Sunday 15th July 2018
At the Skopios Sea Side Hotel we enjoyed a good breakfast at 7.30 and were packed and checked out by 8.15, ready to drive to the Great Harbour of Piraeus. Last night the harbour seemed fairly empty for a Saturday night, but now it was filling up nicely with many ferries and we could take photographs. We parked near one quayside and soon boarded ANEK's big ship EL VENIZELOS, ready for departure at 10.00 a.m. We have a day cabin to use and enjoy, during our long sail south to Chania, Crete, where we are due in at 7 p.m.
For some of the background to the ship, maritime author Anthony Cooke says that in 1988, Fred. Olsen began planning a new 26,000-ton ‘mega-ferry’ to be given the hopeful name of BONANZA. The origins of this vessel were somewhat unusual. She was one of four over-night ferries which had been ordered from Polish builders by the Stena Line of Gothenburg as long ago as 1979. The shipyard workers of Gdansk and Gdynia were, of course, at the forefront of the brave Polish struggle for independence from Soviet domination in the 1980s but in the process they frequently ‘downed tools’ and disrupted production. By 1986, only two of the four ships had been delivered and Stena’s patience finally ran out. They cancelled the orders for the remaining pair.
The third vessel had been launched in 1984 without name or ceremony (although apparently the original intention had been to call her STENA BALTICA) and she lay, engined but otherwise unfinished, until 1988. Olsens saw an opportunity and bought her through a London finance company. They announced plans to send her to the Bremer Vulkan yard at Vegesack for completion as by far the largest ferry yet to run on their Kristiansand-Hirtshals route. However, in the event, she remained laid-up in Poland until the following January, when it became known that Olsens had sold her to the Cretan line ANEK. It was rumoured that they had made a pleasant profit on the transaction. Her new owners had her towed to Perama, near Piraeus, where she was completed. She entered their service as KYDON II in 1992, later being renamed EL. VENEZELOS.
My friends had told me about this chequered history and it certainly is out of the ordinary. She is 36,261 gross tons, registered in Greece, with her home port in Chania, in Crete.
Two of us have been on this ship before, but for my other friend it was to be what we described as a 'mini-cruise'. We were up on deck watching all the surrounding arriving and departing vessels in Piraeus, and I noticed that here on board the swimming pool was empty of water and netted. Oh dear, I'm getting used to that sight - what a shame. As we sailed away I remembered my out-of-date chart at home of Piraeus and the surrounding areas. Our car journey yesterday was so interesting because I could trace our route to Perama, on the ferry across to Salamis Island, and then our drive around part of the island hillside roads to look down or across to the ships.
We set off on our long journey south to Crete, from here in Piraeus Great Harbour, and I was pleased to see that the broken harbour entrance light and jetty has been repaired. An MSC cruise ship damaged it a few years ago (goodness knows how), so I do hope they have paid for that building work.
After we left the harbour I was able to walk around the ship and enjoy what I could see today. We spent time in the forward lounge, then walked aft, enjoying the flow of the design of this big ro-ro passenger ship.
The sea was calm, the sun shone, we had the day ahead of us to chat, eat, sleep or do nothing to our hearts' content, and that's what we did.
By late afternoon we had to prepare for arrival in Crete and in fact we arrived earlier than expected at 6 p.m.
We disembarked in beautiful late afternoon sunshine, took a few more photographs, and then walked into the small town of Chania. A nearby cafe was offering cool delights and we could also watch part of the World Cup Football Match of France against Croatia: no wonder there was little traffic on the roads nearby.
A little later we could return along the quayside and check in for our return journey on EL VENIZELOS back overnight to Piraeus. We were able to board soon after 8 p.m. ready for departure at 10 p.m.
It had been a wonderful first day at sea on a very interesting ship.
El Venizelos (ANEK) Line, Blue Horizon, Festos Palace, Apollon Hellas, Hellas Liberty, Nissos Chios,
To be continued...
One Friday in July 2018 I realised it was time to pack the rucksack and set off for Luton Airport, one that is new to me. Luton is in the English county of Bedfordshire, and the airport is about 40 miles northwest of London.
