• Alexandros Vrailas

Saronic Gulf One-Day Trip on 19 July 2016-Part II/ACHAEOS Tribute and Moments of Trip

As I mentioned it in my previous blog post, on 19 July 2016, I had the first two trips with a Greek ferry for my 2016 summer vacation. It was for the same exact purpose as the trip I made with my mother and her own mother on 3 July 2015: 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 from last year). Traditionally, my mother and my grandmother had been going to Aegina together 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). For the second consecutive year, I also went to Aegina with them for help, so it was once again an opportunity for me to see the Greek coastal service ships during both trips. We took the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries to Aegina, as you saw it in last month's blog post, and we returned with the ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries a couple of hours later.

This was the third time in my life that I traveled on this double-ended ferry, as I had been on her two years ago on both trips from Piraeus to Aegina and from Aegina to Piraeus during the summer of 2014. That summer had marked her first season on the Saronic Gulf since the first summer of her career. Indeed, when the ship was completed in Salamina in 2006, she spent that summer on the Piraeus-Aegina line, before then transferring on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line in the fall of 2006, as that line was, at the time, 2way Ferries' main area of operations (though they still operate the fellow double-ended ferry ANO CHORA II there under the Corfu Ferries joint venture). The ACHAEOS then spent her next 7 years on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line, with the exception of a charter from 2011 to early 2012 to Italian company Blunavy, during which she operated on the Piombino-Elba line. In late 2013, her owners decided to bring her back to the Saronic Gulf in order to strengthen their presence on the Aegean Sea. The establishment of the Saronic Ferries joint venture (which included fellow Saronic Gulf operators Hellenic Seaways and Nova Ferries with two ships and one ship, respectively) made things easier for the company, and in February 2014 the ACHAEOS made her first crossing from Piraeus to Aegina in 8 years. She has since been the only double-ended ferry to operate on the Saronic Gulf (excluding the dozens that operate on the Perama-Salamina line) besides the POSIDON HELLAS and is also the youngest ferry to be deployed in that area. Her first season was successful, being spent on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line. Despite the fact that she is the second slowest ferry on the line (after the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries), she is among the most convenient and most comfortable ships. Her success, along with her company's strong presence in the operations of Saronic Ferries, inspired 2way Ferries to buy, the following year, a ship that they previously owned and which had been cooperating with them through the joint venture: it was the POSIDON HELLAS of Hellenic Seaways, which had previously operated with the company in the first two years of her career (1998-1999), back when they were known as Poseidon Consortium Shipping. This acquisition was followed, in 2016, by that of another Hellenic Seaways ship operating on the Saronic Gulf: the APOLLON HELLAS (though she was scheduled to operate in the Sporades that year for Hellenic Seaways, and 2way Ferries decided to keep her there). This means that 2way Ferries is without a doubt the leader of the joint venture following the subsequent departure of Hellenic Seaways from the area (only in terms of conventional ferries, as they still operate hydrofoils and catamarans).

All this historical information is essential as the ACHAEOS has been the key factor behind the change of the Saronic Gulf coastal service picture in the last two years. This post is, therefore, a tribute to this unique ship, apart from the trip I had with her representing my return to Piraeus on that specific day. I had taken many pictures of my 2014 trips, but, as you now know, they have all disappeared following my computer crash which made me lose all my photos. As this is my first trip with the ACHAEOS since my website and my blog have been launched, I personally think that it is a perfect time to show you my return trip while putting an emphasis on that specific ship. I did not do this with the PHIVOS in last month's blog post as I had already made a tribute to that ship back in June 2016. Here are all the pictures I took on my return trip, which hopefully will make you realise how the ACHAEOS has been an essential ship for the islands of Aegina and Agistri.

The ACHAEOS waiting for us in the port of Aegina, having just arrived from Agistri.

Actually, this unique double-ended ferry is so far the only ship of her type with which I have traveled in Greece, along with the POSIDON HELLAS. Most double-ended ferries can be found on the Perama-Salamina line and on the Megara-Salamina line (also on the Saronic Gulf), the Rion-Antirrion line (on the Gulf of Patras), the Arkitsa-Aidipsos line, the Oropos-Eretria line and the Glyfa-Agiokampos line (on the Evoian Gulfs), the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line (on the Ionian Sea) and on the Kavala-Thassos line and on the Keramoti-Thassos line (on the Northeast Aegean Sea).

2016 marked the ship's tenth anniversary since her first trip, and I think it was a nice way for her to be spending it on the place where it all began: the Saronic Gulf.

The impressive garage entrance of the ACHAEOS.

The ship had two passenger accommodation decks (Deck 4 and Deck 5). This is the indoor area on Deck 4, which has pretty modern, comfortable and funky seats.

The indoor area is extended to the two edges of the ship, with more chairs and tables being included.

The Deck 4 coffee shop, known as Sea Bar.

There is also a sweet shop called Soocre a couple of metres away, although it was not operating during that specific trip.

Another view of the lounge area in Deck 4.

The ship's arcade and children's play area, which included air hockey tables, video games and vending machines.

