Portsmouth was fast disappearing into the grey mist of that October morning back in '88. I stood posing for a photo in front of the Porthole, bottle of Champers in hand glass in the other, and the cork firmly wedged in my mouth. We were finally leaving! Finally?! It seemed that we'd been planning it for ages at the time, but really we'd planned very little.
We were leaving, FOREVER!!! That was basically it;
We'd left, copped out of the mainstream that we'd only just started to flirt with, buying a ruin in brizol to renovate, which, we sold whilst in a conversation in the local Pub. The work only took six months. A Job well done, or so we thought?! In those days the future only stretched 'til next year and 'seven grand would do everything?!
Oh, we would need a Camper, so we brought an old VW LT! OH and Spain was our destination, or Portugal?! Sunwards, Whatever! More importantly we were towing two Jet Skis, a Zodiac Inflatable and a Johnston 40hp outboard, and this was to be our New Life; beach bums renting out the Jet Skis and lying around getting tanned beside the Med.
Then it started to hit!!..... The boat lurched violently sideways throwing the champers across the cabin. What the hell was that? I spluttered, as the tannoy crackled into life. The captain then informed us that we were heading into "some bad weather" and we should "make ourselves comfortable". He was not lying. The bow then pointed itself upwards, as if climbing a hill, and stayed like that for an unbelievably long time, I, sat on what use to be the wall, was silenced in disbelief. The boat then reversed its trajectory and headed downhill as my stomach reached my brain. There then came a bone wrenching crash as we hit the bottom of the wave, and the whole fiber of the boat reverberated like a metal crunching gong....This carried on for twelve hours more as we clung to the bunk trying to hold on to our digestive systems. Then it got worse!!!!!!!!!!!
We were informed that we were entering the Bay of Biscay where the storm was raging at gale force twelve, Twelve!! Is there any stronger? The pitching and rolling of the boat unbelievably got much worse. our porthole would disappear under the water as we lolled sideways, and the spring back up like a weeble clown that wobbles but wont fall down. This buoyancy self-correcting stuff was probably keeping us on top of this mountainous fervent, but was also responsible for cracking my rib. As we violently sprang back upright I was flung from me bunk and landed squarely on the door handle, which was where the floor use to be, with a nauseous crunch it parted in two, me better half very innocently said "is this normal?" Then it got worse..........
The pitching and rolling intensified unbelievably and the only rest bite was the long slow upward climb to the top of the twelve foot waves, and that second of stillness before we hurtled down the ravine beyond, awaiting to see if this valley would be the one that smashed the bows. The tannoy crackled into life again "will you all please lie down"...I did not like the sound in his voice, that was fear that was definitely fear I heard, oh my god, if our captain was nervous things must be bad.
"That's it" I said, "we're not staying here"," if Its all to end here then its not in this box!" with that we crawled out the cabin and made our way up the stairs, clinging on to the rail during our furious descents, and scuttling on during the crests. We eventualy reached the main restaurant area. It was like a bomb site! The upturned tables and chairs were clumped together and were violently sliding from one side to the other, with the movement of the boat. It was defiantly not safe in there! We carried along the corridor, and came upon what was left of the piano bar. And it was full!!!
Groups of people were sat on the floor, all with one arm around the bolted down bistro tables, and slopping plastic beer glasses in the other. Amazed we slid through the door like dogs with worms and glanced at the bar, incredibly there was a Spanish barman strapped to the San Miguel pump, serving beer. Result!!! We wormed our way across and ordered two beers. Now that god like chap attempted to get as much beer into the glass as was humanly possible, given the conditions, and tried to deliver them to us, still sat down, without drenching us too much. Now I have met a few brave heroic people in my time but this chap ranked amongst the best!
"Cop hold err mate" came a distinctly cockney voice from behind me. I spun round as saw a couple of right royal diamond geezers clung to a table, " room fer a couple err" said one, so we slid in a clung on. No our new room mates were on there way to "Fingeroler" "Costa del crime" they informed us, apparently they had "a few good scams on!" What they defiantly had was sharpe acid humor!! The captain sounding no less nervous announced, that we would not be allowed to enter Bilbao port as boats had broken from the moorings, and it was to dangerous to pass, we were to "heave too", point into the wind and ride out the storm, until it calmed down. He also announced that the bistro, next to the piano bar would serve chicken curry! Apparently the chefs, with the same fortitude as our barman, had strapped their belts around the rail on their stainless steel counters, and had made a curry for all the ships company. A queue quickly formed outside the piano bar, all sat down, worm shuffling along to get some sustenance.
"You heard bout the lorry mate" started one of our new cockney friends to a chap in the queue, "No?" was the reply " well apparently a lorry as broke loose in the hold an is rolling back an forth all over the cars", "Oh my god" said the chap and immediately related the story to all in his group. And like throwing a stone in water, this rippled up and down the queue, and we were freakquently asked what we knew of it! This entertained the cockneys no end and with there current charging of our glasses helped us threw the long night. one of my last memories before slipping into alcohol assisted tranquility, was me better half singing the theme tune to "Titanic" to the tail of the queue, always the forever optimist.
I awoke with a dull throbbing in my head and as consciousness returned, I slowly realized that the boat was extremely still, and the throbbing was actually the engines steaming us in to port. I jumped up and went out on deck. I went to the bow, and stood squinting, trying to catch my first glimpse on our new land. My mood like the day was bright and fresh. I could tell buy the quality of light that I was approaching foreign shores. Not even on the brightest summer day did a Somerset sky hold this quality. This mixed with the salty smell in my nostrils raised my anticipation to fever pitch. A few of the people from the queue last night were milling around excitedly. I caught a few commenting on the lorry that had apparently rolled around the hold, I stifled a little chuckle.