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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

THEOLOGOS P Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 15 August 2020. From Rafina to Andros, with the THEOLOGOS P of Fast Ferries.

The ferry THEOLOGOS P was built in 2000 in Japan. She began service there, as the FERRY KŌCHI of Osaka-Kōchi Tokkyu Ferry, being deployed on the Osaka-Kōchi line. She stayed there until 2005, when her owners went bankrupt and the line was closed. After being laid-up in Osaka, she was sold in 2006 to the Greek company Fast Ferries.

She was converted for an entire year in Perama and was renamed THEOLOGOS P. She was the third ship in the history of the company to take that name. Indeed, Fast Ferries, which is owned by the Panagiotakis family (which also owns a well-known shipyard in Salamina), has had a lengthy history in the Greek coastal service. They first began operations in 1974, when they introduced a newly-built landing craft, the THEOLOGOS P (named after Theologos Panagiotakis), on the Oropos-Eretria line on the South Evoian Gulf. Just a year later, they deployed another newly-built landing craft, the EKATERINI P, on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea. This introduction turned out to be successful, and the company eventually cemented its operations in Corfu, by also bringing the THEOLOGOS P to operate alongside the EKATERINI P on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line in 1979. The ship operated there until 1984, when she was sold to a Kuwaiti company. However, she was replaced by another newly-built landing craft, also named THEOLOGOS P, in 1985. They also introduced another newly-built landing craft, the PLATYTERA, in 1981. As the company continued to be very successful with their two landing craft in the 1980s and 1990s, they sold the original EKATERINI P in 1999 to the now-defunct Greek company Ifigeneia NE (she later became the KONSTANTINOS G of Costar Lines and then of NEL Lines, and is now operating for the Equatorial Guinean company Somagec as the ELOBEY XII), and replaced her by a conventional ferry from Japan, the ROKKŌ MARU of Kansai Kisen, which succeeded her as the new EKATERINI P on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line. Following this successful introduction, the company went on to buy another conventional ferry from Japan in 2003. Indeed, it was the laid-up FERRY EXPRESS of Awaji Ferry Boat Company (a sister ship of the AGIA THEODORA of Kerkyra Lines, which also operates on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line), which was renamed PLATITERA and replaced the original PLATYTERA, which was sold to Thassos Ferries, being renamed PLATYTERA THASSOU and being deployed on the Kavala-Thassos line. The new PLATITERA eventually stayed with the company for just four years, as she was sold in 2007 to the Italian company Medmar, for whom she still operates to date as the MARIA BUONO on the Pozzuoli-Ischia line. Moreover, in 2005, the company sold the second THEOLOGOS P to Thassos Ferries, where she reunited with the PLATYTERA THASSOU, as she herself was renamed PANAGIA THASSOU and began service on the Kavala-Thassos line, where she still operates to date.

After remaining with just two conventional ferries in 2006, Fast Ferries sought to improve their fleet and services by buying the laid-up FERRY KŌCHI, whose large size and garage would enable them to operate her in many competitive areas in Greece. While initially considering to deploy her on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, they instead took a major risk by deciding that she would be deployed on the Cyclades, operating from Rafina. This choice was very interesting and risky for the company, as it would not only mark their return to the Aegean Sea for the first time since 1979 (and after having only operated on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line for 28 years), but also an entry to a very demanding and competitive market. Indeed, by 2006, the service from Rafina to the Cyclades was dominated by Hellenic Seaways, Blue Star Ferries, Agoudimos Lines and Alpha Ferries. All of them were serving the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, whereas Hellenic Seaways frequently deployed some of their high speed craft to serve additional islands during the high season. As such, many were skeptical regarding a new company entering service in Rafina with a ship which required a significant investment in order to undergo a conversion that would allow her to meet the demands of this difficult service.

Despite all the concerns, the company stayed true to their objectives, and saw the ship undergo a major conversion in Perama. Her indoor areas were entirely renovated, as were her engines and her sun deck areas. Furthermore, her garage, already deemed a major asset due to its large capacity and functionality, was upgraded in order to allow sufficient space for lorries with additional side ramps. After many months of conversion, the ship was renamed THEOLOGOS P, and entered service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in the spring of 2007, becoming the first ferry of her company to operate on the Cyclades. She has since remained in this service, with the exception of the 2017 season, when her service was extended to Naxos, and she therefore operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line.

