Strange dreams on a boat crossing the North Sea

Moon rising over IJmuiden, North Holland

Moon rising over IJmuiden, North Holland

In the cocktail lounge at dusk as the boat’s engines are starting, there’s an empty stage planned for live entertainment later, and Walking on the Moon playing, and it seems every song is made just for us and our journey now, like stepping on a moving walkway at the airport once you’re on, you can’t get off.  It’s the same as the phrase “burning the boats,” the idea you can’t go back once you commit, like burning your bridges, or crossing the Rubicon.

The boat ride from IJmuiden, Holland to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England is part-ferry, part-cruise, and thankfully more of the latter, with well polished staff and complimentary drinks in the mini-fridge in our cabin, a private shower, barf bags, pull-out bunk beds for the kids, and a radio intercom system that comes on with a delicate chime ever so often, a cheery English woman’s voice I could die alongside, you can hear the languages blur and overlap as she goes from English to Dutch to German, and it feels like we’re nowhere crossing the North Sea as night falls: I stand on the deck watching a full moon rise over Amsterdam and go half-lidded through the clouds, the same colour as the pink-peach lights that shimmer on the shore through some trick of the light or atmosphere that makes them sparkle that way.

We get ribeye steaks with starters, an Argentinian Malbec, fried scampi, chips, Armagnac ice cream with raisins, and in the morning when we get off it’s the first time I’ve been on a plane or a boat and left feeling sad, like I wish there’d been more time: we’re rested, showered, well-fed, and except for the fact that no one said anything about Landing Cards, it’s a smooth passage from the Schengen into the UK, where the Customs official asks what I do for work, and tilts his head a bit at the back of our car and German plates, the trunk stuffed with cookware and a kid sized acoustic guitar, a crate of books on how to learn German, a Take Your Kids to England! guide, a North Face bag full of compression sacks, sweaters, hats, wool mittens.

But like that, we’re on the opposite side of the road entering the roundabouts, following the A9 to Morpeth, crossing into Scotland in about an hour, the A1 toward Berwick-upon-Tweed and further north along Edinburgh, crossing the Firth of Forth toward Dundee, an old cottage studio apartment on a farm outside of Arbroath, a coastal fishing town, but further still to where our rental is located, on an estate I can’t pronounce without sounding congested (Kinblethmont), accessed by way of Colliston, just turn right at the church and follow the signs.

On the boat at night there’s the purr of the AC overhead and the constant roar of the engines, and on the deck it’s surprisingly mild outside with all the smokers leaning on the rails, watching the boat make patterns of the waves reflected in the moonlight below — and in our cabin it sways ever so slightly in a way you could really go mad or sick over if you thought about it too long, and sometimes when I walk, the floor seems to disappear for a half-beat, reminding me of earthquake dreams I’ve had where the ground just falls out into space — and how much of an illusion it really is, stable ground beneath your feet.

Leaving Amsterdam Monday morning I meet an English family staying in the flat next to us with two girls the same age as ours, and the wife looks openly mortified when I say we’re going to Scotland for a month in November, says “but they’re won’t be anything to do there,” and it will be so dark — and when we arrive at the cottage and the owners greet us, they apologise for the weather but we say we’re from Seattle, and yet there’s no real acknowledgment of it from them or the English couple in Amsterdam when we say the same, that we can handle the dark and rain — it’s like everyone thinks their weather is worse than everyone else’s — yet as we pass Dundee around 3 o’clock it really does seem to be getting dark, and then later when Dawn gets on a conference call and has to Google What time is it now in Seattle and What time is it now in Edinburgh, we realise the time is different here than in Amsterdam, and when we thought it was getting dark at 3, it was really 2.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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37 Responses to Strange dreams on a boat crossing the North Sea

  1. ksbeth says:

    i love the pic here and it gives me the feel of stepping into a fairy tale.

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That would be it – and glad you like the pic, Beth – I took many and that was my favourite. Really magical, setting sail from the mouth of the canal going into Amsterdam. Cool times, never to be rivalled.

      Like

  2. Yahooey says:

    I smiled at the boats expression.

