Posted on Sunday, August 28, 2011 by Kalle Id
by Kalle Id
Unless otherwise noted, all images are copyright 2011 Kalle Id.
The city of Turku in south-western Finland is probably known to most ship-enthustiasts as the origin of many of today’s largest cruise ships, the most recent being the giant ALLURE OF THE SEAS. The oldest city in Finland is rarely visited by cruise ships (in 2011 the city has a total of eight cruise visits; for 2012 just four a scheduled), but a twice-daily ferry service to Stockholm is operated by both Viking Line and Silja Line. Though visiting cruise ships are rare, the city features many interesting sights, such as the Turku Castle dating from the late 13th century. For the nautically-inclined there are two sights in the city above all others: the Forum Marinum maritime museum and the preserved pocket liner/cruise ship BORE of 1960.
I visited the BORE on Saturday August 13 2011, having spent the preceding week just a stone’s throw from the ship at Sjöhistoriska Institutet vid Åbo Akademi (the Maritime Historical Institute of Turku’s Swedish-language university), doing research for my master’s thesis in the archives of the Finland Steamship Company. What else would a ship-buff do on his free time, after a week of ship-related activity. If not more ship-related activity? So I headed back to the harbour to visit the BORE, with hopes of also meeting the man behind the preservation effort, Mr. Johnny Sid.
But before we take a closer look at the ship and her preservation, a look at her history might be in order.
A Brief History of the BORE
The construction of the BORE in the late 1950s/early 1960s coincided with a period of change in shipping services between Sweden and Finland, with the arrival of car-passenger ferries in place of pocket liners of the old. From 1918 the routes had been dominated by a joint service operated by three companies, Finland Steamship Company (based in Helsinki), Steamship Company Bore (based in Turku) and Rederi AB Svea (based in Stockholm). These three were known collectively as De Samseglande (Yhteisliikennevarustamot in Finnish). Of De Samseglande, Finland SS Co. and Svea were hesitant about these new-fangled ferries, and preferred to rely on the tried and true methods of sea transports.
Steamship Company Bore had a more positive view of ro-ro ferries than their collaborators, but at the same time the company needed to comply with the strategies of the joint service agreement. The BORE herself reflected this: outwardly she was a traditional two-funneled liner, she had quadruple steam engines and her accommodation was class-divided – yet at the same time she had a roll on-roll off (ro-ro) car deck accessible via a side-door and she was the first purpose-built ro-ro ship on the routes connecting Finland and Sweden. She was delivered in April 1960 and placed on the Turku-Mariehamn-Stockholm service. Every other day she would depart her home port of Turku in the evening, arrive in Stockholm the following morning, spend a day in port and make an overnight crossing back to Turku. Occasionally she also sailed on Helsinki-Stockholm and Stockholm-Mariehamn -routes.
Traditionally, Bore passenger ships had names such as BORE I, BORE II etc. This was not a running numbering system and usually the company’s passenger ships were numbered I, II and III. As the company already had three passenger ships in 1960 (the BORE I of 1898, the BORE II of 1906 and the BORE III of 1952), the decision was made not to give a number to the company’s newest ship and she became simply BORE. Lacking a number in her name, she was often referred to as NOLLA-BORE (BORE ZERO) to distinguish her from her fleetmates.
In 1970 Finland SS, Bore and Svea reorganized their Finland-Sweden operations, adopting a stronger joint identity with the formation of Silja Line, a brand under which the marketing and operating all the three companies’ Finland-Sweden passenger ships were placed. Ships under the Silja Line brand retained the funnel symbols of their owners, but had a Silja Line logo with a stylized seal’s head painted on the hulls. However, while other ships of Silja Line were given white hulls, the BORE retained her original corn-coloured hull through-out her time with Silja.
As the decade progressed, the time steam-powered pocket liners was coming to an end. In 1976 the BORE was the last of the breed to sail between Turku and Stockholm. During her 16 years on the route she had carried over 1,5 million passengers on 2473 round trips.
Following the closure of the Turku-Stockholm steamer service, the BORE led a wandering existence. In 1977 she passed to Jakob Lines (a company affiliated with Steamship Company Bore) and was renamed BOREA for services across the Gulf of Bothnia from Jakobstad (or Pietarsaari in Finnish). Until 1984 she sailed occasionally on the Gulf of Bothnia, but more often she was chartered elsewhere, including a long stint as an accommodation ship in Algeria. By the early 80s it seemed unlikely the ship would ever return to her home waters on the Baltic.
Things didn’t go quite however. In 1984 a new company named Aura Line was established in Turku with the aim of re-starting pocket liner service between Turku and Stockholm. The ship they had in mind for this was the BOREA. She was sold by Jakob Lines to Helsingfors Steamship Company, who in turn chartered her to Aura Line. She retained the name BOREA as well as her previous livery. For the 1984 summer season the BOREA returned to the exact same service she had plied when she was brand new. During that summer one of the people to travel onboard the BOREA was a young boy with the name Johnny Sid, who was to become a pivotal character in the ship’s future. Aura Line was not a success however, and after the end of the 1984 summer season to BOREA was again laid up, awaiting an uncertain future.