Saturday 14th July 2018
An early flight brought me and one of my travelling companions to Athens airport in Greece, after a three hour flight. Another friend soon arrived and an air-conditioned hire car collected. We were now on Greek time, which is two hours ahead of British Summer Time. We have been enjoying (or not) a long heat wave in much of the UK for many weeks now but the even higher temperatures outside the port of Pireaus were still a shock, at 38 C.
A drive around various viewpoints at Elefsina on Elefsis Bay and Drapetsona gave us some distant views of other ships at rest.
After driving to Elefsis to see what could be seen from there, we headed to Perama.
Our first ship of the trip was from the little port of Perama, sailing over to the island of Salamis on the passenger and car carrying ALEXANDROS K.
The views from the island hills above Salamis port were lovely, although we could see various familiar ships below us waiting for repair or a different future. Some had obviously not been given the chance, and just sank where they were.
Back in the port area of Salamis we drove on to the KONSTANTINOZ for our sail back to Perama on the mainland.
During this return trip to Perama I took a last photograph, showing some interesting things over on the Salamis Island side where we had been driving round earlier.
Agia Zoni II, see Note 2. below
Then it was time to drive back to Piraeus and head for our overnight hotel along the coast. Parking proved easy near the Skopios Sea Side Hotel and we were soon checked in and prepared to go out for dinner. The recommended Pharos restaurant meal was worth walking to, before heading back to our hotel. Tomorrow morning we plan to enjoy an early breakfast before heading into the Great Harbour for our 10 a.m. sailing.
From the plane by my observant travelling companion: European Express, Vitsentzos Kornaros (Lane Sea Lines), Mykonos Palace, Ionian Sky,
At Elefsis: Penelope A, Mytilini, (Thomson) Majesty seen over the other side of the bay; Dion, Alexandra near us on the little beach at Elefsina
At Perama/Salamis: Okeanos 1 (see note 1. below), Anna Maru, Alkyon 1, Swift, Elli T, Lisa I (ex-Spathoek, ex Schleswig-Holstein) in Salamis, Kalli P, 2 x newbuild double-ended ferries, tug Christos XXXIII, Panagia Agiasou (retrieved from her grounding earlier this year), Aeolos Kenteris I, Aeolos Kenteris II, Agia Zoni II (see note 2. below)
Picture P1120934 shows on the left of the picture, in dry dock, the brand new, Greek built car ferry for Italian Railways (FS/Bluferries), the Okeanos 1, which is destined for use on the Straits of Messina when finally delivered.
Picture P1120934 also shows a listing ship to the left of the big red crane. This is Agia Zoni II, a small tanker which I'm told sank last September (2017) causing huge amounts of pollution. See:
Her recovery was quite interesting:
At Drapetsona: Alkyon, Anemos, Aqua Solution, Zakynthos 1 (Kefalonian Lines)
Golden Moon, ex Rasa Sayang, ex De Grasse, ex Bergensfjord (built 1956), which sank near Perama on 17th August 1980
At Piraeus: Paros Jet, Phivos, Knossos Palace, Nissos Rodos (arriving), Blue Star 1 or 2, Andreas Kalvos (arriving), Champion Jet 1
To be continued....
Friday 22nd June 2018
Today we arrived in the picturesque ancient port of Honfleur in France. It is known for its artists such as Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet, plus the churches and port area. It is situated on the River Seine, and this also makes for a delightful cruise from the sea, inland perhaps to the city of Rouen (see blog).
After breakfast I walked into town by way of local footpaths from the port (outside the fenced area of course) and beside the river into town. I went over the lock and into the inner harbour, to enjoy the warm sunshine. One of the excursion coaches gave me a lift back to the ship, and then the ship prepared to sail at 12 noon.
The sail along the coast from Honfleur is lovely in daylight sunshine and everyone on board seemed to enjoy the views before and after lunch.
We sail overnight to our final port of Tilbury back in the UK, so I packed my suitcase quickly and then was free to join in some of the ship's activities.
An announcement then told us that the pool had been filled! I saw no-one rushing to get in the cold sea-water, but several people sat nearby and relaxed on the red or blue towels.
My friend and I were happy to listen to music in the Charleston Lounge, take part in the Quiz, and then enjoy tea and a ship's scone with jam and cream.
