• Alexandros Vrailas

Saronic Gulf One-Day Trip on 21 July 2017

My third and fourth trips in the Greek coastal service for the 2017 summer season occurred on 21 July 2017. For the third year in a row, it was for the same exact purpose as the trips I made with my mother and her own mother on 3 July 2015 and on 19 July 2016: 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 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 third 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, on both occasions, the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which was also the last ferry I traveled with on the Saronic Gulf and overall in the Greek coastal service in 2016.

This post is dedicated to the two trips I made that day: from Piraeus to Aegina and back. This post is not a tribute to the 2way Ferries ship, as I had already done one last June. I did take photos of the POSIDON HELLAS' passenger areas, but they are the same as the ones from last year, so I will not update them in this post. Regarding the topic of the post, it was a great joy to make my first trip of the season on the Saronic Gulf with the POSIDON HELLAS (more than 11 months after making my last trip with that same ship). 2017 symbolically marked her twentieth consecutive summer on the Saronic Gulf. For the vast majority of the summer, she operated extremely well in what was her third consecutive summer with 2way Ferries (who had acquired her in 2015 from Hellenic Seaways), though she saw her season cut short in mid August after she suffered a major engine failure which kept her out of service until November 2017. Her loss had a subsequent impact on the rest of the Saronic Gulf summer season, as many itineraries had to be removed since only three ships were operating for the Saronic Ferries joint venture at that time. She has since returned to service and hopefully she will have a full and successful 2018 summer season.

The pictures below will describe you the experience of the two trips I made to and from the second nearest island from Piraeus, Aegina, thanks to the beautiful double-ended ferry which provided a memorable day for me.

I first arrived in Piraeus early in the morning to drop my sister, as she was leaving to Hydra for two days with the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways. I then spent the next two hours in the port of Piraeus, photographing all the ships that were moored there, as well as the ones departing and/or leaving the port. As I took too many pictures, I am not going to publish them on this post, and they are anyways available in the Gallery section of this website.

A view of the POSIDON HELLAS in Piraeus, shortly before my trip with her.

The POSIDON HELLAS alongside her 2way Ferries fleetmate and longtime Saronic Gulf collaborator, the APOLLON HELLAS. The latter had previously arrived from Aegina and was now resting in the port, while the POSIDON HELLAS was preparing to load passengers and vehicles for her trip to the Saronic Gulf.

Next to them were the two high speed catamarans of Hellenic Seaways operating on the Saronic Gulf: the FLYINGCAT 5 and the FLYINGCAT 3. Both ships operate on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

On the right of the APOLLON HELLAS was the small passenger ship SALAMIS EXPRESS I of Salamis Express, which was spending her second straight season on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The port side funnel of the APOLLON HELLAS. Just like the POSIDON HELLAS, instead of a company logo, she carries a portrait of the Greek God after whom she is named. In this case, it is Apollon, the god of light, arts and music.

After my mother and my grandmother arrived, we immediately went onboard the POSIDON HELLAS. Upon boarding the ship, I spotted the FLYINGCAT 5 departing the port of Piraeus.

At the same time of the departure of the FLYINGCAT 5, the POSIDON HELLAS also departed for her trip to Aegina, Agistri, Methana and Poros. We immediately passed by her fleetmate, the APOLLON HELLAS.

The FLYINGCAT 5 following us right from behind. 2017 marked her second season operating on the Saronic Gulf, the previous time being during the summer of 2014. Apart from these two years, she has been operating on the Sporades, on the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line.

The FLYINGCAT 3 resting in Piraeus. This was the ship's second consecutive season operating full-time on the Saronic Gulf. Indeed, two years ago (2015), she combined her services to the Cyclades (on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line) with a few extra trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line, providing additional service to these islands which were also being served by two other Hellenic Seaways catamarans, the FLYINGCAT 1 (which was sold in 2016 to Turkish company Bursa Deniz Otobüsleri) and the FLYINGCAT 6, which spent the 2017 season on the Sporades (on the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line) after switching services with her sister ship, the FLYINGCAT 5.

