Thursday, April 30, 2009

We're sailing away on the crest of a wave . . .

If you are a left-hand-shaker then you will recognise the following lyrics by the famous Ralph Reader:
We're riding along on the crest of a wave, and the sun is in the sky.
All of our eyes on the distant horizon, Look out for passers by.
We'll do the HAILING ! When all the ships around are sailing,
We're riding along on the crest of a wave, And the world is ours.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, this is the chorus to a famous scouting song, sung at every Gang Show! And it seemed an apt way to start todays blog as we set sail for the Emerald Isle, the Isle of Smiles, the land of the little people - Ireland!!

So we had breakfast with the other Aussies and an English couple on their way home from a 2 day visit to Belfast. It was raining very steadily this morning and we could not see across the Bay to Stranraer from Cairnryan. Kay and Steve at Cairnryan House chatted with us as we were off, sharing some of their travel experiences which was lovely. We also had a chat about the various booking internet sites and together we agreed that advertising in print publications is hardly worth the money for the return through bookings from them these days. Better to have a good website (like they do) with an online booking form and good keywords.

Got an SMS from Donna this morning throwing some light on the truck slogan from yesterday - Quilton is the brand evidently! Thanks sis.

A visit to the Post Office was the first order of the day. We had accumulated 14kgs of brochures and booklets from our travels and visits to various attractions! So, bundled into four parcels we managed to get them and another bottle of amber gold on their way home for the princely sum of £94. Back home, double that and then say OMG!!

And still it rains. So we went to the Starfish Restaurant for a nice hot cuppa before going down to the Tourist Information Centre to get some information and a map for Ireland. Michael sets off for a walk in the rain to take a look at the local Museum (sans camera), while I settle down in the car with a novel. We still have a little while to wait before we can check in for the ferry.
Two hours before the ferry is due to leave we are able to check in - just to wait in a vehicle queue. Both of us with novels now - and still in the rain, although it has lessened somewhat now. After a little while, the sun wins out and the rain is banished - there are still clouds, but it is dry enough to encourage the owners of 4 MGs in the queue to fold down their canopies - showoffs!

At about 2:25pm we are given the signal to start our engines and progress to - - the next queue area! Not for long though and we are soon filing two by two (cars that is) onto the very impressive HSS Voyager - one of the stars in the Stena Line fleet. We manage to snaffle a window table on the passenger deck just six steps up from the car deck and have an uninterrupted view out. The engines roar and the captain annouces that we are about to depart Scotland for Northern Ireland. Then all goes quiet and we glide away from the dock noiselessly. Stranraer quietly slips by as we steam out into the calm waters of Loch Ryan. I am thrilled as we hardly feel a thing and my stomach stays put! As we come out of the regulated speed area of the Loch, the engines again change pitch as they rev up and the whole boat rises out of the water so that the bow is much higher than the stern - this act generates a wave that is about 1 metre high! So yes, check out that song chorus again - that us!

There are two lighthouses out on the western coast of Scotland here and the beacon on the Corsewall lighthouse sends steady bursts out into the Irish Sea as does the one at Portpatrick as we are sailing by. There are a couple of things that we find amazing - the patches of turquoise water amidst the blue of the deep, the calmness of the water - not even much of a swell today, and the fact that looking in one direction we can still see the lands of Scotland as the ferry cuts speed entering the channel to come into Belfast Harbour! Our sea trip is 48 miles, but at the shortest point, it is only 21 miles from coast to coast.

On board the staff are conducting a raffle to raise funds to train a guide dog. Most people are buying tickets and as it is only £1 and for a good cause, so do we. And what do you know? We won first prize! A bottle of DKNY Woman perfume and a bottle of SE Australian Semillion Chardonnay wine.

As we come into Northern Ireland the land looks very similar to Scotland's coast. But of course Belfast is a large city and there is no town of this size on the Scottish western seabord! The docks of Belfast look amazing when coming in from the sea-side. So we are here for three nights, staying at the Parkview B&B about 1 mile from the city centre. Much bigger than any of the other B&Bs we have stayed in - and really more like a hostel. Thankfully we have our own ensuite shower, but the toilet is on the landing below. Oh yes, we are three floors up! In the attic!! And for £61 per night! Belfast is a lot more expensive than any other city we have stayed in with the exception of London.

On the recommendation of the B&B staff we went to a small local restaurant. Satisfying but all in all a little ordinary. The staff were very very friendly though and the Magners Cider is, of course, wonderful as usual!

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