Conférence à Saint Laurent de la Salanque





Vendredi 25 novembre 2022 à eu lieu, à l’invitation de la commune de Saint Laurent de la Salanque, une conférence avec pour thème, l’histoire du Lydia. ces conférences permettent de sensibiliser les habitants de la Salanque de la valeur patrimoniale du “Paquebot des Sables”.

Le président de l’association, Olivier Alba a donc réalisé celle-ci devant une salle comble.

A l’issue de celle-ci une séance de dédicace à eu lieu.

Beaucoup de spectateurs ont ainsi pu véritablement découvrir ce qui se cachait derrière cette silhouette dressée sur la plage du Barcarès depuis plus de 50 ans.

Le président, soutenu par quelques membres de l’association, a su tenir en haleine les spectateurs, durant toutes la conférence, par son enthousiasme et sa passion communicative.

Le séance de dédicace qui a suivi, a permis d’échanger de manière informelle avec plusieurs participants et ainsi ouvrir de nouvelles pistes sur de futures acquisitions d’objets historiques.

En outre, beaucoup de ces participants se sont montrés fortement intéressés par une future visite guidée du Lydia, avouant qu’en fait, ils venaient de le redécouvrir, ignorants complètement ce qui se cachait derrière la grande silhouette de métal.

L’association tient à remercier la municipalité de Saint Laurent de la Salanque d’avoir organisé cet évènement et rendez-vous est pris pour de futures visites guidées sur le site.

Merci aussi à tous les participants ainsi qu’aux membres de l’association qui avaient pu faire le déplacement.

L’aventure du Lydia continue!


The “Sands Liner” (1967-1973)


The first period was the one just after the grounding, a period that saw the ship’s entrails adapted to its new toist mission. 

After initial work at the Terrin shipyards in Marseille (mainly boiler making), she was convoyed to Le Barcarès.

From 1967 to 1973, the ship was leased by SEMETA (a mixed development company in charge of creating the resort of Barcarès) to a company created for the occasion: SODELOR, which had the mission of operating it.

On the outside the ship is almost intact, which makes its success with the 300 000 tourists who rush on board in the space of August 1967. Some authentic spaces have been preserved like the bridge, the social-hall, the smoking-room (promenade deck), the dining room (second deck). The two cabin decks (first and second deck) are still intact. For a while, we thought of transforming them into a hotel but the project was abandoned for reasons that are still unknown.

For the interior fittings, Senator Gaston Pams, president of the SEMETA, had these flamboyant words: “Only beautiful and expensive!”

Specialized craftsmen and journeymen were therefore called in to carry out the luxurious fittings.

On the front deck, a swimming pool and a bar were installed and immediately became an incredible success:

The original first class dining room, entirely covered with Ceylon lemon veneer panels, welcomes guests in a dream setting

In front of the ship, the scew propeller shines brightly to welcome the curious:

In the forward hold, the first discotheque, named the “Trunk“, was set up under the direction of Roland Vonné

The night club nammed the "Trunk"

In the rear hold is installed a snack bar called very appropriately the “Cambuse”, entirely veneered in Oregon pine. The suspensions recall the Catalan lamparos. The inclined partitions respect the shapes of the hull: we are well in a boat!

The "Cambuse"

On the first deck at the front is a bar and stores: “The Trunk store”

Through portholes you can see the swimmers in the pool above. The walls are covered with varnished precious wood veneer, the brass shines softly in a luxurious and very marine atmosphere:

The "Trunk store"

On the boat deck you stroll between the life-boats and the highlight of the visit is the perfectly preserved bridge. This is the most popular place on the ship!

Even the state of the art kitchens are a postcard!

We can understand from these “witness photos” the enthusiasm that the liner brings. The fittings are impeccable, in good taste, timeless and above all in perfect adequacy with the “liner” spirit that the visitor is looking for.

People will be jostling each other on board during the five and a half years of operation by the SEMETA.

The only change during these five years was the color of the funnel (black with a red border at the top) which, at the beginning, displayed a patch of the SEMETA on a blue background, showing two mermaids:




Very quickly replaced by a more stylized and modern logo

At the end of six years of brilliant parties, the Lydia is sold to a Japanese investor who will transform her into a luxurious casino.

