Monday 18th July 2016
I think we were all up before sunrise this morning, having slept remarkably well until 6 a.m. here on board VITSENTZOS KORNAROS. We were approaching the Great Harbour of Piraeus, seeing several familiar ships as we headed for our berth.
We disembarked at 7 a.m. (late) and headed for the Salamis island ferry, on the far side of the harbour. A good bakery provided the morning's early breakfast necessities and we were soon on the good ship ELENA F heading out to sea for the hour's journey to the nearby island. It was another golden morning on the blue seas.
Ice cream at Salamis tasted like nectar as we headed back to Piraeus.
Next we made time to visit the famous Telstar bookshop run by Costas, to have a chat and buy the latest Ferry & Cruise Review magazine with its topical information. Then it was time to walk another block to collect the booked hire car, and brave the Piraeus traffic for a short distance to drive to Perama. There we were able to get a close look at ALKYON, who used to sail the Brindisi//Durres route. She looks in a sorry state.
Then we headed to Elefsina waterfront, with views to the other side of the bay and MYTILENE, built in 1973 (we went on her in September 2012), and PENELOPE A (we went on her in August 2013), the 1972 built ex-HORSA. Photos taken, we had time to join locals on the little beach and paddle in the sea, whilst others swam. What mixed memories of Elefsina we have to take home.
Back in the car we headed south-east down to the port of Lavrion, found a parking space near one of the waterside restaurants and enjoyed a late lunch.
Back in the car and driving to the ferry port, there were sudden shouts from my friends as they spotted something unexpected on the rough ground at the side of the road, beside a wall. We came to a sudden halt and the men leapt out; I grabbed my camera and photographed them sitting on a SEALINK bench, in what is virtually the middle of nowhere in SEALINK terms. As the authors of the wonderful book "SEALINK AND BEYOND", they certainly know their subject of ferries and if they say that bench was a SEALINK product, then it is! They knew that the ex-HENGIST had been laid up here at Lavrion for a while some years ago, so presumably items had been taken ashore for other use at the time and this bench had remained, even when the ship had left. Photographs were taken.
Once the shock had been absorbed, we continued to the ferry berths. We are to get the MARMARI EXPRESS sailing this afternoon at 4.30 over to the island of Kea, which should take about an hour. She was built in 1985 at 1,863 gross tons.
It was a lovely time at sea, with hot sun, sparkling water, and the island of Kea always in view ahead of us.
No sooner had we berthed and disembarked than the Hellenic Seaways ferry ARTEMIS arrived and berthed very near, so there was the usual hustle and bustle of cars and people in the port area. She left soon after, the roadway was cleared and we could enjoy a quiet cup of tea or cold drinks on the waterside.
We embarked back on MARMARI EXPRESS ready for the 6.30 sailing back to Lavrion and enjoyed another restful sail.
Back at the port we had a last look at MACEDON, MASTERJET, TAXIARCHIS, ALIOS (the ex-NORKING), and the charter yacht ISSAN ALBAHA, before getting back in the hire car to drive north to Agios Konstantinos. It was an interesting journey along a good road between high mountains, with occasional amazing views ahead. There was little traffic on the dual-carriageway route and we eventually arrived at the little seaside town and located our hotel for the night. The lady owner greeted us each with a hug and kiss and made us very welcome. The car was parked safely in a relative's back yard and all was well.
Our ship for tomorrow, MIRTIDIOTISSA of Aqua Ferries, had already arrived and we could walk along to the nearby ferry berth and see her settling in for the night, with the ramp partly up to deter visitors after she had unloaded.
Ships seen at Piraeus: Celestyal Crystal, Celestyal Olympia, Blue Galaxy, Blue Star Delos, Alexandros Korais, Sea Cloud (the 4 masted yacht), Superfast XII, Kriti I, Panagia Tinou, Blue Star Naxos, Flying Cat III, Nissos Rodos, Ariadne, Ionis of Leve Ferries, Posidon Hellas, Carnival Vista, Knossos Palace, High Speed 6, Flying Dolphin XXIX
Ships seen at Elefsina: Theofilos, European Express, Alkyon (at Perama), Talos, Mytilene (built 1973), Penelope A (built 1972) the ex-Horsa
Ships seen at Lavrion: Masterjet, Marmari Express, Taxiarchis, Macedon, Alios the ex-Norking, Issan Albaha the yacht,
Ships seen at Kea: Artemis of Hellenic Seaways, Saffet Ulusoy a UN ro-ro, b 2005 at 29,004 gross tons, seen as we headed for Kea
Ships seen at Agios Konstantinos: Mirtidiotissa (the ex-Aqua Maria) of Aqua Ferries
To be continued...