An abortive plan to convert the BOREA into a luxury cruise ship under the name VANDERBILT was made in 1985, but nothing came of this. Instead, in 1987 the ship did find new owners in Rannikkolinjat Oy, a coastal cruise operator owned by the Partanen family based in Kotka, Finland. The BOREA was refitted with diesel engines at the Wärtsilä shipyard in Turku and renamed KRISTINA REGINA, presumably after Christina, the 17th-century Queen of Sweden. The company also operated the small coastal cruise ship KRISTINA BRAHE (ex-USS PCE 830, HMS KILCHERNAN, SUNNHORDLAND, today the BRAHE). In 1988 the KRISTINA REGINA begun cruising around the Baltic from Kotka and Helsinki under the banner of Kristina Cruises. After the first summer season she was again refitted, with her cabins brought up to date.
During the summer seasons the KRISTINA REGINA cruised the Baltic, but during the winters she was laid up. In the late 1990s her cruising area expanded to the Norwegian Fjords and in 1999 first winter-season cruises in the Mediterranean were carried out. These were a success, and from 2000 onwards she spent winters cruising the Mediterranean, Red Sea and West Coast of Africa, returning for summers to Northern Europe, her voyages reaching as far as Greenland in the north. Cruising author Douglas Ward described the KRISTINA REGINA as “a very traditional ship that is reminiscent of how ship travel used to be.”
But all good things must come to an end, and like many other classic ships the KRISTINA REGINA was not up to the 2010 SOLAS requirements. Kristina Cruises studied the possibility of rebuilding her to meet the requirements, but the cost was found too high. Instead, they opted to purchase a new ship, the Mano Cruise ship THE IRIS (ex-KONSTANTIN SIMONOV, FRANCESCA) that was to become the new KRISTINA KATARINA. This left the problem of what to do with the KRISTINA REGINA, as the Partanen family did not want to see her go to scrap.
Now it is time for Johnny Sid, the boy traveling on the BOREA, to re-enter the story. In 2008 he had organized an attempt to save the FINNJET, the one-time pride of Finland and (still) the fastest conventional ferry in the world. The FINNJET ended on the beaches of Alang, but soon afterwards Mr. Sid was contacted by Mikko Partanen of Kristina Cruises, asking if Mr. Sid would be interested in preserving the KRISTINA REGINA instead. He was.
In August 2010, following the conclusion of her last cruise as KRISTINA REGINA, the ship was handed over to the new Oy S/S Borea Ab. She was docked in Naantali and repainted in her original Steamship Company Bore colours. In October 2010 she returned to her original home port Turku and was renamed BORE. However, finding a suitable permanent mooring spot for the ship took it’s time and it was not until well into 2011 that the ship could be opened to the public.
Onboard the BORE
Before my visit I had contacted Mr. Sid in advance, asking if I needed a permission for photographing onboard. No permission was needed, but Sid asked me to contact me when I came onboard. So, on boarding I made my way to the reception and asked if Mr. Sid was onboard. He was, and by a feat of timing I arrived just as he was finishing his lunch. During the next two hours we talked a lot about the ship and it’s future prospects, and Mr. Sid kindly showed me around the ship, including access to parts that are currently not open to visitors (such as the engine room and the à la carte restaurant).
At the moment the BORE is still very much a work in progress. Much of necessary maintenance and restoration work is still being carried out, and not all spaces are yet open to the public. What is currently open is the Navigare Café, the Kristina Restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch buffet (a dinner buffet will be added later) and the Manoeuvre Bar, though at least during my visit while the space itself was open, there was no-one at the bar and there was no arranged entertainment. And, of course, many of the cabins are open during the summer as a hostel – during the winter they are used as student accommodations.
On the two topmost decks there is a small museum-exhibition, where visitors can see some of the original first-class cabins and crew cabins maintained in the exact same state as they were when Kristina Cruises handed the ship over to S/S Borea, as well as the navigation bridge itself, also maintained in the precise condition she was when the ship was withdrawn from service, with state-of-the-art 21st-century navigation equipment side by side of the original telegraph from 1960.
Regarding the public spaces and their further use, Mr. Sid told me his final plan for the ship is to be able to present the same experience as taking a short ferry cruise to Sweden, with restaurants, bars and live entertainment, but without having to leave terra firma and being able to spend the night in your own bed if you so wish.
After a lengthy chat Mr. Sid was kind enough to give me a tour of the ship himself. As we were looking around he explained to me the philosophy of the restoration: while on the outside the ship looks like the BORE (purists will point out that she never carried those exact colours in that exact construction, but let’s not be too picky), on the inside her has been retained as much as possible in the condition she was as the KRISTINA REGINA, giving the visitors s full scope of the ship’s history and development.
