Port of Hydra, crowded since time immemorial.
Perhaps because we have lived here too long, or maybe because we just know the island and locals too well, intelligence concerning last week’s tragic nautical event involving the sinking of a passenger ferry, crushed by a monstrous cruise yacht in the main port of Hydra, was greeted with a grain of sea salt in our village.
Freedom II heading into Hydra Harbor.
Within minutes of the drama’s unfolding in the big city, the tom-toms (these days, text messages) had informed us of the excitement occurring in the island’s main harbour. Before we sound too sceptical or cynical in our reporting “the rest of the story,” the Comet wishes to add, had anyone been hurt or made to suffer financial ruin, in no way would we take a lighthearted approach to the story. On the contrary, our sources have revealed that all’s well that end’s well.*
Cruise yacht Bilmar.
Highlights from the initial murmurrings suggested that passengers’ lives were in danger, some near-drownings had been witnessed, and one of the island’s largest mainland transportation boats, the Freedom II, was sinking amidst scenes of pandemonium. Indeed, crew of the offending craft—a huge, privately owned luxury cruise yacht named the Bilmar—were nonchalantly ignoring the plight they had caused, and a poor Hydra family was about to be destitute, probably left to starve, their dreams sinking before their eyes, while fat-cat guests aboard the floating palace sipped exotic cocktails, pretended not to notice the panic on the harbour quay.
Various and sundry ships crowded into the Port on an average summer day.
Happily, the on-land reality and postcatastrophe facts are a little more in line with what we expected at the outset. Let’s be quite straightforward: given the amount of sea tonnage in shipping terms, as well as the number of yachts, passenger ferries, hydrofoils, catamarans, fishing boats, cargo boats—in fact just about every type of floating vehicle with the possible exception of aircraft carriers—frequenting the little port, it is in fact surprising to most, and a tribute to the seafarers, that so few accidents occur in the high-season confines of Hydra harbour.
Two boats aiming for the narrow harbor outlet.
As with any excessively busy intersection, the odd fender bender is ultimately inevitable. In this case perhaps the harbour master should have discouraged the Bilmar from entering the harbor, especially as the sea was choppy due to wind on the July 16. Apparently the cruiser, in trying to manoeuvre back out, drifted against the Freedom water bus, puncturing the hull in two places just below the waterline.
Ships have been navigating that passage, generally without incident, for centuries.
Indeed, instant rescue operations erupted the moment the incident occurred. Savvy Hydriot sailors rallied to the floundering boat’s aid and managed to save the Freedom II from going under with the ingenious use of floating barrels and help of a local building crane. With hindsight, some locals even suggested that as the insurance and instant offer of remuneration from the yacht owner himself were going to cover all damages; they should have let the boat sink. As it is, Freedom II is in the repair shop and expected to be up and running in a couple of weeks, complete with refurbished engines and equipment.
Many lives were saved.
The only rumour still afloat surrounding the incident is the possible reposting of a certain harbour chief, perhaps to a very small and distant port. This said because he had not behaved, at the time of the accident, in a courteous manner. A pistol was nearly unholstered during a postcollision argument with a local captain. This, of course, is also only hearsay, but like all rhubarbs on the island, where there is smoke on the water, there quite possibly a sinking ciaqui.
* We spoke to the Zogos family on July 20, who assured us that they are doing well. Freedom II is in drydock for repairs and will be up and running again in a few weeks. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual, with Freedom I still running a full schedule. For schedule info, see the Hydra Lines website (for contact info, click “Επικοινωνία“) or call 6947325263
The skippers that regularly have to use this overcrowded harbour have all, at some point, “lost it” … ( myself included) … with a mistimed cross wind or a fouled anchor, etc .
Part of the problem lies in the fact that Hydra is a “free harbour.” It is not a marina with preset moorings or any reserved spaces. “First come, first served” is the rule of Hydra—with a little advice from Pandelis (oopp!! oopp!! 🙂 ).
Maybe it is time to put a few new rules in place. A limit to the size of “private” vessels attempting to moor inside the harbour wall would be a start. These LLVs (large luxury vessels) have the equipment and crew to safely moor on the “outer” wall … or heaven forbid … anchor outside Kamini Harbour.
The reason this does not happen is touched on in the lead article: it is damn hard on the owner’s lady friends to hobble around to the water front gold shops from the outer molos in their stiletto heals … and those same heals are murder on the tender dinghy .
With respect ,
Capt. Saronic RYA ret.
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