>Friday, bright and early we were up yet again – 7 am and they wanted us all on deck by 7.30 – no time for breakfast! Somehow in those 30 minutes Rosie managed to get a shower and get dressed then get me set up for a quick shower (hair wash and important bits) and back to our bunk and then dressed and on deck. She did scrape my foot up a littlemanuevering me out of the bathroom but not badly and to be honest if not for the fact that she panicked about it and insisted on taking my trainers off a few times later in the day to check on it I probably wouldn’t have been bothered beyond my initial “OOOOOww that hurts!” So we were pretty shocked at how much we managed to get done in that 30 minutes. I can get myself ready in 30 mins but to do it in an unfamiliar set up when I needed help (and that 30 mins included the time my buddy/carer needed to get herself ready) and I was sharing a bathroom with two other wheelchair users
We made it onto deck and had a drink and a biscuit or two – healthiest breakfast we had all week :P. We could see the harbour of Cherbourg approaching as we stood there. After maybe ten minutes they set us to various tasks necessary for getting the ship docked. I had to help Jo with the fenders. They are huge bright orange buoy type things which are almost as big as my wheelchair if you ignore the backrest (I hope that convulted explanation makes sense!) and they are tied on then put over the side into the water. It wasn’t explained to me but I *think* the idea is that they go between the ship and the quayside and prevent one scrapping against the other. We ended up turning the ship 180 degrees and so after I had helped to lift one up, over the side and into the water, they had to be pulled back in and dropped on the otherside. I didn’t help with that bit. That took quite a while and then they said that there was “just one more thing to do” and then we would put the gangplank down and go ashore for watch and voyage crew photos. And off they sent us to the mainmast. Where Jo, Fiona the cook and Nigel her assistant were waiting. With two or three huge platters of bacon butties for breakfast.
Mmmmm Mmmm MMMMM they were good! I have no clue what time it was by that point but I don’t think there was a single meal all week which was more welcome and more enjoyable than that one!
Once we got the gangplank set up (yay for more hauling on ropes – I think I need to start doing that here if my 4lb weightloss that week is any indication!) literally everyone went ashore for a photo of every single one of us and the permanent crew (with the exception of Pickles) and then photos of each individual watch. I have ordered a copy of my watch photo and the voyage crew one but haven’t received them yet. I also got someone to take a picture of “Fwd Starboard” aka my watch on my camera too.
Assisted climbs came next and I got to go aloft in a wheelchair as a part of that. Not my wheelchair as it wouldn’t go on the frame but Jo helped me get transferred into one of the ships ones. I had a transit seat on again like always on the boat and I had to take my waist harness off. My transit seat was roped up onto one rope with the straps like a regular sling (a transit seat is basically a type of sling but for manual lifting not hoisting – I don’t think as a rule you can hoist with a transit seat). And theframe was passed around the back and underneath the wheelchair and that was roped on too. So I was perfectly safe and if one rope failed i’d still be held.
A few people seemed vary of the idea of being lifted in a transit seat (on the whole not just here) but I used one when I was at college doing my a’levels – sat in it the whole time and was carried up and down stairs – as well as in and out of the pub! -several times so the prospect didn’t bother me. I love transit seats. Anyway, I digress.
Basically being lifted up the mast involved several people on a rope one side of you hauling it (gently, this was not a “2,6!” job) and a couple of others the other side holding it steady. Rob was right next to you checking all the ropes etc, Matt was part way up to make sure you didn;’t get stuck on the roof of the deck house and Devon Dave and David (told you they were all called Dave!) were on the platform where you ended up. I helped to get some of the others up and it was more long work than hard work – but by that stage I’d stopped viewing hauling ropes as hard work, tbh.
I screamed OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD the entire way up and when I reached Matt he was like “you’re only ten feet up Emma, you’ve a way to go yet love” in his scouse accent. But when I got to the top I was loved the view – it was so worth it! I was level with the top of a four storey building and about halfway up the mast. It was pretty smooth to be honest and relatively quite quick just a little disconcerting to be lifted off the ground on a rope like that! When I was talking with Devon Dave on the platform one of the things he said to me was that going down would be nice and gentle and if it wasn’t I would know they had dropped the rope! Yeah, thanks for that Dave!!
I had known all along that I was going to go up, it was optional but I was determined I would do it. So much so that when I was told that the reason my chair wouldn’t go on the frame was the strap which is part of the folding mechanism and if not for that it would be fine I just went “oh just cut it off then, it’ll be alright” (You can fold the back w/out the strap but i don’tknow about the seat and I didn’t care either, I was that determined). but they told me NO they would put me in one of the ships wheelchairs.
We were given Shoreleave next and Rosie and I went ashore with Jim and Andy from our watch and this guy Peter who I’d not spoken to before (from another watch). We were joking a lot about being with “Rosie and Jim” as there is a childrens TV show of the same name. We also ended up teasing Rosie a lot and ended up with something of an ongoing joke for the next day or so about that. It is one of many examples of the wonderful camaderie there was on this trip. BUT I think she got a little annoyed by the teasing; it went on and on then kept reappearing!
First, I took the opportunity to ring my mum at work while we were in France and she sounded very surprised to hear from me! She was abit like “your in France?! Cherbourg?! Ashore?!” Then we found a bar for a drink and Rosie was very disappointed to find they didn’t have the Cider she’d been dreaming of and talking about all day. My coke, however, was lovely! I only actually had alcohol the first night (when we had punch/sangria under the mainmast) and other than that stayed on the soft stuff. We wandered on for a while and Peter went to do some shopping for his wife. The rest of us ended up in this cute little restaurant for lunch. I split a pizza and some chips with Rosie and we got huge portions of very delicous food!
