What Do You Mean, You’ve Missed The Boat?

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France


I hate water, possibly to phobic proportions. It took many years to pluck up the courage to get under a shower and I’ll never again get on a boat. It’s no big deal really. I just won’t visit the Maldives. Or Antarctica. The latter perhaps more of a regret than the first.

Shortly after we married we decided to go on a touring holiday in France. It was before the days of the Channel Tunnel so the ferry was the only way to take the car. I intended to fly. Mike thought he could persuade me to travel with him on the boat. As it happened we were booked to go to a Navy Open Day in Portsmouth to look around the warships while they were safely tied up to dry land. It was a lousy day for weather, blowing a hoolie in fact. Even the deck of the aircraft carrier had been closed to the public until the gale died down. We wandered instead on to the dockside and Mike’s hidden agenda was revealed. The big cross channel ferry hove into view and began its turn towards its berth.

“You see how big and solid that ship is, how little it rolls even in this wind..”

But there was something not quite right about that boat and it took me a second or two to figure out what. “Then why is it leaning at that odd angle?”

Yep, the gale force wind had swept the ferry on to a sandbank. It had run aground and taken on a list. Mike was heard to swear and I was on the phone to the British Airways ticket desk the minute we got home.

The journey across to France was uneventful enough. In fact, quite romantic really. Mike dropped me off at Heathrow on his way to the ferry port in Dover. I’ve always wanted to say “Goodbye darling, see you in Paris..” and so it was.  Sure, it was a long wait at Charles de Gaulle airport. But I had a book, there was coffee.. and plenty of opportunity to shop. And eventually Mike caught up so we could continue on our way.

Coming back home was a different matter entirely. The traffic on the Paris Peripherique was appalling. Quelle surprise. The boarding time for my flight came.. and went. When we finally got to the airport I was dumped unceremoniously on the pavement outside Departures, sans billet by now, and left to sort myself out while he high-tailed it off to the coast. British Airways could get me no flight until the following day, nor Air France, but after much traipsing of the airport concourse I managed to book with a much smaller carrier and got back to London very late but at least the same day. And should I have made all the effort? No. Because as it turned out Mike missed his boat and got an extra day’s holiday in France. He spent it sight-seeing in Normandy, hence the picture above.

The following year, lessons learned, we tried again. A last night stopover in northern France left plenty of time for the traffic on the Peripherique. I caught my flight and gazed down at the water 30,000 feet below with a glass of champagne to hand. And then it was out through the customs hall. The place was swarming with customs officers, uniformed and plain clothed. Something was afoot, a security alert of some kind. But no worries eh, all my luggage was still in the boot of the car. They’d let me straight through.. yes? No. Apparently the average traveller from abroad carries stuff. Even if only a briefcase. Me? Just a small handbag and a bottle of Duty Free gin.

The customs man smiled as he listened to my story and a handbag doesn’t take long to search so after a little mickey taking at my expense I was free to go on my way. As far as the Arrivals hall anyway, to yet more coffee and another long wait. I had plenty of time to wonder how Mike was faring. Did the security clampdown extend to the ferry ports too? Because of course he did have suitcases. Perhaps too many for just one person. And one of those cases was stuffed full to bursting with ladies clothes..


2018-02-28T17:54:23+00:00January 22nd, 2014|Tags: , |


  1. Joanne January 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Oh that did make me laugh, after a stressful morning in work I needed it. Thank you.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joanne, I hope tomorrow is a better day.

  2. justjilluk January 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm - Reply


    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      After the event, yes!

  3. ournewlifeinthecountry January 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Brilliant, thanks for sharing (as they say), if you feel the urge to share more, you have an avid audience in us 🙂

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue x

  4. Crafty Gardener January 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Wonderful story … gave me my morning chuckle

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda. Keep warm, I hear it’s getting colder again 🙁

  5. Jenny January 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the story, really made me smile, not least at the thought of enforced travelling together for every holiday to the continent… what a palaver!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      The Channel Tunnel was a godsend!

  6. Vintage Jane January 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm - Reply


    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks M!

