Happy New Year & Welcome to 2009!
With special reference to the website this blog is supposed to support, I suppose I should mention that this is the 40th year since the Vortigern first hit the water. At some stage I might do a retrospective over how much has changed in those 40 years, but the volume of change is so immense it perhaps isnâ€™t even worthwhile to compare the eras.
The launch of the Vortigern, March 5 1969 (courtesy Roy Thornton collection)
However one slice of optimism for the New Year which the Vortigern herself might relish is the return, in fully-fledged conventional form, of the Dover-Boulogne route the ship was built for. Allied to the revival in recent years of her â€˜otherâ€™ route, Dover-Dunkerque, with ships which match the â€˜Vâ€™ herself for their dilemma-ridden mix of earnest contemporary style and occasional inherent impracticality, and in some ways the good old days are back.
One thing that romantics like myself will miss however are the terminals on either side of La Manche: the Dover train ferry dock is gone; in fact the entire Western Docks is now devoid of ferry traffic â€“ for the time being. Meanwhile the cosy Eastern Docks of 1969 is replaced by a thunderous lorry pit-stop and, by Summer, the Gares Maritime in both Boulogne as well as the old Dunkerque will have regressed into memory as ferry terminals.
Looking ahead rather than back for a moment, 2009 promises a host of new ferry adventures â€“ the main website itself will relaunch, fully updated and with the largest collection of ferry deckplans on the internet as a new feature. And I hope to sail on more classic ferries â€“ top of the list are the Apollon (ex-Senlac), Rigel (ex-Bore I) and Isla de Botafoc (ex-St Anselm). And, time permitting, three of my all-time favourites may be sailed on once again: the Ancona (ex-Svea/Hispania/Knossos), the Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and the Penelope A (ex-Horsa).
But one thing HHVFerry has always stood for is a simultaneous appreciation of the best of the new as well as the best of the old. Todayâ€™s top-end newcomers are tomorrowâ€™s classics, so we hope to venture to sea this year on the new Armorique, the Mega Express Five and the Elyros, all of which give great hope for being models of contemporary style and modernity.
Just as the Vortigern herself was, forty years ago this year.
The Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise (I))
A last word on hopes for the New Year; my thoughts turn to those classic ferries which are still clinging on in the face of adversity: the Georgios Express (ex-Roi Baudouin), the Royal Iris and the Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise) are all at deathâ€™s door. Three more different but more significant ex-UK ferries you couldnâ€™t hope to find. Letâ€™s hope each of them is still with us in 12 months time.
The Georgios Express (ex-Roi Baudouin) laid up at a scrapyard in Elefsis. Having evaded the scrappers in 2008, merely surviving 2009 is yet another challenge for perhaps the most beautiful of all of Dover's car ferries.