Friday 26th June 2015 (continued)
This is the last day of my holiday and I planned to make the most of it, by enjoying this first ferry ride to Ischia and then sailing on another one back to Naples.
My travelling companion will be sailing part of the way back but will disembark at Procida for an overnight stay before he flies home tomorrow. It is a small island, with ruined remains of its founding in the 8th Century BC, as well as more modern delights and ferries.
The harbour entrance to the port of Ischia is narrow and it was easy to see when our next ferry came sailing in: it was ROSA D'ABUNDO, sailing for Medmar. Medmar changed its name in 2002 from Linee Lauro, and this was one of the ships in their fleet at the time. She was built in 1981 as the ANGELINA LAURO, at 851 gross tons.
There was a very efficient man on the quayside telling us all where to stand, please, so that the disembarking passengers and vehicles could get off the ship safely - some people tried to ignore him, at their peril, as he wanted the ship cleared quickly! It was interesting to watch his style of working, which he has obviously perfected over the years.
Soon we were allowed to walk on board and look around this little ship which had blue furnishings and was cool and welcoming on board. Many of us chose to sit up on one of the canvas-roofed open decks to benefit from the sea breeze. The sun shone, the sea sparkled and there was lots to look at as we sailed at 10.35 a.m. from Ischia towards Procida and Naples. We seem to have done a lot today already, in a comfortable and leisurely way, after the early race from SNAV SARDEGNA.
We arrived at Procida and there were fond farewells between the two of us, as passengers left the ROSA D'ABUNDO and others came on board.
I waved at the quayside and then sat back on the top deck under cover, to continue to enjoy the delights of being at sea.
Back in Naples I disembarked with everyone else, went through the passenger terminal and was glad to see a free blue shuttle bus waiting to take us all to the Maritime Molo. Then I did a hot little walk to the Pic Nic cafe, which I'd located on the internet. Not only did they make and sell fresh salads and other food and drink, but they also sold Airbus tickets at a discount; I could sit in the shaded comfort of the cafe and enjoy my lunch before I had to catch the bus to Naples Airport from a nearby stop. I waited beside the bus stop in the shade of a very wide advertising pole (inspired positioning on my part) and was surprised at the number of taxis that pulled up and offered to take nearby bus passengers to the airport for some expensive fare. The bus arrived and I was soon at the airport, ready to fly home to the UK and resume my other life.
Ships seen: Rosa d'Abundo, Catania, Driade, Don Peppino, Allure of the Seas, Laurana, Vincenzo Florio, Rhapsody, Capri, MSC Divina, Giove Jet, Benedetta II, Isola di Capri, Island Escape, Aldebaran, Macaiva, Fauno, Naiade, Tourist Boat Secondo, Agata
It was a long time since that e-mail arrived on Christmas Day 2014 inviting me to join two of my friends for ferrying in June and we had all been looking forward to it as the plans were made by them. My holiday had been fascinating, travelling on many interesting ships, in good company, and I felt so lucky to have been Ferrying in '15.
Friday 26th June 2015
On board SNAV SARDEGNA we are due in Naples at 6 a.m. and I notice that my first photograph of the day is taken just after that, so we must be running a little late. We are part of the morning ferry arrivals, although I can see a couple of cruise ships following us in: ISLAND ESCAPE and ALLURE OF THE SEAS.
We are approaching an unexpected berth, not at the maritime terminal, but no-one seems to know why. Some of us are watching what is happening on our port side, and that's when I hear shouting and see arm-waving from the quayside. Just a few feet away from our hull is an unexpected small rowing boat, and it is not the 'ropes' man for our ship; in fact as the rower idles for a moment a dark shape emerges from the water and it is seen to be a diver in a wet suit! This obviously causes consternation as the diver hauls himself very quickly into the tiny rowing boat, and the rower starts to row away from the quay. This causes even more consternation as he is seen to be heading straight for one our ropes being towed by our own 'ropes' man. The rower suddenly realises what is happening and hurriedly changes direction (still rowing and facing backwards of course) and missed our trailing rope by nothing much. He could be seen rowing all the way across the harbour at some speed for some time...
After that excitement, things settled down and we were tied up safely, but none the wiser about the diver in the wet suit or the contents of the rowing boat. We were also none the wiser about disembarking from SNAV SARDEGNA. We passengers hovered around the lounge, bars or reception areas, but nothing happened and there were no announcements. Out on deck however we realised that the giant ALLURE OF THE SEAS had taken up our expected berth (and probably others too) so we had been allocated one that had no gangways or facilities for cars, ramps or foot passengers. We could see eventually that every car or lorry on board had to get off the ship one at a time, wait to make a sharp turn, and then join the nearby roadway. A break was made during this activity and foot passengers were marshalled down various stairs and decks until we could finally walk off the ramp on to ground level. I think we disembarked at 7.35 a.m.
