Road Trip – Dieppe to Newhaven in a Force 7 Gale

To make matters worse it was cold and our clothing was totally inadequate.  The crew were all wearing clothes suitable for Arctic conditions but we were still in Mediterranean attire.  The only sensible thing to do was to go inside where it was warm, but once inside I just began to feel sick so had to go outside again almost immediately.

Not long into the journey it started to get dark and that made it even colder so as I couldn’t go back inside without being ill I found a lounger in a reasonably sheltered spot and tried to go to sleep. And I was very successful and when I woke I was delighted to discover that we had been at sea for three and a half hours so must be nearly home.  The boat was listing at about 30° so walking was really difficult but I got to the front of the ferry and looked for the welcoming lights of England.  To my horror there were none and when I enquired a fellow suffering passenger told me that because of the conditions the crossing was now estimated to take eight hours!

I was cold and stiff but at least I didn’t feel sick so I went inside and found Richard who like me had remained feeling well by sitting outside.  We went downstairs and it was like a scene from the battle of Trafalgar.  There were no staff on duty anywhere because they were all too ill to work and in duty free bottles of spirits clattered together on the shelves and rolled about on the floor.  It was just there for the taking but the last thing we felt like was alcohol so we moved on to the dining room where we found Tony completely unaffected by all of this mayhem and quietly enjoying a meat pie.

Well, that was it for me and as my insides turned over several times I had to find my way back outside fast.  People were lying all around, some had collapsed in the corridors and everywhere there were crew members with mops and buckets washing down the vomit.  I made it to the outside but only just before I emptied the contents of my heaving stomach over the side but a gust of wind caught most of it and blew it back only narrowly missing a group of passengers all clinging on to the railings and like me wishing for the voyage to end.

I tried to sleep some more, but it was impossible so I just sat with Richard and felt thoroughly miserable.  Tony came by several times to see if we were feeling alright but was unable to locate Anthony to check on his condition and none of us had any idea where he might be.  Eventually the south coast of England came into view but it seemed to take an eternity to get close and finally to dock in Newhaven.  We were reunited with Anthony, who it turned out had spent all eight hours of the crossing in the lavatory in his own private cubicle and we made our way to the garage deck and back to the car.

The doors of the ferry opened and being at the front we were first off and the remarkable thing was that as soon as were on solid ground and the earth was no longer moving in conflicting directions we all felt instantly better.  I was amazed that I could recover so quickly and looked forward to the last leg of the journey home.  But our problems weren’t over yet and no sooner were we off the boat than we pulled over by Her Majesty’s customs officials.

They didn’t seem pleased to see us and probably wondered just what we were doing driving this knackered old UK registered, left hand drive car back from the Continent.  Their mood didn’t improve when they enquired where we had come from and after Richard told them Portugal I added the rather superfluous detail that we had driven back through Spain and France.  They interpreted this weary response as taking the piss and asked all sorts of dumb questions about alcohol, cigarettes and smuggling in general and then told us that if he wasn’t satisfied with our responses that he could impound the vehicle.  Anthony was delighted with this piece of information and got out of the car and invited them to take it away.  Between us we calculated that it was only worth about £50 anyway so between us we could easily compensate Gordon for his loss.

Eventually I think it must have dawned on them that we had just got off the ferry from hell and they grudgingly let us pass.  But it made us think? Just why did Gordon want this old wreck back anyway?  Were the door panels packed with cocaine we wondered?  We didn’t really care that much we were just glad to be back in England but not looking forward especially to the three hour journey back to Nottingham.  We dropped the car off in Rugby and replaced it with something a bit more modern and with the luxury of a fully functioning heater completed the remainder of the journey and in the early hours of Monday morning were just so very glad to be back home and in a comfortable bed.

It had been a very interesting week, we discovered just how tight with money Tony was, how far Anthony would stretch the truth to impress supermarket check-out girls from Leeds and how much Richard and I liked going away on holiday together.  The following year the two of us went back to the villa but thankfully this didn’t involve driving a car all the way back home and we have been away several times since but never back to Portugal.  The channel crossing put me off ferries for years and I didn’t take another crossing until nearly twenty years later, when I finally got over it in 2004 and went to France again using the Dover to Calais crossing, which wasn’t nearly so bad!


