FERRYING IN '15, 24th June, Messina
24th June 2015 continued
In Milazzo after lunch the Giuntabus took us to Messina in fifty minutes, and then we could walk to the railway station to check train times for one of my friends to make his way home to the UK. Our overnight hotel was closed so rucksacks had still to be carried but there was time for my friends to discuss onward sailings before we parted company. It had been good fun to travel together.
Two of us therefore made our way to the railway station to buy tickets and find our way to the platform for the train ferry sailing across the Straits. The whole night train was going to Milan, made up of half a train from Palermo and half a train from Siracuse; once combined they would make up a complete train which had to be loaded onto the train ferry across the Straits of Messina, in sections to fit, before combining again on the mainland side to make its way all the way up to Milan in northern Italy overnight. We would not be doing this of course, but simply crossing the Straits.
We boarded the train and watched in fascination as we heard, felt and saw the train approaching the train ferry. We were to sail on the MESSINA, from Messina, across the Straits of Messina - which I thought was a very satisfactory thing to do!
I gather that due to limited space, the linkspan has various tracks for different lines on to the ferry and dock lines. These can then be raised or lowered according to the tides; as the line is not electrified onto the linkspan, the diesel shunter is used for the first few metres between the limit of electrification and the ferry, and then it leaves.
Our section of carriages was the first part to be separated from the complete train, and we were shunted onto one side section of the train ferry. We were in part-daylight so we could look through the grubby glass window and see one of the marshals on the deck nearby. Once we were secured and the shunting engine went back for another section of train, we could get off the carriage and climb the nearby stairs up to the train ferry deck.
MESSINA was built in 2013, at 5,700 gross tons as a ro-ro train ferry, to sail for RFI between the port of Messina on Sicily and Villa San Giovanni on the Italian mainland. In February 2015 it was announced that part of the train ferry service was to close, with only the one night sleeper remaining, so we felt so glad to see this new ferry. We had enjoyed sailing on the train ferry ROSALIA across the Straits in July 2008 and had happy memories of those trips. This new ferry was very light and bright on board, with spacious bar and seating areas; out on deck we liked the little 'bridge' effect over the railway carriages below on the train deck, so that we could stand and look down and see what was happening. Soon the shunting and loading was complete, the ramp came up and we were off.
There were several other ferries around us as we sailed on this new vessel, and like us they were heading across the Straits of Messina to or from the mainland.
Soon we had arrived at Villa San Giovanni and the whole process of getting the train carriages off the ferry began. We returned to one of the carriages and watched the marshals outside on this lower deck. The shunter arrived to take our carriage off the ferry, and then we were amazed to see a railway man standing down below our forward-facing window waiting to couple the carriage and the shunter together. He had to stand below the joint and wait to do his work, all the while avoiding the huge moving parts coming towards him. This looks a dangerous job and I can only hope he is well rewarded!
Soon the whole train was complete again and could be taken to the station. We finally disembarked onto a platform, and watched as preparations were made for the train journey north to Milan overnight. Coo, this reminded me of a journey in reverse last year (Ferrying in '14, see blog) when we left Milan to come south on the overnight sleeper train along the Italian east coast to Ostuni.
We finally left the station and made our way out to the Bluferries fast craft TINDARI JET for the journey back to Messina.
That took just 20 minutes and soon we could disembark and watch MESSINA leave the harbour for another trip from Messina across the Straits of Messina - just as we had done, but on a train.
We walked to the Hotel Garibaldi and checked in, with a warm welcome. An evening meal at a nearby local restaurant was next, and I enjoyed a wonderful salmon ravioli dish. It had been a fascinating day again.
Ships seen: Laurana, Sea Dream II, Star Breeze, Mirella Morace, Eschilo, Ariston (coaster of Marmaris), Antioco,
and then this afernoon: Wilhelmshaven (Stena ro-ro), Tremestieri, Riace, Messina, SNAV Aquarius, Villa, Logudoro, Vestfold, Tindari Jet, Enotria, Fata Morgana, Isola di Stromboli, Pace (on drydock),
To be continued...