En route to Donegal, 2008

25 October

Stranraer, 7.30am

We arrived here last night, after a largely uneventful trip from Edinburgh, save for the odd mildly panicked phone call from Broon as her and Gillian found themselves heading for Airdrie. The idea has been to break our journey to Donegal with an overnight stop near the ferry, to avoid a distressingly early start on the Saturday morning. All good so far, but today’s wind and rain, and most especially wind, has put paid to our hopes of sailing this morning. Broon texted me from the room next door at 6.30am to confirm that our 10am sailing had been cancelled. It was kind of her.

The crew on this year’s Donegal trip is the same as last year’s, with the sad exception that we are missing Shazza and her not inconsiderable vocal contributions. However, an old school friend – Karen – has stepped in to the breach, and we will hook up with her later today, or whenever the weather dies down and we can get on a boat across the sea. Which may turn out to be the middle of next week, which would be unfortunate, but at least would allow us ample time to explore Stranraer. Both of its streets.

I wandered along to the petrol station last night, while we waited for the girls to arrive from Airdrie, in search of some chocolate supplies. The petrol station was further back along the road than I had remembered, and as a result I had the opportunity to witness even more Ned-driven souped up Vauxhall Corsas cruising round the one-way system than I might have otherwise. What is it about small towns that they always end up with one-way systems and permanently-cruising Vauxhall Corsas?

When the girls finally arrived, we sat down with a cup of tea and some chocolate, and discussed our eating requirements for the week in more detail, so that Wiseman and I, rashly having been trusted with the shopping trip in Derry en route, would not fall out over how many sausages to buy.

This morning, as I gaze upon our depleted chocolate provisions, I fear that we may not have enough for another day in Stranraer, and may have to restock.

Loch Ryan, 7.15pm

Standing on deck, just as the boat rounded the headland and left the comparative peace and tranquility of Loch Ryan for the wild open sea, I felt my phone vibrate. It was mum.

“You’re not sailing, are you?”

“We are.”

“Oh. I called Ferrycheck at 4.30 and they said all sailings were cancelled.”

“We’re definitely sailing.”

“Are you sure you’re sailing?”

“Yes mother, I’m on the boat, looking back at the coastline recede into the distance. We’re definitely sailing.”

“Oh, son.” She sounded concerned. “I think it’s going to be a rocky crossing.”

I was keenly aware of the fact that it was going to be a rocky one. I was standing out on deck and the wind had almost taken my phone out of my hands. We exchanged pleasantries, and I went back to listening to Energy Orchard. As ‘Good day to die’ gave way to ‘Belfast’ for the second time round, I lurched back inside and hoped that Belfast wouldn’t be too long in coming around for real.

Broon was stretched out, plugged in to her iPod, looking a little ropey. Gilly had propped herself up against the seat, earphones in, with her eyes closed in a very determined way. Wiseman, naturally, was downing his first pint of Murphy’s.

Our boat had finally sailed at 4.30pm. We spent a nice enough day puttering about in Stranraer. Wiseman and I patronised the gym for an hour or so, while the girls found a chemist to stock up on travel sickness tablets, and a pretty decent and resoundingly unpretentious café. We joined them there and discussed the journey ahead. Anticipating a choppy crossing, the girls restricted themselves to a cup of tea and a scone. Mark and I decided that there might as well be something there to throw up, and went for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and fish and chips, respectively. We had two different brands of travel tablets, so we split into two control groups. Broon and I opted for the homeopathic tablets, while Wiseman and Gilly went for the more chemical alternative.

Now, several hours later, the chemicals seem to be in the ascendancy. Broon is proving to be a disappointing advert for natural herbal remedies. I am doing ok. Gilly is feeling like going for a sandwich, while Wiseman is feeling so good he is loudly contemplating a steak. Am unsure how much of his buoyancy is down to the effects of the drugs, and how much can be attributed to the Murphy’s, having just finished his third pint.

We totter down to the cafeteria. There are a lot of ill-looking people down there, including Téannich, a ceilidh band from Edinburgh. The boat’s pitching and rolling seems much more obvious than it did up in our lounge on the next level.

It’s going to be a late arrival in Donegal. The lady who looks after the cottage is going to leave the lights on and the key under the mat.

Leave a comment here!