The only outdoor area is located on Deck 5, which includes a big range of black and red seats in the middle part of the ship.

A picture of the crew cabins hallway.

One of the ship's doors in Deck 5 had a picture of her in her original livery, which she had from 2006 to 2013 (before the 2way Ferries sign was added to both sides of her hull).

One of the ship's many inflatable life-rafts.

And more of them seen on the other side.

As the ship was preparing for her departure, another ship was leaving at the same time. It was the water tanker AEGINA of Hydrousa Maritime Company, built in 1957, which was heading for her company's water base in Elefsina, in the port of Aspropyrgos.

The water tanker AEGINA was making an unusual departure from the port of Aegina, as she normally docks on the island's Southernmost port, which is known as Perdika. It is usually her younger fleetmate, the AEGINA II, that docks in her namesake port.

The AEGINA having completed her maneuvering procedure and preparing to head towards Aspropyrgos.

The AEGINA leaving her namesake island.

The AEGINA now at full-speed heading towards the Elefsina Bay.

And while the AEGINA was leaving her namesake island, the ferry AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries was approaching the port.

The beautiful AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS, in her sixteenth consecutive summer on the Saronic Gulf, and her tenth for her current owners.

The beautiful AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. Her entire Saronic Gulf career has been spent on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

The slow but reliable AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS approaching the port of Aegina, as the ACHAEOS leaves the dock.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS preparing to dock in Aegina.

Crossing the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS as we depart and head towards Piraeus.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS preparing to dock in Aegina.

Following a 360-degree turn, we started heading towards the port of Piraeus. The AEGINA remained in front of us.

But we soon begin to pass by her.

A classic Saronic Gulf seagull flying next to the ship.

As we begin to progress towards the Piraeus anchorage, we saw the Saronic Gulf fleetmate of the ACHAEOS, the POSIDON HELLAS, heading towards Aegina.

The POSIDON HELLAS, which has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf since the completion of her construction in 1998.

Crossing the POSIDON HELLAS, which was bought by 2way Ferries in 2015, after having spent the summer of 2014 cooperating with the ACHAEOS under the Saronic Ferries joint venture with her previous company, Hellenic Seaways.

It is technically the POSIDON HELLAS' second stint with 2way Ferries, as she was owned from 1998 to 1999 by Poseidon Consortium Shipping, whose chairman, Pavlos Papaïoannidis, then rebranded as 2way Ferries following the building of the ANO CHORA EXPRESS in 2001 (operating as the TIN UJEVIĆ of Croatian company Jadrolinija since 2003) and the subsequent deliveries of the ANO CHORA II and of the ACHAEOS in 2004 and in 2006, respectively. He died in 2014, but his son became the new leader of the company. His first years have been successful so far, as he bought both the POSIDON HELLAS and the APOLLON HELLAS from Hellenic Seaways in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The POSIDON HELLAS, in her second straight summer operating for 2way Ferries under the Saronic Ferries joint venture.

The POSIDON HELLAS heading towards Aegina. She stops by all the ports that are served by the Saronic Ferries joint venture, as she operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line.

The POSIDON HELLAS seen on the Saronic Gulf. In 2015, her funnels were left blank, but this year, the company added a portrait of the Greek God Poseidon (after whom the ship is named), similar to the one she had during the first two years of her career.

The POSIDON HELLAS heading towards Aegina. I would go on travel with her less than a month later, on the same line (from Aegina to Piraeus), for my last trip for the 2016 summer season. More information on that trip will be revealed in the next few months.

The POSIDON HELLAS was followed by another ferry heading from Piraeus to Aegina. It was the legendary IONIS of Leve Ferries, during her first season for her new owners and second overall on the Saronic Gulf.

Seeing the IONIS right outside of Piraeus.

Crossing the IONIS on the Saronic Gulf. In her first season under Leve Ferries she was assigned on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

After a stellar career on the Ionian Sea that lasted almost 37 years, the IONIS has embarked on a successful career on the Saronic Gulf, despite the change in her ownership.

Though she is quite different in her dark green livery, the IONIS still remains a wonderful traditional Greek-built ship.

The IONIS heading towards Aegina, the home of her two owners, Georgios and Ioannis Leventakis.

The IONIS in her first season for Leve Ferries, heading towards the island of Aegina.

We soon started to approach the entrance of the port of Piraeus. In the entrance pier we could still see the cruise ship CARNIVAL VISTA (just like we did when we traveled with the PHIVOS earlier that day).

Next to the port's entrance, there was the small passenger boat SALAMIS EXPRESS I of Salamis Express heading towards Salamina, in her first summer since replacing the BOB SFOUGKARAKIS of Kavouris Shipping Company on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

Before we entered the port, the Greek tug boat ARMADORES II of Vernicos Tugs was leaving and heading towards Keratsini.

As soon as we entered the port, two ships were located right next to the pier. These were the two Blue Star Ferries ships operating on the Dodecanese for the 2016 summer season: the small BLUE STAR PAROS and the much bigger BLUE STAR 2.

