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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

Saronic Gulf One-Day Trip on 1 August 2018

For the fourth year in a row, I had the chance to perform back-to-back trips from Piraeus to Aegina for half a day. It was for the same exact purpose as the trips I made with my mother and her own mother on 3 July 2015, on 19 July 2016, and on 21 July 2017: 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 fourth consecutive year, I also went to Aegina with them for help (with my twin brother also coming with us this year), 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 while heading from Piraeus to Aegina, and returned back with the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries.

This post is dedicated to the two trips I made that day: from Piraeus to Aegina and back. This post is not a tribute post to either ship, as I had already done one for each of them: in June 2016 for the PHIVOS and in May 2018 for the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. I did take photos of both ships' passenger areas, but they are the same as the ones from the previous years, so I will not update them in this post.

Regarding the main focus of the post, it marked my third time in four years traveling from Piraeus to Aegina for this purpose with the PHIVOS. I had also traveled with her on 7 July of the same year while heading from Piraeus to Aegina for the weekend alongside my brother and two other friends. This trip with her was thus my second one during that summer. In the case of the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS, it was the first time I traveled with her as part of the traditional 'Saronic Gulf One-Day Trip'. I had also traveled onboard her on 24 June 2018, heading back from Aegina to Piraeus after spending the weekend there with my brother and another friend. I then traveled onboard her again on 13 August, when I headed to Aegina for the rest of the summer with my family. Hence, my trip on 1 August was the second out of the three trips I had with her that summer.

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 two veteran Saronic Gulf ferries which provided a memorable day for me.

We immediately boarded the PHIVOS shortly after arriving in Piraeus, as we were due to depart at 10:00. From the ship's outdoor deck, I quickly saw the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which was resting in the port.

On the port side of the PHIVOS, I spotted the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 6 of Hellenic Seaways loading passengers, prior to her departure for her first destination: Poros.

Immediately afterwards, I saw the small passenger boat GEORGIOS BROUFAS II of Broufas Vessels heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus. Built in 1998, she operates on the Piraeus-Salamina line, where she has so far spent her entire career.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS II seen heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus. That summer marked my first-ever trips with her, as I traveled onboard her from Piraeus to Salamina and back on 3 July 2018.

While looking further up, I was surprised to spot the high speed ferry NAXOS JET of Sea Jets resting in the E9 gate. Indeed, that summer (which was her debut season under her current owners), she was operating on the Rafina-Andros-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, so it felt strange to see her docked in Piraeus. The reason was because Sea Jets decided to send her fleetmate, the PAROS JET, to operate on the line for that day only, due to her having a larger passenger and garage capacity. The NAXOS JET returned to her usual service the following day.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS II seen approaching Piraeus.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS II about to begin her maneuvering procedure in Piraeus.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS II having maneuvered in Piraeus and preparing to dock.

Barely seconds after she had arrived, the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II was being followed by another ship which had just returned to Piraeus. It was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA heading towards her docking spot. The summer of 2018 marked her ninth under Aegean Flying Dolphins, and her eighth consecutive on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

The veteran hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA on her way towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, which is one of the ships that performs the most trips in a day from Piraeus to any Greek island, making her way towards her docking spot in the E8 gate.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, which has been the sole hydrofoil of her company operating on the Saronic Gulf since late 2011, after her older fleetmates were retired due to having reached the mandatory age limit of 30 years of service, though this limit has long ceased to exist.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA having just docked in Piraeus, while the FLYINGCAT 6 is about to depart the port.

The FLYINGCAT 6 having departed Piraeus, and beginning to head towards Poros. She operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line on the Saronic Gulf. She served this line in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018. She is also set to operate there during the 2019 season.

The speedy FLYINGCAT 6 leaving Piraeus in order to head towards Poros.

Just a few seconds later, she was followed by the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II, which had already loaded her passengers in order to return to Salamina.

After seeing the FLYINGCAT 6 and the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II depart Piraeus, it now was our time to leave as well. Here is another view of the KNOSSOS PALACE, which is the flagship of Minoan Lines and was on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line during the summer of 2018.

While the PHIVOS was departing, I had the chance to photograph the ferry that standing right next to her. It was the APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line (just like the PHIVOS) and collaborates with Nova Ferries under the Saronic Ferries joint venture.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen resting in Piraeus. The summer of 2018 marked her second consecutive on the line, having returned there in 2017, after spending three seasons on the Sporades (two with her former owners Hellenic Seaways and one with 2way Ferries). Before that, she had been operating on the Saronic Gulf from 1999 to 2013.

As we began to head towards the exit, I got to see the rival of the KNOSSOS PALACE, the BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. She was also departing the port as part of her in-day trip to Crete.

The APOLLON HELLAS in Piraeus. She had her first trip of that day just one hour after the PHIVOS' departure.

The BLUE HORIZON seen departing Piraeus.

