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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

FLYINGCAT 3 Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 28 July 2019. From Piraeus to Spetses, via Poros, Hydra and Ermioni, with the FLYINGCAT 3 of Hellenic Seaways.

The high speed craft FLYINGCAT 3 was built in the United Kingdom in 1998, as the ATHINA 2004 for the Greek company Goutos Lines, becoming one of the many high speed catamarans to enter the Greek coastal service in the late 1990s. She became the first high speed craft of her company, which has been present on the Cyclades since 1981. She operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros line, where she immediately became one of the most notable ships of the Cyclades. She was renamed SUPERCAT ATHINA for the 1999 season, due to the International Olympic Committee forbidding ships to be named after someone or something related to the Olympic Games.

After two seasons with Goutos Lines, she was bought by Minoan Flying Dolphins in 2000, as part of the massive transitional period which saw many traditional companies selling their ships to the new operator, which sought to have the largest market share on the Aegean Sea. As a result, Goutos Lines sold all their ships, with the exception of the MIRINA EXPRESS (built in 1991 and operated by the company until 2008), which was still operating on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos line (she is now known as the DONA CÂNDIDA of Equatorial Guinean company Viteoca GESL). She was renamed FLYINGCAT 3, as she joined the new 'Flyingcat' brandname which consisted of the passenger-only high speed catamarans, which operated under the core Minoan Flying Dolphins division. She resumed her service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros line, while in 2003 she notably operated on the Rafina-Mykonos-Tinos-Syros-Kythnos-Kea-Lavrion line. Minoan Flying Dolphins were renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002. In 2004, she replaced her fleetmate, the FLYINGCAT 4, on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Thessaloniki line, thus operating on the Sporades for the first time in her career. 

Her company became Hellenic Seaways in 2005, and she continued to work on the Sporades that year, as well as the next one, 2006 (where she was forced to miss a part of that year's summer season due to a major engine failure). In 2007 she returned to the Cyclades and was successfully deployed on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Folegandros-Santorini-Amorgos-Naxos-Paros-Syros line, before she was transferred to the Piraeus-Kythnos-Sifnos-Folegandros-Amorgos-Ios-Santorini line the following year. In 2009 she was deployed on the Rafina-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line. In 2010 she was deployed on a new inter-Cyclades service introduced by her company, operating on the Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros-Ios-Santorini line. In 2011 she returned to her previous base, Rafina, operating on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Santorini-Koufonisi-Amorgos line, while in 2012, she operated on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line. That summer, however, she suffered a major engine failure, causing her to miss the entire 2013 season, but she returned to service in the following year, being deployed on the Western Cyclades, on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros line. In 2015 she was deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line, while also making additional trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line on the Saronic Gulf. She was deployed full-time in that region in 2016, operating on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Speteses-Porto Cheli line, whereupon she replaced the elder FLYINGCAT 1 which had been sold to Turkish company Bursa Deniz Otobüsleri that same year. She has since been operating there.

With more than two decades of service in Greece, the FLYINGCAT 3 has been one of the most reliable ships of her company. Despite suffering some occasional engine troubles, she has been praised for her efficient speed and for her versatility, as she has been able to operate on any line on the Cyclades, as well as on the Sporades and later on the Saronic Gulf. This is something that only her fleetmate, the resembling but larger FLYINGCAT 4 can do as well. Furthermore, the FLYINGCAT 3 is notable for having recorded the fastest-ever crossing made by a catamaran in Greece to date, having once reached a speed of 52 knots!

Just a day after having visited the port of Piraeus in the early morning and having traveled to Agistri, I decided to then continue my Saronic Gulf tour by going to the island of Spetses during the first half of day of 28 July 2019. By going to the latter island, this meant that I would have officially been to all the main islands of the Saronic Gulf, as I had already been to Aegina, Agistri, Salamina, Poros and Hydra in the past. I would then spend the afternoon in Salamina in order to see multiple ships operating in that island. Hence, the fastest and most convenient way to reach the island of Spetses was to travel with a high speed craft of Hellenic Seaways, and the ship happening to leave during the early morning was the FLYINGCAT 3. Therefore, I traveled onboard her for the first time in my life, while also traveling onboard a passenger-only high speed catamaran for the first time in my life as well. It was also my first trip from Piraeus to Spetses, my first-ever trip on the Saronic Gulf with a Hellenic Seaways high speed craft other than the company's hydrofoils, my first-ever trip with a ship of the 'Flyingcat' brandname, and the fifth Hellenic Seaways high speed craft on which I ever traveled.

The fantastic FLYINGCAT 3 seen about to depart Piraeus, just a day before my trip with her.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen docked in Piraeus, just a few minutes before my trip with her.