We walked around a little more and then Jim and Andy went back to the ship. Us girls stayed ashore and did the typical thing – shopping. I bought a few postcards for my scrapbook (some of Cherbourg and some more artistic/stylistically adjusted ones) and a very very groovy new bag which was a bargain and a half at €10. There was quite a lot of window shopping and “oooh should I buy it?!” too. We really did have quite a good wander and after that we had a sit by the harbour for a while and a chat/watch the world go by. I bought some maltesers and ate them sat there too… they were exceedingly yummy and were the only chocolate I had during the trip!
Went back to the ship for a rest after that… it was getting to be high tide and so we needed to use the rope to get me on the boat again, they held it a little high and so I kept tipping up a little but it was OK. Didn’t end up getting too much of a rest, a bunch of us were sat on deck by the mainmast chatting and laughing and generally having a GOOD TIME. Pickles was there too muttering about getting drunk and teasing too and then Dan turned up in a taxi having been given the very important job of buying the stock for the bar! It was pretty chilled and great fun.
After probably a couple of hours we went for a quick wash and a change of clothes then three out of four watches ended up going out to eat altogether, entirely by accident. Chris and Gudrun had arranged to take whoever of their watches wanted to go out together and issued an invite to the rest – both of their watches and our watch all went. There were 20 of us including five in wheelchairs and it was an adventure! We walked quite a way and went a different way to earlier, obviously we had missed a big part of the town. We went past a very beautiful and gothic looking church which I would have liked to explore if there had been the opportunity.
Eventually we found an accessible restaurant we liked the look of (I think someone had spotted it earlier but I don’t know for sure). The staff claimed they couldn’t take us when they heard there were 20 of us and five wheelchairs, they said it would take up too much space and they wouldn’t be able to get to the kitchen so we couldn’t go. Got to give Chris her due here, she wasn’t phased and by the time Jane, Lucy, Rosie and I got there (we were at the end of the procession) she had rearranged the entire restaurant to give two big long tables for us and then informed them that “Now you can take us.” The food was wonderful, I had strips of roast lamb in a kind of gravy and french chips! The company was great too and I think – I hope – that I can safely say everyone had a great time!
Rosie, Me, Vanessa, Jane and Lucy were among the first to leave as we all had to go on watch at various points in the evening/overnight. Getting back involved a few adventures including me nearly coming out of my chair and Jane nearly getting hit by a car because Lucy forgot that they drive on the other side of the road! When we got back to the ship the captain was teasing us and complaining going “couldn’t you have come back earlier?! we wouldn’t have needed the rope… had to go out to eat didn’t you?!” LOL! He had the back of my chair going up and told them repeatedly to make sure they kept it low and it lower it whenever it started to lift my casters!
Once back on the ship I went to the bar and transferred into a regular chair as my legs were getting a little sore. There was a big group of the voyage and permanent crews together (including the Captain!) in there and there was lots of laughter, joking and phototaking to be had. Someone found a guitar and played and then we were all singing various songs. I didn’t know most of them but soon picked up on the choruses and despite completely lacking the ability to sing in tune joined in with no heistation. I love to sing and it was just one of those situations where you;ve got to join in. I was due on harbour watch at midnight till 2 and had intended to take a nap but ended up having too much fun to do so. Eventually I had to drag myself away just before midnight to change into warm clothes and go on deck.
Harbour watch involved two of us (half the watch) – me and Rosie having to keep an eye on various things and making sure that no one who didn’t belong to the ship came aboard. If that or certain other things happened we had to send a runner for the officer of the watch (Captain Dave) or the duty Engineer. I had had a freak out about that (I couldn’t act as a runner so if something had happened would have been left alone on deck) but Matt had been confident it would be fine and so nothing was done. It transpired the next day that the two people did not include the watch leader who was meant to be there as an extra body (but wasn’t, we had thought that was a little off)!
In the restaurant I had a bigger freak out and cried a little, Rosie kept telling me it would be fine. But I just said a few times I can’t do it and when she kept saying it would be fine, I could do it I explained that I have depression/mental health issues and the thought of doing it was sending me into a spiral of downness panic and anxiety and I really couldn’t do it if it were just me and Rosie. Jane was there and she really reassured me that if I couldn’t do it no one would force me. Jim said that he would come up on deck with us and I didn;t have to do it if I didn;’t want too. I did want to do it and I did do it I just didn’t feel I would be safe leaving things as they were planned and personal safety is a big issue to me/for me. At that point in time and also the next day I really wished that who both me and rosie are and how things had happened had allowed for me and Rosie to have a decent this is me and these are my issues chat at the beginning of the voyage – I was getting pretty frustrated at this point by the way my needs were/were not getting met and I was being treated. Part of it, I think was a sleep deprivation issue as by the time we came off watch and went to bed I’d been up 19 hours. Also my care needs were in part substantially higher than I had anticipated and that was relatively hard for me. It was the one time on the voyage that their disability doesn’t matter policy/attitude was hard for me to handle – I can’t put why into words very easily though.
Nothing really exciting happened… I wandered around the ship taking a few photos, talked to a few people and just enjoyed the night. Jane and Lucy had been on before us and they had a few shitty drunk people but the only drunk people we had belonged to the ship and were exceedingly funny as they came back on board! Too much fun!! I was texting a few people back home and it was all pretty surreal to think it was 2 am, I was in France on a boat which I had helped crew and sail from the Solent. I was responsible for fire watch and making sure the ropes didn’t come undone and I’d been up for 19 hours.
My bed was more than welcome that night!