In the meantime, another ship was seen arriving Piraeus: it was the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS, also owned by 2way Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

The BLUE HORIZON seen leaving Piraeus. I now managed to photograph her during one of her departures, after having previously witnessed her arriving and making an impressive maneuvering procedure in Piraeus, when I visited the port on 12 July 2018.

While we were leaving the port, the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA also departed (barely a few minutes after she had arrived). The ACHAEOS can be seen right in front of her.

The ACHAEOS seen heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus. That summer was her fifth consecutive on the Saronic Gulf, and sixth overall in her career. Indeed, she spent her debut summer there, on the Piraeus-Aegina line, shortly after her construction was completed back in 2006.

The BLUE HORIZON leaving Piraeus, and seen passing by the KNOSSOS PALACE.

The APOLLON HELLAS, on which I had traveled on 23 June of the same year, resting in Piraeus. I also traveled onboard her for the first time since her return to the Saronic Gulf on 7 August 2017 (almost a year before taking this picture).

The BLUE HORIZON seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

A view of the NAXOS JET, seen resting in Piraeus for the day.

The ACHAEOS seen heading towards the E8 gate, where the PHIVOS had previously been docked.

Behind the dock where the BLUE HORIZON was moored prior to her departure, I saw the cruiseferry EL. VENIZELOS of ANEK Lines, which was operating on the Piraeus-Chania line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA and the much larger BLUE HORIZON both seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus. Built in 2000, she has spent her entire career on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. The summer of 2018 saw her making connections to Milos for the first time ever. In the winter of 2018-2019, she became the second ship of her company (and of Greece as a whole) to undergo a conversion in order to have the exhaust gas cleaning system (also known as a 'scrubber') installed on her funnel. This will help her consume less sulphur and thus less gas oil, making her more environmentally-friendly. Most of her fleetmates have also undergone this conversion or are due to undergo it in the near future.

The EL. VENIZELOS seen in Piraeus. She was also due to depart the port in order to make a day trip to Chania.

The ACHAEOS having passed by the PHIVOS and making her way towards the E8 gate docking spot.

The ACHAEOS about to dock next to her fleetmate, the APOLLON HELLAS.

The BLUE HORIZON seen leaving Piraeus in order to go to Heraklion. She has been on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014. Before that, she had a very successful spell on the Adriatic Sea from 1998 to 2009 (as the SUPERFERRY HELLAS of Strintzis Lines from 1998 to 1999, and as the BLUE HORIZON from 2000 to 2009), operating initially on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona-Venice line (1998-1999), then on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari line (2003-2009). Afterwards she operated on the Piraeus-Chania line in 2010, with this being her first-ever service on the Aegean Sea. She was laid-up in 2012 due to problems caused by the Greek economic crisis at the start of the decade, but fortunately returned to service in 2013, being deployed on the Piraeus-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes line, before again finding a permanent spot the following year: this time on her current line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA on her way towards Aegina.

The KNOSSOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus.

The BLUE HORIZON and the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen from behind, as we all head towards the port's exit.

As mentioned previously, the EL. VENIZELOS also began to depart Piraeus in order to reach Chania.

Next to the ships in front of us, there was the cruiseferry NISSOS SAMOS of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Northeast Aegean Sea, serving the Piraeus-Psara-Oinousses-Chios-Mytilene line.

The EL. VENIZELOS having departed Piraeus. The summer of 2018 was her second consecutive one on the Piraeus-Chania line, on which she had also served several times in the past. The summer of 2017 was her first operating for ANEK Lines since 2012, after having had multiple charters in between. She was replacing her fleetmate, the ELYROS, which was on charter to Algérie Ferries (as it has been the case since the summer of 2015).

Two rival ferries of two rival operators seen together in Piraeus. The KNOSSOS PALACE and the departing EL. VENIZELOS. While the KNOSSOS PALACE still is the flagship of Minoan Lines, the EL. VENIZELOS was previously the flagship of ANEK Lines, serving that role from her delivery in 1992 until the arrival of the newly-built OLYMPIC CHAMPION in 2000.

The EL. VENIZELOS seen right behind us, on her way towards Chania.

In the E1 gate located right next to the exit of the port of Piraueus, I got to see the ferry BLUE STAR 2 of Blue Star Ferries, which was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Amorgos-Santorini-Samos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Symi-Rhodes line, alongside her sister ship, the BLUE STAR 1.

Between where the NISSOS SAMOS and the BLUE STAR 2 were docked, I got to see a ship for the first time in more than a decade. It was the cruiseferry MYKONOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which was operating for the company for the first time since 2012, being deployed on the Piraeus-Chania line. This marked Minoan Lines' first summer on the line exactly twenty years, having last served it in 1998.

The NISSOS SAMOS seen receiving bunkers while resting in Piraeus. This was her third season under Hellenic Seaways. Before that, she was the IONIAN QUEEN of the now-defunct Adriatic Sea-based company Endeavor Lines, operating for them between 2005 and 2012, before being laid-up in Patras from 2012 to late 2015, when she was bought by her current owners.

The MYKONOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus. Her introduction to service on the Piraeus-Chania line was certainly the most discussed and most defining moment of the summer of 2018. Her first season was very successful, and it was a pleasure to see her back in Greece, after she had spent her previous years (2012-2017) under charter to Italian company Tirrenia Di Navigazione (taking the name AMSICORA).

The funnel of the MYKONOS PALACE, carrying the logo of Minoan Lines (featuring the Lilly Prince from the fresco located in the palace of Knossos in Crete) for the first time since 2012. Her funnel however no longer looks like the one shown in the picture. Indeed, the ship was the first one of her company (right before the KNOSSOS PALACE) and the first in the history of the Greek coastal service to upgrade her oil consumption method by having scrubbers installed, as part of the Sulphur Cap legislation implemented by MARPOL which will come to effect on 1 January 2020. Minoan Lines is so far the only company in Greece to have undergone such a process, making it the most environmentally-friendly shipping company in the Greek coastal service as of 2019.

The BLUE STAR 2 seen resting in Piraeus. She herself has also served the Piraeus-Chania line, having operated there back in 2003 and 2004. Since 2005, she has been permanently serving the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.

The MYKONOS PALACE seen in Piraeus. She became the third ship of her company to connect Piraeus with Crete that summer, alongside her two older sister ships (the KNOSSOS PALACE and the FESTOS PALACE).

Another view of the MYKONOS PALACE. She is the youngest of the four sister ships ordered by Minoan Lines at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy between 2000 and 2002. During her first spell under Minoan Lines, she operated as the EUROPA PALACE, and was on the Adriatic Sea. She was on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line from 2002 to 2010, and then on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, Minoan Lines closed the line, and she and her sister ship, the OLYMPIA PALACE (now the CRUISE BONARIA of Grimaldi Lines), were chartered to Tirrenia Di Navigazione.

The NISSOS SAMOS and the EL. VENIZELOS seen together in Piraeus. The gigantic cruiseferries were previously on the Adriatic Sea, though not in the same period of time.

The impressive MYKONOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus.

Another view of the BLUE STAR 2. She was a competitor of the MYKONOS PALACE (then known as the EUROPA PALACE) in her debut season back in 2002, when both ships served the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line. The BLUE STAR 2 then moved to the Aegean Sea in 2003, and has been remaining there ever since.

The MYKONOS PALACE seen in Piraeus. In her first stint under Minoan Lines, she was registered in Heraklion. Following her return, she was reflagged to Greece, but was instead registered in Piraeus. This makes her the only ship of Minoan Lines' Aegean Sea fleet not be registered in the company's base port.

The BLUE HORIZON seen exiting the port of Piraeus.

While the PHIVOS was exiting the port of Piraeus, I spotted the AGIA MARINA AEGINIS of Evoïkos Lines patiently waiting to enter it (due to many ships exiting at the same time). She operates on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line, serving the ports of Souvala and Agia Marina.

Another view of the MYKONOS PALACE as we begin to exit the port.

Alongside another view of the BLUE STAR 2.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS awaiting the moment in which she will be able to enter the port of Piraeus. It was her third summer under Evoïkos Lines, having been sold to them in 2016.

While exiting Piraeus, I then had a clearer view on the Piraeus Vicinity area, which includes Drapetsona, Keratsini and Perama. Near the Drapetsona pier, I spotted the landing craft PSYTTALEIA II of Psyttaleia Shipping, which connects Drapetsona with the nearby island Psyttaleia (which houses the largest sewage treatment plant in Europe).

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS preparing to enter the port of Piraeus. She was previously known as the ALEXANDROS of Alexandros Shipping (2000-2015) and then of my WAYS (2015-2016). After beginning her career as on the Ionian Sea on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Ithaca-Lefkada line (2000-2006) and in Crete on the Ierapetra-Chryssi line (2007), she was deployed on her current service in 2008. She has remained there ever since, despite changing owners in 2015 and 2016, as well as changing her name to her current one in the latter year.

Next to the AGIA MARINA AEGINIS, I spotted another small passenger boat. It was the PETROULA of Petroula Speedline, which was spending her debut season on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The PETROULA about to enter Piraeus. She was previously known as the HERMES of

Antiparos Speedline NE, operating for them between 2010 (the year she was built) and 2016 on the Paros-Antiparos line. She was sold that same year to her current owners, which renamed her PETROULA and deployed her on the Perama-Salamina line in 2017. In 2018, she instead connected Salamina with Piraeus.

The BLUE HORIZON seen right after having exited the port of Piraeus.

The great BLUE HORIZON seen heading towards Heraklion.

The BLUE HORIZON seen en route towards Heraklion.

The EL. VENIZELOS having just exited the port of Piraeus.