We’re bound for Spain again. It’s been a long time since the British summer, which was 9th, 10th & 11th July – there’s been two months of cloud since then – and we’re keen to get there.
Car ready loaded overnight, we were on the road at 5:00 AM. Other than a short traffic jam on the M27 caused by the morning rush hour into at Solent Business Park exit, our journey down to Portsmouth was smooth. Boarding was smooth, if a little laboured – these are not roll-on-roll-off ferries and loading is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. We left Portsmouth at 11:30-ish and proceeded in a very smooth fashion west down the English Channel. Our progress was so smooth, the deck rail was hardly moving off the horizon line. We ate dinner with relative gusto and shortly retired.
I knew the hitherto smooth nature of my life was about to change when, from the comfort of my bed, I heard the ship’s PA system announce something along the lines of, “move around the ship only if necessary and with caution” and “outside decks are now out of bounds”. We’d entered the Bay of Biscay and it was clearly about to be living up to its unenviable reputation.
My bed began to lurch disturbingly. Our cabin was at the sharp end, aligned with the long axis of the ship. As the disturbance increased, my bed began to feel as though it was corkscrewing its way down the west coast of France. I seemed to be about half conscious, not from passing out but from the remnants of my initial sleep. We’d taken our Stugeron and for the most part I seemed to be able almost to zone out and I actually didn’t feel too bad, just a little distressed. Francine decided now was a good time to speak to me. My zoning out was destroyed and I became more acutely aware of my bed’s corkscrewing motion; decidedly unpleasant. Warning sensations in my stomach made me feel as if I wasn’t going to make it after all. Somehow I managed to regain my state of semi-consciousness, though. A while later, for some reason I became uncomfortably too conscious once again. Again I felt as thought I wasn’t going to make it. Oh good grief, I’d got about eight more hours of this to go through unless by some act of mercy the Bay of Biscay calmed itself down. Needless to say, it didn’t calm itself down. Boats really are a disgusting mode of transport.
Somehow the purgatory of the night passed and, as we began to approach Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain, the surface of the sea settled back into something approaching acceptable. By some miracle, I’d managed to hang on to my cookies. I was relieved to enter the confines of the harbour. 30 minutes later – yes, it takes that long to get into the berth itself – we docked and, after undoing the loading jigsaw puzzle, we drove off and I was again on blessed terra firma. Spanish immigration was even ready for us and we sailed through and onto Bilbao’s manic spaghetti-junction-like road (so-called) system.
Boats and I don’t mix. I really should avoid them. I’ll try not to spend the next five weeks fretting about our return journey.