Fourteen summer seasons later, the ferry has established herself as one of the best ships to have ever operated in Rafina. She is now the ship with the second largest amount of experience on the Rafina-Cyclades service, after the legendary SUPERFERRY II of Golden Star Ferries. Moreover, she has won the hearts of multiple passengers and has become the main ferry performing the afternoon service from Rafina while leaving from Mykonos the following morning. Her impressive garage has been widely acclaimed, and as a result she is the main ferry operating from Rafina that transports lorries to the Cyclades. Her modern indoor areas and her comfortable outdoor areas, including a beautiful balcony right above her bow, have also been appreciated. She has also been very reliable as she rarely arrives late to the ports that she serves, while also rarely having engine troubles, a sign that shows that her company takes very good care of her when she undergoes her annual maintenance. Moreover, she provides service to passengers and transportation companies both during the summer and during the winter. In fact, her service has been so successful, that eventually Fast Ferries shifted their entire operations from the Ionian Sea to Rafina, bringing the EKATERINI P in 2012 in order to double their services. After the latter also went on to experience a tremendous amount of success, Fast Ferries bought a third ferry in 2015, namely the EPTANISOS of Strintzis Ferries (which had been laid-up since 2012), which was converted and later renamed FAST FERRIES ANDROS. With three ships operating from Rafina, Fast Ferries became one of the three main companies operating from the port during the late 2010s, along with Golden Star Ferries and Sea Jets. Largely thanks to the success provided by the THEOLOGOS P, Fast Ferries is therefore among the most respected and appreciated Greek coastal service companies that operate today.

Now that the history of the THEOLOGOS P and of Fast Ferries has been provided to you, it is now the time to talk about my trip with this unique ferry. Indeed, after having spent a few days in Aegina and also taking many pictures in Piraeus, Salamina and Megara, I was now due to spend three days in Andros along with my family. This was my first trip to the Cyclades for the summer, while it was also the first time that I would be going to Andros, which is an island that is known for its shipping tradition, picturesque villages, unique food, and windy sand beaches. As the only connection the island has with mainland Greece is through Rafina, we had to go there in order to take one of the many ferries leaving the latter port for Andros. Coincidentally, my parents had booked a trip from Rafina to Andros onboard the THEOLOGOS P. This was therefore my first-ever trip with the ship, as well as my first-ever trip with a ship owned by Fast Ferries. It was also my first-ever trip from Rafina to Andros, and also my second-ever trip from Rafina to the Cyclades. Indeed, the first-ever trip was on 14 June 2018 (two years, two months and a day before my trip with the THEOLOGOS P), while heading from Rafina to Ios with the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries.

The THEOLOGOS P seen at dawn in Rafina. This was the third time in my life that I had been at the port. Indeed, the first time was on 14 June 2018 in order to travel with the SUPERFERRY, while the second time was in the morning of 3 August 2019, back when my father very kindly took me to witness the various ships departing the port one after the other. While she usually has her morning departure from Mykonos, she was spotted in Rafina that day as it was a Saturday, which is the only day of the week during which she heads to the Cyclades in the morning.

The THEOLOGOS P seen in Rafina at dawn, while facing the rising sun, which is also the symbol of Japan, the country in which she was built and in which she began her career.

The THEOLOGOS P seen in Rafina, shortly before we embarked onboard her. This was her fourteenth summer in Greece and on the Rafina-Cyclades service, in which she helped Fast Ferries to become an established company on the Cyclades. She has also become the company's flagship since 2007, and the main lorry carrier of Rafina.

Following our embarkation onboard the THEOLOGOS P, we spotted the ship's extremely modern reception desk, which also features the logo of Fast Ferries on the wall.

Next to the reception desk and in front of the Economy Class area located in Deck 6 (which includes all of the ship's indoor areas), there is a small model of the ship being displayed as a welcoming exhibit.

A view of the Economy Class area, which features several lounges and chairs. It also has a bar serving coffee, drinks, snacks and sweets.

A view of the Economy class lounge area near the shop's port side, which features some comfortable white seats.

Moving more forward, one can spot the indoor area featuring the aircraft-style seats. These are the ones from the ship's port side.

The second lounge area of the Economy Class area, which features the ship's second bar and additional lounges and seats.

A view of the ship's onboard retail store, which sells clothes, bags, jewelry, small toys and other gadgets.

Another view of the lounge area on the ship's port side.