Next to where I was standing, I spotted the small passenger boat AGIA MARINA AEGINIS of ANES Ferries, which was spending her first summer under the latter. She also operated on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina-Hydra line for the first time in 2019. She has been connecting Piraeus with Northern Aegina (reaching the ports of Souvala and Agia Marina) since 2008. Built in 2000, she operated as the ALEXANDROS for Alexandros Shipping (2000-2015) and my WAYS (2015-2016), before being sold to Evoïkos Lines in 2016 and being renamed AGIA MARINA AEGINIS.

In front of the FLYINGCAT 3, I spotted one of her fleetmates, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII. Built in 1984, she has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf, serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line. She initially operated for Ceres Flying Dolphins (1984-1999) before the latter was taken over by Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999. She then operated for the latter on the Saronic Gulf from 1999 to 2002, then under Hellas Flying Dolphins from 2002 to 2005, and under Hellenic Seaways since 2005.

Behind the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII and in front of the FLYINGCAT 3, I was able to see the small high speed boat SEBECO II of Alko Ferries, which had been built in 2019 and was spending the first season of her career on the Saronic Gulf, namely on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

I then saw the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which operates on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line, docked in the port of Piraeus.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen resting in Piraeus, during her first summer under ANES Ferries.

I embarked onboard the FLYINGCAT 3. The indoor area consists of two decks which only have multiple rows of aircraft-style seats. This corresponds to the typical passenger-only high speed catamaran indoor area set, which is basically a floating bus.

A view of the numerous aircraft-style seats found onboard the FLYINGCAT 3.

In the front section of the lower deck indoor area, there is a small bar operated by the Greek coffee chain Everest that sells coffee, soft drinks, beers, water, juices and snacks.

We departed the port of Piraeus at 08:30, as it had been scheduled. Unfortunately, just like it is the case with all Hellenic Seaways high speed craft, passengers are not allowed to stay in the outdoor areas while the concerned ships are sailing from one port to the other. As a result, I had no other choice than to stay at my seat while the FLYINGCAT 3 was sailing at full-speed towards the first stop of the trip, which was the port of Poros. At around 09:40, hence just one hour and 10 minutes after our departure from Piraeus, we had already reached the latter island.

When we arrived in Poros, I was allowed to go in the small stern section outdoor alley in order to take pictures. At the opposite side of the island are the small town and the port of Galatas Troizinias, from which small ferries operate in order to transport vehicles to Poros. There, I saw two ships, one that was docked and the other one that was departing. These were the double-ended ferry KYRIAKI and the landing craft NIKOLAKIS D, both owned by Troiziniaki NE.

The NIKOLAKIS D seen leaving Galatas Troizinias. The 2019 season was her third consecutive on the Galatas Troizinias-Poros line, as she had been acquired in late 2016 by Troiziniaki NE (owned by the Darsinos family) to replace the landing craft ELEFTHERIA D, which had been sold to the British Virgin Islands-based company Solaris Shiptrade Company. She was previously known as the AGIOS SPYRIDON, and had stints on the Pounta-Elafonisos line under Simos Star (1994-2003) and on the Paros-Antiparos line under Agia Marina I NE (2004-2016).

The KYRIAKI is seen docked in Galatas Troizinias.

Another view of the KYRIAKI in Galatas Troizinias, where she has spent her entire career ever since she was built in 2000.

The NIKOLAKIS D on her way towards Poros. This was her third season under Troiziniaki NE.

The KYRIAKI seen docked in the port of Galatas Troizinias. She is the smallest double-ended ferry in the Greek coastal service, and is nicknamed 'The Basket' due to her small size and basket-like appearance.

The NIKOLAKIS D en route towards the port of Poros.

A nice view of Galatas Troizinias, which is located right at the opposite of the docking spot of the FLYINGCAT 3 in Poros.

The NIKOLAKIS D seen heading from Galatas Troizinias to Poros.

A view of the port of Poros from the outdoor deck of the FLYINGCAT 3.

A final view of the NIKOLAKIS D, now on her way towards Poros.

The onboard crane of the FLYINGCAT 3 as seen in the stern section of the ship's outdoor area, which is used to lift the ship's main lifeboat.

After a few minutes in the port of Poros, we left at around 09:45 for the next destination, which was the beautiful island of Hydra. We reached the latter barely 30 minutes after having left, hence docking at around 10:15.

After the FLYINGCAT 3 had docked in Hydra, I was able to head outside once again. From the port's entrance, I spotted the cruise ship SILVER WHISPER of American cruise line Silversea Cruises.

A view of the SILVER WHISPER, which was docked right outside of the port of Hydra.