The water was beautifully calm and at one point on our port side I could see tall white cliffs, which I felt sure would be the Seven Sisters and South Downs near the famous Beachy Head Lighthouse. At that point I went to see the lovely ladies in Reception who kindly rang the Bridge on my behalf to see if my guess was right. The phone was handed to me and the Deck Officer I spoke to confirmed that it was the cliffs in the Beachy Head area that I could see and had photographed. I asked him how far away they were and he thought about 20 miles. The air was certainly clear and I was amazed to see them.
Later that day we had another enjoyable dinner in the Marco Polo Restaurant, then went back to the Charleston Lounge to enjoy the evening sunshine as we sailed along the French coast side of the Channel Separation system.
Back in the Charleston Lounge we were talking with a lady and her aged mother about the shipping area and she mentioned that her husband was sailing a yacht off the east coast of Scotland at present. My friend showed her the website of marinetraffic.com and we managed to locate her husband's vessel at its location at 9 a.m. this morning. It was suggested that she might contact him and tell him to turn on his vessel's AIS (Automatic Identification System). She sent him a text! My friend also showed her several photographs relating to her husband's boat and she laughed at one picture that showed her wearing red trousers.
During early evening after departing Honfleur, we saw 3 large cruise ships off the coast near Dover bound for Southampton. The first was Celebrity Silhouette. The second were near sister Sapphire Princess and then near sister Azura.
Ships seen: Aegean Odyssey, Kikki C, Mont St. Michel ferry in the distance, Celebrity Silhouette, Sapphire Princess, Azura, plus various tankers and fishing boats
Saturday 23rd June 2018
This morning we docked early in Tilbury, back in the UK. Many passengers were continuing on the next cruise, and the rest of us had been given a letter yesterday offering a 50% discount if we wanted to stay on board and continue the next cruise. I believe one or two people took up this offer, and one lady said she would be happy to go out and buy some more suitable clothing to take up the offer.
We had an early breakfast, then collected suitcases and disembarked from AEGEAN ODYSSEY. I had really enjoyed my cruise on this little ship, despite the occasional poor weather. The included excursions had been all I had hoped for, and more in the case of St. Michael's Mount, and the food and service on board was excellent. I would be very happy to sail on board AEGEAN ODYSSEY again.
Thursday 21st June 2018
Very early this morning we sailed into the deep water entrance of the River Dart, to visit Dartmouth here in Devonshire (another of the Shire counties). We turned mid-river and were facing out to sea, which was almost out of sight because of the bend at the entrance. In olden times castles were built, one each side of the river entrance, to protect Dartmouth and Kingswear from enemy action, and they can still be seen.
Up on deck the sun was warm and the sky blue, which was all very welcome. Of course we could hear the incessant noise of our engines coming from the aft end of the funnel, which has been part of our life every time we have been ashore. It proved to be very noticeable today once we had gone ashore into the little towns of Dartmouth or Kingswear, set amongst the steep hills beside the River Dart.
My friend showed me a picture at the useful website of Micke Asklander, at http://www.faktaomfartyg.se where the 1973-built ship Narcis is listed. During part of her life as AEGEAN I in June 2009, what we know as AEGEAN ODYSSEY was being fitted out again in Keratsini; the website shows a lovely picture taken by Georges Koutsoukis of the ship having a new funnel fitted over the previous one, and this could account perhaps for the current noise.
http://www.faktaomfartyg.se (Micke Asklander)
I asked and was given permission by Micke Asklander to use this photo in my blog, and I am happy to acknowledge his help.
I was able to take some more on board photographs after breakfast and before leaving the ship.
This morning the excursion people left the ship by tender first and then we were able to do the same, on lifeboat number 7 acting as a tender.
They were all running to the Dartmouth side of the river and we were soon standing on a pontoon and walking to our first ferry of the day. We sailed on the KINGSWEAR PRINCESS across the River Dart to the Kingswear side. We could hear the whistle of a steam train as it left the Kingswear station pulling many carriages along the coast, and this sound mingled nicely with other sounds from craft on the river.
From the ferry we could finally get a photograph of AEGEAN ODYSSEY in sunshine, on the water.
Kingswear Station proved interesting with a good model of the paddle steamer WAVERLEY in a glass case, an Edward VII Royal Mail red post box still in a wall beside the platform, and a popular cafe.
