Work done in England, it was time to catch up with end-of-year work in the Netherlands, drop in on language classes, and take a break at the Christmas Markets. The bags were packed, appointments in place, the car fully fueled. At 6:30 am, I pulled out from Cambridge to catch the early ferry. BBC4 was starting to sound warnings about a major windstorm battering Scotland that could spread to the Channel by mid-afternoon, but I sounded like I could beat it.
The winds were rising as I crested the hill and descended into Dover. The check-in agent advised that boats were already running an hour late (at 10 in the morning), and that it would be a bit bouncy on the way over. I gulped a Dramamine and joined the queue.
Our boat appeared and turned, struggling to angle into the docks despite being inside the breakwalls. Tugs hustled around the enclosure to keep boats separated and to nudge them into place. Even at dock, there was a perceptible sway to the deck. Everyone found a table with a good view of the horizon and settled in: there were no queues for the café.
The pitching started in earnest as we cleared the harbor. The captain angled well south so that the wind was a bit more head-on, minimizing the roll a bit. Spray crested the bows and splashed over the third-story panoramic windows. The crew closed the children’s play area.
We were well over two hours completing the run to Dunkirk – a bit better once we were into the lee of the northern French coast, but not a great crossing. But they did complete the run: later boardings weren’t so lucky.
It’s hard to know the best means to get between England and the Netherlands at this time of year: fog closes airports, storms interrupt ferries, ice stops trains. It’s just a time to schedule a bit loosely and stay flexible.