  7. Pauline January 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Lovely story, so funny!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pauline. Not sure what would happen if we decided to go now… Heathrow/Dover far too far!

  8. Rosie January 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Oh, how funny such a cheering post and I’ve loved reading about your adventures. I’m the opposite – don’t mind the ferries have been over to France on them loads of times (we used to visit a friend who lived near Mont St Michel so loved your photo) but I won’t fly – anywhere!:)

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Flying is OK for me unless the plane approaches the runway close to water. I once flew into Inverness over the Moray Firth in a force 8 gale. Never again..

  9. Amy at love made my home January 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Oh Jessica, you and Mike have the best adventures don’t you!! We have had few travel horrors, but we do manage to travel together – although no ferry trips have ever been required as yet! I hope that your holidays since have been less eventful and that you manage to travel together these days. I wonder where you will get to this year and if it will be successful! Good luck. xx

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      We have since been back to France through the tunnel, and that was kind of OK. I think wherever you go, travel horrors catch up with you sooner or later. It goes with the territory.

  10. nataliescarberry January 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Very entertaining read, Jessica! You do weave a very good story. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Thank you Natalie.

  11. Em January 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Such a great story Jess. I’m hoping our Scottish adventure in May will seamless without the customs issue. However…..a hired van and the two dogs have potential. We’ll just have to see!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Lucky you are going before September…

  12. Denise January 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Hilarious! We often tour France on the motorbike – catching the ferry from Newcastle. I am easily alarmed by anything amiss and a few years back Jon woke me up (foolish boy) to tell me the ferry was going round in circles – turns out somebody had fallen off! Amazingly she was rescued and lived to tell the tale!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      OMG! You see… ferries are dangerous!

  13. 1gus1 January 22, 2014 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Love it! I don’t mind ferries but don’t like sailing which is rather a shame as Barry loves it. I’d rather fly, too.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Mike is a keen sailor too. He goes out with our neighbour on his boat. I am more than happy to stay at home and do the garden!

  14. Abby January 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Great story! I love going to France on the ferry, and so years ago thought I’d enjoy the ferry to The Isles of Scilly – oops, no – a very rollicking ride!! Beautiful place though. x

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the warning. There used to be a helicopter from Penzance, I hope there still is because I’d really like to go to Tresco.

  15. snowbird January 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Hahahahaha….laughing out loud here! Fantastic post, I really enjoyed it. I’m the opposite, I’m terrified of flying and can’t get on a plane until I’ve had a few drinks! I love boats, but haven’t seen one listing on a sandbank!xxx

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks snowbird. Yes, a few drinks helps for the plane too..

  16. Wendy January 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    A wonderful story, Jessica. I love your channel-crossing adventures! I’m generally fine travelling over water, but I think even I’d lose confidence seeing a ferry lurch onto a sandbank.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      I doubt it happens very often… just our (Mike’s) luck that we happened to be watching!!

  17. Cathy January 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the good giggle, Jessica – people have phobias about many different things and often for no obvious reason, and it’s something we need to respect in others. Good job Mike is tolerant! I am not brilliant in boats but because of potential seasickness – made it on the crossing from Aberdeen to the Orkneys last year, though, despite the showing of ‘Life of Pi’ on the journey! 🙂

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Aberdeen to Orkneys? That’s brave!!! But I bet it was worth the trip. I have done Aberdeen/Orkney/Shetland…on a plane and that was bumpy enough, but Oh! the puffins!!!

  18. wherefivevalleysmeet January 22, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Dear Jessica – your dislike of water leads you into hilarious situations, but I have to say that your Mike must be a very kind and thoughtful man.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      I think he would describe it as Long Suffering, Rosemary!

  19. Sue@ GLAllotments January 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    The first time Martyn managed to get me across the channel was on a hovercraft. The idea was the thing had two options as it could float and fly! My problem is I don’t fly either!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I was persuaded to go on the catamaran one year, on the basis that it cut through the waves and would feel more like flying. It did no such thing. Another occasion when I flew home on my own..

