Here we are on the last day. Where has two weeks gone. It has gone in a blink of an eye and yet when we were at sea it seemed to take an age for time to pass. Early start. We were up before the wake up call, showered, dressed and quietly finishing off our packing. Breakfast was had on deck, hubby did my last mess duty as he knew I would need to save my energy for the travel home. To most people catching a flight is just that, easy and simple to do. To me it is a challenging adventure, and a painful one at that as the pressure during flight affects my foot causing extra swelling and more pain. Plus sitting in aircraft seats can be quite an uncomfortable experience especially if my Fibromyalgia pain is high, which it is today. What more did I expect after fourteen days on a tall ship. All I want is to be zapped from here to home in a millisecond and feel my nice soft bed under my sore body.
All bags had to be put into the bar area so that the ship could have a complete and thorough happy hour in preparation for the new crew to arrive. Everything was scrubbed and cleaned from stern to bow, starboard to port side. My wheelchair had to be put back together for the journey home with anti tips. We left the footplates off until we were off the ship as it was too cumbersome having them on whilst we were finishing off our chores onboard. All ship’s kit was returned to the stores, we signed off as voyage crew and claimed our passports back. After this we had our last crew briefing, this was our voyage debrief about how we had got on during the race, the route we took, why we took it and why in the end the difficult decision was made to retire from the race when we were so near and yet so far away from the finish line especially with the way the wind had turned.
Our tall ship experience was almost over, all we had to do now was leave the ship. So with one final last look around at what has been our home for fourteen days we headed up top with our bags. Up the lift from the bar for the last time Up the lift into the wheelhouse for the last time. Then up the lift to the open bridge for the last time. Only one last to do now and that was to get me down the gangplank to the quayside. The rope was tied on to the wheelchair for the final time. The voyage crew on the other end gently lowered me down whilst one of the permanent crew guided the wheelchair backward. All for the last time.
Once on the quayside I put my footplates back on and sat chatting to others, saying our final goodbyes. Thank goodness we had no rain, it was a pleasant morning to spend hanging about the quayside with plenty of hugs, plenty of goodbyes, and a whole lot of trying to hold my emotions together. There is something special about tall ship sailing that brings strangers together and turns them into friends, and leaving those friends at the end of a voyage becomes an emotional wrench. Well it does for me, because I am that kind of person. Even looking at the ship stirred my emotions and made my eyes want to water. I wish I could continue on the next voyage and I am sad to be leaving the ship, I also know that I have had the time of my life, and the time has come to go home to see my son and to see my dog, both of whom I have missed so much. Also I was physically wrecked, so to do another trip straight on top of this would have been impossible, it is going to be hard enough work getting from here back to England! So goodbye to the ship I must say.
It wasn’t long before our taxi arrived. With final farewell hugs all round I was loaded into the taxi in my wheelchair, strapped in and the door closed. With one last look at Lord Nelson as we pulled away our voyage was definitely at an end. All that was left was this journey to the airport. A flight to Gatwick. A hotel stay overnight. Followed by a final flight home to Belfast.
We traveled to the airport mainly through tunnels which was a shame as it was a beautiful warm sunny day, the complete opposite to most of what we experienced on our voyage here. It was almost like Norway was saying “it is beautiful here do come back.”
We even made the local papers!
The airport was small. There was no one about and we had to check ourselves and our bags in using the automated terminals. There was no one on the check in desks and there was only us lot that had arrived in the same taxi checking in. We went through security and into the departure lounge where we waited for our flight. This was a surreal experience as over time more and more crew from Lord Nelson arrived so we had goodbyes all over again at the airport. By the time our flight was due to leave there were a fair few crew members from other ships in the airport. So with one final cheerio to those around us we headed for our flight back to Gatwick. We had some fabulous and extraordinary views of Norway as we were taking off and gaining height. Norway is a beautiful country and I would love to come back and see more.
Our arrival in Gatwick was interesting, we were met by special assistance and guided to a golf cart kind of affair to journey through the airport to land side. Going through passport control reminded me of a ghost train as there were three or four of these carts queued to go through and we had to pass through plastic doors to get into the next section. Our cart took us right to the monorail which we needed to travel on to get to our hotel Hampton Hilton. Did I mention that Norwegian Air lost the anti tips off my wheelchair, how this happened I haven’t a clue. That’s another story though. We arrived at the hotel tired and exhausted and me in a lot of pain. Poor hubby was loaded up like a pack-horse with all the luggage. The hotel is comfy and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant sat in a quiet spot near a window reflecting on our big adventure. We spent the rest of the evening celebrating our achievement with a bottle of bubbly that we had picked up in Alesund Airport enjoying the last hours of our holiday before our final flight home to Northern Ireland tomorrow.
Our trip of a lifetime is over and I enjoyed every bit, including the days I was sea sick and all the extra pain and fatigue. Hubby has surprised me no end and is in fact wanting to do it again. I can’t believe he has enjoyed it this much. I really did think he would hate it. I am glad he didn’t though as there would be nothing worse than doing something you hate for fourteen days straight. Maybe we will do it again, maybe in warmer climes though next time! Then saying that I think the poor weather did me a huge favour as it gave me time to rest between watches. I think though for next year, at least, our holiday will be one of a more relaxing kind. I think it will take some time for me to get over this holiday especially as only a month before it I was laid up in a hospital bed with a bad infection. I am just glad that this infection didn’t result in me having my gallbladder removed as I would not have got to go on this trip of a lifetime. A huge thanks to everyone who made this possible from family, to crew, to the Jubilee Sailing Trust. My biggest thanks though must go to my husband for all that he does and continues to do, and for helping to make my dream come true.
Keep an eye on the red ship with white outline – this is the Lord Nelson