• Alexandros Vrailas

Saronic Gulf One-Day Ferry Trip on 3 July 2015

On 3 July 2015, I had my first trip with a Greek ferry for my 2015 summer vacation. Though this post is not a tribute to a particular ferry, it is rather a description of all ships I saw during this trip (as they were many). It was a round-trip to the island of Aegina, one of the two islands in which I go to every summer, as you already know. Traditionally, my mother and her own mother go to Aegina a few days before we leave Athens for Zakynthos, in order to store in our Aegina house whatever we do not need for the vacation (such as oversized bags, warm clothes) and in order to take whatever is necessary for the beaches (volleyballs, rackets, towels, which stay in our Aegina house all year long). This time, I also went to Aegina in order to help my mother and my grandmother, so it was also an opportunity for me to see the Greek coastal service ships for the third time in the last four days. I went to Piraeus for the first time on 30 June 2015, as well as the following day. Also, I went to Lavrion the next day (2 July 2015) after a visit to my aunt and my cousins in Sounion, so it was the fought straight day seeing Greek coastal service ships overall. We took the conventional ferry PHIVOS of Nova Ferries to Aegina, and we returned with the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins a couple of hours later.

As I mentioned it previously, this is not a tribute to any of these ships, as the tribute to the PHIVOS will be made in June 2016. Moreover, it was hard to take pictures of the crowded indoor area of a hydrofoil. Also, I did not take any pictures of the PHIVOS' indoor areas that day. However, these trips were exceptional as it was my first time at sea during that summer, and I managed to see many other ships in Piraeus and in the middle of the Saronic Gulf. The pictures below will describe you the experience of both trips to the second nearest island from Piraeus, Aegina.

On board the PHIVOS. I immediately went to the outdoor deck in order to take pictures of the other ships. Next to the Nova Ferries ship was her Saronic Ferries joint venture partner, the ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries.

One of the two identical bows of the ACHAEOS. It was her second straight season operating in Aegina, and her third season overall, having spent the beginning of her career there (in 2006). Since 2014, she has been on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

Further left was the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 1, owned by Hellenic Seaways, which has been operating on the Saronic Gulf since her delivery in 1991.

The ACHAEOS seen resting in Piraeus. Between her first year of service in 2006 and the 2014 season, she operated on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line (except between 2011 and 2012, when she had a brief charter in Italy, operating for local company Blunavy on the Piombino-Elba line).

As I looked towards the South, I saw from a far distance the cruise ship CELESTYAL OLYMPIA. Owned by Greek-Cypriot company Celestyal Cruises, the ship had just exited the port in order to leave for her Aegean Sea destinations.

On my right, I saw the Cretan ships, most of which I had also seen on 1 July 2015. Here was the BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

And right behind her was Blue Star Ferries' other Cretan ferry, the BLUE GALAXY. I had seen both ships two days prior to my trips with the PHIVOS and the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA.

The impressive BLUE GALAXY, which was receiving bunkers by a tanker owned by Aegean Marine Petroleum.

Passing right in front the PHIVOS, the ELENA F of Elena F Shipping was returning to Piraeus from Salamina.

Three completely different ships all operating on the Saronic Gulf: a double-ended ferry (the ACHAEOS), a high speed catamaran (the FLYINGCAT 1) and a small passenger ship (the ELENA F).

As I kept looking towards the South, I saw two Greek coastal service ships which had just arrived in the port of Piraeus. The first ship was another high speed craft of Hellenic Seaways, the FLYINGCAT 3, while the ship following her was the ferry AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries.

A close view of the FLYINGCAT 3, which returned from her morning schedule, which was spent on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line.

The FLYINGCAT 3 having arrived in Piraeus. It was her second season operating under the Hellenic Seaways Cosmote livery following her return from the engine failure she suffered in 2012. In 2015, she also made extra trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line on the Saronic Gulf.

The FLYINGCAT 3 quickly reached her docking spot, located in the E7 gate.

The FLYINGCAT 3 having docked in just 25 seconds, with the BLUE HORIZON seen right behind her.

As the FLYINGCAT 3 had already docked, the much slower AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries was still standing in the same spot. Incredibly, she is one year younger than the catamaran, though the latter's speed is justified as she is a high speed craft.

Another view of the FLYINGCAT 3 and of the BLUE HORIZON.

