Monday, 27 September 2010
Funchal Cruise 5th September 2010
Tuesday 7th September 2010
I was woken at 5 a.m. by a tug’s spotlight shining under a curtain, so I got up to see us coming alongside in Malaga, two hours early; across the harbour I could see an enormous vessel, and in the early dawn light I could see it was EVELYN MAERSK. She, with her seven sisters, is the biggest container ship in the world. I went back to bed to sleep for a couple of hours, before the start of a busy day for us four.
Several other ships came into the port, including JUAN J. SISTER and GRAND PRINCESS.
Malaga is in Spain and east of Gibraltar, and the plan was to hire a car and take ferries to and from Tangier. The theory of this had been worked out some time ago, but of course reality always takes over. At Malaga Railway Station we tried to hire a car for the day, but the first three International car hire offices had nothing available. How boring, we thought, to have to sit in a hire car office all day, with nothing to hire out. Mind you, we were amused to read the English translation of a sign, telling us to keep our baggage under control at all times.
The fourth office provided what we wanted, so we soon set off for Algeciras, parked safely in the Ferry Terminal car park, and rushed inside to buy tickets for the sailing of LE RIF in just 15 minutes time.
We and the other foot passengers were escorted to the overhead gangway only to see that there was an argument going on and we could not board, seemingly because of the position of a rope. Men arrived and joined the argument, arms were waved, a noisy rainstorm started overhead, and after much shouting we were allowed through the barriers and on board. I suppose we felt like precious cargo for a minute.
LE RIF was built in 1980 at Harland & Wolff as GALLOWAY PRINCESS, with Saint sisters: St. Anselm, St. Christopher, St. David, at 6,630 tons. After lengthy service between Stranraer and Larne for Sealink, Sealink British Ferries and Stena Line, in 2002 she became LE RIF on the Algeciras to Tangier route, but Bruce and Matt knew her in her previous life as a British Rail vessel. So, this is my first Saint Class vessel sailing and I have to record the fact.
On board the rain had made puddles on the deck but the sun shone as we left Algeciras, heading for the newly built ferry port of Tangier. It was a few miles outside the city, so had no character as yet, but it was interesting to watch the other shipping in the area as we enjoying seeing around LE RIF. She was neat and tidy on board, and virtually empty, with no food of any kind available. We knew it was Ramadan so were not really surprised, and I don’t think they were prepared for English-speaking passengers.
However, we met the Captain in the office beside Reception, and he showed us some of the original and little-used public rooms on board, still being kept in pristine condition.
We loved seeing that under his office desk was a large First Aid Box that had letters in large print on it saying “GALLOWAY PRINCESS”. As he said, why change it unnecessarily?
We enjoyed our time on the ship, as we bobbed and bounced our way over to Tangier ferry port; particularly we enjoyed watching the apparent race between AL MANSOUR and ATLAS as they headed into Algeciras!
We footies were all kept on board for ages, waiting for someone to unlock the exit doors onto the car deck so we could get out and disembark. I know that different countries and ships have different rules about things, but we did think this was a worrying amount of time, with no members of staff around, and we were all simply waiting where we had been told.
Once off EL RIF we had to board a coach and go to the terminal building, and there we could book to go back to Algeciras on our hoped-for ship: BOUGHAZ. Once again it was a tightly timed thing. We expected a slight delay as the Passport people in Algeciras (Spain) registered us leaving the country there, and the Immigration and Passport people in Tangier (Morocco) registered our entering their country and immediately leaving it, and of course this happened, but smiles and courtesies helped as usual. We booked our tickets, went through Customs, Passport and Immigration and took the passenger coach back to the quayside near BOUGHAZ, watching the car and lorry traffic boarding up the single lane bow ramp.
Then it was our turn to walk up the ramp. Once on board we could enjoy the wait until the ship sailed, and see EL MANSOUR arriving back in Tangier,
as well as other passing ships including the cruise ship OCEANA. At a distance we could see the regular shipping off Gibraltar.
BOUGHAZ was built for Viking Line in 1974 as M/S VIKING 5, with seven sister ships, at the Joseph Meyer shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Aha, my first Papenburg ship! Her tonnage was 5,286 and she was built to carry 1200 passengers.
After use in the Baltic, she joined Sally Line in 1981 as SALLY EXPRESS to sail between Ramsgate and Dunkirk, then became VIKING EXPRESS. Next, she was bought by Fred Olsen Lines' subsidiary, the Kristiansands Dampskip-Selskap for operation across the Skagerrak between Hirtshals, Hanstholm and Kristiansand. During this phase, she was chartered in 1987 to be used in Reykjavik as a hotel ship during talks between Reagan and Gorbachev, went to The Isle of Man for ferry use between there and Liverpool and Belfast, and in 1988 went to Comarit (a subsidiary of Fred. Olsen), became BOUGHAZ and sailed between Algeciras and Tangier and this is how we saw her today. The yellow funnel is so Fred. Olsen and despite various conversions and the addition of sponsons, I think she looks a very attractive ship from the outside.
