Friday 6th September 2019
I think many of us now recognise the word 'hybrid' as signifying something that is a mixture of two things that have been combined. We are used to hybrid cars and now we can get used to the idea of a large hybrid ship.
Recently one of my good friends asked if I might like to meet him and travel on just such a hybrid ship that had just entered service. That sounded good to me and so I was at London's Gatwick Airport one dark and cool September morning to take an 06.30 flight up north to Gothenburg in Sweden. The pilot on my Norwegian Air Shuttle told us that we were flying at 41,000 feet, trying to avoid the weather below us, but when we arrived at Gothenburg airport at 09.20 local time the rain was coming down in torrents. My friend's flight arrived and we could then collect the hire car to drive further north for a couple of hours to Stromstad (still in Sweden).
We are booked to travel tomorrow on the brand-new plug-in hybrid ferry called COLOR HYBRID, designed by Ulstein Verft in Norway. Building started in 2017 to develop her as part of Color Line's fleet-renewal programme, and she has just been launched into service. She is the world's largest plug-in hybrid vessel and we are really looking forward to seeing her today and then sailing on her tomorrow.
Having arrived in the rain in Stromstad we were able to park the hire car near the port and get ready to watch her sail at 13.40.
She looks very big and eye-catching, in her smart new livery (navy hull with green markings) and we enjoyed watching her leave and turn to head for the gap between the distant islands and then cross the Skagerrak and Oslofjord. Photographs taken we could then drive round to the harbour to get something to eat before heading back to the port.
There were various small local craft to be seen under a lowering sky, and one I even photographed in the sunshine (VESLEO II). Then it was time to head back to the port to check in for our first sailing of the trip.
We are booked on COLOR VIKING to sail from here in Stromstad at 17.00 over to the Norwegian side of the Oslofjord at Sandefjord. The ship arrived and we drove on board and made our way up to the Oslofjord-Buffet Restaurant on Deck 6 for the Evening Buffet. We were booked for the Smorgasbord meal which was absolutely delicious, with so much choice for every course. The bonus of course was the views from the bow Restaurant.
Color Line's website (colorline.com) gives these technical facts about COLOR VIKING:
Year of construction: 1985
Shipbuilding yard: Nakskov, Danmark
Home port: Sandefjord
Tonnage: 19 763 brt
Length: 137 m
Width: 24 m
Deep-draught: 5,64 m
Classification: Det Norske Veritas
Service speed: 18 knots
Machinery: 16 965 hp
Max capacity: 1 773
Guest capacity: 1 720
Trailer lanemeter: 490
No. of decks: 9
Max height car deck: 4,35 m
The crossing was rough in places, still with heavy rain falling, but the ship arrived on time at 19.30 and we drove onto the quayside in the dark. We have to get a little further north now to get to our overnight accommodation at Tonsberg but the roads were good and fairly empty. It carried on raining. The little city is said to be the oldest in Norway, founded by Harald Fairhair in the 9th century.
We checked into a welcoming hotel in Tonsberg, with lots of interesting woodwork inside. Knowing it had been raining all day I was still amused by the distinctive smell of wet dog (we saw one earlier in Reception) when we got in the lift. My wood-panelled en suite room was warm and cosy.
Ships seen: Color Hybrid, Color Viking, Vesleo II, Kosterbris and another, Oslofjord of Fjord Line
To be continued...
Saturday 21st September 2019
Today is going-home day. Oh well, there's lots still to see and do before I sail from Aegina at 2.15, back to Piraeus. Breakfast was available on the landing near my room, with a wide selection to choose from. I could take everything into my room and enjoy sitting on the balcony with it, as I watched the happenings in part of the harbour. Plentiful supplies of fresh coffee were constantly available.
Then it was time to pack my bag and leave it with Reception and head for the waterfront.
I walked through the back streets, parallel with the water, and marvelled at everything on sale in the street stalls or in the little shops and cafes. There were pretty umbrellas/parasols, clothes, shoes, jewellery, flowers, and of course fruit and vegetables.
Back on the quayside there were many families out for a Saturday morning stroll, as they looked at the fishing boats and other craft.
Much later I had a coffee and then watched AGIOS NEKTARIOS arrive.
Lots of passengers disembarked and then we foot passengers were allowed on. Officially we departed at 2.15 but although the stern ropes were off, we then had to listen and wait for the ship to get her anchor up from the deep water far ahead of her bow. I realised that it took six minutes to do this, as she seemed to inch forward rather slowly.