As well as another view of the FLYINGCAT 1. She has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf under the same name, though she operated under different companies. These are Ceres Flying Dolphins (1991-1999), Minoan Flying Dolphins (1999-2002) and their successors Hellas Flying Dolphins (2002-2005) and Hellenic Seaways (since 2005).

A sneaky view of the ships located near the two Blue Star Ferries ships (in the E4 gate). On the left is the laid-up PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines, and she is seen alongside active veterans, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS of LANE Sea Lines and the PREVELIS of ANEK Lines.

An overall view of the E3, E4, E5 and E7 gates in Piraeus. We can see the BLUE HORIZON, the FLYINGCAT 3, the BLUE GALAXY, the PANAGIA TINOU, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the PREVELIS all docked together in that area.

The PHIVOS just departed. Here is a full picture of the ACHAEOS.

Along with another picture showing her bow.

The PREVELIS of ANEK Lines, which operates on the Kasos-Karpathos lifeline since 2009. Her entire itinerary consists of the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes line.

And right next to her is another lifeline ship, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, which operates on the Peloponnese and Kythira-Antikythira lifelines, namely on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos line. Coincidentally, both ships arrived in Greece in 1994, and both have been serving their respective lifelines since 2009, and, also, both are acclaimed ferries in the Greek coastal service.

The BLUE GALAXY seen in Piraeus, receiving bunkers.

Along with the BLUE HORIZON, also receiving bunkers by an Aegean Marine Petroleum tanker.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen in Piraeus, with the PANAGIA TINOU, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the PREVELIS behind her.

On the port side I saw the ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries, seeing her for the third time in the last four days. She is a familiar face, as she had previously operated on the Ionian Sea, making occasional appearances in Zakynthos through the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, though she was mainly on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. I traveled with her in 2012 from Kyllini to Zakynthos, and three years later, she was operating with her fleetmate, the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, from Piraeus to the Western Cyclades. More specifically, she was operating on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line.

The ANDREAS KALVOS, along with the high speed ferry MASTER JET of Sea Jets, which I had also seen two days before my trips with the PHIVOS and with the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA.

It was a busy season for the MASTER JET, as she operated on all of her company's lines during the spring and the summer, mainly as a spare ship, though she was then permanently deployed on her company's Western Cyclades service. That day, she was having her first trip on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line, after having been replaced by the CHAMPION JET 2 on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos Santorini line, and she stayed there until the arrival of the PAROS JET in August, when she was then transferred to the Western Cyclades, on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini line, in the place of the CHAMPION JET 1.

The ANDREAS KALVOS, in her first season following her second conversion in Keratsini and in Piraeus, which took place in early 2015. She spent the summer on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line for the first time in her career.

Crossing the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS as she is preparing to dock in the E8 gate where we were standing.

Another view of the Cretan and Southern Aegean Sea lifeline ferries (from left to right): the BLUE HORIZON, the BLUE GALAXY, the PANAGIA TINOU, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the PREVELIS.

The two Japanese-built Cretan Blue Star Ferries ships: the BLUE HORIZON and the BLUE GALAXY. Another coincidence is that both ships previously operated on the Adriatic Sea as competitors, both were out of service in 2012 with rumours of their sales to Asian companies, and now they are fleetmates operating on the same island: Crete. Furthermore, both ships also used to be fleetmates when they operated in Japan, as they were both owned by Higashi Nihon Ferry (which also owned several other ships that went on to spend their careers in Greece).

The classic Greek ferry AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS, which has been deployed on her namesake's island (on the Piraeus-Aegina line) since 2001, and since 2007 for her current owners.

The hard-working MASTER JET resting before her afternoon departure to the Cyclades Islands.

As we kept sailing, we passed by the cruise ship terminals, where we saw the small cruise ship TERE MOANA of Paul Gauguin Cruises. She was previously the LE LEVANT of French company Compagnie du Ponant, before being sold to Paul Gauguin Cruises in 2012. A frequent visitor in Greek ports, 2015 was her final summer with her owners, as she was sold the following year to the company Grand Circle Cruises. It is still unknown where she will operate and if she will be renamed.

Another view of the BLUE HORIZON, in her second season operating on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

On the other side of the cruise terminals were the Vassiliadis Drydocks, which are hosting the floating museum HELLAS LIBERTY, one of the three only Liberty ships to be still 'alive' today.

Returning to Piraeus was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins, on which we traveled a few hours later when leaving Aegina.

As we were about to leave the port, we saw the flagship of Superfast Ferries, the SUPERFAST XII, which had just arrived from the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.