The ship decks were being hosed down as we walked around, but once we were out in the shipping lanes and climbed up to the top deck, we were buffeted by the strong winds and could see the deposits on the rear of the two engine exhausts.
The delightful Forward Restaurant was open for lunch – customers are customers - so we enjoyed the views and the soup, and the delicious fresh dates. We also liked the sign outside banning dogs in the Restaurant, before arriving back in Algeciras.
We were guided off the ship by a member of staff, along the overhead gantries towards the exit, taking pictures through the open windows of the gantry at the ship we had just left.
Whistles started blowing, shouting noises filled the air, and we realised that one member of officialdom didn’t like us taking photographs! Too bad! As there were several windows with glass missing, we decided to take a few more photographs! What a shame he didn’t realise that if the ships didn’t have passengers, he would be out of a job…
Then it was back to the car and home to Malaga, and back on board FUNCHAL in time for 9 p.m. dinner and departure for our next port of call at Ceuta, in North Africa.
Ships seen: Diheciocho (tug), Evelyn Maersk, Lidon B, Maersk Byuton, Oceana, Grand Princess, Le Rif, Boughaz, Hawk Explorer of Seabird, Jaume 1, Jaume III, Luz de Mar (salvage ship), Avemar Dos, Milenium Tres, Al Mansour, Atlas, Banasa, Tanger Jet, Safmarine Tarifi
to be concluded...
Friday, 24 September 2010
Friday, 17 September 2010
FUNCHAL CRUISE 5th September 2010
I’ve long wanted to sail on the little FUNCHAL of Classic International Cruises again so I flew to Lisbon in Portugal in time to have a day there before embarking on a 4 night cruise with some friends. I settled into my downtown hotel after an evening arrival, enjoyed fresh olives and then the first fish meal of the trip, and looked forward to enjoying myself in this maritime city.
Saturday 4th September 2010
Shiny cobbles were under the soles of my shoes as I set off for the River Tagus after breakfast, walking through the pedestrianised streets of the area, and marvelling at the local trams and hillside sights in the heat.
I was going on the water for the day, on a River Cruise taking me along the wide river, to stop for an hour at the famous Tower of Belem, before returning up river; the panoramic sights (Cathedral, Castle, Museums, Palaces, etc.) were featured in a leaflet handed out on board, which I found fascinating as we glided along. The loudest part of the cruise on LISBOA PRINCESA DE BELEM came when sailing under the Bridge of 25th April and hearing the noise of the road and rail traffic crossing the river on it. I feared for the ears of the local inhabitants, but thought it a very elegant structure.
Other river traffic included the Hapag-Lloyd cruise ship C. COLUMBUS, moored at one of the two cruise terminals along the riverside, several old and new ferries crossing the river at various points, cargo ships being loaded and tugs bustling around.
Several hours later I was back at the hotel to meet and greet my first FUNCHAL friend (Matt), have a telephone chat with an extremely excited 4 year old grandson about to start full-time school on Monday, before setting out again for the LVT ferry terminal at Soder and another river trip.
This time it was on the 1954 built EBORENSE car and passenger ferry to cross the River Tagus to Seixal. That was fun! On the Seixal side we could see the SINTRENSE berthed at the quay.
Naturally we had to disembark, and then embark to return across the River but the bonus was to see the C. COLUMBUS leave the cruise terminal and cross our stern.
Another FUNCHAL friend (Soren) arrived from Denmark so we strolled out in the hot darkness to find a local restaurant with fresh fish on the menu. Just near the river we found an establishment with hot coals showing where a large fish grill had been set up under a tree, so hunger and thirst were slowly satisfied.
The stroll home went past other street cafes and then past the huge lift (Elevador de Santa Justa), built in 1902 to take people up to one hillside church, and now a National Monument.
Ships seen: Lisboa Princesa de Belem, King Byron, S. Jorge, CCNI Ebro, Svitzer Leixoes, Svitzer Lisboa, C. Columbus, Antero de Quental, Eborense (1954 river ferry), Campolide, Carnide (catamaran), Sintrense (older ferry berthed over at Seixal), S. Nicolau, Leao Holandes
Sunday 5th September
Hooray – Funchal day, and another balmy balconied breakfast before taking a taxi to the Alcantara cruise terminal for our cruise on FUNCHAL. The 1930s building is spacious and its offices also include those of the legendary Mr George Potamianos, Chairman of Classic International Cruises.
Our other Funchal friend (Bruce) arrived from Scotland, so our little group was complete and we happily walked across the vast concrete terminal quayside towards the blue and white balloons tied to the sides of the gangway. No foot-passenger coaches and ISPS fencing here, that we could see! The flags fluttered, the balloons bounced, the gangway gleamed, the ship sparkled and there was an air of happy anticipation all around.
