As we head through Autumn – or ‘the Fall’ as our North American readers would put it – and some of the weather already seems to be more winter than it should be, it is good to remember the summer.
Not that I experienced much by the way of summer weather. Any warmth in the sun and even a blue sky was a rarity as far as I am concerned. So it is wonderful that there are some readers that have been more fortunate and they are kind enough to share their summer voyaging through these pages. John Lucas took a round Mediterranean trip that provided a fascinating cross section of the vessels that now ply these routes, both passenger and freight. They criss-cross the Med linking the varied communities around its shores and his camera witnessed many of them. I doubt that Mediterranean routes have ever been more comprehensive or as effi cient than they are now, employing some first class tonnage. Their routes cover the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, joining continents, connecting countries, linking mainlands to islands, producers with markets, workers and raw materials to industries and food to populations.
Starting in the west, Barcelona is a well developed hub with Balearia connecting to the Balearic islands with Abel Matutes 29,670,’10 now on Palma Mallorca service. She shows a domestic uniquely Spanish design, built at Vigo, of which the Spanish ferry business shows several examples. But the inevitable Visentini type is also much in evidence and Sicilia 24,409,’02 is currently serving to Ibiza from Barcelona. GNV Atlas 33,336,’90 is also turning round at Barcelona and is currently on a complex route linking also Sete in France to Mellilla in North Africa.
GNV - Grandi Navi Veloci - has seen much progress in upgrading vessels and coordinating routes, especially linking mainland Italy with its near and more distant neighbours. GNV Atlas is still a ship of high calibre having been built by Schichau at Bremerhaven for the Olau Line. She was too big for the Sheerness-Vlissingen route for which she was built as Olau Britannia and was sold with her sister Olau Hollandia, but Olau’s loss was a gain for P&O for whom she then served as Pride of Portsmouth for 11 years.
Though the Royal Navy, HMS St Albans in particular, might not agree, as this brand new warship in 2002, on the verge of commissioning, came off a poor second when the P&O high sided vessel was docking in Portsmouth in a fierce wind and with a faulty bow thruster, she caused the navy’s newest considerable damage. She was laid up with her sister Pride of Le Havre, the ex Olua Hollandia, in late 2005 and subsequently was sold to SNAV of Naples. She has been successful there for 12 years as the SNAV Lazio and was only lately transferred to GNV colours as their GNV Atlas. GNV does move their ships between routes as it suits them and hence she appeared in Barcelona in August.