The rest of her story : HERE

                               Olivier Alba

800px-Le_Lydia (2)

The end of the « casinos era » (2000-2011)

 As the 21st century dawns, the Lydia is a shadow of its former self. The casino is closed, the maintenance is limited to a quick bleaching every June, the sea spray and the humidity favor the proliferation of rust spots and the wood is eaten by mushrooms. It is in this atmosphere of end of reign that the « Sands Liner » will still make speak about hem.

Indeed, in 2000, the Partouche group, the first casino group in France, acquired the Lydia with a view to reopening yet another casino. It was done in March of the same year. The Lydia Invest company, of which the liner is one of the assets, was acquired for the symbolic euro, with the Partouche group responsible for paying off the debts, which amounted to 20 millions francs at the time (source: l’Indépendant newspaper). A director was quickly appointed and the founder of the group, Isidore Partouche, even paid a visit to his 50th future ex-casino. 

When she arrived, Mrs. Partouche could not hold back a cry of horror “Isidore, you didn’t buy this! This is the state in which the liner is, a ghostly silhouette standing on a deserted beach.  

Nevertheless, a file for the reopening of the casino was filed with the Ministry of the Interior.

The upper deck copyright : french ministère de la culture

Four years went by during which nothing or almost nothing was done on board. Worse still, the new person in charge cut up and ransacked entire sections of the ship: the aft mast was removed, as well as the arms of the cargo masts. On the boat deck, the davits and bows were discarded, giving a ghostly and empty look to the already battered silhouette of the Lydia.

In short, the liner is transformed into a bathtub toy. A decor. Beautiful from afar but far from being beautiful.

Copyright: ministère de la culture

After four years, in February 2004, and after three unsuccessful requests, the casino finally obtained its authorization to open.

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Unfortunately. It is necessary to open for the touristic season and on board everything remains to be done, one will confuse once again speed and precipitation. Of course, the hull was entirely sandblasted, allowing the metal to be found in good condition under 30 layers of paint, and the envelope of the funnel was changed, completely rotten.

The wood will be sanded, damaging it irreparably. 

Worse still, the decks will be covered with wooden terrace boards to “clean up” and whiten the

whole ship, giving her the sad look of a hospital ship. The windows and doors on the upper deck are closed and blocked.

White ansd only white: The gost ship

Inside, not much better: Nothing to do with a “roaring twenties” liner atmosphere and three quarters of the Lydia remain in a state of ruin.

 The original social-hall, the staircase and the smoke- room where the restaurant is located still remain.

The restaurant on the "promenade deck"
The social hall
the smoking-room
The staircase

The night-club receives a new decoration.

Tea parties are organised for senior citizeh.

In fact when one makes badly, one does not go very far. And it is what will occur. After a few years of operation the restaurant inexplicably closes while its success had not been denied.

In 2008, the opening of a casino in the neighboring city, as well as a bad management will make once again sink the liner. After only 4 years, the casino-discotheque will close, once again. It then sleeps for a period of three years during which no buyer presents himself to exploit an umpteenth casino…

After four successive failures, nobody wants to try the adventure anymore….but the “Sand liner” is really insinkable…

To be continued…

The rest of the story: HERE

                                                                                Olivier Alba

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The “rust” years (1988-2000)

The Holding “Grand Sud” (1988/2000)


1988, Dirty time for the Lydia. The “Sands Liner” never really recovered from the 1983 bombing and Roland Vonné, the reference of the Barcarésian nights, left three years ago. Concerning the interiors, the luxurious decoration of the “Tsutsumi era” is completely out of fashion. Due to a lack of maintenance, the ship is deteriorating and the cost of refurbishment is becoming prohibitive. This state of affairs led to the Lydia being put up for sale by the Moliflor group. In the meantime, a certain number of elements of the ship disappeared, such as furniture and many other things. Let’s mention in bulk the instruments in the bridge, the chandelier in the staircase, the superb mahogany table with a diameter of three meters on which the name ΛΥΔΙΑ is affixed.

In short, it is an almost empty hull that is sold to the “Grand Sud” holding company.

Despite the fact that a facelift is negotiated at the sale, the liner is repainted succinctly, which will become a habit during the next 12 years.