The building of the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean, now known as the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy.

The fantastic SUPERFAST XII seen in Piraeus. It was her first time operating on the Aegean Sea since 2012, as she was previously on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, and it was also her first-ever season on the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. Indeed, the summer of 2015 marked her debut on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes line.

The SUPERFAST XII, the flagship of a unique company, which celebrated its 20 years of service in 2015. All ships had a celebration logo on their sterns, right next to their names and ports of registry. You can see them a bit in the previous pictures.

The bow of the SUPERFAST XII. She has been the flagship of Superfast Ferries since she was delivered to the latter in 2002.

The laid-up JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries right next to the entrance pier in Piraeus.

Another view of the SUPERFAST XII. Her career has so far been spent on the Adriatic Sea, primarily on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line (2002-2008 and 2013-2014), though she served the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari-Ancona line during the 2004 season and the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona line during the 2014 season. She also operated on the Piraeus-Heraklion line from 2009 to 2012, and since 2015 she has been operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes line.

The JET FERRY 1 spent two more months in Piraeus before being temporarily towed to Elefsina for further lay-up. She has been inactive since she completed the 2008 season under her owners on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades (where she had started to operate in 2002). Since 2009, all ships owned by GA Ferries were arrested in Piraeus due to the economic difficulties of the company. All of them headed for scrap between 2011 and 2012, and the JET FERRY 1 is the only one to have ben spared so far.

The CELESTYAL OLYMPIA being cleared by the pilot boats in order to depart for the Aegean Islands and Turkey.

The CELESTYAL OLYMPIA departing. It was her first season under the colours of Celestyal Cruises, which was formerly known Louis Hellenic Cruises (or just Louis Cruises, for whom she sailed as the LOUIS OLYMPIA). Aged 33 at the time, she also had spells with Royal Caribbean International (as the SONGBIRD), Sun Cruises (as the SUNBIRD) and Thomson Cruises (as the THOMSON DESTINY) during her career.

The great CELESTYAL OLYMPIA, possibly the flagship of Celestyal Cruises.

The CELESTYAL OLYMPIA heading for the Aegean Islands.

A small containership, the BF CATANIA of German company BF Shipmanafement, in Piraeus Roads awaiting to dock.

In the Piraeus Roads area, you can find many ships that are either awaiting their turn to dock on the cargo terminals, or laid-up permanently. An example of this kind of ships is the one above. It is the MAKEDONIA, owned by Samothraki-based costal service company Saos Ferries, an abandoned ferry. She was bough from Japan in 2006 and had started her conversion in Perama until 2008, when the conversion was halted because of the company's huge financial difficulties. The ship never managed to complete her conversion and she was reportedly sold for scrap in 2013, leaving Perama for Turkey, only to surprisingly return to Greece in order to stay laid-up in the Piraeus Roads area. She has stayed there ever since, being a major issue to traffic as she has constantly been languishing in days with bad weather. Nothing seems to be saving this ship from misery...

Aegina seen from our exit from Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA quickly passed by us in order to reach Aegina. While also racing against a seagull :)

The speedy FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA. I fear the sailing ship behind her as the former's waves will definitely be shaking the latter.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA on her way to Aegina. She has been owned by Aegean Flying Dolphins since 2010, and spent her debut season on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses-Porto Cheli line. Since 2011, she has been on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

After 65 minutes, we reached the port of Aegina, located in the town of the same name. It was the first time in almost a year since I last saw it. There, I saw the sailing cruise ship GALILEO of Variety Cruises, which operates around all of Greece.

I also saw the GALILEO in Milos, nine days after I saw her in Aegina, while returning to Piraeus from the island of Santorini.

The beautiful port of Aegina, which is one of the few places I call home.

The very beautiful GALILEO berthed in Aegina.

Upon leaving the PHIVOS, we went to our home in Aegina, which I saw for the first time in 11 months and one day. After exchanging our supplies and cleaning the house for a bit, we went back to the port, leaving with a hydrofoil, the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, as she was the only ship to depart at that specific time. Regarding the trip back, it was the fourth trip in my life with a hydrofoil, three of these having actually been done with the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, as my two previous trips with her were both made in 2012: one being leaving Piraeus for Aegina after spending an afternoon in Athens (coincidentally, I was on the PHIVOS while going from Aegina to Piraeus, therefore marking my second time spending a round-trip with these two ships) and one when leaving the following day from Aegina to Athens as we were returning to the United States. Luckily, I was able to go the outdoor area of the hydrofoil, which is behind the passenger seating area and right next to the ship's stern.