Soon we were on our way and sailing across the sparkling water towards the Great Harbour of Piraeus. As we passed the shipyards way over on our port side I could see several small vessels low in the water, but only one had a name visible - BLUE STAR 1 That was interesting as there is a newer BLUE STAR 1 currently in service, which I saw tied up in Piraeus a little later. I could see the occasional IMO number, although not clearly, on other vessels.
Once we arrived in Piraeus port we turned and tied up and I could disembark onto the hot quayside. I walked out of the port gate and onto the busy pavement outside, and found a large air-conditioned establishment that I knew from other visits. It was wonderfully cool inside and I enjoyed my meal and drink, tinged with sadness at having to leave the port of Piraeus. I was pleased that my companion Jonathan B had time yesterday to visit the Telstar Bookshop that many of us know. They stock so many interesting maritime books and magazines. He had met and talked with Mr Costas Papaconstantinou, who asked to be remembered to me and sent best wishes. He was very pleased that Jonathan B had called in to visit.
Ships seen: Agios Nektarios, Apollon Hellas, Blue Star Paros, Blue Star 1, Jewel of the Seas, Nissos Rodos, Something else (Vision?) of the Seas, Dionisios Solomos, Sifnos Jet and Menekratis. There were others that I couldn't identify, but interesting to see.
Now though it was time to get back to Athens Airport and my flight home to the UK. The weather and sea conditions for my first few days in Greece had certainly been unexpected but I have enjoyed a fascinating ten days travelling on various ships to always interesting places, and in good company.
PHIVOS arrived at the Aegina quayside at 12.40 and I disembarked with everyone else, and made my way along the quay to the road. I soon located my small hotel set back from the road and trees and checked in. I had asked for a sea view if it was possible, and I was lucky. I had an en suite room with a view of the sea from a very small balcony, which was fine. It had room for two chairs and a table looking towards the sea in one direction and along a lane in the other.
I planned to get a local bus to one of the recommended island sights and so that afternoon I went to visit the Temple of Aphaia. It was said to have been built in about 490 BC, and it was very interesting to see the huge remains on this site. The views out over some of the island were stunning but the sky turned ominously navy blue at one point and then of course it rained. I was one of several visitors in this place who immediately went to the nearby cafe/shop and enjoyed tea under the shelter in this remote place.
I caught the bus back to town, enjoying the views through the light rain. We passed the huge Agios Nektarios Temple high up on a hillside beside the road, before descending down to the main road beside the port.
There was still light rain falling so I stood between two of the ticket offices on the quayside, looking out at a ship I have never seen before. It was the ANNA MARU, of Hydraiki Cruises and built in 1993.
I don't recognise the name but it seems she runs day cruises from Piraeus, calling at three islands, which sounds a bit of a rush. (I looked her up on the internet later and most of the reviewers were not happy.) I thought she had lovely lines and enjoyed watching her load up ready to depart. Once the ropes were off she seemed to hesitate for a moment, then turned easily and was suddenly off and away.
I was joined in my almost-dry spot between the rear of quayside booking offices by a young lady who told me was booked on the AGIOS NEKTARIOS, due to depart soon at 6.15 p.m. She had been hidden by the ANNA MARU but I could soon see that people were starting to board her. My new friend and I had been chatting for some time, as she said she was visiting Greece from New York for a week or two, and was enjoying all she had seen.
She then had to run through the light rain to the little ferry and get on board. The ship's ramp came up, and started moving towards the bow ropes to get her anchors up. That took some time!
Meanwhile someone was waving to me from the covered deck of the AGIOS NEKTARIOS and thinking it was my friend from New York I waved back of course. It was only a little while later that I had a message from my friend Jonathan B to say it had actually been him waving at me! He had enjoyed a ship visit to a mutual friend in the shipyards and when that ended he had enough time to get the first ferry out, to Aegina by chance, and then immediately return to Piraeus. By an extraordinary coincidence he saw me in my green shirt standing on the quayside near the booking office huts, and waved! Good job I waved back...
Funny old life isn't it.
I then went for a meal in a local cafe near the quayside, and as it was dark by then decided to take a well-lit route home to my hotel. Down by the water was yet another ship against the quay where I was walking, and I discovered that it was the GALILEO, of Variety Cruises. She is one of eight ships and three private yachts run by this company (varietycruises.com)
and I was immediately charmed by the look of this vessel with her three masts. She was launched in 1992, rebuilt in 2007, and renovated in 2016 according to their website.
Then it really was time to return to my hotel, after another fascinating day filled with ships and an ancient temple.
Ships seen: Apollon Hellas, Anna Maru of Hydraiki Cruises, a Flying Dolphin vessel, Agios Nektarios, Phivos, Galileo of Variety Cruises
To be concluded...