    Scotland is 8° further north than Seattle. In winter, it goes from grey to dark early.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Anything for a smile, that’s how I roll – and Dawn and I were wondering how much farther north it is and now we don’t have to look it up, thank you! I read about the boats expression today and that’s what it feels like: stay on the island to conquer it or be killed, but there’s no sailing home.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yahooey says:

        After a long journey, home is “same, same, only different.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        It gets complicated, and more so the more you think about it. I like to hold to the fact that home is where the heart is, and there’s a Tom Waits lyric that’s evading me here, ‘wherever I lay my head,’ ode to you and that Rain Dogs post from last week.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yahooey says:

        I found a minute to pull out the CD 🙂
        “And anywhere
        I lay my head, boys
        I will call my home”

        He also sets the Thames on Fire. Very ‘à propos’ for trip to the UK.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Ah, good one – thank you. Last song on Rain Dogs I think, nice with that New Orleans-type horn at the end. Sunset in Scotland about now, just remarkable it came out, and now it’s going down, but no complaining here. Got a Speyside single malt. Laphroig is the name I was trying to remember.

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      • Yahooey says:

        Yes it’s the last song.

        Dalwhinnie is one of my favourites and it is a Speyside.

        I never could figure out how to say Laphroaig.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        La-Froig, I think. I’ve come to like it better now, had it on the boat for just 5 euros, seemed a good deal at the time. We’re driving through Dalwhinnie tomorrow! Good gracious, this is sick but I want to drink and take in all the Scotches. I need to own them! I should relax, and settle back. I’ve only got a month. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yahooey says:

        All this talk has made me thirsty.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Nicely done, the JPEG.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynn Love says:

    And here in the UK, we’ve just gone from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time – we gained an hour, which makes the mornings lighter for a while and the evenings a heck of a lot darker. In the middle of winter, it starts getting dark down here in Bristol around three, half three, so lord knows what it’s like for our Scottish neighbours. It’s no co incidence that in the Northern Isles the culture is heavily influenced by the Scandinavians – you can hear it in the accent and the colloquialisms.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Yes, I knew/thought the time was different but when we got here our cottage had the same time as our watches (they must not have turned it back) and well, we somehow got really spun around, which is funny and not hard at the same time, for us to get spun. My wife was nearly late for a work meeting though, because in the States they wait a week longer to turn the clocks back, so as to make more $ for the candy industry, for trick or treating. Ha. And shocked, how dark it got here going on 4 today. It’s like this in Seattle mid-December and we’ve got a good six weeks to go here. Think in fact it got darker faster today than yesterday, noticeably – creeping up on us, it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Yeah, it’s scary how fast the nights draw in once they start. Always makes me feel like hibernating – literally, hiding bear like in a cave somewhere. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
        Looking forward to your next post about your adventures. 🙂

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Hi Lynn – for years when I worked, which was years, I always wanted to take time off this time of year because it seems the body just needs that, naturally, to rest. And now, I can. So it’s good. So glad you’re following with our posts, thank you. I’m slow and intermittent on email and online, so apologies, hoping to get more settled and situated soon, but it’s taking time. Cheers to you and yours, looking forward to catching up with your creepy posts soon! – Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I’m looking out of the window right now, at a skyful of blank grey cloud, rain tapping the window and a good wind blowing a bass note through the chimney – definitely a time to hibernate!
        Hope you’re having a great time 🙂

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I like the sonic note there with the chimney, good to savour our senses innit? They forecast ‘rain in 3 minutes’ here on the accuweather for Inverness, and they were right. – Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Aha! When they say ‘Accuweather’, they really mean it, don’t they?
        I do like a bit of rain, but being a proper Brit, I truly like the weather changeable and feel slightly grumpy if it stays the same for more than a few days – even sunshine.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I think we have a lot in common weather-wise between Pacific Northwesterners (hard word, not right) and the Brits that way – even get grumpy with too much sun ourselves. Enjoying the light here in Inverness though, this time of year – going out with my camera down to the Loch Ness now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Ooh, Loch Ness – marvellous. It may not really have a monster, but it’s blooming deep and dark and that makes it a wonderfully atmospheric place to be. Hope we get to see the results of your photo shoot.

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  4. sweetsound says:

    And Dundee is even considered the “sunniest” city in Scotland! I stayed there for a month and actually loved it. I’ve never been to Arbroath or even heard of Kinblethmont, but you’re making me feel homesick nonetheless. It sounds like the ferry wasn’t too bad, motion-wise. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s crazy Cali – we’re going there (to Dundee) tomorrow! Just spent an afternoon at Glamis castle, the best I’ve seen in Europe by far, as far as castles go. No problems with the motion on the ferry, no one took medicine even. Had a Laphroig and a bit of wine, no problems.

