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Marko Stampehl, Symphony for a Ferry

by Mike

23 November 2015 • Let's enter today in the universe of Marko Stampehl. He is a friend and he is passionate about ferries and ferry travel. You can read here why. 

It was in 2011 when I had to travel to Estonia for a photoshoot onboard the new Saremaa ferries. At Tallinn airport I met Marko Stampehl with whom I was going to travel. He the writer, me the photographer. We knew each other via the ferry world, but never met before.

The year after, we decided to travel together in Norway, accompanied by our Scottish friend Bruce Peter (right on the picture below).

Professionally I often browse through Marko's pictures of ferries, searching for the perfect picture for the Shippax magazines. Not only because his archives are really impressive, but also because he often has a creative, poetic approach to the subject. His collection is much more than good shipspotter pictures. I often find really interesting compositions, with the ship in balance with the surrounding landscape.

Marko, when we look at your pictures it is very obvious: you are passionate about ferries. You love to photograph them and to travel with them. When and how did this passion started?

Yes, I openly admit I am passionate about ferries, if you do not want to call it addicted. I think there is a simple answer to when and how the passion started, just not for the question why…

My childhood summer holidays were spent in Finland every year, and we always took the ferry as we took our car with us, so I got in touch with ferries when I was three years old. While I do not have any specific memories of my first ferry trips on FINLANDIA (built 1967) and FINNHANSA (built 1966), things look different with the FINNJET (1977) and especially Silja’s FINLANDIA of 1981.

I was nine years old when Silja introduced their jumbo ferries on the Helsinki route, and it is a pure understatement to say I was fascinated by the FINLANDIA and her sister SILVIA REGINA. The Swedish Silja Line brochure that summer (which I still have) had some interesting photos of the building process of the two ships.

Back home I kept browsing back and forth through the brochures and a few postcards from that summer countless times and began to collect schedule brochures of Silja and Finnlines. Back at school nobody else was really impressed by my holiday story, saying that I had been travelling on the world’s largest ferry, respectively one year later when we went by FINNJET, on the world’s fastest ferry. Finland? Isn’t it always cold there? And what about the midgets??? 

The famous FINNJET

Five years later my brother and I, when on our trip back from Finland via Sweden to Germany, went to the reception to ask whether it was possible to visit the bridge and see the Captain. It was and so we got a deeply interesting and detailed introduction into the bridge of the SILVIA REGINA. After that I was hooked. I did what many boys in my age must have been doing, I wrote letters to shipping companies to ask for brochures, postcards and, daring more, books about their history. 

What do you find so attractive to ferries?

It is a mixture of a feeling of the wide world, the technology, the fact that it is fairly easy and affordable to travel on them, the amenities on board etc. etc. Also the fact that there are often series of ferries, which makes it interesting to follow their fate, name changes, route changes and so on. Photographing ferries makes you follow the development of their external appearance. For me personally certainly the fact that Finland has a lot of ferries and ferry connections due to its geographical location also plays a role. Also there are a lot of different types of ferries. Night ferries, cruise ferries, varieties in duration of the crossing etc. etc.

Apparently your home waters are Finland, although you live in Hamburg. How come? 

I have a Finnish mother and a German father, and I am a dual citizen. I regard Finland and Germany equally as my home. Although I have always lived in Germany, I have had strong ties to Finland all my life. I speak both fluent Finnish and Swedish, the two main official languages in Finland. (German and English as well). Today, as a matter of fact, I have friends from both language groups - quite a lot from the maritime scene actually – aside from my (Finnish-speaking) relatives. 

Sunrise in Pitka?niemi, Finland

When you travel with a ferry, what are for you the highlights of a ferry journey? What makes you happy? 

First of all being at sea is always a highlight, no matter where and on which ship. When on the Sweden-Finland ferries, especially in summer, and especially on the Stockholm-Turku-Route, I have difficulties to stay inside and enjoy the amenities on board, as the greatest attraction is outside: the landscape. But certainly I enjoy the good food and drinks and to do some shopping and, in case it’s an overnight crossing enjoy the rest in a comfy cabin. Even if in summertime the night can be very short. How can you sleep when there might be a great photographic opportunity just outside your cabin window…? On some routes you also get some nice opportunities to take photos of other ferries, that again adds to the attraction of certain routes...

Treating myself with some time on a cruise ferry, that is what makes me happy. More so when there is lot’s of ice and snow (yes, I love the winter!), or when it’s a special trip like the one I will do next week: joining my favourite SILJA SERENADE for her trip from Helsinki to the shipyard in Rauma…

Marko's favourite ferry is the SILJA SERENADE

You must have a favourite ferry (ship or company)? Which one? And tell us, how often can you travel on your favourite ship? Do you know the crew (and do they know you)? 

Well yes, there is a favourite company and actually two favourite ships. It’s Silja Line and their two flag ships SILJA SERENADE and SILJA SYMPHONY. I know the ships fairly well, and usually I travel twice or three times a year on them. Formerly it was the above mentioned summer trip only, but now I fly up to do a trip on one of the ferries also in early spring (when there is hopefully still ice on the Baltic Sea), then certainly still in summer, and then there is the cruise my wife and I do in late November every year from Stockholm to Helsinki and back and which has become an annual tradition.

Contributing with the fleet list to Silja Lines 50-years anniversary book was a great pleasure and honor for me. More so as I got to know a lot about ship registry, sale and purchase of ships, ship’s logbooks, archives and – most importantly – I met with so many interesting and interested people from the Silja organization, and in the Finnish maritime scene in general.

A spectacular sunset on the decks of SILJA SERENADE

Which is the most remote place you ever have been to see or to sail on ferries? 

The most remote are probably St. Barbe in Newfoundland and Blanc-Sablon in Quebec, close to the border to Labrador, which I visited in October 2014 in order to take photos and travel with the 1970-built Papenburg sister APOLLO. It was a pleasure to be on board such an old ferry, with her 70ties interior and size. Another very memorable trip was the one to Cochin in India, to see the AMET MAJESTY (former Wasa Queen, Bore Star). Just half a year later she was sold to a scrapyard in Alang. Also Dalian in China was a far way to go to, interesting and so different from other places I have been to see and photograph ferries, even if not as remote as Newfoundland…

Newfoundland and Labrador are some of the most remote places Marko visited

Besides travelling on ferries, do you also cruise?

 

So far I have only done one cruise, the Hurtigruten round trip Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen. So far I have not yet been on a real cruise. But it is definitely something I want to try. And some might turn up their noses: I definitely once would like to go on a Caribbean Cruise with the OASIS or ALLURE OF THE SEAS. Just for the experience to be on such a huge ship and certainly to discover what they are like. And after all they have been built in Finland… That said I’d certainly also like to experience small and cozy ships with character. Somehow I just need to find the time to do that… and funds…

Is your professional life related to ferries as well? 

My professional life is related to shipping, but not ferries. I am a team leader for marketing and public relations at Rickmers-Linie, a German shipping company which maintains worldwide liner services for break bulk, heavy lifts and project cargoes. So it’s also shipping, but a totally different field.

What makes your hobby so fascinating?

It is the - for me perfect - mixture of different things: Travel, photography, meet people, enjoy the time on board and certainly also the joy to write about it and see the result when an article has been published. To follow a ship’s history, the changes, discuss shipping matters with others.

Text and most photos: Marko Stampehl

Editor: Mike