The bar of the First Class area, which has a very modern and stylish design.

After having explored the indoor areas of Deck 6, I then headed to Deck 7, which is dedicated to the ship's outdoor areas, and notably her well-known sun decks. One way to head from Deck 6 to Deck 7 is through the stairs located in the ship's aft section. The sun deck was extended up until the aft section in 2017, with the covering looking a lot like a normal house roof. Furthermore, the sun deck features multiple black plastic chairs attached to the floor and surrounding tables built out of marble, as well as an outdoor bar.

A view of the sun deck in Deck 7.

The central part of the sun deck, featuring more plastic chairs and tables.

Outside of the sun deck which is covered by plastic windows, there is an alley that can lead passengers from the bow to the stern. This is the one that is located on the ship's starboard side, whereas the port side also has one as well.

The alley on the starboard side seen just behind the ship's bridge. It enables passengers to then have a view right above the bow, as there is an open front section balcony. There are also some additional black plastic chairs right next to the handrails.

Deck 7 also includes the crew cabins. On top of them is a red sign indicating the ship's name in Greek characters. Moreover, as the trip was held on 15 August, which is a major holiday in Greece as it commemorates the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, multiple decorative nautical flags were added between her masts.

Another view of the starboard side outdoor alley, which also has the ship's primary lifeboat.

From the balcony in Deck 7, one can use a staircase to go to the outdoor area located right above the bow, on Deck 6. There, it was several comfortable chairs facing forward, allowing passengers to have a full view of the ship's surroundings. This area is quite popular and frequently used by passengers, even when trips to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos are windy.

The ship's Japanese bow, seen from the outdoor area located in Deck 6.

Now that I had spotted most of the ship's amenities, it was now the time to take pictures of the other ships that I saw. Indeed, at dawn, I saw the fleetmate of the THEOLOGOS P, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, departing the port of Rafina.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS leaving Rafina in order to head towards her namesake island. She joined Fast Ferries in 2015, after having had a three-year-long lay-up following the demise of her former owners, Strintzis Ferries. Built in 1989 in Japan, she joined the latter in 2003, being renamed EPTANISOS and operating on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line on the Ionian Sea. She moved to the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line in 2011, but she was then laid-up following the 2012 season due to the financial difficulties of Strintzis Ferries. After three years of lay-up, she found a new home on the Cyclades as the FAST FERRIES ANDROS.

As the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was departing the port of Rafina, I was then able to see the iconic SUPERFERRY II of Golden Star Ferries, which was also seen featuring decorative nautical flags as part of the celebrations of 15 August.

A view of the legendary SUPERFERRY II, during what was her tenth summer under Golden Star Ferries. She is the oldest and most experienced ship operating from Rafina to the Cyclades, and she still remains a very successful ferry despite her advanced age. She was built in 1974, and was bought by Strintzis Lines in 1992, following a much-acclaimed spell on the Channel. Initially planned to operate on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line on the Ionian Sea as the IONIAN EXPRESS, she was instead converted for service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line on the Cyclades. She began service there in 1993 (with her debut season also seeing her operating on the Dodecanese) , and she was immediately lauded for her impressive amenities, her large garage, her beautiful outdoor areas and for her speed. She has widely become the best ferry to have ever operated from Rafina, and perhaps the best ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service. She has remained in Rafina even following the takeover of Strintzis Lines by Attica Group in 2000, which resulted in the creation of Blue Star Ferries. She sailed for the latter dutifully for ten years on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. In 2011 she began to operate for the newly-established company Golden Star Ferries, for whom she has also become a valuable asset, as her success eventually led the company in purchasing five other ships by 2019, hence helping it become a major presence on the Cyclades.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen departing the port of Rafina. This was her sixth season under Fast Ferries, and her fifth consecutive summer on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. In her debut season for Fast Ferries back in 2015, she was on the Rafina-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line.

The SUPERFERRY II seen in Rafina during what was her twenty-eighth summer in Greece. During the 2020 season, she was on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros line. This service came after Golden Star Ferries stopped the services to Santorini and Heraklion, which the ship was serving in 2018 (in which she also made calls to Ios) and in 2019.