22 responses to “Road Trip – Dieppe to Newhaven in a Force 7 Gale

  1. 17 hours on a ferry with one engine to Guernsey, all in thick fog – my mum said I was grey all journey and then I threw up when we got in to the harbour out of relief, then spat toothpaste on my arm whilst brushing my teeth at our campsite that night because I still couldn’t co-ordinate. Maybe a banana boat would be better…

  2. marcelino guerrero

    sea sickness is the worst. I have no idea how the mariners of the 17th century managed to travel the world on those tiny vessels!

  3. Sea sickness must be terrible. I don’t blame you for avoiding ferries afterwards.

  4. That´s a real nice story Andrew, who knows may even have been on the same boat- i seem to remember a channel crossing from hell years ago as well-my old banger- a chocolate brown citroen died about 2 miles from my home at the time (London), i left it there and walked the rest of the way 🙂

  5. Dieppe>Newhaven. As a child, my stepmum and dad used to love going abroad, which meant cars and ferries- there was a tiny ferry who did a regular run between those ports, called ”Falaise”. According to her crew, she could really roll.
    We boarded, and the deckhands started to strap cars to the bulkheads, and put blocks under the wheels-Dad said ”we are in for a rough crossing”- now, stepmum always made a point of saying to me ”you don’t get seasick” and I believed her.
    However, as the ship plunged and rolled and spray flew, and the decks were closed, I felt a bit ”heady” and unreal. A bit sick, in fact.
    I asked dad” how many more hours?” and it was horrible to hear that we had been at sea just an hour and a half, and that there were many more weary hours to go.
    Mum disappeared with my baby half brother, and he was seasick- mum later said that the lavatories were full of vomiting people, one woman so ill she was laid out on the floor.
    The yellow carpet [mustard yellow] on the saloon floor were stained with signs of vomit pools from other crossings-it was so miserable.
    The only place to get air [with the decks closed] was at some hatches where the crew threw rubbish into the sea. We huddled here, cold and spray-soaked, and a seasick man said ”get out of my way, unless you want me to be sick into your hood”-charming!
    I never get on a ferry now without a travel sick pill, but ferries are so much larger than they were in the 1960’s, and plunge and roll much less.

    • Sounds very much like my experience!

      • Seasickness CAN actually be fatal, rare, but it can kill even healthy young people by straining and rupturing the stomach- and exhaustion can easily set in- it is quite a nasty condition!
        At least with a car, one can stop, and flights don’t last longer than 24hrs, but when one is at the mercy of the sea, ”getting off” isn’t an option.
        A sailor who built his own boat speaks of seasickness as affecting many people-including him- and it is much worse when inside the boat, as we found.
        I remember the empty bar on the Falaise, Just Dad and I sat there and the kindly man working the bar, who, when I bought a tiny packet of biscuits said ”don’t eat those love, they will only come back up”- I didn’t eat them until we got home, as he seemed to know what he was talking about.
        the Falaise was built in 1946, and there is some info on her online, which was interesting to read-old photographs of the interior, and also on how the crew know the foibles of their ships..
        There were several older ferries working that route, and it was notoriously rough- stepmum vowed NEVER to do the Dieppe crossing again, and I was relieved.
        BUT to my shock, she said ”no, we are going Southampton>Le Harve next time, we will have a cabin” -OH heck…..a way longer crossing, by night, which meant no deck…
        Fortunately the crossings were smooth compared to the Dieppe ones, possibly as the ships were larger.
        Can you remember the name of the ferry you were on? The Falaise was sold from that route sometime in the 1970’s I think-evidently they have a working life of 30 yrs as passenger ferries.
        The modern monster ferries are much less characterful in comparison.

        For seasickness there is a stick-on patch called ”transderm scop” which is meant to work well, and a woman whose son was in the Royal Navy said they used ”Stugeron”, an over the counter medicine which MUST be taken a day before travel as well as on the day itself- to work, it needs to get well into the system, but it does work.
        Bon Voyage!

