on the Milos run back in 2005. VSL have a murky past which doubtless makes anyone wary of “relying” on them, but compared to HSW they have reliably operated the lifeline since HSW abandoned the islands from 2006. The glorious Summer of 2005 was a magical one for anyone trying to catch a glimpse of genuine Greek ferry competition as once it was – the Express Aphrodite (ex-St Columba) and Agios Georgios left Piraeus at virtually identical times in the morning and would play island hopscotch with each other, racing all the way to Milos and back, the leader determined not to let the other overtake.

    All of which was great fun, but not so good for the Agios Georgios’ engines, which really suffered for a while. Since then, and with a new crankshaft, things have been a little easier and although the core schedule is basically the same, she isn’t pushed nearly so hard which has to be a boost to her longevity.

    The Nissos Mykonos

    The Nissos Mykonos

    The Theofilos

    The Theofilos

    The first leg to Serifos took a good three or four hours, so plenty of time to have a look around. The ship was pretty well packed – backpackers sprawled across the outside decks where the deck bar area had been completely refurbished before the Summer season. Islanders as ever stayed in the air conditioned interior, mostly asleep with the curtains firmly drawn….
    On board the Agios Georgios

    On board the Agios Georgios

    One of the upper side promenade decks

    One of the upper side promenade decks

    The upper lobby with the Belsky mural on the right

    The upper lobby with the Belsky mural on the right

    The aft covered deck space was attractively refurbished in 2006/07

    The aft covered deck space was attractively refurbished in 2006/07

    The mural on the forward stairwell from Deck 5 ('B' deck in Sealink days).

    The mural on the forward stairwell from Deck 5 ('B' deck in Sealink days).

    English and French… but the warning wasn’t needed on a Sunny day like this

    English and French… but the warning wasn’t needed on a Sunny day like this


    The second port of call was Sifnos, a stunning location where the ferries sail between the rocky headland and into the port located between two sheer cliff faces. Some 25 years ago, the Kimolos (ex-Free Enterprise I) ran aground here quite spectacularly, although the damage was mostly to smaller boats in the harbour.
    Arriving at Sifnos

    Arriving at Sifnos

    Next up: Kimolos itself, the little island next to Milos for whom the ex-FE I was named when she was running for Ventouris Ferries.
    Kimolos

    Kimolos

    A little close to the rocks at Kimolos

    A little close to the rocks at Kimolos

    To Milos!

    To Milos!

    The great thing about staying on these ships all the way to the final island is that they get gradually quieter and quieter. From Sifnos onwards, the ship became something of a private yacht. I spent half an hour enjoying a drink in the forward bar (once the VSOE lounge).
    The forward bar (formerly the VSOE Lounge)

    The forward bar (formerly the VSOE Lounge)

    At last, we arrived in Milos! By this time it was about 3.30pm. In harbour were the EasyCruise One and the Highspeed 1 which we’d seen earlier in Piraeus and had overtaken us en-route. In between the last two calls, we’d been wondering which island we actually wanted to stay on overnight and Serifos was the preferred option. How to get there…. well the Agios Georgios went back there at 4pm!

    So just time for a quick dash off the ship, nip into the quayside ticket agency, and back on board again. This time we splashed out and upgraded to First Class – up in the former Wessex Bar above the VSOE. One of the real pleasures of Greek ferry travel is turning the tables on crew members who look at you, in their eyes yet another bedraggled backpacker, and try and usher you straight out onto deck. One flash of the first class ticket is never enough in these circumstances – they check and double check as if they can’t quite believe their eyes before letting you pass.

    EasyCruise One at Milos

    EasyCruise One at Milos

    Disembarking in Milos before re-embarking again

    Disembarking in Milos before re-embarking again

    The First Class Bar

    The First Class Bar

    Out on deck one more time

    Out on deck one more time

    Final disembarkation at Sifnos

    Final disembarkation at Sifnos

    The beach at Sifnos in the late afternoon

    The beach at Sifnos in the late afternoon

    After getting off the ship in Sifnos, we had to find somewhere to stay – that was soon sorted with a room from a nice elderly lady sourced from the tourist office; the room incidentally had on the wall a nice framed photograph of the Express Pegasus on her maiden arrival in Sifnos back in 2000 when she had teamed up with the Express Milos in Hellas Ferries’ first year.

    Finally there was some relaxation time – dinner was had at one of the beachside restaurants and a post-dinner stroll to the port followed in the hope of getting pictures of the last arrivals of the day, the Romilda and the Speedrunner II. The latter was headed to Milos before coming back and onward to Piraeus but day turned into night before the late-running ex-Stena Pegasus finally rounded the headland.