I was also able to spot the landing craft GEORGIA M of Metaforiki Hydras, which is on the Ermioni-Hydra line and transports various products on a daily basis to the island, being its main supplier of goods arriving from mainland Greece. She has been a Ro-Ro carrier and a supplier for the island of Hydra since 2002.

The iconic GEORGIA M seen docked in Hydra, the island which she has been serving loyally since 2002. She previously had stints on the Oropos-Eretria line and then on the Trypiti-Ammouliani line, before starting her current role as a Ro-Ro carrier in Hydra after having been bought by Metaforiki Hydras in 2002.

Next to the GEORGIA M, I saw the small high speed boat CHRISTOS of Hydra Tour Travels. Built in 2007, she has spent her entire career for her owner, and initially operated on the Hydra coastline by transporting passengers from the port to the island's beaches, as well as to islands like Dokos and Spetses. Since 2017, she has been operating on the Ermioni-Hydra line during the summer.

Another view of the GEORGIA M in Hydra.

The GEORGIA M and the CHRISTOS seen together in the port of Hydra.

At around 10:30, the FLYINGCAT 3 departed Hydra in order to stop in Ermioni. Due to the extremely brief stay in the port, I was unable to take any pictures as the crew forbade passengers to head outdoors. As a result, I had to wait for an extra 20 minutes in order to finally arrive in Spestes, at around 11:00. Therefore, my trip with the FLYINGCAT 3 was completed.

The FLYINGCAT 3 having just arrived in the port of Spetses. I had now officially made it to the latter island for the first time in my life. Therefore, I had now been to all main islands of the Saronic Gulf at least once in my life.

The FLYINGCAT 3 having reached the port of Spetses.

The speedy FLYINGCAT 3 docked in Spetses, having arrived in the latter from Piraeus in just two-and-a-half hours.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen in Spetses, during her fourth consecutive full season on the Saronic Gulf, and fifth overall (as she also made a few trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line in 2015, in addition to her main service which was spent on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line).

In front of her, I spotted another ship docked in the port of Spetses. Indeed, it was the small high speed boat SPETSES EXPRESS I of Boufis Shipping Company, which is one of the ships operating on the local Kosta-Spetses line, which connects Spetses with the Peloponnese.

The SPETSES EXPRESS I docked in the port of Spetses. It was her second consecutive season operating there under Boufis Shipping Company. Before that, she operated from 2014 to early 2018 as the METOCHI EXPRESS of Hydra Celebrity Lines on the Metochi-Hydra line. I had seen her in that service when I did my trip with the PLATYTERA TON OURANON on 9 September 2017. Just a few months later, her company ceased operations and she moved from Hydra to the neighbouring island of Spetses, being renamed SPETSES EXPRESS I and beginning service for Boufis Shipping Company on the Kosta-Spetses line in 2018.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen shortly before her departure from Spetses.

I then saw the landing craft KATERINA STAR, also of Boufis Shipping Company, arriving in the port of Spetses. Built in 2001, she has spent her entire career on the Kosta-Spetses line, and she is the only ferry to serve island.

The locally-acclaimed and reliable KATERINA STAR seen about to dock in the port of Spetses, after having arrived from Kosta.

The FLYINGCAT 3 preparing to depart the port of Spetses.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen departing her docking spot in Spetses.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen leaving Spetses, just a few minutes after she had docked there.

The FLYINGCAT 3 seen leaving Spetses in order to head towards her final destination before making her way back to Piraeus: Porto Cheli.

One last view of the SPETSES EXPRESS I, in what was her second season operating on the Kosta-Spetses line.

One final view of the FLYINGCAT 3 as she heads from Spetses to Porto Cheli.

The KATERINA STAR and the SPETSES EXPRESS I docked together in Spetses. Both ships are owned by Boufis Shipping Company, which is the primary local operator in Spetses. They have two other fleetmates: the small passenger boat SPETSES EXPRESS II which also operates on the Kosta-Spetses line, and the double-ended ferry ALEXANDROS M which operates on the Perama-Salamina line and does not serve Spetses, except when the KATERINA STAR undergoes her annual refit.

One last view of the KATERINA STAR and of the SPETSES EXPRESS I.

This therefore ends the first part of my stay in Spetses during 28 July 2019, as I got to explore the island from the late morning until the early afternoon. I had now been to every single main island on the Saronic Gulf. I chose the perfect ship in order to make this achievement a reality, as the FLYINGCAT 3 is a very fast and reliable ship which connects all Saronic Gulf ports under very short time intervals. Despite not being able to appreciate the trip outdoors due to the restrictions imposed by Hellenic Seaways, I still enjoyed the trip and was also happy to see several lesser-known local coastal service ships serving Poros, Hydra and Spetses.

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