  6. It is possible to die of seasickness..just now, I read of the very ship I experienced all those years ago, the Falaise, and on a forum about sea-sickness, a QM of the Falaise said that the ship [very small, as built in 1947] was loaded with HGV’s from Spain, carrying loads of oranges. The Falaise was caught in a storm, and delayed, and tragically, a young lorry driver was dead upon arrival in the UK, he had , despite the best efforts of the crew, refused all fluids, and had suffered some sort of cardiac crisis brought on by extreme seasickness. His poor family.

  7. Gawd, Andrew…after all this talk of rough ferries, in about three weeks, I may well have to cross [both ways in one day] a notorious bit of water. Looking online, it seems it is one of the roughest stretches…The Irish Sea. Flying isn’t an option, as we have to [if the deal comes off] collect something that is to fragile to be freighted. I really want this item, so have no option but to go by ferry……being as I get really nauseated even going into town by bus, how will I manage on the St George’s Channel which has even had HGV drivers voting it their worst ever crossing. I will let you know how it goes. Will be travelling with my adult son who is generally ok with boats, but even he admits to feeling ”iffy” at times….

  8. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure | Have Bag, Will Travel

  9. Definition of positive attitude….I was cold and stiff but at least I didn’t feel sick. A wonderful way to look at rigor mortis. 🙂

  10. I can’t even imagine the sense of adventure that engulfed you on that ferry. If that’s what adventure is, I don’t want any! LOL

  11. UGH! My sympathies about the seasickness. I’ve only experienced it once and it was one time too many! Just reading this post made me queasy.
    Definitely qualifies as an adventure 😉

  12. Ferry design, as Andrew so rightly said has come on hugely- the original ”Gawk Buckets” of the 1940’s manufacture have long been consigned to the scrappers, and the new ”Superferries” now ply the old routes.
    Armed with a ”Transderm Scop” anti seasickness patch, we drove in stormy weather through the pitch black Welsh countryside to reach Fishguard for the Irish ‘there and back’ crossing.
    As the wind buffeted the van, and needling rain spattered the windscreen I wondered what the crossing would be like.
    We arrived at the port, and the crossing was forecast to be ”moderate to rough”- as my son drove onto the Freight Deck, I did notice lorries being chained.
    My stomach churned with nerves.
    This ferry, the Europe, was huge compared to the tiny Cross Channel ferries that Andrew spoke of in the Glory Days- we hired a cabin while on the ship, as it was nice to have a bit of comfort, and I struggled with an ongoing panic attack as the ship thrummed into life, and we left the safety of the harbour, and out into the wilds of the Irish Sea.
    Due to the size of the ship, all we felt was a gentle rolling motion, and hearing the swoosh swoosh of the waves was hypnotic.
    Was ripped from sleep by my son’s alarm, and dawn was breaking-out of the window the flashing of Tusker Rock lighthouse could be seen, so I went on deck to see the coast of Ireland approach in the deep blue dawn.
    By daylight, the ship appeared to have been through a battle- parts of her name had been ripped off as if by a giant, and rust streaked the thick white gloss paint-the decks were covered with anti fatigue matting, soft and rubbery beneath the feet-no polished wood as on the old ferries-
    We collected the fragile item [a magnificent Victorian rocking horse] and back to the Europe for her return journey-
    I spoke to one of the Europe’s crew, and he said the 2013/14 winter season had been the roughest he had ever known it in over 40 years working this crossing.
    Artics were falling over , despite chains, and ”there was puke everywhere”- he said passengers just spouted like whales, and didn’t use the bags provided.
    The waves were reaching the upper decks, and all one could see out of the windows was spray.
    So it appears that even a large ship is capable of some bucking and rearing if the sea state is right…
    The Crew member said ”we always sail- [the ships are made for rough weather] and it was Christmas-we had to get people home for Christmas..
    So for those seeking ‘adventure’, book the Irish Sea in stormy weather!

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