The SUPERFERRY II, a legend of the Greek coastal service, seen in Rafina, which is the port where she became such an iconic ferry

The SUPERFERRY II seen shortly before her departure from Rafina. She is the last ship among those built in Belgium between the 1950s and the 1970s which went on to have successful spells in Greece (mostly on the Cyclades), after having first operated under the famous Belgian company Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT). This group of ships is known as the 'Gentle Belgians', and included legendary ships, such as the late AIGAION of Agapitos Lines (1976-1992) and later of Agapitos Express Ferries (1992-1996); the late GEORGIOS EXPRESS (another ship considered by some as the best ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service) of Ventouris Ferries (1980-1983), Ventouris Sea Lines (1983-1996) and later Agios Georgios Ferries (1996-2009, though the company ceased operations in 2001); the latter's sister ship, the BARI EXPRESS, of Ventouris Ferries (1983-1997), and later the EXPRESS HERMES of Agapitos Express Ferries (1997-1999) and Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2003); the late LYDIA of the now-defunct company Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (1985-1995); and lastly the SUPERFERRY II's sister ship, the PANAGIA TINOU 2 of Ventouris Sea Lines (1993-1997), later the EXPRESS ATHINA of Agapitos Express Ferries (1997-1999), Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2005) and Hellenic Seaways (2005-2007), before ending her career as the EXPRESS LIMNOS of Saos Ferries (2007-2011). The SUPERFERRY II is the only ship from that group that is still alive and still sailing in Greece to date.

The SUPERFERRY II seen leaving Rafina in the morning.

The SUPERFERRY II leaving Rafina in order to head towards Andros.

While the SUPERFERRY II was departing the port of Rafina, I could now spot her fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY.

The SUPERFERRY spotted in Rafina. This was her fifth summer operating in Greece, and all of them have so far been under Golden Star Ferries. She was also built in Japan, just like the THEOLOGOS P, albeit five years before the latter. She was bought by Golden Star Ferries in 2015, and began service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2016.

The SUPERFERRY seen in Rafina. Right upon the start of her career in Greece, she quickly became a force to be reckoned with on the Cyclades, thanks to the impressive conversion that she underwent, which massively improved her amenities. I was very fortunate to discover them back on 14 June 2018, when I traveled with her from Rafina to Ios.

The SUPERFERRY II on her way towards Andros.

The SUPERFERRY seen in Rafina shortly before her own departure. In 2020 she was operating on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, which was also the exact same line on which she operated during her debut season in 2016. In 2017 she had operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, while in 2018 she and the SUPERFERRY II operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini-Heraklion line. In 2019 both ships served the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Santorini-Heraklion line.

The SUPERFERRY seen in Rafina, during her fifth season with Golden Star Ferries.

Just before the departure of the THEOLOGOS P, I noticed a ship arriving in Rafina. Indeed, it was the conventional ferry PANORAMA of Panorama Shipping, which serves the Rafina-Marmari line, thus connecting Rafina with Evoia via the Petalioi Gulf.

The PANORAMA seen approaching Rafina, after having arrived from Marmari.

The PANORAMA seen approaching the port of Rafina. This was her ninth season on the Rafina-Marmari line, as she began operating there in late 2011, after having underwent a year-long conversion in Drapetsona following her acquisition by Panorama Shipping. Built in 1987, she had initially started her career in Trinidad and Tobago, operating for the Trinidadian state-owned company Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Ferry Service on the Port of Spain-Scarborough line. She operated there for 23 years before being sold to her current owners.

The PANORAMA seen reaching Rafina. Even when she was operating in Trinidad and Tobago, she sailed under the name PANORAMA. Her current owners decided to keep it, only changing her flag from Liberia (her temporary flag of convenience during her conversion, although she flew the Trinidadian flag for 23 years) to Greece.

The PANORAMA is one of the two ships operating on the Rafina-Marmari line, along with the veteran ferry EVIA STAR of Geraistos NE. Both ships operate under the Marmari Ferries joint venture.

The PANORAMA seen right before her maneuvering procedure.

The PANORAMA seen maneuvering in Rafina during the early morning.

The SUPERFERRY about to depart the port of Rafina in order to head to Andros.

The PANORAMA seen undergoing her maneuvering procedure in Rafina.

The SUPERFERRY seen alongside the PANORAMA in Rafina, as the latter is seen maneuvering.

The SUPERFERRY about to depart the port of Rafina. She also carried decorative nautical flags in order to commemorate the holiday of 15 August.

The PANORAMA having almost completed her maneuvering procedure in Rafina.

The PANORAMA having finished her maneuvering procedure and now docking in Rafina.

