Never felt such relief to be off a Brittany Ferry...
After a 3 hour car journey in torrential rain and strong winds we arrive at Portsmouth half expecting the ferry to be cancelled, though surprisingly its just delayed by 1 hour. Think we are in for a bit of a rough crossing...
Onboard, we head up to the bar wondering where our friends are. They came out to france a few years ago looking for their maison secondaire in Charente Maritime and used our house as a base for their property search. After their initial trip, when back in the UK they surprised us by telling us they’d put in an offer on a house they’d seen about 6 kilometres away from our’s in Moutardon after falling in love with the surroundings here in Poitou Charente. They surprised us even more by declaring they were not only going to be renovating the house they’d found but were actually going to raise the roof! (Chris had bumped his poor head on the upstairs beams in our house on more than one occasion) The thing is, is that most houses in this area do have beams as the upstairs weren’t really used for accommodating sleepy heads for the night... more like for drying washing.
So anyway, they stay at ours when they need to come over and sort of ‘project manage’ the builder employed to raise the roof on theirs.
As there is no reply to our text and Roddy and I are dangerously becoming two humans with emotions brewing to compete in a heavy weight boxing match with, a‘let’s try and find Pamela & Chris and have quickie drink in the bar’ in the blue corner, now fighting with ‘tired and grumpy’ in the red corner.
The latter competitor wins and we head straight to our cabin before we fall out with each other big time.
The wind’s are suppose to die down soon says google weather. We have a four berth cabin booked as we both hate top bunk - extravagant I know, but if you can’t get a decent nights sleep in a top bunk - don’t do it. As I walk down the long corridor from the reception desk turning left, then right, then left again, then up 7 cabin doors to the right arriving at our’s, I make a mental note as I always do. So that’s 7 back down, right, left, right again, the reverse way round back to the desk and meeting point with access to plenty of life jackets... just in case an emergency exit is needed during the night crossing. In case of blackout due to a malfunction in the lights - just in case...
I happily snuggle up under my Brittany Ferry ultra thin duvet - especially designed for menopausal women - sink my head into the pillow and close my eyes. The motion of the ship is very soothing. It gently sways from side to side, rocking me like a baby safely cocooned in a soft cosy blanket in my cot.
Interestingly the ships motion changes rapidly the further away we sail from the English coastline. We also sail further away from ‘soothing & gentle’, and as the ship gains speed the motion grows in strength.
“Are you asleep?” I ask Roddy.
“Are you ok?”
“I feel like the marble in KerPlunk.” He says.
I do smile at his description of the motion he is feeling and the now ‘should-we-really-be-sailing’ situation we appear to be in.
I get out of bed trying to scrutinise the sea through the thickness of the ferry window. All I see is deep murky darkness, then a sudden thrashing wave hits the side making me jump back as the ship crashes down against the water beneath. That wave came up high! our cabin is on deck level 9.
I slip back into bed and Roddy asks if I’m scared. “No, I’m fine.” But my mind twitches a bit with thoughts of the Titanic every time the ship creaks and groans, rocking from side to side, being churned up by the sea wrapped helplessly within the clutches of a powerful wave.
I am a wet towel in a tumble dryer. A sausage being rolled in shortcrust.
For the second time tonight emotions, thoughts, wrestle. The logic half of me thinks that the crew and this ship have sailed these waters hundreds of times and they are experienced enough to know when to and when not to sail. This has turned out to be a seriously rough crossing though, however as yet there have been no warning alarms going off. Phew. Sea forecasts are good these days aren’t they? I mean the Met office shipping forecast is reliable isn’t it? And with all the precision of the equipment on board. Yes, logic will send me to sleep.
But logic isn’t a great companion to a weary head. At least my restless mind is okay - I think. Thank goodness I don’t suffer in the slightest from motion or sea sickness.
It’s incredibly hard to describe the agitation that my body is experiencing. The movement of the waves cause an eery feeling of levitation as the ship seems to lift my body lightly from the bed into the air and then starts to slowly swing it sideways in a semi-circular sort of flow and I have no idea whether the direction I’m going is clockwise or anti, but it feels like I’m going to be plastered onto the ceiling at any moment.
Oh shut up! No! Logic, logic.
As the ship crashes back down into the water, the heavy weight of gravity seems to pull me back into this little fold up cabin bed. Through the bed actually. Like a strong suction through the bed, through the floor. A strong vacuum.
Titanic. The titanic vacuum.
This is not my first rough crossing. The Irish Sea bore its anger on me many years ago. The aggressive wind whipped the combs in my hair straight out and into the fierce ocean. People were being tossed from one to the other corridor side. Others were throwing up into paper bags. That was rough. But that journey was on a smaller boat.
Where is the logic in this crossing?
My now illogical head struggles to come to terms with the extortionate size of this ship and the many tons weight of numerous lorry’s on the cargo deck below. How does such a huge vessel get thrown around in water like this? Creaking, banging, swaying and rising, and then smashing down sending waves up to my window tsunami style. This ship is a mere pea pod dit spot of a vulnerable vessel in mother nature’s vast ocean - and we, mere, vulnerable mortals have absolutely no control over Mother Nature.
I must sleep... I must think of fields full of blazing yellow sunflowers waving at me in a gentle breeze on a sunny summers day in the Charente....
Oh! Think of all the beautiful autumn colours in the trees right now, they are so stunning. Striking yellows against backdrops of deep flame reds and rich earthy greens.
Zeebrugge ferry disaster.
Stop it! Stop thinking about awful disasters!
What if the Captain is a functioning alcoholic? What if tonight is the night the ship’s navigation system malfunctions and the Captain thinks ‘Oh f**k it, we’ll sail anyway’ as he smuggles his vodka downed empty hip flask back into his inside jacket pocket...
OMG I just realised! I forgot to wear my St Christopher necklace - my little amulet! that’s done it then. My fate decided.
OMG! our poor little Iggys! I bet not everyone bother’s turning off their car alarms manually!
I glance at the time on my mobile... it’s getting on for 3am. I don’t know why but somewhere in my crazy head in my tiny memory bank, one of my dads favourite old classic war novels quietly springs to mind. “The Sea Shall Not Have Them.” I think of my dad’s passing. He never came to France, he never wanted too. I think of mum’s too. She applied for her passport and was planning to come with Roddy’s mum, but cancer ruined her plan. I think of Roddy’s mum. She came to stay with us in france, but she’s gone now too.
I don’t want the boat to go down... don’t let the boat sink tonight will you mum?
At last, I’m fighting with my flickering eyelids...
Dawn... We are alive. We disembark.
And I have never ever felt so grateful to be off a Brittany Ferry.
Have you ever experienced a ferry crossing from hell?!!