Sunday 17th July 2016
My alarm clock heralded the arrival of ANEK's KYDON at the island of Crete's port of Souda. We had permission from Reception staff to stay on board until 7.30 a.m. which was a better option than disembarking at 6 a.m. Passengers can always request this facility, as the ship stays here for the day.
Photos taken, we disembarked into another sunny day at 31⁰ even now at 7.30. We walked from the quay into the nearby little main street, checked the bus timetables, and then enjoyed a breakfast outside one of the local cafes. We caught the bus to Chania town, and then walked the short distance to the main Bus Station, ready to catch the hourly bus at 10 a.m. west along the coast to near the port of Kissamos; this took an hour. Kissamos is the little port on a wide and sheltered bay, surrounded by high mountains, with sandy beaches, a few restaurants with rooms, local shops, and wonderful views all around. We made our way to our favourite beach area, settled on steamer-like chairs under the trees and prepared to enjoy the day doing nothing much.
Cold drinks soon arrived with a waiter, together with a tea tray for me, filled with a lovely china teapot, cups and saucers. Sand was under foot, with narrow wooden walkways between the seating and trees, and in front of us was the huge bay of sparkling blue sea; a couple of miles away we could see our ship for the overnight sailing to Piraeus. We spent the next few hours paddling, dozing, walking and talking, until 1.30 when we decided to move the few yards back to one of the nearby restaurants for a delicious lunch.
We arranged for a taxi to pick us up later and take us to the port of Kissamos and we arrived there in time to collect the booked tickets and go on board VITSENTZOS KORNAROS of Lane Sea Lines. She was built in 1976 at just 6,387 gross tons, as PRIDE OF WINCHESTER.
We sailed at 5.20 with the ropes removed as the ramp came up; the inevitable dog was on the quayside checking up on the activities. He stood quite near the ropes man and, when the order came to let go, the dog was not paying attention and as the rope came off the bollard we saw him suddenly leap up with the shock of it happening very near him! Luckily, I believe there is a photographic record of the surprised dog with all four legs off the ground.
We soon realised just how rough the seas were outside the area sheltered by the bay, although it was sunny and pleasant on deck for a while. Two and a half hours later we arrived at the narrow entrance of the port of Antikythira, and it was a great relief to get away from the rough seas outside. We haven't been here before and found the whole exercise of getting the passengers and their vehicles off and others on the ship quite, well, extraordinary in these extreme wind and sea conditions. No sooner were we within the narrow entrance to the tiny bay than we had to turn to port ready to get our stern lined up with the quay, with our turning circle extremely limited by a white buoy on the port side and mountainside rocks on our starboard side.
Most of us passengers headed forward at first to watch the turn, then to the stern to overlook several deck officers instructing the brave ropes men down on the ramp. It was obviously not easy to tie up on the quay, so the ramp was partly down, ready to be lowered at great speed as we finally approached. The wind and sea was having a powerful effect on the ship even within the relative safety of the little bay, and everyone admired the amazing seamanship that enabled us to get one rope ashore. Many of us applauded the crew for doing their jobs in what seemed to be extremely difficult conditions.
Passengers raced ashore when instructed, others rushed to embark when told to do so, and then one big car reversed up the ramp and onto the ship at great speed, again when told to go, go, go.
I think the whole exercise took about 20 minutes from when we entered the bay to when we left it, but goodness me, I think it took great skill to make the call at Antikythera. Presumably only small ships like ours, at 6,387 gross tons, are the only ones able to do it. I was told that in the winter there are only 55 inhabitants on this island, but it is popular in the summer when the ferries can get there.
I think I will draw the proverbial veil over the next few hours, as the sea conditions became very unpleasant and we three ferry folk felt unwell. I took no more photos that day, as I was seasick (ugh), and then we simply took to our beds very early hoping to endure the overnight hours until we reached Piraeus early tomorrow. I soon slept soundly and in no time it seemed to be morning, thank goodness.
Ships seen: Kydon, Vitsentzos Kornaros
To be continued...