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      • sweetsound says:

        Just looked up photos of Glamis Castle, it looks very grand! If you want to see another good one, I’d recommend Dunnotter Castle in Stonehaven, should be near you. It’s definitely more of a ruin than an estate, but the setting is just gorgeous.
        The ferry I took went from Aberdeen to the Shetland Islands, and was incredibly choppy. I mean the water from the toilet was all over the floor within minutes, it was 13 hours of pure awful. They had barf bags placed every ten feet or so throughout the ferry. Yours actually went to England it seems, so quite a bit further south.
        Anyway, I will try not to be an annoying tour guidebook, since you’ll be discovering lots of stuff I’ve never seen anyway! Enjoy!!

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I need a touring guide book, that’s great Cali, thank you! I wanted to ask our guide at Glamis Euan for a recommendation on another nearby castle, but here I got one from you instead, thank you. I was on a ferry like the one you described out of the Hook of Holland to England once and it was pretty gross like that. This one, not – but maybe it was the calm seas, I don’t know. It was very, very nice. And I feel we’re lucky because it could have gone either way and 15 hours can be a really long time. Thanks for the suggestions, this will be fun.

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  5. rossmurray1 says:

    The “My God, what have I done moment.” Excellent!
    There’s something wonderful and exotic and charming about dining on a boat or train, isn’t there? Is it the novelty or the celebration of the ingenuity that came up with moving restaurants?

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s the moment, alright – you got it. Wonderful, exotic, all of it – dining on a boat. My friends who’ve gone on cruises have said the same, have sworn up and down about them, and now I’m a believer. Even really got impressed with our private shower in our cabin, the cleanliness, economy and functionality of it all. Bizarre. And really, I want to do it again. And with a full moon and no rain, nuts?!

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  6. daveply says:

    I think you may have spent too much time in Germany, land of entire sentences in one word: somehow you’ve learned to graft entire paragraphs into single sentences – but still, somehow, I liked it, even if it was a little hard to read.

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi Dave – that’s very funny and you’re the first to comment on my ‘long sentence as one paragraph’ thing I’ve been playing with, thank you. I’m glad to hear you still liked it, as I’m experimenting with spooling things out a bit; will probably go too far in that direction before I realise what’s too far, and then adjust. Any comments or feedback you can offer, always welcome, and that doesn’t mean just praise. Grateful to have engaged readers because the robots don’t comment. Or when they do, it’s garble. Cheers, – Bill

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  7. All my memories of Scotland are like one of those poorly lit dreams where everything’s kind of vague until you’re right on top of it. There’s nothing like drying out in front of a pub fire, though, with a nice whisky in hand…

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Poorly lit dreams is well put. And yes, it’s a comfort to think about drying out by a fire with a whiskey, nothing like that. I recall your illustrator friend lives in Edinburgh, small world. Not so big a city from what I’ve seen of it yet, but we just got sidetracked there, and will go back for a full nine days, mid November.

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  8. walt walker says:

    The only ferry I ever took was overnight from Southern Ireland to Normandy. Had to step over the backpackers in their sleeping bags to get anywhere and take care not to crush a finger. I had a baseball glove, but no one told me to pack a sleeping bag. Finally found an uncomfortable chair to wait out the night in. Watched everyone sleeping and cursed most everything. Your boat sounds much better.

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That sucks, but at least you had a glove. Had a similar ride with my friend Mike leaving Amsterdam quite over-wrought and wrecked, watching the teenagers get drunk and sick everywhere, and it can really be awful. Our trip was sheer divine, I had to gloat a bit. Would do it again in a second if it could be like that. Would go to Oslo. Would consider moving, to work on a boat. But maybe that’s too much. My email doesn’t seem to work and I don’t have a smartphone here yet so apologies if I’m not in touch as much as normal – maybe you could use a break anyways. Loved your post today, insane. Still thinking about it. Or was it yesterday? Was it a dream?

      Like

  9. byebyebeer says:

    Like your boat ride, I’m sorry this ended. This is my new favorite post. And I won’t belly ache when DST happens and it starts to get dark around 5.

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      So glad to hear that Kristen, thanks! Enjoying a pinkish sunset now here in the middle of nowhere it seems, 15 miles or so inland from east coast of Scotland, portable heater running, last night here and then off to the northern parts tomorrow. Glad you are enjoying the posts, thank you. – Bill

      Like

  10. Sue Drabic says:

    Lovely tale Bill, miss you all

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Sue! Glad you were able to catch that. We miss you too. Settling in for the fall, but loving it here. Can’t start thinking about spring just yet, but that will be a good time to see one another again.

      Like

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