FUNCHAL was built in 1961 as a passenger, mail and cruise ship by Helsingor Skibsvaerft Maskinbyggeri in Denmark, for Empresa Insulana de Navegacao of Lisbon, with a gross tonnage of 10,030, a service speed of 20 knots from her steam turbines, and a passenger capacity of 400 in two classes, with Denny Brown stabilisers, and air conditioning. After new diesel engines in 1973 and conversion to a cruise ship, she moved to Cia. Portuguesa des Transportes Maritimos (CTM) in 1974, from whom she was frequently chartered in the 1970s by the Swedish travel firm Fritidsresor. In 1985 the Portuguese government decided to close CTM and auction the ships, and in August FUNCHAL was bought by Arcalia Shipping, a company set up by Mr George Potamianos, a cousin of the owners of Epirotiki Lines of Piraeus. Thereafter, she began her life with Mr Potamianos’s newly created Classic International Cruises of Lisbon, Portugal. To this day, she continues to provide a delightful small ship experience in a niche market. I’m fortunate to have two of the original brochures with me on board and to be able to compare the ‘then and now’ views of the ship. We loved all the woodwork of the forward staircase and the Reception area, and the comfortable but stylish public rooms and cabins. The friendliness of the staff was another bonus.
Despite a mix-up in the cabins by the Lisbon office (resolved on board thanks to Bruce) we were soon unpacked and ready to enjoy the first Restaurant meal on board, before sailing from Lisbon at 3 p.m. in the bright sunshine. We headed down the River Tagus and out into the Atlantic, towards our first port of Gibraltar. During the afternoon I was thrilled to see a big whale emerging from the deep blue waters and blowing, before submerging and rising again several times.
The Cruise Director Mr Telmo Miranda came to say hello and welcome us on board. He also mentioned that during the ship’s recent Mediterranean cruises it had been so hot that some of the plastic chairs on deck had started to soften! This resulted in some passengers suddenly lurching to one side as their seat softened and tilted them sideways. He laughingly recommended that we might like to put one chair on top of another before sitting down!
Captain Antonio Albuquerque invited all 400 passengers to a Cocktail party that evening in the Ilha Verde Lounge, followed by a Gala dinner, so it was ‘posh frock’ night and a very convivial time in the original Tourist Class Dining Room. From our second sitting Lisboa Restaurant midships table, we were able to enjoy the sea views out to both port and starboard.
Ships seen: tug Valente, Clara Maersk, various little Portuguese fishing vessels, so like the ones we used to see from the Union-Castle Mailships when sailing down to Africa.
Monday 6th September 2010
Portugal is on British Summer Time so, as we are heading east today, our clocks and watches have been put forward to be the same as in Gibraltar, where we are due to arrive at 3.30 p.m. Boat Drill was held at 10.00 a.m. but, as the only English speakers on board, there was another Drill especially for us, conducted in English.
During the morning we were interested to see the ship REGINA BALTICA, heading north en route to her charter in the Faroe Islands as a domestic ferry.
Soon we were approaching the Straits of Gibraltar and, just as I hoped, there were the dolphins in the water, leaping around the ship for many minutes, dozens and dozens of them, and so beautiful to watch. At the same time there were lots of ships to see and the cameras were in constant use.
After berthing we ventured out into the tremendous heat, to walk into the town and along Main Street. High above us was the famous Rock of Gibraltar (mythologically one of the Pillars of Hercules) and all around us the historical sights of this place, which is a British Overseas Territory, situated at the southerly point of Spain. We stopped at the Mission to Seafarers’ Flying Angel building, as I wanted to say hello on behalf of the Eastbourne Committee, but no staff were on duty at that time.
We were interested to see the Trafalgar Cemetery, for those who died in Gibraltar after the 1805 battle, the rest having been buried at sea, and the Museum containing the John Mackintosh Hall.
Back on board we hoped for a swim but the pool had been netted over for the night, so we had to content ourselves with a drink in the wonderful forward Gama Lounge on the Promenade Deck. It is still so similar to the original design in one of my brochures, and such a joy to be able to step through one of two doorways and walk on the forward deck above the forecastle.
After dinner we could return to this deck to watch our departure from Gibraltar at 11.30 p.m., and see the current IBN BATOUTA of Comanav pass nearby, going into a planned dry docking here in the port. Only a couple of months ago I located my 1970 leaflet of the 1966-built IBN BATOUTA, which was needed for research purposes, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this ship. The day ended in the warm darkness of Gibraltar, with FUNCHAL sailing overnight to Malaga in Spain.
Ships seen: Atlas, Kingdom of Fife (off-shore supply ship), Comanav something, Spabunker Twenty, a Baluda Lines ship, Vemaoil IX, Pacific, Obo carrier, Ievoli Shine, Aeolos from Monrovia, King Darius (Majuro), Nisyros, a Russian ice-breaking tanker (SCF – Safety Comes First) of COMFLOT – State-owned Russian Oil Company, Asiaborg of Wagenborg, Federal Pioneer, Acciona ferries, East Express, NYK Line ship, Excelsior of GNV, a Fred. Olsen ship, Rooke – our tug, Ibn Batouta - the Comanav ship going into a planned dry docking
to be continued...