Ferrying in July 2018 Part 2
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...