Thursday 8 December 2016

'This was my first time aboard a ferry and I'll certainly not be doing it again in a hurry' - Stena Line ferry finally makes it to shore

The ferry had been stranded for over 24 hours.

Cathal McMahon and Amy Molloy

Published 21/11/2016 | 06:45

The ferry docking after being stranded for more than 24 hours
The Stena Ferry attempting to dock in Fishguard. Picture: Lesley Hughes
The Stena Ferry attempting to dock in Fishguard. Picture: Lesley Hughes
The Stena Ferry attempting to dock in Fishguard. Picture: Lesley Hughes

Bleary-eyed passengers from the Stena Europe arrived at Fishguard Harbour just before 11am on Tuesday morning following a 27.5 hour sea crossing in storm-lashed seas.

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Mountainous waves meant that the ferry, which had left Rosslare at 9am the previous morning with 87 passengers and 59 crew aboard was unable to dock in Fishguard and was instead forced to take a northerly route to ride out the storm.

And passengers disembarking at Fishguard spoke of their relief that their rough passage was finally over.

“I was told this was only the third time the ferry has been unable to dock in twenty years,” Andrew Neads, a 52-year-old sheet metal worker returning home to Caerphilly, told the County Echo.

“I'm not a good traveller anyway so I took a bunk over and a bunk back – it was just a case of getting my head down and making the best of it.

“We were offered a free breakfast and free evening meal and the Stena crew looked after us very well.

“Yes, it was quite rough and people were getting frustrated but I think that was more through worrying about taking another day off work.”

Anne Tomlinson, of Romford, who had travelled over to Ireland for a family party with her husband, Mike, questioned the decision to sail from Rosslare.

“When we arrived at Rosslare the sea looked pretty rough and we expected the crossing to be called off,” she said.

“Instead I think the captain must have decided there was a window of opportunity – he went for it and we ended up being stuck out at sea for 27 bloody hours.

“The crew were great, though, even though the crossing was awful. Although some people got a bit angry most of us seemed to accept everyone was in the same boat – if you'll pardon the pun.

“We were so close to docking in Fishguard on Monday afternoon we could actually see the white buildings in the port, but then the captain announced he was going to have to abort because of the conditions.

“It was a case of so near and yet so far.”

Anne Burke (59) of New Ross, had been travelling to see her two-week-old grandson in Bridgend.

The ferry docking after being stranded for more than 24 hours
The ferry docking after being stranded for more than 24 hours

“I'd rung Rosslare the night before and was told the crossing would be fine,” she said. “As it turned out, the weather was horrendous.”

Her views were echoed by Catrina O'Regan, a 25-year-old student from Cork City who was travelling back to her digs in Gorslas, near Swansea.

“It was horrific,” she said. “I've been travelling since 4am on Sunday and I'm totally exhausted having not slept for 27 hours.

“This was my first time aboard a ferry and I'll certainly not be doing it again in a hurry.

“But the crew were amazing – they did everything they could for us, to be honest.”

Michael Lawrence, a 45-year-old crane driver originally from Co Mayo who was returning to his home in Bristol, said the Stena crew made one big mistake.

“They closed the bar at 9pm,” he complained. “If someone is suffering from nerves they obviously need a drink or two.

“Yes, there was plenty of tea and coffee on offer but an Irishman such as myself needs something a bit stronger than that.

“I rang the wife back home to tell there was a huge party on board - sadly that wasn't the case.”

His eleven-year-old son John-Boy said: “I was pretty sick out there and my tummy still doesn't feel right now, I don't know when I'll feel like food again.”

However, while some passengers admitted to being somewhat shaken, Giles Fitzherbert, a retired diplomat from Co Wexford, was unstirred.

Mr Fitzherbert (81) who reckoned he was the oldest passenger on board, said he made light of the conditions as he looked forward to visiting family in Oxford.

“I have been travelling for a very long time and – compared with some of my experiences – this crossing was quite smooth, believe me,” he insisted.

“I just wish my grandchildren had been with me because they'd have enjoyed the excitement. It wasn't traumatic – we were actually quite comfortable.

“Arriving a day late is just a little inconvenience – having said that, I now need a train to Oxford and there's currently absolutely no sign of it.”

A statement from Stena Line says:"The health and safety of passengers and crew is of paramount importance to Stena Line, therefore we spent a comfortable night onboard sheltering at Cardigan Bay.  We are sailing south now and as soon as berthing parameters are safe we aim to have our passengers on their way by 11:00hrs this morning."

The Stena Line service left Wexford at 9am on Monday and was due to arrive in the Welsh port at 12.30pm.

It failed to reach the port and another attempt to dock at 3.30pm was also unsuccessful.

Diane Poole, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line praised the passengers for remaining in high spirts while on board.

"They are actually in great spirits, considering they have spent almost 24 hours on board. They are very relaxed but obviously anxious to get home or get to the destination they are going to."

The ferry spent the night at sea, about six kilometres off-shore and had 87 passengers and 59 crew on board.

A spokesperson from Stena Line said "extreme weather conditions" meant they were unable to dock.

"The health and safety of passengers and crew is of paramount importance to Stena Line, therefore the passengers will remain onboard overnight and a second attempt at docking will take place at midday tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Dublin to Holyhead crossings are running as normal today.

Met Éireann has issued a status yellow warning for all Irish coastal waters, with strong gales expected on the Irish Sea.

The cold and windy weather looks set to continue throughout the morning but soon clearing to give a bright day.

Meanwhile, in the UK, more than 75 flood warnings were put in place across the South West, the Midlands, North East, North West, Wales and the East of England on Monday evening, with a further 207 flood alerts issued across England and Wales.

Storm Angus wreaked havoc across the country, with schools and roads across being forced to close and a number of homes and cars submerged in water.

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