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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

FLYINGCAT 6 Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 28 July 2019. From Spetses to Piraeus, via Ermioni, Hydra and Poros, with the FLYINGCAT 6 of Hellenic Seaways.

The small passenger-only high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 6 was built in 1997 in Norway, being delivered to the German company Weiße Flotte as the BALTIC JET. She was used as a high speed craft on the Travemünde-Warnemünde line on the Baltic Sea. She moved to the Cuxhaven-Heligoland line on the North Sea in 1998. She then spent a year on charter to Channel Hoppers between 1999 and 2000, being deployed on the Jersey-Guernsey-Alderney line on the Channel, and in 2000 she returned to Weiße Flotte and she was renamed HANSE JET II. She operated on the Hamburg-Heligoland line on the North Sea until 2003, when she was returned to the Cuxhaven-Heligoland line. In 2004 she was deployed on the Bremerhaven-Heligoland line.

At the end of the year, she and her fleetmate and sister ship, the HANSE JET, were sold to the Greek company Hellas Flying Dolphins. Initially formed as Minoan Flying Dolphins back in 1999, that company was among the largest in the Greek coastal service, until some misfortunes caused it to get rid of its older ships. The two high speed catamarans were brought in order to replace the company's aging hydrofoils. They were converted in Perama ahead of the 2005 season. They both joined the 'Flyingcat' brand (which regrouped the company's passenger-only catamarans), with the HANSE JET being renamed FLYINGCAT 5, whereas the HANSE JET II was renamed FLYINGCAT 6. Both ships were deployed on the Sporades in 2005, operating on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line. Hellas Flying Dolphins was renamed Hellenic Seaways during that same year, but the FLYINGCAT 6 remained on the Sporades, continuing to operate on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line while also operating on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line alternatively with the FLYINGCAT 5.

She remained on the Sporades until 2013, when she was transferred to the Saronic Gulf, being deployed on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line, operating alongside the FLYINGCAT 1 (known as the İZNIK of Turkish company Bursa Deniz Otobüsleri since 2016). She returned to the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line in 2014, and then again to the Saronic Gulf, once more on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line in 2015, remaining there until 2016. In 2017 she once again returned to the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line, before returning to the Saronic Gulf, once more on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line, in 2018. She also remained there in 2019, operating alongside the younger and larger FLYINGCAT 3 and FLYINGCAT 4.

Having been present in Greece since 2005, the FLYINGCAT 6 has been yet another important ship of Hellenic Seaways, as she has notably contributed to the company's high speed service on the Sporades and the Saronic Gulf, just like it is the case with the FLYINGCAT 5. Despite suffering some occasional engine troubles, she has been praised for her efficient speed and the professionalism of her crew. While she is not as reliable as the larger and faster FLYINGCAT 3 and FLYINGCAT 4 (which have been essentially operating on the Cyclades throughout most of their careers, whereas the FLYINGCAT 6 has been restricted to the Sporades and the Saronic Gulf only), she still plays an important role in the connection of less-visited islands with mainland Greece.

As you know it from last week's Blost post, I went to visit the island of Spetses on the Saronic Gulf on 28 July 2019, spending the first half of that day there in order to explore it. I arrived there with the FLYINGCAT 3, and was due to leave and return to Piraeus with the FLYINGCAT 6. By going to Spetses, I had 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. After leaving the island, I would then spend the rest of the afternoon in Salamina in order to see multiple ships operating in that island. Hence, just like it was the case when heading there, the fastest and most convenient way to return from Spetses to Piraeus was to travel with a high speed craft of Hellenic Seaways, and the ship that happened to leave the island at around 13:30 was the FLYINGCAT 6. Therefore, I traveled onboard her for the first time in my life, while also traveling onboard a passenger-only high speed catamaran in my life for the second time, the first time having been just a few hours earlier with the FLYINGCAT 3. It was also my first trip from Spetses to Piraeus, my second-ever trip on the Saronic Gulf with a Hellenic Seaways high speed craft other than the company's hydrofoils, my second-ever trip with a ship of the 'Flyingcat' brandname (the first one having been the FLYINGCAT 3), and the sixth Hellenic Seaways high speed craft on which I ever traveled.

The FLYINGCAT 6 seen departing Piraeus in the evening of 22 July 2019, just six days before my trip with her.

After having visited and walked around the largest part of the island of Spetses, I headed back to the Chora, where the island's port is located. There, I saw the landing craft KATERINA STAR of Boufis Shipping Company loading some passengers and vehicles just before her upcoming departure to Kosta. Built in 2001, she has spent her entire career on the Kosta-Spetses line, and she is the only ferry to serve island.

The KATERINA STAR seen leaving the island of Spetses and heading towards Kosta.

The reliable KATERINA STAR seen leaving Spetses and heading towards Kosta, in what was her nineteenth season on the Kosta-Spetses line.

Next to her was the small high speed boat SPETSES EXPRESS I, also of Boufis Shipping Company, and also serving the Kosta-Spetses line.

A few minutes later, another small high speed boat owned by Boufis Shipping Company, the SPETSES EXPRESS II, was arriving to Spetses from Kosta.

The SPETSES EXPRESS II seen docking in her namesake island. She was built in 1983 in the United States, initially as a private yacht in Tampa Bay, before she was sold to a Greek individual based in Rhodes in 2000. She was sold in 2018 to Boufis Shipping Company, and was renamed SPETSES EXPRESS II. She underwent a major conversion in Argolida, during which she became a passenger ship and entered service on the Kosta-Spetses line.

