Thursday, 31 October 2013
LOUIS AURA (ex-ORIENT QUEEN) Part 8
Friday 20th September 2013
Today we are due in Lavrio(n), a very small port on the Greek mainland, at the very early hour of 6 a.m. Captain Goumas suggested that we might not want to be up on the Bridge at 5.30 a.m. for arrival at that hour and he was certainly right in my case! We are due to leave here before 11 a.m. but there was time to go ashore from the gangway and look at the ferries.
I was also surprised to see a brand new terminal building. Goodness, that’s new, and built since my last visit here a year ago. I later discovered that the Athens/Piraeus authorities are trying to encourage more cruise ships to use an alternative port to Piraeus, because of the number of passengers involved, so presumably are trying to entice them to Lavrion with a new terminal building. Certainly Piraeus cruise quays and terminal berthing facilities are sometimes full, although a new port gate and quayside are currently being created at one end of the Great Harbour.
It is presumably worthwhile for Louis Cruises to use the port of Lavrion (as well as Piraeus) as they seem to have exclusive use of the new terminal facilities in this tiny town. Many passengers disembarked here including our Swiss friends, with many more embarking in their place. Lavrio is about 55 kms south-east of Athens. There is a coach service to and from Athens airport, but when I considered joining LOUIS AURA here at Lavrion on mainland Greece I was unable to find any local overnight accommodation at all.
I had arranged to take an excursion to the Ancient Temple of Poseidon and Cape Sounion, and was looking forward to that. Last September I had visited Lavrio’s local museum and seen many wondrous artefacts which had been discovered at Cape Sounion and I was keen to see the site. (See 2012 blog pieces, entitled Greece 2012). Unfortunately it was not to be, as there was not enough support to run the excursion, which disappointed me.
Instead I walked along to see the ferries, which looked very familiar. I sailed on AQUA MARIA from Mesta to Lavrio, arriving here on 5th September 2012, and saw MACEDON then too.
This time MACEDON was due to sail soon and I saw the ramp go up and the water start to churn. She pulled away from the quayside and at that moment a small motorbike arrived, with a passenger hopping off the pillion as fast he could. He was too late to catch the ferry though, so got back on the motor cycle and they drove away – I suppose it is interesting to watch other people’s timekeeping.
I went inside the new terminal building too, but soon it was time to return to the ship ready for sailing soon after 10.30 a.m.
On the Bridge I met and chatted with the Safety Officer and then we had to wait for the passenger lifeboat drill to be finished. The Port Captain joined Captain Goumas and eventually we were able to sail into the sparkling blue water, heading for our next port of Istanbul tomorrow.
Restaurant late lunch was fun with other friends, and included making gold and silver foil miniature wine glasses from chocolate wrappers to amuse a certain little girl. Then it was time to rest and pack, ready for the next part of what I like to call the social whirl! A Guest Lecturer has come on board and we wanted to attend his first talk entitled “Overview of the Development of the Mediterranean Sea through Time”. Dr. Angelos F. Vlachos is an Historian and Greek Tourism Specialist. It was very interesting to hear him, especially as he lectured in English, which was obviously not his mother tongue.
We met him for pre-dinner drinks, together with Mary Ann from Archers Tours, and continued into the Restaurant together for our final dinner on board.
By 10 p.m. it was time for our final night-time visit to the Bridge for something rather unique: the entry and transit of the Dardanelles Straits. The Programme told us that the transit time through the entrance of the Dardanelles Strait will depend upon the “Entering Orders” that we receive from the Turkish Traffic Control Officials. As we enter the Straits, one of the World War 1 War Memorials is visible from the left (port) side of the vessel. The transit of the strait will last approximately two and a half hours. You will see Europe on the port side and Asia on the right (starboard) side, the Programme concluded.
The Straits Pilot came on board and there were happy greetings for him from Captain Goumas, as well as from his old Turkish colleague Kapetan Saim. There was almost total darkness all around of course, but it was fascinating to watch the transit though this meandering body of water as we continued to change direction around the sharp bends. It seems the depth also varies in places, as I saw the Pilot consulting his electronic depth indicator frequently, as well as consulting with various Officers on the Bridge. There was other traffic too and the time passed quickly as we headed onward towards Istanbul. I was offered tea and then chocolate at regular intervals, so the whole passage seemed somewhat like a dream, but I felt very privileged to be there.
Ships seen: Aqua Maria, Macedon, Marmari Express, Ocean Majesty in the distance, and Cruise Europa going south through the Dardanelles.
To be concluded….