The PANORAMA seen docking in the port of Rafina.

One of the two funnels of the PANORAMA, which just have a dark blue background, without any logo or particular design.

Just as the PANORAMA was docking in Rafina, the SUPERFERRY was seen departing the port.

The SUPERFERRY seen leaving Rafina in order to head towards Andros.

The SUPERFERRY on her way towards Andros.

The PANORAMA having just docked in the port of Rafina.

At 08:15, the THEOLOGOS P departed the port of Rafina, being the final ship to leave the port for the Cyclades. Her trip begins by passing by the PANORAMA.

The PANORAMA seen upon our departure.

The PANORAMA seen resting in Rafina.

The PANORAMA seen docked in Rafina.

A view of the PANORAMA in Rafina. She began service in late 2011, taking over the void left by the previous ship operating alongside the EVIA STAR on the Rafina-Marmari line, namely the ex-ARTEMISIA of Karystia Lines, which had been sold to Dodekanisos Seaways. She still operates for them today, being known as the PANAGIA SKIADENI and being deployed on the Rhodes-Symi line on the Dodecanese.

The PANORAMA spotted in Rafina, as the THEOLOGOS P begins sailing towards Andros.

One final view of the PANORAMA in Rafina.

About forty minutes after the ship's departure, the island of Evoia could be spotted from a far distance.

A view of the port and town of Karystos in Southern Evoia, as seen from the Petalioi Gulf.

After 90 minutes, the THEOLOGOS P had passed by Southern Evoia and the channel known as Cavo Doro, which is one of the most dangerous places for shipping on the Aegean Sea due to intense winds and the presence of several reefs. The ship was now in the heart of the Cyclades.

A view of the island of Andros, which was our destination in this trip.

A view of the Gavrion Bay, which is named after the eponymous village which serves as the main ferry port of Andros.

As we were heading towards the Gavrion Bay, the SUPERFERRY II could be spotted while she was sailing to Tinos.

The coast of Andros seen as we prepare to enter the Gavrion Bay.

The entrance of the Gavrion Bay, seen at around 10:05.

The SUPERFERRY was spotted in Andros, after she had arrived just before we did.

The SUPERFERRY seen in Andros, right before her departure for Tinos.

The SUPERFERRY having departed Andros and exiting the Gavrion Bay.

The SUPERFERRY seen leaving the port of Gavrion in Andros. Because of her departure and the high winds that were there at the time, the THEOLOGOS P had to wait for 15 minutes before being able to head towards her docking spot.

The SUPERFERRY seen exiting the port and leaving Andros under strong winds.

Crossing the SUPERFERRY as she leaves Andros in order to head to Tinos.

The SUPERFERRY having departed Andros, and now sailing towards Tinos. She was leaving the island on which she is registered. She is one of the two ships of Golden Star Ferries that are registered in Andros and not in Piraeus, along with the high speed ferry SUPERRUNNER.

The SUPERFERRY seen leaving Andros.

Crossing the SUPERFERRY on the Cyclades, as she sails between Andros and Tinos.

One last view of the SUPERFERRY, as she now heads towards Tinos.

At 10:25, the THEOLOGOS P had finally docked in Andros. Here she is right after our disembarkation.

The THEOLOGOS P, the much-acclaimed ship of Fast Ferries, having just docked in Andros.

One last view of the THEOLOGOS P, before her imminent departure to Tinos and Mykonos.

This therefore concludes this memorable trip from Rafina to Andros. I was very pleased to finally embark onboard a ship owned by Fast Ferries, which is clearly one of the most underrated companies of the Greek coastal service, although residents of the Cyclades have widely praised and appreciated their services. The introduction of the THEOLOGOS P back in 2007 was certainly one of the smartest moves ever made by a Greek coastal service company, as her impressive garage and passenger amenities quickly made her a vital ship on such a demanding line. Her success is further measured by the fact that the company has since deployed two other ships in Rafina, with both of them also providing services of high quality in the area as well. The company's tradition and humility can be seen in their gradual development over the last decade, and their growth will continue as they are due to reactivate the EKATERINI P (which has been plagued by engine troubles since 2019) for the 2021 season. But they are also due to deploy a new weapon, namely the high speed ferry THUNDER, which was acquired from the Turkish company İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri and is due to begin service from Piraeus to the Cyclades. Knowing how well the company maintains its ships, they are due to experience more success in the upcoming years, without a doubt.

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