Monday, March 15, 2010

Ferry Dust

Taking the ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania proved to be pretty much a non-event. Even LK complained it wasn't much of an adventure as we left.

It took quite awhile to get on as they loaded containers, and those of us bringing our vehicles did not get to drive aboard until about 90 minutes after we first went through the security check. That security check, by the way, comprised a very friendly guy asking to look at our engine and in the boot (trunk). He asked if we were carrying explosives (we weren't) and alcohol (we were). He told us we were OK but we had to leave the booze in the car when we went aboard the ship. (And by the way, one of us ignored that rule and had amber alerts answered in the room.)

Since it was a night crossing we had paid to have one of the rooms with twin beds in them. As you can see from this picture on the ferry website, the rooms were not quite as large as the rooms we have been in on our cruises. In fact, they weren't quite as large as our linen cupboard - when we used to have one.

But there were two single beds and fresh linen, so they served their purpose.

I worry a lot about ferries. It may just be my impression but it seems that year in and out, more people die from ferry accidents than airplanes crashing.

In 2009 alone 13 ferries sank in: Bali, Nepal, Kiribati, Macedonia, the Philippines (twice), Sierra Leone, Croatia, Japan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Egypt with losses of more than 640 lives. By comparison, last year's commercial airplane crashes were limited to eight with 677 lives lost.

But, I reasoned with myself, we aren't taking a ferry from Kiribati or Sierra Leone or Bangladesh. We're taking a ferry in Australia, not some third world country. Feeling more secure, I went into the loo and changed my mind when I saw a sticker on the wall with the heading: "κίνδυνος"

The rest of the sign was more of the same, and I realized what they meant when they said "It's all Greek to me." I couldn't tell if we were being warned to throw anything in the toilet that had not once been part of us or if it in fact was telling us what to do if the water was higher than the window on our room. What I did know, though, was that I was riding on the Spirit of Tasmania, a reconditioned ferry from some place that put stickers saying "κίνδυνος" on their walls.

Well, as I found out only days later, the Spirit of Tasmania II started life in 1988 as Superfast III, built by the Finns and operated by the Greeks (hence the sign). In 1999 the Superfast had a bit of a problem going from Patras to Ancona, and 413 passengers and crew were evacuated to life rafts due to a fire in the vehicle hold. Fourteen people were later found dead in the hold.

Three years later Superfast III became Spirit of Tasmania II, which I am assuming was in no way referencing the problems of 1988. Nonetheless, aboard the ship we both slept like babies and didn't wake up until they made the announcement that we would be docking in half an hour.

LK had only one concern as we drive our car off the ferry. "Donald," she asked, "can we count this as a cruise?"

I didn't think so at the time, but on Friday we drive back to return to Melbourne. Now that I know the history of the ferry I am thinking maybe if we can survive one more crossing, I might let her count the return crossing.

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