  20. Chloris January 22, 2014 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    A great story. It is very kind of Mike to travel with your underwear.
    What about the tunnel, do you feel just as strongly about being under the water as on it? You don’t actually get to see any water in the tunnel. I admit it would be most alarming if you did. But most unlikely.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      The tunnel is kind of OK, in a Lesser Of The Evils sort of way. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoy it, but can bear it. It’s the thought of all that water above your head.

  21. rachel January 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm - Reply


    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 10:01 pm - Reply


  22. Sarah January 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    A wonderful story having suffered some very rough crossings I would much prefer to fly too!
    Sarah x

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      It can get very rough in the Channel. My heart went out to those caught in the recent storms.

  23. Caro in the Urban Veg Patch January 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    I know Portsmouth well as my parents live on the other side of the harbour. I’ve never seen one of the big ferries stranded but do agree they look very unsafe, exactly like they’d blow over! Luckily I’m not scared of water as I once found myself on a friend’s 24ft yacht sailing back from France in gale force winds. I swear I saw St Catherine’s lighthouse (on the Isle of Wight) flashing when we were still several hours out! The journey took over 15 hours of being buffetted and crashing through waves – not an experience I’m in a hurry to repeat but nevertheless I still enjoy sailing! Thanks for sharing your story, it made me smile!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Oh my goodness, I am trembling just thinking about it!

  24. CJ January 22, 2014 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    I’m laughing, you’ve had some funny adventures. Glad you’ve kept your sense of humour.

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks CJ. Easier looking back!

  25. wherethejourneytakesme January 22, 2014 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I’m with Mike on the boat but only the daytime crossing as I cannot sleep on one. When we went to France one year we had Brittany Ferries new flagship – very impressive and we had a free day cabin at the very front of the boat, however, we set sail in such awful weather we had to leave the cabin and staggered our way towards the centre of the boat – less rocky place to be. The shop had to close all the shutters came down when the shop fitments fell over, no one allowed on deck, no cinema or pool open, certainly no one in the restaurant,..and over the tanoid came a voice saying the doctor was ill in his sick bay. Bodies were strew on the floor (safest place to be) all the staff were ill and the passengers sick as dogs – the only 2 people still moving around were the lady who tended to the large decorative Palms onboard and my daughter who went down to the restaurant and came back eating her way through a fresh cream chocolate mousse!

    • Jessica January 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      I remember being on a plane once when we hit turbulence. The contents of Mike’s glass (G&T) stayed in mid air as we all dropped and ended up in the lap of the man in the seat in front. Nowhere’s safe. But at least on a plane if it’s going to happen, it happens quick.

  26. frayed at the edge January 23, 2014 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Wonderful story! I’m fine on big boats, but wouldn’t set foot on a small one, as I have a fear of deep water, and would be worried about falling overboard on a small boat. Flying is fine – though perhaps not the time in New Zealand when a car drove down the runway to scare away the birds before the 12-seater plane took off!

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      For my fiftieth we went to South Africa. Leaving Cape Town in a jumbo jet the pilot aborted the take off just as the wheels were about to leave the ground, jammed on the anchors and screamed to a halt just before the end of the runway. I still fly too, though sometimes I wonder why!

  27. haggiz January 23, 2014 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Your story made me laugh! Give me a boat over a plane any day! I remember when flying to Australia once I was seated next to a nun who proceeded to cross herself every time the plane hit any turbulence and I sat there thinking if you don’t think you’re safe what hope do I have! Julie x

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Oh-er. I watch the stewards… if they look nervous then so am I. On the aborted Cape Town take off above they did look a bit ruffled..

  28. countrysidetales January 23, 2014 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Hmm. I’m not a massive fan of any form of transport that isn’t your own feet, given that you have absolute control over them (unless you happen to be drunk).
    When my brother in law went to Holland for his stag do, his ‘friends’ swapped his suitcase for one containing only women’s clothes and that is what he wore the entire weekend, You can probably get away with this in Amsterdam, but not in rural Hampshire, so the arrival home was an interesting one…

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      I can imagine.. Good for him though for entering into the spirit!

  29. BadPenny January 23, 2014 at 9:00 am - Reply

    what a brillant story – did have a chuckle but very difficult for you with your fear of water. Glad you got your date in paris though x

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Penny. At least I can avoid water most of the time!