The APOLLON HELLAS resting in Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 following us as we head towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

As we are moving towards the port's exit, we can now see the ships from the E4, E5, E6 and E7 gates. There was the cruiseferry PREVELIS of ANEK Lines, which had arrived earlier in the morning from her service on the Kasos-Karpathos lifeline.

The FLYINGCAT 5 leaving the port of Piraeus right behind us.

Next to the PREVELIS was her ANEK Lines fleetmate, the EL. VENIZELOS. The 2017 summer season marked her return on the Piraeus-Chania line after five years of absence, replacing the KYDON which was chartered to Ferries del Caribe on the Caribbean Sea.

Next to the EL. VENIZELOS was the other ANEK Lines ship operating in Crete: the KRITI II, which is deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The three ANEK Lines ferries that operated in Crete (and on the Aegean Sea as a whole) in 2017: the KRITI II, the EL. VENIZELOS and the PREVELIS.

On the port side was the cruise ship CELESTYAL OLYMPIA of Celestyal Cruises. The 2017 season was her sixth with her current owners (who were known as Louis Hellenic Cruise Lines, or simply Louis Cruises, until 2015), and her third under her current name (she was previously known as the LOUIS OLYMPIA).

In front of the KRITI II was her main Heraklion competitor, the KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which also operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KNOSSOS PALACE is the flagship of Minoan Lines since her delivery to the company in 2000. She has spent her entire career on the Piraeus-Heraklion line alongside her sister ship, the FESTOS PALACE. Both ships are considered to be among the best ships the Greek coastal service has ever seen.

The FLYINGCAT 5 heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. She has been operating for Hellenic Seaways since 2005, after she was purchased alongside the FLYINGCAT 6 in late 2004 (back when the company was still known as Hellas Flying Dolphins).

In front of the KNOSSOS PALACE was the fleetmate of the FLYINGCAT 5, the gigantic NISSOS RODOS of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Patmos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos Kavala lifeline.

The NISSOS RODOS in what was her third consecutive season operating on the Cyclades and on the Northeast Aegean Sea. She had also spent one season on the Aegean Sea, back in 2010, when she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Kos-Rhodes line.

As we are heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, we can see (when they are present) the ferries that operate on the Dodecanese. There was the flagship of Superfast Ferries, the much acclaimed SUPERFAST XII, which operated in 2017 on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line.

The NISSOS RODOS resting in Piraeus prior to her long itinerary, which lasts almost two days. Ever since operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, she has become a vital part of the Aegean Sea coastal service, and her service has been constantly praised.

The SUPERFAST XII resting in Piraeus. She has been in her current service since 2015, and has also received very favourable reviews from passengers and island residents alike.

The NISSOS RODOS. Owned by Hellenic Seaways since 2005, she has had an adventurous path in these past 12 years, spending time on the Corinth-Venice line on the Adriatic Sea as a Ro-Ro carrier with her owners, under charter to various companies (Grimaldi Lines, SAMC), and on the Aegean Sea. She was converted to a full-time passenger ship in 2010, and seems to have found a permanent spot within her company in her current service.

The SUPERFAST XII receiving bunkers in Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 behind us, along with the EL. VENIZELOS which has also departed, and the APOLLON HELLAS on the right.

The FLYINGCAT 5 and the EL. VENIZELOS following us as we head towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 exiting the port of Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having just exited Piraeus at the same time that we did.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having just exited Piraeus.

While we exited the port of Piraeus, the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries was heading towards the entrance of the port, having returned from Aegina.

The PHIVOS heading towards Piraeus. 2017 was her thirteenth consecutive summer in Greece, with all of them being spent on the Saronic Gulf for her current owners. Since the establishment of the Saronic Ferries joint venture in 2014, she has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line.

