AGISTRI EXPRESS I Tribute and Moments of Trip
Trip: 21 August 2021. From Aegina to Palaia Epidavros, with the AGISTRI EXPRESS I of Agistriotiki NE.
The small passenger boat AGISTRI EXPRESS I was built in Greece in 2000 for the Agistri-based company Agistriotiki NE. She has spent her entire career on the Aegina-Agistri line, connecting the two Saronic Gulf islands daily during the year. When she began her service in 2000, she replaced the small passenger ship MANARAS EXPRESS of Panou Shipping, which was sold to the Kos-based company Diakanastasis Cruises. She is one of the two small passenger ships connecting Aegina with a smaller island of the Saronic Gulf, with the other one being the small wooden passenger boat NERAÏDA of Sea Bond, which serves the Aegina-Moni line during the summer. Overall, the ship is a small yet very important presence in both islands. Indeed, she solely operates during the morning and the early afternoon, usually transporting the residents of Agistri who work in Aegina. Moreover, she is a vital ship when it comes to transporting sick or injured people from Agistri to Aegina, where medical facilities are accessible. Despite both islands having a strong connection with Piraeus and between themselves through the ferries of 2way Ferries and the high speed craft of both Hellenic Seaways and Aegean Flying Dolphins, Agistriotiki NE remains a popular company in both Aegina and Agistri, as it fulfills its simple role with much success and throughout most of the year. She also performs excursion trips to other ports of the Saronic Gulf, such as Methana and Poros, including during the winter, when schools in Aegina and Agistri organise field trips there. She has also performed evening trips from Aegina and Agistri to Palaia Epidavros, in order to transport passengers planning to watch a play in the historical Ancient Theatre of Epidavros, which was built in the 4th century BC and continues to host theatrical performances. To that end, the AGISTRI EXPRESS I leaves Aegina (or Agistri) during the evening, heads to the coastal town of Palaia Epidavros on the Saronic Gulf, from which passengers then head to the Ancient Theatre by bus. After the theatrical performances end, the passengers head back to Palaia Epidavros, after which the AGISTRI EXPRESS I brings them back to Aegina.
I was fortunate to be a passenger onboard such trips on the evening of 21 August 2021, as I headed, together with my family, from Aegina to Epidavros in order to watch a theatrical performance of the Ancient Greek play 'Prometheus Bound' of Aeschylus. To that end, I got to travel with the AGISTRI EXPRESS I for the first time in my life, despite having frequently seen her in Aegina several times when I would head to the island during the summer. This marked my third-ever trip on the Saronic Gulf with a ship other than a ferry or a high speed craft, after having sailed with the small one-day cruise ship PLATYTERA TON OURANON of Hydraïki Cruises (also known as Athens One Day Cruise), on which I traveled back on 9 September 2017, and also with the SEBECO II of Alko Ferries, on which I had traveled while heading from Piraeus to Agistri on 27 July 2019. I would perform two trips with the ship, with the second one being during the night, after the theatrical performance ended towards midnight.
The AGISTRI EXPRESS I seen docked in the port of Aegina, where she was waiting for passengers planning to head to the Ancient Theatre of Epidavros to embark onboard her.
A view of the AGISTRI EXPRESS I in Aegina, during her twenty-second season on the Aegina-Agistri line, where she has become a much-appreciated local ship.
A bit further down, in the main pier of the port of Aegina, I saw the PLATYTERA TON OURANON of Hydraïki Cruises, which was performing yet another cruise on the Saronic Gulf. She was built in 1999 in Greece, and has been owned by her current company since 2007. She performs daily cruises on the Floisbos-Hydra-Poros-Aegina line, hence giving many tourists the opportunity to see three islands of the Saronic Gulf in just one day.
A frontal view of the AGISTRI EXPRESS I, where one can see her small bridge. Passengers were allowed to sit over the ship's bow, which is something that I went on to do in both trips, including the one that we did during the night.
Another view of the PLATYTERA TON OURANON, which also happened to have a ferry docked right next to her. Indeed, I could spot the landing craft ELENI of Kerkyra Seaways, which was serving the Piraeus-Aegina line during the 2021 season. She replaced the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which unexpectedly headed to the Sporades in order to take over the service left by her fleetmate, the SYMI, which experienced a severe engine failure.
The ELENI and the PLATYTERA TON OURANON seen together in the port of Aegina, right at the start of the evening.
We proceeded to embark onboard the AGISTRI EXPRESS I. There, I saw the ship's small wooden reception desk, which notably featured a small globe.
A view of the indoor lounge area of the AGISTRI EXPRESS I, which features several rows of dark blue aircraft-style seats. Right in front of the bridge, one can see a banner with the ship's name, and a text in Greek stating '2000-2021. 21 years of serving our island [Agistri]. We thank you for your support'. The ship's life jackets can be seen on the top of the ceiling.
Right next to the door leading to the outdoor area over the ship's bow, I noticed a portrait of the late founder of Agistriotiki NE, who was the main visionary of the company aimed at deploying a ship on the local Aegina-Agistri line in 2000. A sign right next to the portrait states, in Greek, 'Our gratitude to the late architect of the deployment of the AGISTRI EXPRESS I. March 2000'.