Concerning the interior design, the discotheque is redecorated in an “industrial” style and takes a new name: « La Machinerie ». The gray dominates, the pipes are visible. You can touch the bare shell.

The casino concentrates its activity on the first floor in the back room and in the concrete “Blockhaus” which serves as an entrance and which has disfigured the line of the “Sands liner” for five years. The B deck, on the other hand, is used as an auditorium, in what was the luxurious casino of the “Tsutsumi era”. Large asleep lounge where a white plaster has replaced the red lacquers…

The B deck


A restaurant takes place on the front beach: the “sea side”, with a low-cost decoration.

A touristic tour of the ship was opened and a seashell exhibition was set up on the B deck before, where the old piano-bar had been.

A few months later, the casino obtained authorization to install slot machines.

Unfortunately, nothing was going well for a long time. The economic crisis set in. Revenues did not cover expenses and maintenance was cut back.

Air conditioners and other warts were added to the hull, hiding even more the line of the liner. 

In 1992, the local newspaper « l’Indépendant » was even moved by the state of the rusty carcass of the liner which disfigured the city. The ” Sands liner” is now a wreck and the tourist visit is closed.

Copyright: The newspaper "l'Indépendant"

The decks are leaking, the railings are disintegrating, the rotten wood is eaten by mushrooms. The boats are removed from the deck and some are sold!

In some places, concrete is even poured on the decks, when they are not covered with tar…

On the sea side (port side) a large esplanade made of cobblestones surrounds the hull and some unsightly constructions are attached to the ship. From now on, on the land side or on the sea side, it is very difficult to find an acceptable point of view for souvenir pictures. So much so that the Lydia disappeared from the postcards and the autochtones were ashamed to indicate the direction of the liner to the rare tourists who still asked about its location…

The same year, and in the face of the outcry, some quick work was undertaken and a rumor even spoke of a sale to a group called “la générale immobilière.”

Alas, the deal was not done, and the Lydia continued to deteriorate. To finish off this poor ship, the Ministry of the Interior closed the casino in 1997. 

For the next three years, the ghost ship was a shadow of its former self: the illuminated sign collapsed, the funnel was pierced, and all the upper decks were closed and disintegrating in indifference. The operating deficit becomes abyssal.

Boat deck
The bridge
Boat deck

However, in 2000, the Partouche group, one of the two major French casino groups, acquired the “sands liner”…

To be continued…

The rest of her story : HERE

                                                                  Olivier Alba


The beginning of the difficult years (1981-1988)

In 1981, the Lydia had already been living for three years, its casino was closed and Kuniko had left in 1978 due to family pressure. The liner was only used as an annex to the nearby Lydia Playa hotel. 

The Japanese group Seibu finally threw in the towel that same year and put the hotel and the Lydia up for sale.

Another era began as the casinos in Roussillon were in the doldrums. The crisis is felt, only Roland Vonné and his wife Betty, still hold the course of the night thanks to the undeniable success of the night-club.

On February 25, 1981, after long negotiations that lasted a month and a half, the Moliflor group, a local company that already operated casinos, became the owner of Lydia SA.

The Lydia remains unchanged except that the casino, which is only seasonal, is concentrated on the ground floor with the ball games and the roulette. Roland Vonné is reappointed as manager of the discotheque, still named Lydia-club, but which receives a brand new decoration in antic Greek style.

The funnel becomes all white, just topped with a red border.

In 1983 the casino was expanded and roulette and baccarat were installed on the first deck. On the same level and on the front, in the place of the former snack-bar “Crésus“, a piano-bar was installed.

The visit of the upper decks is open, a museum of ship models is installed in the former restaurant “Isadora”. A store and a bar have been installed in the place of the former on-board infirmary in the rear superstructure.

                                        Copyright Xavier Cuvelier-Roy

May 1983, the Lydia will be used for the last time as a movie set before a long period. On board, some scenes of the movie “Poussière d’empire” will be shot. The shots barely managed to hide the already very degraded decks.

The image of the myth is already beginning to fade, but an unexpected event will shake the sky of the Barcarés.

On Tuesday, June 26, 1983, early in the morning just after the closing of the nightclub, a big “Bang” resounds. The Lydia has just been plasticized!

