Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Distant ships passing

M/F Winston Churchill, on a calm day! You could buy beautiful little die cast models of the boat in Duty Free. I had several, all of them now lost. Oh!, if only I had realized what their sentimental worth would be thirty years down the line.

Recently Chris Priestly wrote on his blog about the after effects of sailing and the feeling that even several days after disembarking, you are still rocking and rolling on the open waves. I told him that he was too young to be considering going on a cruise, well I take it all back. In the web trawling that accompanies nearly all my blog entries I came to the conclusion that traveling by boat and crossing the world's oceans is a wonderfully romantic thing to do. Not only that, Chris also gave me an idea for the blog. So why my change of heart? Well, you have to go back to the 1970s and just a mere creeping into the first half of the 80s to find out. Crossing back and forth through the choppy waters of the North Sea was the unmistakable chalk white fleet of DFDS, the Scandinavian Seaways ferry company. For me, as I am sure it was for many children, the boat journey was a mini holiday in itself, and I spent many enjoyable hours on board ship going to and from Denmark visiting relatives in the school holidays. My sister and I were practically fizzing in the back seat of the car as we drove up the iron ramp into the cavernous belly of the ship, the wheels squeaking on the car deck, tail lights flaring and the overwhelming smell of diesel as we piled out of the car, grabbing our hand luggage and tins of travel sweets as we went. In the main concourse, passengers studied the 'You are Here' signs on their way to the their cabins, and large groups of blond haired Danish scouts laughed and mucked about, sitting against huge rucksacks on the floor. The freedom of the ferry was almost too much to bear for a young person, so while the parents settled down to a G&T in the lounge, cracking the spines of brick thick novels, the youngsters were free to explore. Plush carpeted interiors, chrome hand rails, snow white starched linens, wood paneled walls and the bright glass display cabinets in Duty Free.

Pushing open the heavy port holed doors that led you out onto deck, you had to watch your step as you crossed the steep lip into a sudden blast of wind that fussed your hair with salt spray and caught the door, slamming it shut behind you. Standing at the rail feeling the pulse and vibration of the ship's engines rising up through the soles of my feet, I'd stare into the green and white froth of the North Sea as it flexed it's muscles against the hull. Life boats hung an arms length away, which always gave me queasy daydreams until the booming black and red funnel shocked me back to reality. I can't actually remember ever being that bored on these crossings, I spent a great deal of time on the video arcade machines playing Space Invaders or pushing fist fulls of pennies into the one arm bandits. Card games in the lounge, endless rounds of naughts and crosses, hangman, and for me on my last trip in 1983 there was the lure of the seabirds, I dream't of seeing Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters, but in the end I had to satisfy myself with Gulls and Gannets as no amount of wishing and staring out across the waves was going to make those mythical feathered creatures leap out of the pages of Peter Harrison's guide to the seabirds of the World. In a day or two I will recount a hellish journey spent aboard the M/F Winston Churchill, and fill you in on what has happened between then and now to this iconic ship. More to follow...


Boat holiday yorkshire said...

Yes its true.Traveling by boat and crossing the world's oceans is a wonderfully romantic thing to do.I had the experience that traveling by boat .It was awesome.

pulpsfromthebothy said...

It seems as if your experience led you to the beautiful waterways of the Yorkshire Dales, Happy Sailing!