Saturday 8th September 2012
Here we are on Blue Star PATMOS arriving in Piraeus again, well before the crack of dawn.
It was 6.20 a.m. as everybody disembarked in the darkness, but we walked along the quayside, passing FESTOS PALACE and the luggage lorry off-loading beside it, back to the shipping line offices. I looked after the bags whilst my companion went to buy the tickets for this morning’s sailing on Blue Star NAXOS to Mykonos. The usual port dogs were wandering around, and I noticed a couple of them climb into a stationary local bus for a while, before getting off and doing other things.
The sun gradually came up over the surrounding mountains and we hurried on board with hundreds of other passengers. We are to depart at 7.35 a.m. from Piraeus to Mykonos new ferry port, calling at Syros and Tinos en route, and arriving at 12.35 p.m. so there will be good time for lunch before our next sailing this afternoon.
Leaving the great harbour of Piraeus we could see many ships in their berths, or just arriving, including masted sailing ships. Because it was Saturday the NAXOS was extremely crowded and we were glad to have tickets for the forward First Class Saloon to enjoy the more spacious and less crowded surroundings. The sea was somewhat rough this morning, with quite a breeze, but the sky and sea was blue and it was becoming very hot again. We watched other ships departing on their various routes to the islands, including the SPEEDRUNNER 4.
The black smoke being emitted from her was phenomenal and, although we knew she must be using really cheap fuel, it did look as if she might be on fire at first sight. That smoke even drifted over to us for a short while. Cappuccino and a cheese pie removed the taste of the smoke from my nose and memory.
Our passage to Syros was quite rough compared with our usual calm waters, but it was possible to rest comfortably in our Saloon, and we felt very lucky to be seated there. In port we could see OCEAN MAJESTY, now with a Turkish line I believe; she was built as a ferry in 1966, but after several owners, charters and a conversion started sailing in 1994 as a cruise ship.
Near her was HASABI II, which I found out was a yacht built in 1950, now registered in George Town, with very elegant lines. There were several young Japanese passengers on board so a few of us ended up taking photos for each other on our respective cameras (all Japanese of course).
We disembarked at Mykonos down the passenger stairs and had to smile at the ‘goodbye’ poster on display.
We were half an hour late because of the wind but disembarked into the dusty sunshine and trudged up the hill to a terraced restaurant. Our view was of the new port and the vessels there, and it was amazing to think this had been created by 2006 at a cost of 13.4 million Euros. I had a delicious lunch of stuffed tomatoes, fresh bread, wine and water, at a table under the shade of a big tree, and was ready to go down the dusty lane to the port again for embarking on our last ship of the holiday: PENELOPE A of Agoudimos Lines, first known as HORSA. She is the sister of AGIOS GEORGIOS, the ex-HENGIST, both of which were built for Sealink and launched in 1972. HORSA was 5,590 tons when built and is now shown as 5,190 gross tons. I think one must mention HENGIST, HORSA and VORTIGERN (R.I.P.) in the same breath, and maybe SENLAC too.
We sailed on PENELOPE A at 3.15 p.m. into a slightly rough sea. Again we had chosen to buy first class tickets and so enjoyed the spacious Saloon. We are heading to the Greek mainland seaside resort of Rafina, which is also a popular ferry port. We are due to arrive at 8.05 p.m. and will stay there overnight before flying back to the UK tomorrow, so we had lots of time to see the sights of this old ship and enjoy the journey.
The harbour at Rafina was a welcome sight after such a breezy and slightly rough sail, although I was sad to think this was the last sailing of our Greek trip. PENELOPE A will be here overnight, with several other ferries.
Accommodation was found at a local sea-front hotel, and then we could set out into the local town. There were hundreds of people out in the vast square up behind the hotel, so we joined them to listen to and enjoy a free band concert. There were also hundreds of small stalls at the side of the now-pedestrian roads and I have never seen so many clothes, toys and jewellery on sale for a long time. Set behind the stalls were many restaurants and coffee shops, so we were happy to join in the evening’s festivities.
Ships seen in Piraeus: Wind Spirit, Festos Palace, Superfast XII, Elyros, Highspeed 6, Speedrunner, Blue Star Delos, Serenade of the Seas, Star something with 4 masts, Sea Cloud, Blue Star Patmos, Corinthian II, Nissos Mykonos, Flying Dolphin, Blue Star Naxos, Theofilos, Panagia Agiasou, Jet Ferry 1
In Trapezona shipyard: Sea Breeze III, La Galera
After leaving Piraeus: Speedrunner 4 (not on fire), Phivos, Blue Star 2, Adamantios Korais, Marmari Express, Artemis
In Syros: Blue Horizon, Ocean Majesty, Horizon Diana (freighter), Hasabi II
At Mykonos: Penelope A, Ekaterina P, Blue Star Ithaki,
At Rafina: Blue Star Ithaki, Penelope A, Ekaterina P, Super Ferry II (Golden Star Ferries)
Sunday 9th September 2012
I wasn’t the only one who had been in Rafina port overnight, as several ships were still there, which I could see from the hotel balcony. The seaside beaches could be seen on the right hand side of the hotel.
The wind was still blowing hard, and the sea looked a little rough, but all the ships sailed and two others arrived to drop passengers and embark more.