For the BLUE STAR PAROS, it was the first summer since her delivery in 2002 that she was operating in an area other than the Cyclades. Indeed, the ship fully transferred to the Dodecanese lifeline this year as a replacement for the great DIAGORAS, which was unexpectedly and sadly sold to company Africa Morocco Link for service on the Gibraltar Strait, after 10 years with Blue Star Ferries and 14 years on the Dodecanese overall.

The amazing BLUE STAR PAROS resting in Piraeus during her tough season, which was spent on Piraeus-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line. With the trip requiring overnight service, she lacked the necessary amount of cabins for passengers, prompting a few complaints by the Dodecanese passengers, as she was therefore seen as much smaller compared to the reliable DIAGORAS. Thankfully for her, she was then assisted by the larger KRITI I of ANEK Lines, which was deployed on the Piraeus-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line for the summer.

The BLUE STAR PAROS along with the bigger BLUE STAR 2, which operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes-Karpathos line during that summer.

The much smaller in size BLUE STAR PAROS, during her hardworking first summer on the Dodecanese lifeline.

The Dodecanese debutant BLUE STAR PAROS along with the much more experienced Dodecanese veteran BLUE STAR 2.

The BLUE STAR PAROS and the BLUE STAR 2, two greatly acclaimed Blue Star Ferries ships together next to the E1 gate in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PAROS and the BLUE STAR 2 seen together in Piraeus.

The magnificent BLUE STAR 2, in her second straight season on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes line, marked by the extension of her service to Karpathos for 2016.

The headquarters of the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy right next to the E1 gate.

The BLUE STAR 2 resting in Piraeus.

The floating museum HELLAS LIBERTY, one of the only three Liberty ships that still exist today, in the same spot she has been occupying since 2010.

Another view of the BLUE STAR 2 and of the BLUE STAR PAROS.

Just like in the previous blog post (earlier that day), the cruise ships LE LYRIAL of French company Ponant and BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS of American cruising giants Royal Caribbean International were still resting in the Piraeus cruise terminal.

The LE LYRIAL and the BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS, the latter being the sister ship of the cruise ship RADIANCE OF THE SEAS on which I traveled 11 days prior to this trip, during my vacation in Alaska.

The two mega modern cruise ships LE LYRIAL and BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS resting together in Piraeus.

On the left we could see the FESTOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, just like we did in the morning. The great 15-year-old cruiseferry operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line along with her sister ship, the KNOSSOS PALACE.

The LE LYRIAL seen in Piraeus.

Alongside the BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS.

The FESTOS PALACE resting in Piraeus.

More towards the North, three ships were in sight. These were the Cretan ships BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries and KYDON of ANEK Lines, along with the partly-submerged PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines.

Two Japanese-built ferries operating under the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture in Crete. The BLUE HORIZON operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, while the KYDON (ex-SOPHOCLES V) serves on the Piraeus-Chania line.

The PANAGIA TINOU (ex-AGIOS GEORGIOS) seen in a horrible condition, after spending more than a year laid-up in the port of Piraeus after Ventouris Sea Lines' economic troubles.

The great BLUE HORIZON, in her third consecutive summer on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KYDON seen in Piraeus, in her second consecutive summer on the Piraeus-Chania line.

The doomed PANAGIA TINOU, now having almost no possibilities of operating again.

The BLUE HORIZON resting in Piraeus.

The KYDON seen right behind her. She is the third ship in the history of ANEK Lines to bear that name. The first one was actually the first-ever ship of the company, which operated from 1969 (after having been converted for two years, as she was previously a tanker) to 1989. She was also on the Piraeus-Chania line for the vast majority of her career under the Cretan company. The second ship was the Japanese-built ferry OKUDOGO 8, which was acquired in 1990 by ANEK Lines. She was renamed KYDON and spent her first four seasons of service (1991-1994) under that name. After undergoing a major conversion in Perama in 1995, she was renamed TALOS. She then had a stint with LANE Sea Lines (1999-2009) and then again under ANEK Lines (2009 to date) as the IERAPETRA L. However she has been laid-up since 2014, following a major fire incident which severely damaged her. A return to service seems very unlikely under such circumstances.

Right next to the E8 gate, where the ACHAEOS is preparing to dock, there was the landing craft OSIOS DAVID of Evoïkos Lines, which connects Piraeus with the Northern Aegina ports of Souvala and Agia Marina. The historical meeting with that particular ship occurred when we were on the PHIVOS earlier that day.

Next to the OSIOS DAVID was the catamaran FLYINGCAT 6 of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

Another picture of the BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS.

The brave little OSIOS DAVID having a rest in Piraeus before her next departure to Souvala, a port which, until the arrival of the landing craft, had not seen a ferry in more than six years.

The arrival in Piraeus concludes another unique one-day trip on the Saronic Gulf, which has been a tremendous experience since it marked my first two trips with the ferries of the Greek coastal service for the summer 2016. It was great to travel on a great double-ended ferry, the ACHAEOS, with her indoor areas being quite comfortable and her outdoor areas offering enough space in order to have a pleasant trip on the Saronic Gulf

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