We walked very fast after this, round and out of the ferry port, past the maritime terminal, and down to the ticket office for the Ischia ferries. This was very busy and we discovered there was only one man on duty selling the Ischia tickets; luckily for a lot of us hoping to get the 7.45 a.m. ferry to Ischia, there was a man from the ferry itself who seemed to know about the SNAV arrival delay and sent a message to 'hold the ferry'. Lots of us almost flew the last few yards to the vessel, and thanked them for waiting for us. We fell into lower deck seats and breathed heavily for some time.
We are to sail from Naples to the island of Ischia, calling at the island of Procida on the way, with the whole journey taking just under an hour. We are on board ALDEBARAN, built in 1987 at 224 gross tons, and a fast craft sailing for Caremar. We left Naples harbour slowly but once beyond the breakwater picked up speed and rose above the water. Many passengers left at Procida and some got on; we had time to look at a notice about pets on board which must be in a Pet-Bag.
Soon we arrived at the island of Ischia and disembarked, and enjoyed walking around the port town of this popular and beautiful island. There was time for a coffee break before making our way slowly round to another part of the bay for a ferry back to Naples.
Ships seen: Island Escape, Allure of the Seas, SNAV Sardegna, Aldebaran, MSC Divina, Niaide, Vincenzo Florio, Benito Buono
To be concluded...
Thursday 25th June 2015 (continued)
At the railway station we bought tickets for Palermo, further west along the northern coast of Sicily, and caught the 13.50 train. During the journey I enjoyed dozing, listening to music, or drinking water, and I finally managed to finish reading last Friday's English daily newspaper. I had been reading various pages over the week, and discarding them for recycling as I went, but this all made very little difference to the weight of my rucksack.
We arrived at Palermo station at 17.29 later that afternoon, in great heat, and immediately noticed the sleeping dogs lying on one of the platforms. We all know what we have to do with them, don't we. We decided to take a taxi to the port, as it was some distance away, and once there we could see our ship for the night's sail from here in Palermo: SNAV SARDEGNA, of Grandi Nave Veloci (GNV).
My friend wanted to photograph some other ships so I climbed the metal staircase on the quayside and boarded the vessel midships. She seemed huge after the morning's little ferries; she is 33,336 gross tons, was built in 1989 as OLAU HOLLANDIA, became PRIDE OF LE HAVRE, and then SNAV SARDEGNA. I looked around some of the public areas and was particularly impressed with some of the original artwork in Reception.
Out on deck I could see LA SUPREMA in her new logo paintwork, which is not universally popular I believe. It is certainly noticeable.
Black smoke was coming out of our funnels for about 10 minutes, but once the ropes were let go we knew we were about to sail, on time, at 8 p.m. We saw the Pilot boat approach our starboard side, and then could see the Pilot himself stepping on the bow of his vessel. He held a mobile phone tightly to his right ear with his right hand all the time we could see him, and presumably was also talking into it; as we watched he continued talking into his phone as he stepped onto the inside deck of the SNAV SARDEGNA. The pilot boat pulled away and we gathered speed and turned to leave the harbour. I have never seen a Pilot board a vessel in this way before, and can't believe he was talking to the Captain. Hmm, seems a bit of a cavalier approach to what I always thought of as a professional job of work......
On the way out of the harbour we passed a small ship A F MICHELA which was half painted, as if her future life might be changing. I later discovered that this was her eighth name since she was built in 1974, and I have seen her before but with one of those previous names.
One of my friends said she is a really fascinating ship, and that he can claim something of a personal interest in her. "Like the Laurana she is ex-Adriatica, although from a slightly earlier, 1970s, generation. She did some really long voyages in her time, such as Venice-Dubrovnik-Piraeus-Heraklion-Alexandria, one of the final great cross-Med ferry routes. She was rebuilt in the early 90s but, before that, Michael Palin travelled on her when he went around the world in 80 days: http://palinstravels.co.uk/book-8. There is a brief history of the ship: http://www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com/adriatica/eseeng.html here."
My friend notes the last page hasn't been updated for her most recent sale, which is to local Sicilian operators for use to the remoter islands around the coast of Sicily. Now we know why she was only half-painted when we saw her.
My friend also notes that
"She is something of a personal favourite as she was my very first Southern European (outside the Canary Islands) ship when I sailed on her during her final years with Adriatica from Brindisi to Patras back in August 1999 - so she was the first of many! We caught up with her again in 2011 on what was a rather damp sailing to Albania and she is very '1980s Adriatica' on board, similar in some ways to the Laurana."
After sailing from Palermo in Sicily, we were heading for Naples, back on the Italian mainland, where we are due at 6 a.m. tomorrow. We made our way to the formal Restaurant, which was about a quarter full, for an evening meal. It was very cold in there and I had to collect some warmer clothing; the waiting staff had a very casual attitude to taking orders or delivering them, but the food was pleasant. After dinner I had a final warming-up session by going to the disco and dancing with some charming Italian ladies who made me welcome, so the evening ended on a high note.
Ships seen: A F Michela, SNAV Sardegna of GNV, Splendid, La Suprema in new GNV colours, TransHawk, Palladio of Siremar being worked on, MSC Opera also being worked on, Minerva Uno
To be continued...