Ships seen: Blue Star Ithaki, Superferry II, Ekaterina P, Penelope A, Evia Star, Sea Jet 2
I will be taking the local bus to Athens airport later this morning to fly home to England, having sailed on fourteen unusual and interesting ships during the last twelve days. I think it is the most beautiful way to travel to visit some of the Greek islands. The ferries are a necessary way of life in these waters, and I think they are just like little liners, each on their set voyages and providing a life-line to the islands. In the United Kingdom many of us consider ourselves an island race, a maritime nation, and of course over 90% of our imports arrive by sea. I think this is partly why so many of us feel comfortable and lucky to be able to visit Greece and enjoy the warmth, blue sky and blue seas, and have our own Greek Odyssey.
now known to be Elefsina, Aspropyrgos, Skaramagas with the island of Salamina in the top of the picture.
Friday 7th September 2012
Theofilos/Chios/Blue Star Patmos
Yes, things do look better this morning, if only because we are at sea, the sun is shining from a cloudless blue sky and the sea looks beautiful. I couldn’t wait to get out of the cabin and on deck, so showering/hair wash was a speedy affair despite the weird bathroom arrangements! Cappuccino and a muffin on the aft deck completed the recovery and then I could enjoy the glorious views. The engines of THEOFILOS sound all right, but the season ends in a couple of day’s time and this ship could be going you-know-where…
From my shaded viewpoint on deck I saw a passing cruise ship called AEGEAN PARADISE, from Etstur Lines, which was heading north presumably to Istanbul. Heading south, like us, was an attractive little vessel but she was too far away to identify.
In the Reception area I noticed a small table laid with a cloth and flowers, a comfy chair each side, and a big blue NEL Lines flag on the wall behind. This looked a brave attempt to smarten the area, and I particularly liked the big poster-size aerial view of Piraeus harbour which was on a nearby wall. It may have been taken in the 1960s so there were lots of ships to try and identify.
Up on the top deck was a big white container/‘box’, contents unknown, which must have been added at some stage of her career. Dog kennels were also on deck.
We are due in Chios soon at 11.30 a.m. and could now see land on both sides of the ship as we sailed along; in fact we arrived early, at 10.45 a.m. so were soon disembarking into the heat of the quayside.
As we walked out through the car deck I could see a small covered trailer with two furry heads peering out – it was two donkeys.
We have the day here, before leaving tonight on the new ferry Blue Star PATMOS, which should be in complete contrast with the 1975-built ship we are leaving. PATMOS was delivered from her South Korean builders in June this year.
From the quayside seats at the bus station we watched THEOFILOS leave, and apparently I missed seeing MYTILENE arrive and leave, as she was hidden by THEOFILOS. Oh well, I saw the poster picture and I have sailed on her.
A shady beach on the edge of town sounded like the ideal place to while away the hours until we could check in for tonight’s sailing, so we walked along and found one. I had a comfy blue steamer chair under a palm-leaf parasol, facing blue sea, under blue sky; it was hot, there was a gentle zephyr, the sea was lapping quietly onto the beach probably 20 feet away on a slight slope, I could see the mountains of Turkey across the water in the distance, and there was a very small beach bar offering drinks and snacks, so I paddled, chatted, slept, rested, photographed, snacked, listened to music, watched the big red bulk carrier come into view and the local tug inspect it from every angle, and did nothing much for several hours – very satisfying.
Back in town we decided to try a local delicacy called honey puffs, which looked light and full of calories. Where the plan was to share one honey puff, the reality was the arrival of the plate with 5 honey puffs on it, all smothered in white chocolate sauce. We could see other guests in the coffee shop tucking into their plates of honey puffs without stopping their conversations, but it was an impossibility to clear the plate in front of us, so we gave up. They were wonderful to see and try, but so sweet.
We had to walk after that experience, and enjoyed seeing more of the town of Chios before queuing to board our overnight ferry: Blue Star PATMOS. She was handed over to the Blue Star fleet only in June this year (2012), so it will be such a contrast to travel on a new ship. She arrived at 10.35 p.m., just half an hour before she is due to leave again, so passengers and vehicles had to disembark very quickly before we could board.
She was built by DSME (Daewoo) shipyards in Korea, at 18,498 gross tons. She carries 2,000 passengers, plus vehicles, and it felt as if she was fully loaded as we all went to find cabins (326 passenger beds), airline style seating (425) or other places to sleep. She appears well designed and fitted out, with so much light, and labour-intensive reflective surfaces everywhere. I thought the cabins were excellent, with their brand new fittings and so much light. My cabin also had a more conventional shower.
With so many people on board this big ship, to sail from Chios overnight to Piraeus, it was a little difficult to see all of her but she was extremely impressive.
I liked the chunky letters spelling out the word ‘welcome’ as we arrived in the public area, and the carpet with names and contours woven into it. We are due to arrive in Piraeus before dawn at 6.25 a.m. so it was a short night. Tomorrow will be the last full day of the holiday and promises to be yet another interesting time.
Ships seen: Aegean Paradise of Etstur Lines, small unidentified vessel, Navios Hyperion - bulk carrier built in 2004 in Japan, and a local Chios tug, Theofilos, Erturk 1, Psara Glory, Blue Star Patmos
To be continued….