Monday, 20 January 2014

Nautical Life

After spending a weekend rushing hither and thither from the continent by boat, I've come to realise something: travelling by boat is the way to do it! Second best after trains. In fact, I spent more time on boats than on dry land this weekend. I found it to be very relaxing and good fun. And why, you may ask? Boats take longer, there is the potential possibility for seasickness, and the ever present danger of icebergs....ok, only if you are crossing the Atlantic in 1912, but still. Well, here's why I think it's rather jolly:

Nautical terms! How much more fun is it to say things like, "I am going aft" (this sound slightly risque, I realise, but in context it makes sense...) or something like, "You will find me on the starboard side, on deck 10, amidship...", or "Come aboard". Things like sundecks at the stern, or stepping into cabins, and all the different knots. Also, good looking captains with white caps and crisp uniforms (hello, sailor!). Hearing horns, feeling the constant rumble of the engines, life rings with the ship name on it, large picture windows on every side, cabins with bunks and toilets that go whoosh. It's all a bit exotic and wonderful.

I've not been on a cruise before; this is mostly by choice, because although travelling by boat is my new favourite thing, being stuck on said boat for a week or more with the same people would be maddening. At least on land you can attempt to get away from the loud and/or obnoxious tourists. On a boat you can go forward or aft. (Or overboard, I suppose).

After living on the island of Terschelling for a few months, the only way to get anywhere is by ferryboat. Although trying to plan your life around a ferry schedule is at times frustrating, it does bring an exotic air to the place. It is exciting to hop on a boat for the mainland; for me it is still a novelty. The ferries to and from the island are wonderful; very clean, comfortable, and have wifi. You hardly feel the waves at all unless the Waddenzee is particularly choppy.

The Stenaline ferries from Hoek van Holland to Harwich are also very modern and luxurious. It makes travelling that much easier because you can take overnight ferries. Hop on the boat, have a drink in the bar on Deck 9, and then back to the cabin for a sleep. Easy, fairly afordable, no stress, and comfortable - what's not to like?
Outside Cabin aboard Stena Hollandica

My channel crossings have certainly been better than the crossing we had from Egypt to Jordan last spring. That was a nightmare, and luckily we arrived in one piece. It was meant to be a catamaran - a type of boat (or should I say ship?) that has two hulls, making it more stable and usually quicker (so often used for ferries).

Well, it wasn't the catamaran, but a huge, hulking beast of ship. It wasn't too bad - you could get a cup of tea and the seats were all right. But the waiting for hours (five or six hours!) before setting sail was a trial of patience to say the least. All the Egyptian families were setting up camp on the sundecks, bringing out large picnics and getting settled in. That was when I think my travel partner and I realised we were in for the long haul. The bathrooms had flooded and sloshed with each dip of the waves. People were sprawled out everywhere; it was hot. The crossing itself was quite smooth, and the lights of Israel and Jordan were a welcome sight after being stuck on a ship all day.

It's in my bones to enjoy the sea. I come from a long line of sailors, so it is only natural that I feel a pull towards the water. I've always admired it from a wary distance, but have rather enjoyed spending so much time around, and on it, recently. I would love to wear lots of stripes and a jauntily set cap, and sail about in warm climates, saying things like, "Hard to port," or "What's our heading, skipper?" - well, perhaps one day!

By the way, if you want to have a laugh looking up nautical terms, this website has a whole list. Some may be familiar, but others are quite peculiar!