Sunday, 5 April 2009

My trip on the Jeannie Johnston trip to Dublin - day six

The sea was slightly more choppy when I awoke this morning, and again the same stale smell assaulted my nostrils. I could hear the generator going, but the engines seemed, to my inexpert ears at least, not to be running. After doing my morning ablutions I put my harness on and went up onto deck. We were not anchored or moored, as I had guessed, but were instead going around Dublin Bay in circles. The slow speed accounted for the motion of the ship.

There is a lift bridge on the River Liffey that has to be negotiated for the boat to reach its berth, and that could not open until 10.00. For this reason, the ship had been going in circles at a slow speed since early in the morning. It was surprisingly chilly on deck, and I soon disappeared down below once more to fetch my coat.

Breakfast was served, and after a nice, warming bowl of porridge my watch started. I was on the helm for ten minutes, and then got asked to go on watch with Natasha. I grabbed a quick egg roll, then went forward. There were a number of ships around, and there was a line of squally rain in the distance. Land was visible, and not for the first time I wished that I had a map available to study.

After a while Rob set myself and the others on cleaning the heads. So far on the trip I had managed to escape this duty, but it was only fair that I take my turn. It was not that enjoyable, especially as the swell was making my feel slightly queasy. It was also very warm down in the heads, even though I had taken my coat and harness off. It was a relief when the job was done, and I could wash and head up onto the deck.

I went onto watch, this time with Neil. We were starting to motor into the bay now, and an increasing number of buoys became visible. The captain told us to ignore these, and to concentrate on moving targets. Aside from one motor boat that cut across out bows, there was nothing. I sat back and chatted to Neil as I enjoyed the views. The waters underneath us slowly became darker, then positively oily with pollution being swept downstream.

Slowly we entered the harbour, passing the breakwaters before progressing up the river. The twin chimneys of the Poolbeg power station greeted us - they towered into the sky like monumental Eastern European architecture. More people came onto the bows to join us as we passed various ships being unloaded and loaded. It was certainly not the best way to approach Dublin. A Belfast - Liverpool - Dublin ferry was in port, but the surroundings were hardly plush - a typical port, really.

As we went further upstream we passed a lovely white sailing ship, which someone said was the German Navy sailing ship, with the crew visible in their neat uniforms on deck. As we passed the regular crew tried firing off a spud gun, but did not seem to have much success. There was a roaring sound as the gas ignited, but then nothing. After two attempts they abandoned it.

A cross-river ferry naughtily crossed our bows as we headed upriver, and then we slowly came to a stop in front of the bridge. We hung there for ten minutes as we waited for the bridge to life; a river ferry passed us, heading upstream and under the bridge. It seemed incredibly low against the water from where I was sitting.

Eventually the bridge lifted and we continued upstream. On this side of the bridge the signs of Dublin's revitalisation were visible - many office buildings were under construction, the old mingling surprisingly well with the new. Soon we reached the end of the journey and out mooring right outside the Citi Bank building - the Captain expertly brought us around, whilst the bosun's mate and second officer went round on the little boat ready to tie us up.

People were standing on the quayside watching us come in, and a few were taking photographs. It did not take us long to moor, and I helped send out both of the lines at the bow. After this, I went below for one final wash then started packing.

On deck I had a word with Kendal, our cook for the journey, a man who hails from Portsmouth. The entire food for the trip had cost £200 pounds, and had stretched to feed 24 people over 5 days. That was under £2 per person per day, yet the food had been filling and good.

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