SPECIAL ARTICLE 1
This is a strange article to write .... usually when these
appear in diskmags, they more often than not relate either to
people; not just those in the Atari scene either. However, this
particular dead celebrity is a mode of transport, the catamaran-
ferry which has transported myself, CiH, Neo/RG, Franky,
Asteroid and others, during different years, from the port of
Harwich in the UK over to the port of the Hook of Holland (Hoek
van Holland to give the proper name).
Our first journey on the ship was back in April of 2000, when
the five of us were packed into my then housemate's borrowed
Vauxhall Cavalier car (along with our stuff) to go to
Siliventure 2k, organised by Grey/Mystic Bytes in Gdansk,
Poland. We were admittedly a little nervous as it was our first
time going on a car ferry and driving to a party. For me it was
the first time driving abroad, but I was looking forward to this
and arriving in the Hoek there were no obvious difficulties.
The ship that we travelled on, the Stena HSS Discovery, wasn't
even as swish then as it is now. The general public in the UK at
large hadn't yet heard of the service, preferring that the word
'ferry' meant crossings with P&O from Dover to Calais in France.
It was a large ferry, around the size of 6 football pitches in
terms of area to walk around in. The car deck being pretty much
self-explanatory; the more interesting items could be seen on
the main passenger deck. After we boarded that first time, the
doors to the car deck were closed and locked until later on as
we approached the coastline of the Netherlands, which is
standard on all ferries that use the UK coastline. There was a
well-sized shop on board that sold quite a lot of expensive tat,
fortunately however there were some useful items that we bought
at various times and on different crossings. Until the laws in
the UK changed, alcohol could not be bought on board until the
ship was safely out of UK waters.
The area where we spent the most time in was where the major
seating was, in the centre of the ship. At the front of the
seating area was a huge video wall that presented us with MTV-
style pop videos and at the back were a number of fast-food
restaurants, including McDonalds and a pizza parlour. All of
these were in one unit where ordering and picking up of food was
done from the counter in a fast-food style. An area that
disappeared after a few years was Rudy's Diner, although the
facilities remained more or less the same.
We all whiled away the hours, watching the video wall. On one
particular trip back to the UK Stena Line showed their
remarkable video footage of the ship when it was being built,
from the drawing board right up to the first sailing.
The ship itself had been sailing since 1997 and has been taken
out of service as of January 7, 2007, being a casualty of the
cost of oil that has risen over the last few years. Although
this fast ferry service lasted for just under 10 years, had oil
prices not gone as high as they had the service would have
lasted a lot longer than it did.
I for one will miss the old thing though. It had become part of
our party-travelling routine, it's familiar shape (to me,
anyway) brought good feelings that we were going to have a good
few days away. The shape was quite distinctive anyway and I
shall miss seeing it pull up to the shore, having witnessed this
at both ends, at Harwich as well as at the Hoek van Holland.
It was amusing, being a frequent set of travellers on the
crossing. Some of the staff began to recognise us; this could be
interpreted as being a bit scary but they meant well. The
crossing itself was used a number of times also by the top Dutch
actor, Rutger Hauer, when he and his wife were travelling to
engagements in London in accordance with his acting career. I
recall some footage of him having been shot at the time, by a
previous member of staff on the ship, of him wandering around in
the ship itself, mingling with his wife and the general public
at large on the crossing. Of course, he gets treated like
royalty by the largely Dutch based crew, so he visited the
bridge and other areas where the public didn't go.
There are still other ferries crossing the route that we can use
to get over to the Netherlands; these, however, take just over 6
hours to cross, unlike the Discovery, which took 3 hours and 40
minutes precisely from end to end.