This post is a bit out of sequence because this blog posting bounced. I think I went a bit mad with the photos! Am trying with none and will add more later. Anyway, this happened before the previous posting….
The day of departure finally dawned. Even though I thought everything was ready, the final morning at home was still a flurry of activity. I realised that I had forgotten to fit plugs where I had repaired the leaking strakes, but fortunately this did not take long.
Then, to my dismay, I noticed that the masthead fitting had been dislodged. This meant removing it entirely, cleaning it up, replacing one of the wooden pegs holding it in position and then refitting it. I had to perform surgery on a half-used tube of sikaflex to get enough to make it stick and then hold the whole thing in place with duct tape. I hope it stays secure till the sikaflex cures!
I had been looking forward to this trip for so many months, planning the details, checking and re-checking equipment and yet after all this time preparing, I felt curiously reluctant to set off. With the dreaded M25 to battle with before arriving at the docks, I wanted to leave plenty of time for the journey. So it was that Aimee and I finally left to take Aurora on the first leg of her journey to the Baltic.
The drive went smoothly, so we arrived at Tilbury Docks in plenty of time. My only experience of large ships is passenger ferries and our ship, the oddly named Transpulp, is a freight ferry and carries a maximum of 10 passengers. We ended up parked with the two other passenger vehicle, whilst one lorry after another roared in to deliver a trailer to the ship. We chatted with our fellow passengers. One vehicle was a 1970s Swedish Army truck, returning from a military vehicle rally in Folkestone and the other was a huge Ford van belonging to Ashley, returning to Gothenburg with stock for his shop- vintage 1940s and 1950s clothing and furniture.
Loading was a low key affair and we were soon aboard, led to our cabins and given a safety briefing. It was a beautiful evening and it was a pleasure to watch the docks in the cool air, after the heat of the day. We could also see the original “Boat that Rocked”- the Radio Caroline ship, which awaiting its fate- repair or scrapping, it was hard to tell.
From there she moved out into the Thames and made her way downstream into the North Sea. The crossing felt quite unusual to me because the large ship seemed to have so few people on it. There is no separation of the crew and passengers (there were only three others, apart from Aimee and I) and meals are taken all together, at set times. It seems that the life of a seaman has not changed that much over all the years, as much time seems to be spent on keeping the ship clean and tidy- it is amazingly clean everywhere you look.