The firemen quickly on the spot control the fire. Mr. Florenza, the manager of the casino as well as Roland Vonné, can only notice the damage:

The discotheque is completely destroyed, as well as the room of the piano bar on the front. At first they think it’s an accident, but the investigation quickly turns to a criminal act.

One year later, the discotheque barely rebuilt, some bomber were arrested in the gardens of the Lydia by the SRPJ. They wanted to blow up the boat again! The operation had in fact been sponsored by the owner of a nightclub in Port-Leucate, “the Krypton”, which the Lydia was overshadowing.

After reconstruction, the “Lydia-club” now opens on two levels (ground floor and first deck). A large concrete cube now serves as an entrance and disfigures the line of the “sand liner”. This wart will remain twenty years!

Even if the party continues, the myth is no more. The casino accumulates deficits while slot machines are still prohibited in France.

Maintenance is now neglected and out of season the hull is covered with rust. The decks have long since spat out their oakum and all the topsides are taking on water. The lifeboats are deteriorating. The wood rots, the metal oxidizes.

Only its silhouette in the distance still impresses.

Bad time for the Lydia…

The rest of her story : HERE

                                                                                                                               Olivier Alba


The grounding of the Lydia, June 11, 1967

In the early morning of Sunday, June 11, 1967, the Lydia was in sight of her last port of call.

In the early morning, the cliffs of Leucate were visible to the north, while a low, deserted, wind-battered strip of sand appeared in front of her: her final home port.

Copyright A.Parés
Copyright: Semeta

In the weeks leading up to the ship’s landing, the ground had to be prepared, i.e. a 600 m long and 7 m deep channel had to be dug by a floating dredger. To bring this one from the pond of Salses to the sea, we made him go through 750 m on the sand, on socks inflated with air.


Leaving Marseille the day before and accompanied by two tugs (the Provençal 6 and the Phocéen), the Lydia arrived in sight of Le Barcarès in the early morning of Sunday, June 11, 1967. 

The first step of the grounding was to attach cables to the bow of the ship, then to attach them to powerful construction equipment on land, while the tugs were attached to the stern of the ship to maintain the axis of the channel. The Tramontane, which was a bit strong, did not facilitate the operations

Finally, the construction machines started to pull the ship. 

Le Lydia est maintenu dans son chenal par les remorqueurs et il est tracté par les engins de chantier

Well aligned in front of the channel by the tugs’ push, the Lydia advances slowly between the buoys that mark the limits of the access channel. A sling suddenly broke under the effect of the wind and the ship started to drift, risking running aground. On the beach, the tension was extreme while the two tugs intervened to put the vessel back on its axis. More fear than harm, but when the senator turned around, all the engineers around him were livid. False alarm!

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Copyright – A.Parès

Nevertheless, the operations were not over. Meter after meter, the Lydia penetrated inland followed like its shadow by the Provençal 6. Despite a few scares due mainly to the Tramontane wind, which did not weaken, the Lydia stopped at the planned location, and the Provençal 6 was able to unhook its trailer and return to the open sea.

Copyright – A.Parès

The technicians in charge of the manoeuvre were not done yet. The Lydia floats a hundred meters inland, but several successive operations must still rotate it, then raise it to bring the waterline to the level of the beach, that is to say 3 meters above sea level. Finally, it is a question of immobilizing it definitively in its sand bed. The schedule calls for the beaching to be completed by June 30.

The bulldozers first began to fill in the channel and close the harbour to isolate the Lydia from the sea, which was completed two days later. The dredger, which acted as a giant pump, then intervened and filled in part of what was left of the small harbour, replacing the water by sand.

Copyright – SEMETA

Next phase: a sand dam, covered with plastic sheeting, is raised all around the Lydia.

Copyright – A.Parès

The dredge soon discharges hundreds of cubic meters of water and the Lydia gradually rises, as in a lock chamber. Its waterline is now above the level of the beach and it can be slowly brought by the bulldozers to the vertical of the cradle that has been made for it. All that is needed is to pump the water so that it can be gently placed on the cradle.

Copyright – SEMETA

In the end, the dredger and the bulldozers will finally make all traces of the port disappear.

Copyright – SEMETA

Copyrightvidéo: France 3 – Pays catalan

The “Sand Liner” was born!

