SUMMER 2016 - July ferrying Part 9
Saturday 23rd July 2016
Here in Brindisi it was another alarm clock start to the day in our hotel private suite but we were soon downstairs and heading for breakfast in the basement room. We left our luggage in our rooms whilst we walked in the shaded back streets to a local supermarket for fresh fruit and bottled water, and then returned to order a taxi to take us back to the port in 20 minutes time.
It was whilst we were making last-minute preparations to leave our rooms that I glanced up from my room to discover a strange man standing just yards away from me inside the hallway. We had left the outer door ajar as one friend was downstairs, so this was rather a shock, as it wasn't the man from reception. This man was someone with part of one arm missing, with the remainder covered in black mesh fabric. He said something and I immediately called out to one of my friends; we soon realised he was asking if we had finished with the rooms, but for a moment I did wonder if a stranger had wandered into the hotel and up to our rooms.
The taxi arrived, goodbyes and thanks were said to the man in reception and we noticed that the disabled man we had seen earlier was now working in another part of the reception area.
The booked tickets were collected at the port terminal building and we walked along the quayside towards two remarkable ships, both looking really good in the hot sunshine: firstly we photographed PRINCE, formerly PRINS JOACHIM which I sailed on in April 2009 in the Baltic, and which we hope to sail on this evening. She entered service only on 7th July this year, having left Scandinavia about 23rd May.
Secondly we could photograph our ship for today, the VASTERVIK, sailing for EMC (European Management) since entering service in April. We boarded VASTERVIK and found reclining seats in the Pullman area, ready for our sail from here in Brindisi to Igoumenitsa. We are due to leave here at 11 a.m. and arrive there at 8 p.m. in good time to catch the 10 p.m. departure of PRINCE who will be sailing the same route as us today.
Whilst we were waiting for our ship to be loaded, we watched the departure of PRINCE. Oh my, that's a lot of very thick black smoke coming out of her funnel! Should we call her 'Black Prince', I wonder...?
We are to carry a large load of lorries, and our departure was eventually at 11.45 but we hope she might make up time during the day. We noted that VASTERVIK had only started her service in April.
After a rest on my reclining Pullman seat, we all met up again for a tasty lunch in the Restaurant. We then found very comfortable seating in what seemed to be a large forward lounge and established a base there, watching out of the big port and starboard windows as we sailed through the blue seas.
Sometime later I went aft onto the now shaded open deck, and put a seat near a cut-out window shape with the most delightful little cooling breeze coming in. I met a man with a little friendly dog who obviously had the same idea. We could see the mountains to our port side as we sailed towards Igoumenitsa. The water was beautifully calm and like the proverbial mill-pond and sparkled in the sunlight.
Near mid-evening we approached Corfu, and it seemed to take such a long time to berth and sail again.
We are late and we need a really fast trip to get to Igoumenitsa in time for our 10 p.m. sailing on PRINCE. The time passed and we began to be hopeful of disembarking quickly, collecting our booked tickets from the agents and getting our ship. Hopes faded however as VASTERVIK had such time-consuming difficulties in getting the ramp lined up at the quayside.
We were finally standing beside the car ramp, as it was likely to be our first opportunity to get ashore. The lining up continued and in the end one friend (the fastest runner of us all) took our passports and the necessary credit card and, as soon as allowed, leapt off the VASTERVIK and ran straight to the booking agents. They were situated outside the port buildings and he had to get across a dual carriageway road. He had to dodge some traffic already manoeuvring on the quayside on to the nearby PRINCE but did it safely. We noted that it was 10.05 when he was allowed off, and we were so glad to see that PRINCE was still there despite her 10 p.m. departure time.
Meanwhile I scurried off the ramp of VASTERVIK and along the short distance to the ramp of PRINCE. My other friend had running friend's luggage so was somewhat weighed down.
I arrived on the still-down ramp and was immediately asked for my ticket by one of the several people waiting there. I smiled and said that the tickets were coming - waving arms towards the terminal building - with a friend. By this time the friend with rucksacks had arrived and I said three of us had just arrived on VASTERVIK - over there - and a third one of us would arrive with tickets any moment.
This was where the men's eyebrows rose and they asked:
You have arrived on Vastervik?
You have a car?
You get on this one?
At this moment running friend arrived with tickets and handed them over for the three of us. Talk about a comedy scene. Running friend was exhausted with his sprint to and from the ship, to the booking agent right outside the port, and then to this ship, and it seemed best that I talk for the others for the moment.
Why do you want to get off VASTERVIK and come on PRINCE?
Because we like ferries.
That seemed to do the trick, because the senior-looking man on the ramp introduced himself as the Captain and Master of PRINCE, and immediately asked if we would like to come and visit the Bridge with him, for departure from Igoumenitsa. Of course we all said yes very happily and followed him quickly. Tickets were taken, we almost ran after the Captain, past Reception where we were told to leave our rucksacks there in safety, up past the Bar where we were asked what we would like to drink; 3 bottles of water were handed over by a smiling young lady who was asked to 'put them on my account' by the Captain, and we continued to rush after him.
We climbed up the final steps to the Bridge and immediately the order was given to get the ramp up and we prepared to sail on PRINCE from Igoumenitsa. I think it was about 10.30 p.m. by now but our breathing had returned to normal and our spirits had risen enormously and we felt so lucky to be where we were right now. The Captain explained everything about the departure and the sea channel and I shall never forget the sight of the green and red buoy lights as we sailed through that narrow channel. We have always been aware of the possible hazards here just from daylight sailings in and out of the port but when I could see only red and green lights ahead of us and the narrow width between them, it made us all very grateful for safe navigation rules and expertise in following them.
Once out of the channel and on a heading for Corfu, then Brindisi, the Captain opened a Bridge door and invited us to walk around the outside of the Bridge, on the slatted metal platform. That was yet another memorable sight, as we stood under the stars and slowly made our way right around the outside of the Bridge. This was perfectly safe, as members of the crew need access to the outside of the Bridge for various reasons themselves, but it was yet another extraordinary event for us.
Once back inside the Bridge the Captain invited us to return tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. if we would like to be there for arrival in Brindisi; he shook hands and then said goodnight and that was our Bridge visit on PRINCE.
We returned to Reception for our bags and a kind member of staff carried one of them as he showed us to our cabin, beyond a locked area. This is where we had another shock as we had been allocated part of what had been the aft Bridge starboard side on PRINS JOACHIM, now divided up into several cabins. Ours was the outside starboard one, which meant a door opened up onto the starboard side Bridge wing, just like having a balcony...
After thanking the man from Reception and closing the door to the alleyway and opening the door to the 'balcony', we all felt a little hysterical laughter was appropriate, before taking photographs of our accommodation.
We needed food by then and went to the still-open Buffet; I recognised part of the deck plans including the playthings for children and we discussed the events of the evening over our meal. We had noticed that the Captain was not in strict uniform but had a smart Scandlines white shirt on. He told us he had worked on cruise ships in the past including BERLIN, and was now retired. However he had been asked to take over the new ship PRINCE when she came down from Scandinavia. She left there about 23rd May and entered service with European Seaways about 7th July, and he would be working for the summer season.
My friends wanted to take more photographs so I retired to our cabin and enjoyed a shower. The balcony door was propped open and we all slept beautifully in the little bunk beds, lulled to sleep with fresh air and the sound of the ocean outside.
Ships seen in Brindisi: Prince, Vastervik, Euroferry Olympia, Euroferry Egnazia
in Corfu: Club Med 2, Kerkyra Express
To be concluded...