The SPETSES EXPRESS II having almost docked in Spetses.

The SPETSES EXPRESS II seen docked in Spetses, behind her fleetmate, the SPETSES EXPRESS I.

The SPETSES EXPRESS I seen 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 of Hydraïki Cruises 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.

While having a look of the ships of Boufis Shipping Company, I finally got to see the FLYINGCAT 6, which was arriving from Porto Cheli.

The FLYINGCAT 6 preparing to dock in Spetses. This was her second consecutive summer on the Saronic Gulf, and fifth overall, having also operated there in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

The FLYINGCAT 6 on her way towards her docking spot in Spetses.

The FLYINGCAT 6 approaching her docking spot in Spetses.

The FLYINGCAT 6 about to dock in the port of Spetses.

The FLYINGCAT 6 just before she docked in Spetses, and I embarked onboard her for the first time in my life.

Just like it was the case with the FLYINGCAT 3, the FLYINGCAT 6's 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 like a floating bus.

A view of the ship's general arrangement plan, depicting the overall structure of the two passenger decks and of the lower deck that includes the engine room.

A view of the port side area of the lower deck indoor area, which features a big number of aircraft-style seats.

Another view of the port side area of the lower deck indoor area.

Towards the stern section of the indoor lounge area of the lower passenger deck, one can find a small bar operated by Greek coffee chain Everest, which serves coffee, soft drinks and snacks.

I then had a view of the upper passenger deck, which also featured numerous aircraft-style seats in a much more condensed area. The seats were mostly dark red and maroon.

Another view of the indoor lounge area found on the upper passenger deck of the ship.

We departed the port of Spetses at 13:30, 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 6 was sailing at full-speed towards the first stop of the trip, which was the port of Ermioni. However, as the ship stays there for just a few seconds, passengers are not allowed to head to the catamaran's outdoor areas during that time either. Therefore, we then headed towards Hydra, arriving towards 14:00, before then heading for Poros. The traveling time between these islands was slower this time, as the FLYINGCAT 3 is much faster than the smaller FLYINGCAT 6.

At around 15:30, we had finally arrived in Poros. From there, I could at last get to see the port's surroundings. This is the outdoor area of the FLYINGCAT 6 at the stern section, which features several hawsers and lifebuoys.

In Poros, I also happened to see the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I of Aegean Flying Dolphins, which was operating for the first time since 2011 (although she made a few trips in 2016 on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line), having been reactivated in order to be deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line. Built in 1981, she spent the first part of her career as the FLYING DOLPHIN XIV on the Sporades, operating initially for Ceres Flying Dolphins (1981-1999) and the for Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2005). She was then replaced, coincidentally, by the FLYINGCAT 6 (as well as the FLYINGCAT 5) in 2005, and she was sold to Paxos Flying Dolphins, and operated on the Corfu-Paxoi line on the Ionian Sea as the PAXOS FLYING DOLPHIN from 2005 to 2008. She was then sold to Aegean Flying Dolphins, was renamed FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I, and spent two seasons on the Dodecanese before moving to the Saronic Gulf in 2010, remaining there until 2011. She finally returned there on a permanent basis during the summer of 2019.

Right at the opposite of the port of Poros, one can see the small coastal town of Galatas Troizinias, from which small local ferries leave in order to head towards the former. There, I saw two ships: the landing craft NISSOS POROS of Poros Ferries and the double-ended ferry KYRIAKI of Troiziniaki NE.

The NISSOS POROS docked in Galatas Troizinias, in what was her tenth season on the Galatas Troizinias-Poros line under Poros Ferries. Before that, she had operated on the Ionian Sea as the MEGANISI under Coastal Lines Ionios Corporation from 1986 to 2010.

An hour later, towards 16:30, we had finally arrived in Piraeus. I disembarked and immediately saw another passenger-only high speed catamaran. Indeed, it was the most recent introduction of the Greek company Sea Jets, namely the SIFNOS JET. Built in 1999, she was initially known as the BETICO of New Caledonian company Compagnie Maritime des Îles, operating under them from 1999 to 2009. Having been replaced by the newly-built BETICO 2, she was laid-up in Nouméa until late 2016, when she was acquired by Sea Jets. She was renamed SIFNOS JET, underwent a three-year-long conversion in Elefsina, Chalkida and Piraeus, and entered service during the summer of 2019 on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Thirassia-Santorini-Ios line.

The stern of the FLYINGCAT 6, just a few minutes after she had arrived in Piraeus.

One final view of the FLYINGCAT 6 following the trip I had with her from Spetses to Piraeus.

Another view of the SIFNOS JET, in what was her first season operating in Greece under Sea Jets. She departed the port of Piraeus for the Cyclades just a few minutes after my arrival in the port.

The arrival in Piraeus therefore marked the end of the second part of my Spetses stay shared on this Blog. After having arrived there with the FLYINGCAT 3, I was quite pleased to have had the chance to travel with the FLYINGCAT 6. Despite being a year older than the former, as well as a bit smaller and slower, the trip was very smooth, without any issue, and we arrived in Piraeus according to the schedule. Even though I was unable to appreciate the trip outdoors due to the restrictions imposed by Hellenic Seaways, I still enjoyed the trip, right before going to spend the remainder of the afternoon in Salamina, in order to see the ships that operate there.

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