At about 18:00, the AGISTRI EXPRESS I began to leave Aegina in order to head towards Palaia Epidavros. I once again had the chance to see the PLATYTERA TON OURANON, prior to her return trip to Floisbos. She performs this service under the Platinum Cruises joint venture, which includes her company and Evermore Cruises, which owns the legendary passenger ship MYKINAI, nowadays the one-day cruise ship COSMOS.
A better view of the ELENI, during her lone season on the Piraeus-Aegina line on the Saronic Gulf. She was built in 1993 in Greece, as the ELENE B of Elene B Shipping, and operated on the Rion-Antirrion line. She was sold to the Corfu-based company Gerontakis Shipping in 2005, and she was renamed ELENI. She moved to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea in 2007. She joined Kerkyra Seaways in 2020, while in 2021, the year during which she completed a major refit in Salamina, she operated on the Piraeus-Aegina line. After the summer season ended, she returned to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line.
Another view of the ELENI, shortly after the AGISTRI EXPRESS I exited the port of Aegina. I traveled with the ship on three different occasions, the first of which was on 21 July 2021, exactly one month before my trip with the AGISTRI EXPRESS I, while heading from Aegina to Piraeus.
As we were now sailing on the Saronic Gulf, I also happened to see the conventional ferry APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries from a further distance. Built in 1990 in Greece, she has been operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2017. She has also been present there from 1990 to 1995, and also from 1999 to 2013. Since her return in 2017 (after three seasons on the Sporades), she has been serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line.
Only a few seconds after seeing the APOLLON HELLAS, I spotted the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways approaching the port of Aegina as well.
The FLYNG DOLPHIN XVII seen heading to Aegina at full-speed. She was built in 1984 in Georgia, which was at the time part of the Soviet Union, and was introduced on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line on the Saronic Gulf under the Greek company Ceres Flying Dolphins. The latter was taken over by Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999, with all hydrofoils joining the new company. The latter was renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002, before being rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005. The FLYING DOLPHIN XVII is one the three hydrofoils that continue to operate for the company.
A view of the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII as she approaches the port of Aegina. I have traveled with her four times so far, including on 19 July 2021, while heading from Piraeus to Aegina.
One last view of the veteran hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII, while she makes her towards the port of Aegina.
After a few minutes, we were now seeing the island of Agistri from a closer view. We would pass by the North side of the island, from where we could see the small port of Megalochori (also known as Mylos), which is the port of Agistri that is served by the hydrofoils of Hellenic Seaways and Aegean Flying Dolphins. The AGISTRI EXPRESS I also docks in the port, together with the main port of Skala, which is served by the ferries of the Saronic Gulf.
Another view of the island of Agistri, which has grown in popularity over the past two decades. It is a frequent destination for people willing to do a one-day excursion from Aegina.
A better view of the port of Megalochori in Agistri.
Towards 19:10, after over 70 minutes of sailing over the Saronic Gulf, we had finally reached the port of Palaia Epidavros. There, I had the chance to see the Church of Agios Nikolaos, which looks down towards the sea. Palaia Epidavros nowadays rarely has passenger ships connecting it with the rest of Greece, due to most towns and villages on the Argolid Peninsula being accessible from Athens by road. The port used to be served by hydrofoils of Ceres Flying Dolphins during the 1980s and the 1990s, being usually linked with Methana, Poros and Aegina.
A view of the two lighthouses located in the middle of the small bay that is right surrounded by the town of Palaia Epidavros. It is mandatory for passenger ships to pass between them, and to reduce their speed in order to avoid disrupting the small yachts and sailboats that anchor near the port.
This therefore marked the end of my trip with the AGISTRI EXPRESS I. After watching the performance of 'Prometheus Bound', we headed back to the port of Palaia Epidavros towards midnight, and the AGISTRI EXPRESS I left for Aegina towards 01:00. Here is a picture of her right before embarking onboard her once again in order to make our way back to Aegina at night. The return trip was extremely memorable, as we were sailing at night over the Saronic Gulf, with my uncle and me being among the few passengers that stayed in the outdoor area, over the ship's bow, throughout the entire return trip.
This therefore concludes my Tribute Post. I was very pleased to finally travel onboard the AGISTRI EXPRESS I, which was a ship that I saw multiple times while spending my summer vacation in Aegina. Despite her small size compared to other vessels operating on the Saronic Gulf, she is very suitable for small local trips to Agistri as well as Palaia Epidavros. Her versatility has helped her become a much-appreciated ship in the region, and she therefore enables many people based in Aegina to explore other ports across the Saronic Gulf, including the opportunity to watch a theatrical performance in one of the most historical archaeological sites of Greece. These two unusual trips were very memorable for me, as I finally had the chance to explore new sections of the Saronic Gulf, while traveling onboard a nice traditional vessel, which is the unsung hero of the island of Agistri.
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