Friday, 4 May 2012
Island Escape 3rd April 2012, Part 6
Sunday 8th April 2012
Today we are due into Toulon, France. What a rough night! I felt very lucky to have slept well, as it seems many passengers were sick with the ship’s motion, and I heard one lady in a 4-berth cabin saying that two of her companions on top bunks slept in their life-jackets during the night. The rest of us were happy to spy land at 7.45 a.m. although the outside decks had been closed off and we could only view life through the salt-laden windows. The wind was cold under a clear blue sky and we hoped the overnight weather system was blowing itself out.
Thanks to the wonders of someone’s iPhone, news was beginning to come in of ships’ late arrivals, non-arrivals and diversions due to the extremely high winds overnight. We could see no ferries as we started to enter the harbour, but just one port tug and one naval tug that had arrived to help us to berth. That took nearly an hour, as ISLAND ESCAPE is not the most manoeuvrable vessel, but eventually we came alongside and could disembark. We were an hour later than scheduled but the Captain had advised us of this in advance, and that we would leave an hour later, so no excursions would be inconvenienced.
We heard that MEGA EXPRESS was due in at 7 a.m., and had left on time at 8 a.m., although we didn’t see her. MEGA SMERALDA had been due in at 8 a.m. here in Toulon, but was now not expected until 3 p.m. CRUISE ROMA and CRUISE BARCELONA had avoided the route through the Straits of Bonifacio and went north round the top of Corsica instead. The cruise ship VENTURA had abandoned her call at Livorno today and was heading straight to Monte Carlo for a 7 p.m. arrival time today, instead of arriving there tomorrow.
It was a relief to disembark and stroll along the quayside past the fishing boats and their nets, drying quickly in the sunshine of this Easter Sunday morning. We then walked up the main street amongst the market stalls. The fresh vegetables and fruit on sale were of perfect and fresh quality, and the colours alone were eye catching and luscious. I live in the south of England, where my local butcher sells meats produced from his own farm, and there are regular weekly farmers markets selling beautiful and fresh produce, but I have never seen anything like the profusion and appeal of these stalls, with the stallholders all selling their produce very quickly. Further along fish was on sale, flowers, herbs, olives, and then fabrics to make clothes or items for the home.
Soon the stallholders were selling out or packing up for lunch, so it was time to get back to the waterside for a coffee stop in sheltered sunshine, and to discuss the fascinating sights we had seen. MEGA SMERALDA actually arrived then, so we had a good view of the golden girl turning in the harbour to get to her berth near ISLAND ESCAPE.
Back on board the Chef had catered particularly for his English guests with roast beef and huge Yorkshire puddings for lunch, which justified a horizontal rest for some of us.
That afternoon too I had gone back to my cabin to collect a jacket when I realised I could smell something burning, possibly rubber. I grabbed my bag, locked the cabin door and walked fast to the nearby Reception to report the burning smell. The lady there rang the Bridge and asked me to return to the cabin as someone would be along to see. I preferred to wait where I was until the ‘someone’ appeared, and soon an overalled engineer arrived and we went to my cabin. He checked the ventilation cover in the ceiling and said that the heating had been turned on and the cabin temperature could now be controlled. He said the smell was the dust ‘burning’ in the pipes as the heat came through, and he hoped everything would soon be fine; he smiled and left. I left the cabin door open for a while to let the smell out, and discovered other passengers nearby doing the same. Having been on COSTA ALLEGRA not many months ago, and knowing about her recent problems in the Indian Ocean with loss of power, I felt justified in reporting the smell of burning in my cabin. I found it odd though that this cabin ventilation facility was only now being turned on and available to passengers.
Later we noticed that the outside decks were being roped off and the access doors barred, as preparations were being made for our departure. The Captain announced that there would be very strong seas and wind, so it would be rough after we leave Toulon and head for Barcelona, and we would take a slightly more northerly route along the coast to get a little protection.
Wind gusts were blowing the sea surface around even in the sheltered harbour, and when two tugs arrived to get us off our berth and on our way we knew it was not going to be easy. We expected to head out on one particular course, but instead one of the tugs stayed with us beyond the harbour entrance, and helped as the ship was turned so that the Pilot could disembark into his Pilot boat in the shelter of the lee of our hull. We had tremendous admiration for the man as he finally leapt for his Pilot boat – we cheered, he waved, and set off in rather mountainous seas for the shelter of his harbour. Meanwhile, the tug finally left us, we turned onto our course and set off with a great list caused by the wind, rolling our way towards Barcelona overnight.
Ships seen: UN RORO the UN Akdeniz which sails under the Turkish flag, Mega Smeralda, and local craft and ferries
To be concluded...