Copyright – SEMETA

Soon an army of craftsmen will take the ship to the boarding to transform it into a palace of tourism but that’s another story ….


The rest of her story : HERE

                                   Olivier Alba


The Moonta becomes Lydia: The Greek period (1955-1966)

After 24 years of good and loyal services within the Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd, the Moonta was put up for sale by the Australian company.

At first used as a ferry to replace the Taroona, she was bought by a Greek shipowner, Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (ELMES). ELMES took possession of the vessel in Melbourne on December 21, 1955 and the ship was renamed Lydia, after an ancient Greek province. This mythical province crossed by the Pactolus river and over which the famous Croesus reigned. A name predestined to ensure the good fortune of the newly acquired ship.

The ship then set sail for Piraeus, her new home port. In Adelaide, the Lydia took on board a Greek crew who had to familiarize themselves with the ship.

C'est déjà bien le Lydia et plus le Moonta- regardez bien les couleurs en haut du mât arrière !
Nikos Kavvadias (Νίκος Καββαδίας) à bord du Lydia

Among the men on board, the famous Greek marine writer Nikos Kavvadias (Νίκος Καββαδίας) known in particular for his very dark novel “Vardia” (The Quarter) published the year before.

The journey to Greece is made via the Coco Islands and the Suez Canal. On arrival, the ship leaves for a detailed inspection. The ship was in exceptional condition, at the level of Anglo-Saxon naval rigor!


According to a Greek newspaper of the time, the new owner was even delighted by the exceptional condition of the newly acquired ship, judging her to be “of a high level of cleanliness, almost exaggerated”.

The ship thus crossed half the globe again to reach the waters of the Mediterranean, which she had visited for the first time 24 years earlier.


Upon arrival in Greece, she passed through the Piraeus shipyards where she underwent some transformations to adapt it to her new destination: a navigation through the Mediterranean.


The capacity was doubled from 157 to 280 passengers, and four additional boats were installed, bringing the total number of lifeboats to eight.


Her aft deck was also modified to accommodate, instead of the former deck tennis area, a small dock with additional crew cabins and a sick bay.

The ship is divided into three classes: 51 passengers in first class, 106 for the “tourist” class and finally 123 in third class who are crammed into a large bunk bed dormitory located on the B deck above the forward holds.

It is also planned that the ship can carry 180 additional “embarkers” in “open air” on the front deck, and this only for short crossings. There is no indication that this possibility was never really used… It is hard to imagine the Lydia loaded to the brim with 460 passengers.

Publicity HML
Promenade deck

                                             Publicity of the Hellenic Mediterranean Line (ELMES)

In the spring of 1956, she finally returned to service on the Piraeus/Venice/Brindisi/Alexandria route, but very quickly she was assigned to another route linking Marseilles to Beirut, with stops in Genoa, Naples, Piraeus, Alexandria and Limassol (Cyprus).


On the return journey, she added a stopover in Port Said, at the mouth of the Suez Canal. 

As soon as she entered service, the Lydia was caught up in the turmoil of history because, in 1956, following the privatization of the Suez Canal, she would initially embark the families of Europeans who worked for the Canal Company.

The end of a golden age for these expatriates who found their way back to the metropolis.

Very soon after, it was the turn of the Egyptian Jews whom Nasser had designated as Personna non grata following the war against the state of Israel and the Franco-British operation in Suez. After these events, the Lydia returned to the tranquility of her journey around the Mare Nostrum without any notable incident.

In the early 1960′, the Lydia underwent a final refit. On this occasion, the ship received a new gray livery, a color more suited to the Mediterranean climate and commonly used in the Greek commercial navy. In addition, a windbreak was added to the front of the deck to make it more pleasant for the passagers.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the world was changing and the former first class and tourist class were merged into a single “uniclass”, more in line with the mentality of the time.

                                              Passager’s photos during the 1960′

This journey across the Mediterranean only lasted ten years and in December 1966, the Lydia returned to Piraeus after 35 years of service at sea, awaiting a buyer or more likely departure for the demolition yard…

…This is where the fabulous destiny of the ship that will become the “Paquebot des sables” (“Sand Liner”) will be played out…


The rest of her story : HERE

Olivier Alba