My very first ocean passage was a four day journey from Annapolis, Maryland, to the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts on a friend’s beautiful 34’ Tartan. Only part of it was out of sight of land, but that, for me, was the best part. I fell in love with being able to see the horizon all around me, the boat a tiny survival pod in limitless space.
Since then we made many passages on our own boat, from a few days to a week or two to our longest, at six weeks. But it’s been a while. Now, if only for a few hours on a car ferry, I’ll get to experience that 360° horizon again.
We checked in at the dock early and were loaded almost immediately, right behind another Adria campervan. We turned off the propane, deployed the frozen blue picnic ice throughout the fridge and freezer, packed an overnight bag and locked up. The car deck will be inaccessible during the journey. Up on the cabin deck an agent pointed us toward our home for the night.
Our cabin — the only one available when we booked — has no window and sleeps four but we have it all to ourselves. It has a reasonably spacious bathroom and shower, especially if you’re already accustomed to boats and campers.
I read online that these inside cabins can be noisy because they’re above the engines so we brought our noise-canceling headphones in case the thrumming keeps us awake. And because it’s been a while since I’ve been at sea, and I suffer from mal de mer, I dug through my stash to find seasickness tablets. I checked the date. What are the chances they still work?
We cast off on time, waved goodbye to Aberdeen, sailed past a beautiful offshore wind farm and headed out into the North Sea.
We brought sandwiches with us because we thought maybe the food onboard would be expensive and bad. As it turns out, it looked pretty good, but the ferry fare with the van and the cabin was enough to spend, and besides, we have a camper full of food as long as the picnic ice does its job.
As we cleared the harbor I could sense the ocean swell and waited for the familiar queasiness. Instead, I was suddenly sleepy and I knew the Dramamine was working. That’s when I remembered I only ever take half a tablet because I’m particularly susceptible to drugs. All drugs. Oops. I’d taken a whole one and now I was very sleepy.
I wanted to stay up long enough to be out of sight of land and at 9pm I went back out on deck but we still hadn’t cleared the top little bit of mainland Scotland. I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer so I set an alarm for early morning and surrendered to the Dramamine. Our cabin was quiet, by the way, with no noise from the engines and I slept the sleep of the sailor off watch.
Bright and early I popped out of bed and raced up to the open deck. Land Ho! We’ve already made Shetland.
The landscape we glimpsed through the early fog gave us a taste of what’s to come: steep ocean cliffs, gently undulating hills, and impossibly green meadows.
About an hour later we docked at Lerwick and within minutes we were off the ferry and parked in town. We took a quick turn around Lerwick to get oriented and visited the tourist office where they loaded us up with maps, brochures and ferry schedules.
Then it was on the road to a free parkup for the rest of the day so we can get recombobulated and make a plan.
How’s that for a first day’s view?