We started our tour in the sauna (of course a Finnish ship will have one!), located deep in the bowels of the ship on deck one. Deck 2 is taken up by cabins, and from there we proceeded to the Baltic Hall on deck 3. This was originally the ship’s garage, but during her time as the KRISTINA REGINA it was converted into it’s current form as a lecture/meeting room. The space can still be accessed by the large side-door originally built for loading cars if necessary.
Aft of the Baltic Hall is the ship’s old tax-free shop, which currently is dark and lifeless. The plan is to turn it into a shop selling BORE-memorabilia, such as reproductions of old postcards, models, etc.
A deck up from deck 3 and we were on the promenade deck (deck 4). The entrance gangway leads to this deck, and the main entrance vestibule is located on the forward staircase. Here is the main reception, which now works as the reception for the hostel. Forward and up a short flight of stairs is the Kristina restaurant, the ship’s original main dining room. It is open every day for buffet lunch (and breakfast for hostel guests). Mr Sid kindly enough let let me sample the food on his expense and I must say the quality of the food (described by Sid as basic home cooking) was excellent. Considering the quality I would have gladly paid the 14 € price of the weekend buffet myself. On weekdays the buffet selection is more limited but the price for the full buffet is also smaller, just 9,20 €. I hope the restaurant also opens for dinner soon, as it would easily be my favourite place for a restaurant dinner in Turku.
Aft of the reception hall, accessible via the outdoors promenade, is the Kotka restaurant which was the à la carte -restaurant on the KRISTINA REGINA. It is currently closed for visitors, but later during my visit Johnny Sid’s brother Sebastian kindly let me inside to take some photographs. In the future the plan is to re-open the restaurant as an à la carte -establishment for lunch and dinner.
Going up a deck from the restaurants on the promenade deck to deck 6 there are the two bar/lounges of the ship in the fore section. Off the main staircase there’s the Manoeuvre Bar which retains the original 1960 decorations with plentiful use of real wood. Down a short flight of stairs is the Anchor Bar, located in a forward expansion of the superstructure that was added in 1972. The space includes a dance floor and small bandstand.
Aft on the same deck there are additional cabins and on the very aft of the ship, accessible only via the outer deck, is the Navigate Café that serves sandwiches and sweet rolls, as well as hot and cold drinks (including alcoholic beverages).
Going up to deck 7, we enter the realm of the BORE exhibition. Unusually, the exhibition is divided into two parts: on deck 7, three original 1st class cabins (including one where the long-time Finnish president Urho Kekkonen stayed when he traveled onboard) are accessible free of charge. The cabins feature artifacts and information from three phases of the ship’s career: as the BORE for Det Samseglande and Silja Line, as the BOREA for Jakob Lines and Aura Line, and as the KRISTINA REGINA for Kristina Cruises.
The second part of the BORE exhibition, on deck 8, costs 5 € per person (tickets can be bought from the reception). For that price visitors can visit many of the “behind-the scenes” areas of the ship that are normally out of bounds on active ships, such as crew cabins, the navigation bridge and the radio room. In addition to the spaces themselves, there are displays with information and audiovisual material about the ship – including items such as a high-quality colour film about her construction.
The last item on my private tour of the ship was the engine room. As the BORE had originally been constructed with steam turbines, the engine room was a large, cavernous and largely empty space as her diesel engines only take up a fraction of the space used by the originals. Plans are for this space to be opened to the public too, possibly as some kind of an exhibition area. The diesel engines are still in perfect working condition and will be kept that way so that the BORE can be reactivated as a living, working ship on two days’ notice should it prove necessary.
We ended our tour in the engine room, with Mr. Sid having to hurry on to his other duties and telling me to feel free to photograph around the engine room and the rest of the ship, which I proceeded to do.
I cannot say I would envy Johnny Sid or his associates about the huge workload they are under to maintain a ship such as the BORE. But based on our short acquaintance it seems to me that Mr. Sid is not only a man who cares deeply about the ship and her past, but also possesses the skills and knowledge required to ensure she has a future.
As said, much of the BORE is still a work in progress. This summer was in all likely hood a learning experience for both her new owners and her new crew, with many of the attractions on the ship still to come. But a working preserved ship is not something you can spring up overnight, particularly when the business is run on fairly small resources and – much like during the ships’ time as the KRISTINA REGINA – as a family business. For anyone visiting Turku she is a must to see. Once things are up and running properly, she will be a must to stay onboard.
Special thanks to Johnny Sid, Sebastian Sid, Martin Cox and Otso (the BORE’s official ship-dog).
For more photographs by Kalle Id (including additional images of the KRISTINA REGINA and BORE), please visit kships.blogspot.com.
Official website for the ship BORE ssborea.fi