SUMMER 2016 - July ferrying, Part 1
Friday 15th July 2016
I took a 5.45 a.m. flight from Gatwick airport to Athens, flying east after takeoff, and I could see some of the City of London's skyline including the Shard skyscraper as we headed out.
We flew south of the River Thames and River Medway and I remembered visiting Chatham Historical Dockyard only three weeks ago. I spent a fascinating day there, seeing and hearing so many different things. My father had been apprenticed as a fitter to a nearby local ship builder and I took with me on my visit his Indentures of Apprenticeship dated April 1924. These ended in 1929 and several months later he went to sea as a very junior Engineer with Blue Star Line. Father's father had been an engine fitter in the Chatham Dockyard and in turn his father had been a blacksmith in the Dockyard. I just love knowing that they lived in Trafalgar Street! Nelson's ship VICTORY was of course built in Chatham Dockyard and launched in May 1765, took part in various sea battles, and became Nelson's flagship in 1803 until his death on board at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. The ship can now be visited in Portsmouth, still afloat after all these years. Several members of staff at Chatham would love to have her back in the Dockyard where she was built...
Back to the real world of today, and we arrived in Athens at 11.15 local time into hot sunshine under a cloudless blue sky. What a wonderful contrast with home in the UK. An airport bus took me and one of my travelling companions into the port of Piraeus where we met our other travelling companion.
We bought water, food for lunch at a local bakery, and then walked round the inner harbour to look at the tragic sight of PANAGIA TINOU, better known more recently as AGIOS GEORGIOS and then originally as the famous HENGIST of Sealink days. She had been in winter layup in Piraeus's inner harbour but suddenly leaned over in May and now rests on the bottom, with a red boom around her. I have had many happy sailings on her from here but we all wondered if we might ever do so in the future.
Rather than dwell on that, we took the little ELENA boat out to Salamis island and enjoyed our picnic lunch on the way. It felt wonderful to be at sea again, passing so many big ferries and cruise ships in the Great Harbour as we headed out. We have many days of ferrying ahead of us and this was a wonderful start to the trip.
In lay-up we could see LOUIS AURA, looking unchanged, THEOFILOS, AQUA JEWEL, ALKYON, and of course RASA SAYANG (the sunken remains of the cruise ship BERGENSFJORD), and many other familiar names on the way to Salamis.
Panagia Tinou, ex Agios Georgios, ex Hengist
Back in the harbour we checked in for our first big ship of the trip: BLUE STAR PATMOS, which we are taking to Naxos via Paros. She was built in 2012 at 18,498 gross tons.
We left at 5.30 p.m., had a delicious fish dinner, enjoyed the warm sea airs, called briefly at Paros just before 10 p.m. and arrived at the island of Naxos at 10.50 p.m. We were met on the busy quayside by the man from our overnight Panorama Hotel, and we all walked up the steep hillside streets almost to the castle walls. It was hot and picturesque, and the air-conditioning, cool showers and comfy beds were very welcome.
Ships seen: Elena ferry to Salamis, Knossos Palace, Blue Horizon, Panagia Tinou, Prevelis, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Adamantes Korais, Flying Dolphins 18 and 29, Blue Star Patmos, Louis Aura, Theofilos at Perama, Corinthian small cruise ship, Agios Meklarios Aeginas, European Express, Pelagatis, Kriti I, Nearchos, Highspeed 4, Highspeed 6, Champion Jet 2, Spongebob Squarepants, Corse, Sunny (ex Trelleborg), Ionian Sky, Nissos Samos, Rasa Sayang (the remains of Bergensfjord), Kali P, Caribbean Galaxy (Atlantic Blue Seaways), Aqua Jewel, Alkyon, Flying Dolphin XVII and XVIII, Celebrity Reflection.
To be continued...