While returning to Piraeus, we crossed the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways, one of the three rivals of the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA on the Saronic Gulf.

The equally-speedy FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII, seen heading towards Aegina. She operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII was then followed by the ACHAEOS, which was also going to Aegina.

The ACHAEOS seen on the Saronic Gulf, heading towards Aegina.

Right upon returning to Piraeus (in only 35 minutes!), we saw the SUPERFAST XII once again, as she was preparing to depart for her late itinerary to Syros, Amorgos and the Dodecanese.

Another picture of the doomed JET FERRY 1, along with the damaged entrance pier, which has not been repaired since late 2013, when it was damaged by the cruise ship MSC MAGNIFICA of MSC Cruises, leading to the sinking of the red lighthouse.

The beautiful and super modern SUPERFAST XII seen in Piraeus.

The SUPERFAST XII before her departure to the XIInese.

Seeing the HELLAS LIBERTY for a second time that day.

As well as the TERE MOANA.

As well as the BLUE HORIZON, which was still seen resting in Piraeus.

However, a new guest in the port was the great BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries, which had just returned from the Cyclades Islands. I would go on to travel onboard her four days later, when I headed from Piraeus to Santorini (through Syros, Paros, Naxos and Ios).

The PREVELIS seen once again, along with the bow of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS.

The BLUE HORIZON, the PANAGIA TINOU, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the PREVELIS, seen together in Piraeus.

The small Salaminian passenger boat BOB SFOUGKARAKIS of Kavouris Shipping Company leaving for the small port of Selinia. She is the fastest ship operating on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The two Japanese bows of the BLUE HORIZON and of the BLUE GALAXY.

The MASTER JET shortly before her first departure to Paros, Naxos, Koufonisi and Amorgos.

Upon approaching the E8 gate where we were docking, we saw another familiar face from the Ionian Sea. This time it was the IONIS of Ionis Ferries, which was returning from Aegina. After seeing her on the Ionian Sea until 2014 (as she operated there from 1993 to 2015 under Tyrogalas Ferries, as well as from 1977 to 1991 under Ionian Lines, Hellenic Coastal Lines and Seven Islands Lines), she was having her first season on the Saronic Gulf.

The IONIS maneuvering in Piraeus. Her owners, Tyrogalas Ferries, decided to operate as Ionis Ferries when they transferred her to the Saronic Gulf. She is now the only ferry owned by the company, as the IONIAN STAR, which was operating on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line since 2003, was sold during the summer of 2015 to rival operator Levante Ferries. Therefore, Tyrogalas Ferries now only operates on the Saronic Gulf, after having been present on the Ionian Sea from 1973 to 2015.

Two other Saronic Gulf ferries, the PHIVOS, on which I had traveled a couple of hours before, along with the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. Though the former is 19 years older than the latter, she is the fastest ferry in the region, while the latter is the slowest.

The MASTER JET seen yet again in Piraeus.

The PHIVOS and the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS resting in Piraeus.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS, in what was her fifteenth season operating on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

Another picture of the two ships, with the bow of the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries also present in the picture.

We docked in the E8 gate, in the departure area of the Saronic Gulf high speed craft. Present there was also the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways, the sister ship of the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen yet again. She began her career in Greece in 1999, as the PANAGIA SKIATHOU of the Northern Sporades and Evoia Shipping Company (which went on to become Hellas Speed Cat in 2008), on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Pyli line, before she was transferred to the Saronic Gulf in 2001, whereupon she was renamed AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS in honour of Aegina's patron Saint. She was sold to ANES Ferries in 2007, but she nevertheless remained on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

The IONIS now ready to dock in Piraeus. During the 2015 season, she operated on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line.

The legendary IONIS seen heading towards her docking spot.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen right after disembarkation.

Behind her was the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets, which had just returned from the Cyclades Islands.

The CHAMPION JET 1 resting in Piraeus. I would find myself onboard that ship as well, nine days later, as I traveled with her from Santorini to Piraeus (through Ios, Folegandros, Milos and Sifnos).

These two trips were exceptional to me, as I was able to enjoy the Greek coastal service ships for a fourth straight day, seeing many of them multiple times and obviously taking more photos of them. I was also very satisfied to see Aegina for the first time in many months.

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