    The Romilda at Sifnos

    The Romilda at Sifnos

    Sifnos Sunset

    Sifnos Sunset

    The Speedrunner II

    The Speedrunner II


    The following day we had a nice long lie in before wandering down to the portside area for some breakfast – a simple croissant and a cup of coffee sufficed, but it wasn’t too long before it was time to get the rucksacks on again and head back down to the ferry port. This time it would be a quick lunchtime hop to Milos, a stop for some afternoon tea there before getting the Romilda back to Piraeus. To get to Milos, the handy connection was provided by the Speedrunner I (ex-Hoverspeed Great Britain) and she arrived and left bang on time – something that would later prove challenging to the Romilda. The ‘HGB’ was pleasantly filled on this short 50 minute leg and hasn’t changed very much since she has been in Greece, still retaining a model of herself in Seacat colours with an explanation of the Hales Trophy win.
    A peaceful morning in Sifnos…

    A peaceful morning in Sifnos…

    …interrupted by the arrival of the Speedrunner I

    …interrupted by the arrival of the Speedrunner I

    Speedrunner I

    Speedrunner I

    Speedrunner I

    Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    There still just isn’t something quite right about seeing this flapping around on a Greek island ferry.

    There still just isn’t something quite right about seeing this flapping around on a Greek island ferry.

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    On board the Speedrunner I

    The Speedrunner I leaving Milos

    The Speedrunner I leaving Milos

    The ship promptly arrived in Milos, unloaded and quickly reloaded before disappearing into a characteristic cloud of exhaust fumes. We had only one job before dinner… purchase tickets for the Romilda back to Piraeus. This wasn’t as easy as might be imagined: some times ticket agents care just that little bit too much about their customer’s welfare! The agency adjacent to the berths in Milos (not affiliated to any company in particular) was convinced we were just simple tourists who needed a favour doing when we asked for tickets for her sailing – we were politely told, “no, is no good, dirty, bad ship. The Agios Georgios is faster, cleaner”. All of which was true and, in fact, quite a persuasive argument – although the A.G. was scheduled to depart Milos a little later she would get into Piraeus somewhat earlier, mostly but not entirely due to her more direct routing. We persevered however and eventually and somewhat reluctantly were sold our tickets.

    Just after lunch a booming horn indicated the arrival of the Agios Georgios which arrived on her morning sail from Piraeus, backed onto the berth and sat there for her half hour turn around. She then left again as swiftly as she had arrived. There was still no sign of the Romilda which was scheduled to have left 20 minutes earlier. Finally, about an hour later than timetabled, she hurried round the headland, her great belches of smoke giving even the Speedrunner I a run for her money.

    The Agios Georgios at Milos

    The Agios Georgios at Milos

    The late-running Romilda arrives at Milos

    The late-running Romilda arrives at Milos

    The long wait of the Romilda’s passengers in the Milos ‘cattle pens’ is over!

    The long wait of the Romilda’s passengers in the Milos ‘cattle pens’ is over!

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    The builder's plate

    The builder's plate

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    The upper car deck

    The upper car deck

    On board the Romilda

    On board the Romilda

    Farewell to Milos…

    Farewell to Milos…

    Slow but steady progress

    Slow but steady progress


    The Romilda really is a slow old thing nowadays (or is run slowly), and was noticeably taking a little longer than the Agios Georgios had between the same island pairs the previous day. Most passengers crowded either on the outside decks, or laid flat out on the sofa seating inside. And woe betide anyone who decided they might need to use the toilet facilities in passage. Suffice to say, it was possible, but only if you really were desperate.

    The best thing to do was settle down with a book in a quiet corner (preferably out of the way of funnel smuts) or have a snooze. If the heat became too much, it was time to head inside and snuggle down in one of the reclining seats on the upper deck. Time soon passed, and the sun was setting as we arrived at Kythnos.

    Sunset from the Romilda

    Sunset from the Romilda

    Sunset from the Romilda

    Sunset from the Romilda

    Kythnos

    Kythnos


    Somewhat inevitably, the Romilda lost more time en route to Piraeus and it was well past midnight before we finally disembarked; just before getting off, I did a quick tour to grab images of those places which had been too busy to photograph mid-crossing. The upper deck lounge (latterly Club Class with P&O) remained resolutely locked – this seems to be the near-permanent situation and in the past couple of years they’ve also locked off the aft outside deck on this level.
    A final look around

    A final look around

    The upper bar

    The upper bar

    The main lounge, forward

    The main lounge, forward

    Adjacent, the main bar is still 'The Peninsular Bar'

    Adjacent, the main bar is still 'The Peninsular Bar'

    Postscript
    As of February 2009 the Romilda and Agios Georgios remain operating for GA Ferries and Ventouris Sea Lines respectively.
    The Speedrunner I was sold by Aegean Speed Lines in early 2008 and spent that year’s Summer running day cruises out of Rethimnon in Crete under the name Sea Runner; ASL continued operations with the Speedrunner II operating alone.

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