  30. Christina January 23, 2014 at 9:20 am - Reply

    What a great story; a nice smile on a drab Thursday morning.

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Christina, drab here too…

  31. SeagullSuzie January 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Great story, I have travelling – I get so anxious for some reason, but I’m not bothered at all about the mode of transport. You would miss out on all our lovely boat trips here in Torbay and along the River Dart. We love these little boats….any excuse to get in one….and the Dartmouth Lower Ferry-I’m sure you would hate it.

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      I love watching the boats from the safety of dry land. We just end up driving on huge almost circular routes to get round all those estuaries and their tributaries.

  32. Annie January 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Great story Jessica loved it smiled through out. I actually have no problem with either.

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      I was once persuaded on to the Corran Ferry. What is it, 3 minutes? It couldn’t have been much longer because I held my breath all the way.

      • Annie January 24, 2014 at 5:42 pm - Reply

        Yep Jessica not much longer and a very regular ferry crossing for me, not sure why I’m not showing as my blog heading !

        • Jessica January 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

          The only thing I can think of is that your email address has changed since your very first comment. Thus WordPress saw your comment yesterday as being from a new source and held it for moderation. I have tried to change the blog title back and hope that I have not now screwed it up completely! I’m so sorry for the confusion.

  33. woolythymes January 23, 2014 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    you sure can spin a tale!!!!
    I’m hoping our day at Mont Saint-Michel looks just like Mike’s photo!!! So excited…..May—Normandy, here we come! (no boats)

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Wow! I’m expecting your photos to be heaps better. This one is so old it was taken on film and had to be scanned!

  34. angiesgardendiaries January 23, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Very funny story Jessica – it reminded me of a time we were on a boat in the Philippines (been on far too many too count but there have been a fair few incidents) we were travelling back to Coron Town on the Island of Palawan. The banca – a traditional boat hit a sand bank around 500m from the harbour. The 4 crew just jumped in the water and disappeared!!
    You can imagine how frantic we were, especially with my mother who can’t swim – a 2 year old that was needing a nappy change and also couldn’t swim, a 4 year old complete with armbands and a friend’s 2 dogs! My brother and my son swam ashore and paid a wee guy in a tiny rowing boat to get us all to shore. After 8 trips we were all safe and sound. We have a right laugh about it now but right at that moment it just wasn’t so.
    How I wish I’d had a digital camera back then.

    • Jessica January 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Good grief! Frantic would not have come close to how I would have been feeling.. scary stuff. So glad you all survived to tell the tale. I can only hope that these days such boats are properly regulated.

  35. Jayne Hill January 24, 2014 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Now I’ve finished laughing at the thought of Mike explaining why he had a suitcase full of ladies frilly-bits I can fully sympathise.

    I hate water nearly as much as you do. At a pinch I can be persuaded onto a Lake ferry ….. as for anything else. FOR-GET-IT. Folk who don’t feel the same way wouldn’t understand, I do. And I also empathise about the Antarctica trip – I have friends who’ve done it. I just look at their photos.

    • Jessica January 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Luckily for Mike I’m not a frilly bits kind of gal!
      The scenery in Antarctica is amazing. But I shall just have to go to the Falklands, or Boulders Beach, for a penguin fix!

  36. Simone January 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I love to hear about the adventures of Jessica and Mike! I am with you Jessica. I hate the sea and the idea of a ‘dream cruise’ would be my idea of hell! Did Mike get stopped? Do tell!

    • Jessica January 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      I like the idea of a cruise.. unpack once and then go to lots of places. It’s just the boat that’s the problem.
      As I remember there was a cursory search at the ferry port, they weren’t quite as thorough as Heathrow.. fortunately for Mike!

  37. CherryPie January 26, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    That gave me a chuckle 🙂

    • Jessica January 26, 2014 at 11:56 pm - Reply


  38. Natalie February 3, 2014 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Hee hee hee, glad you survived it all. I practically grew up on a boat, but I understand why some people don’t like them! ANd that place in Normandy is spectacular!

    • Jessica February 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      It looks like it doesn’t it, must get Mike to take me there one day!!

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