We decided to try another ferry, which was heading towards us. This was unexpected to look at, as it was a tug attached to a pontoon, which crossed to and fro across the River Dart with vehicles, here at the lower ferry point. We went over on the TOM AVIS.
Because of the current the ferry cannot travel in a straight line, and has to take an angular course across the water. I think that's the only way to describe it, but it was very enjoyable for the few minutes we were on it. The other ferry doing the crossing was available so we went back again on that one - this time it was TOM CASEY, the tug and pontoon vessel.
By this time we were on the Kingswear side again, and needed to be back at the Dartmouth side ready for a treat at 12 noon. Fortunately the DARTMOUTH PRINCESS arrived at a nearby pontoon and we sailed on her back cross the River Dart to the Dartmouth side. We could hear our AEGEAN ODYSSEY noise all the time.
Our treat was a trip on the Paddle Steamer KINGSWEAR CASTLE, which lived in the river, tied up at yet another pontoon nearby. She came alongside and all the booked passengers boarded with great excitement. She was built in 1924 and is on the Register of National Historic ships; she is the only operational coal-fired river paddle steamer in the United Kingdom. We set off on this amazing little ship and headed towards the river entrance, and could see Kingswear Castle and Dartmouth Castle before we turned to head back and up river.
This was the most delightful and fascinating paddle-steaming along the calm water of this valley, with its steeply wooded sides and occasional houses, as we twisted and turned along the way. We could hear the paddles turning steadily and the Bar on board opened to provide whatever coffee, drinks and snacks were required. Many of us sat in the sunshine on deck and simply smiled at each other and enjoyed the surroundings. The ship is allowed to carry a maximum of 235 passengers but I don't think she was full today, which made for great comfort around the decks.
We had paddled for about 40 minutes when we reached another wide part of the river and KINGSWEAR CASTLE then showed us how easily and tidily she could turn, although she needed a big turning circle. It was all fascinating and lovely to see her circular wake after we started to paddle back to Dartmouth. I was told by another female passenger that the Ladies Toilet facilities were interesting, so of course I went to find out. Indeed they were, and I wasn't the only one to admire the sanitary ware on this little ship!
Back on the pontoon and then the quayside, it was pleasant to stroll along the riverside towards one of the few hotels further along. I liked the look of a sign outside a pub and decided to photograph that on the way back.
Instead of lunch today, we are going to have a Devon afternoon cream tea at the hotel, and that was very creatively presented. In Devon it is said that cream should be put on the scone first and then jam after that. The person I sat next to decided to do one scone-half the Cornish way and the other half the Devon way, but both tasted good. It is a matter of personal preference apparently.
There was another ferry in sight nearby and of course that had to be tried. It took vehicles and pedestrians across the river on what is known as the High Ferry. When we first looked at it, it could not unload on the Kingswear side because the steam train was coming through, and the road was shut.
The train passed and the road opened, and then the ferry could unload. It loaded more cars and then came across to our Dartmouth side to collect cars and pedestrians. We walked on board, paid the fares and looked around for the name of the ferry. It didn't seem to have one, but this is a cable ferry taking 5 minutes to cross and costing 70 pence per pedestrian each way.
The walk back to our ship tender was interesting, going through the town, and I know I would enjoy coming back here again.
We caught ship's tender number 8 back and were soon on deck again and ready for a cup of tea. We have been on 9 vessels today, including AEGEAN ODYSSEY.
AEGEAN ODYSSEY is due to leave Dartmouth at 5 p.m. and preparations were going on around us. We understand that there are about 250 passengers on board. Everyone is invited by Captain Panagiotis Giakoumatos and his Senior Officers to a Farewell Cocktail Party from 6.30 p.m. in the Ambassador Lounge, but there was time to stay on deck and watch 2 Sikorsky helicopters fly from the Naval College over the river and back again. We sailed away and left Dartmouth and Kingswear behind to enjoy the peace without us.
Ships seen: Sea Seeker, Kingwear Princess, Aegean Odyssey, tender number 7, Kingswear Castle, Tom Avis, Tom Casey, Dartmouth Princess, tender number 8, Dartmouth High Ferry, Prince Rock, Dart Explorer, Patricia out at sea passing Dartmouth, a Cobelfreighter, a Grimaldi car ferry
To be concluded...