Monday, January 16, 2006
I keep telling myself: the arctic convoys were a lot worse than this...
I struggled off the Hrossey at 9.55 this morning, groggy and swaying, almost three hours late in arriving at Aberdeen.
As nights on the boat go, this was among the worst I've experienced, and easily the roughest aboard a NorthLink ship. Though I shudder to think what it would have been like aboard the St Sunniva or the St Clair, with their old-tech stabilisers. When the captain of the Hrossey switched off her(rather efficient) stabilisers so we could finally enter Aberdeen harbour, the boat rolled with a vengeance. Battering our way south through a force eight south westerly, we had slammed, crunched and nose-dived, but the sideways motion remained bearable. Just.
No seasickness, just an initial quickening of the heartbeat once we were out of Bressay Sound and into the first of the big breakers. Reading HMS Ulysses had probably been a mistake, but at least I was able to tell myself, over and over again: the arctic convoys were worse than this...
Phenergan saved me. Well, Phenergan (freely available at your chemists, but normally prescribed for hay fever) and a small dram of supermarket (I think Sainsbury) Islay Pure Malt. Carried about my person in the hip flask my pal Stewart gave me as a birthday present. Well, that plus one of the Hrossey's excellent steak pies, with tatties, carrots and peas. And an ice cream. Never travel on an empty stomach.
I knew from the forecast it would be a bad trip, but the Captain's announcement on leaving the berth (" we are expecting VERY ROUGH SEAS") and the fact that I had been handed an "Adverse Weather Conditions" leaflet before boarding, sent me to the cafeteria while we were still tied up, and to my cabin the moment we started moving.
And there I stayed, with occasional journeys to the toilet and for bottled water (Phenergan really dehydrates you) for the next 14 and a bit hours. I was thrown sideways into the bedside table a few times, but never completely out of my bunk. Though lying on my side was impossibly rocky.
Normally, the ferry gets into Aberdeen around 7.00 am (a 12-hour trip, unless it's going via Orkney) but Aberdeen Harbour is notoriously impenetrable in certain wind directions, depending on the state of the tide. When you think about it, there's no shelter - it's just a tight river mouth. Diversions to (the much more navigable) Invergordon or Rosyth are a last resort, but things at Aberdeen are getting worse and worse as the river silts up, and it seems very likely that Rosyth will be the mainland jumping-off point for the Northern Isles in the future.
Anyway, today we had to stoat about off Aberdeen for almost three hours, which didn't bother me that much. I just stayed in bed. When I finally reached dry land, I breakfasted at the excellent Baker's Pantry, in the bus station: £3.40 for bacon and egg roll, pot of tea and a fruit scone. That's the other thing about Phenergan - it makes you really hungry.