The FLYINGCAT 5 heading towards Poros, Hydra, Ermioni, Spetses and Porto Cheli.

The PHIVOS heading towards Piraeus.

The beautiful PHIVOS, now 37 years old and the oldest ship in the area, but still looking as if she was a newly-built ferry.

The enormous EL. VENIZELOS exiting the port of Piraeus, heading towards Chania.

The EL. VENIZELOS exits the port of Piraeus while the smaller PHIVOS intends to enter it.

The EL. VENIZELOS having exited the port of Piraeus and heading towards Chania. The 25-year-old cruiseferry was previously the flagship of ANEK Lines from 1992 until 2000, and has since been operating either under charter to companies on the Western Mediterranean Sea (Tunisia Ferries each summer from 2004 to 2011, the now-defunct SNCM in 2013, Go In Sardinia in 2014 and Africa Morocco Link in 2016), or replacing her fleetmates during their annual refits on the Adriatic Sea and on the Aegean Sea. Initially not due to operate in 2017, the charters of the KYDON, the KRITI I and the ELYROS to other companies left a spot available on the Piraeus-Chania line, which she covered immediately.

As we headed towards Aegina, we were followed by the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA heading towards Aegina.

Another view of the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA operating at full-speed.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen as she heads towards Aegina.

We then crossed the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen as she is returning from Aegina to Piraeus.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS in what was her seventeenth season on the Piraeus-Aegina line. Built a year after the POSIDON HELLAS, she spent her first two years on the Sporades as the PANAGIA SKIATHOU, on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Pyli line, before moving to the Saronic Gulf in 2001.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS heading towards Piraeus.

We arrived in Aegina after one hour and five minutes. After disembarking, I immediately spotted the fleetmate of the POSIDON HELLAS, the ACHAEOS, as she was returning from Agistri.

The ACHAEOS heading from Agistri to the port of Aegina.

The double-ended ferry ACHAEOS approaching the port fo Aegina.

After doing our task in our house in Aegina, we headed back to the island's port in the early afternoon. There, while waiting for the POSIDON HELLAS, the APOLLON HELLAS was docking at the port.

The APOLLON HELLAS heading towards the dock of the port of Aegina.

After boarding the POSIDON HELLAS, we departed for our return trip. We once again left while the APOLLON HELLAS was docked in the same port as us.

The APOLLON HELLAS resting in Aegina.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen resting in Aegina upon our departure.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen in Aegina.

The APOLLON HELLAS in Aegina. Apart from 1998, 2014, 2015 and 2016, this ship has been by the side of the POSIDON HELLAS on the Saronic Gulf every single summer since the latter's entry to service.

As we were leaving Aegina, the ACHAEOS was heading towards the opposite direction.

The ACHEAOS heading towards Aegina. 2017 marked her fourth straight summer on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, and she had also previously operated on the Piraeus-Aegina line during her debut year in 2006.

The ACHAEOS heading towards Aegina.

The beautiful Greek-built ACHAEOS as she heads towards Aegina.

Crossing the ACHAEOS on the Saronic Gulf.

The ACHAEOS heading to Aegina.

The ACHAEOS seen heading towards Aegina.

Another view of the ACHAEOS as she is heading towards Aegina.

As we started approaching the port of Piraeus, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways was heading towards Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX, the youngest hydrofoil in the Greek coastal service, heading towards Aegina. She was previously a fleetmate of the POSIDON HELLAS when the ship was owned by Minoan Flying Dolphins (later Hellas Flying Dolphins) and then by Hellenic Seaways.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX heads towards Aegina.

Crossing the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX as she heads towards Aegina.

Crossing the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX as she heads towards Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX heading at full-speed towards Aegina.

After 60 minutes, we began entering the port of Piraeus. At the same time, the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA was following us, after she had returned from Agistri and Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA entering the port of Piraeus.

The hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA having just entered the port of Piraeus.

Another view of the great SUPERFAST XII of Superfast Ferries.