March used to be a very eventful and busy month for us when my kids were younger. My eldest one completed her school year and had holidays which we would combine with the summer vacations and head off to the ship. It used to be very busy time deciding which ship, which company, visas and then packing for three kids. Yes packing used to be a major job for me as I believe in packing every possible paraphernalia needed to keep three kids busy and I had to pack for three months at least. It was quite a task.
One such March after much deliberation we finalised things and we were ready to go and join the ship M.T Jaglok, in Egypt. The Ship was crossing Suez canal where we would be joining and then we would sail on to China, a good twenty days sailing. Now my packing efforts became even more frenzied as we would not touch shore for twenty days and I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed for the kids. Toys, colouring books, crayons, clothes, blocks, puzzles, clothes ….oh! I could go on and on.
Finally the D day arrived and we boarded the flight to Egypt. Few hours later we landed in Cairo, I was so excited and all could think of was visiting the Pyramids and the Sphinx l, but to my utter disappointment the agent said we had to go directly to Port Said. I was quite upset to hear this. We got into the car and drove out of the airport into the city and I saw Cairo was a very busy and bustling city. I sat.in the car looking out trying to absorb as much as I could of the city while barraging the driver with all sorts of questions. I tried my best to convince my husband and the driver that we should at least try and pass by the Pyramids, get a glimpse of them but sadly they were two hours away in the opposite direction. Eventually we drove out of the city onto the highway and I dozed off.
When I woke up we were in Port Said in front of what looked like a old hotel. We went in and the place looked a bit too dilapidated and dead. We were taken to our room and were quite taken aback because it was worse . My husband was furious. He went out to look for someone to speak to and he came back few minutes later without finding anyone. The last straw was when he picked up the phone to call the reception, he lifted earpiece and to his utter chagrin it wasn’t even connected to the base. It just was an old broken phone lying there. The way my husband stormed out of the room, I knew who ever were responsible for us being there were going to be very sorry that they had done such a blunder. Sure enough half an hour later we were picked up from there and transported to a new five star hotel but by now all of us were really exhausted. It had been a very long day with the flight and the drive and then shifting hotel and all. The children were very cranky and they wanted to rest. Unfortunately for us we barely settled in when the agent called and told us to be ready as we had to leave in an hour. I literally groaned as I heard that. They kids had barely slept and I wasn’t happy about waking them up, I hadn’t even got five minutes to myself. Happy or not, an hour later at about 12:30 am the agent picked us up.
We were driven to the port from where we were to take the boat to the ship. Expecting a quiet drive so late in the night, I was surprised to see the City was so alive even though it was past midnight. People were everywhere and looked to be having a good time. We were driven around and taken on a ferry before finally an hour later we were at the port. I heaved a sigh of relief, we would be on ship soon and we could finally relax and sleep. It had been such a long day. Well, the day was far from being over.
We waited for half an hour which turned to an hour, then two hours. It was not so easy to leave the country apparently, there were too many formalities. Let alone the kids, I was ready to cry now. Not only were we tired, the wind had picked up and being next to sea and it was freezing and I didn’t even have as much as a shawl. The kids and me huddled up close but it was quite cold. From then on I’ve added a shawl to the long list of things to be packed.
Finally after a long wait we were told to board the boat. Shuffling our feet we dragged ourselves into the boat just wanting to put all this behind us and reach the ship as fast as possible. Thankfully the inside of the boat was warm and the crew also were sweet enough to pass us some blankets to keep us warm. It felt like haven after being outside for so long and If I’d thought the worst was over, it was only because I had no idea what was coming next.
For the next hour and a half we sailed into the sea towards the Suez. Finally, after what seemed like a long time my husband came and told me we were nearing the ship. I looked but I only saw a huge dark silhouette with port and starboard lights in the distance. The boat edged closed to the Ship. From what I could see the Ship and boat were doing a fair speed and I was waiting for them to stop. I asked my husband why wasn’t the ship stopping. He said the ship was in the convoy and they weren’t going to stop. I asked him then how are we going to go on the ship, to which the boat captain laughingly replied you have to jump. I smiled back at him thinking he was joking but it wasn’t a joke. My husband confirmed to me, we had to jump from a moving boat onto a the gangway of the moving Ship. I was like EXCUSE ME!!! I still thought they were being funny but the serious looks on my husbands face confirmed the worst. It was not a joke. We had to jump. Before you understand why I was getting so worked up about the whole thing I have to show you the gangway of a ship.
In the first picture you can see a close up of the ships’s gangway and you can see its actual size on a size of the ship we were going on. It’s basically a metal ladder and it moves and shakes. So we were supposed to jump from the moving boat onto that small yellow plank of the gangway of a moving ship
The more I thought about it, the more agitated I got. My younger children were just babies. How would they jump? I asked my husband. It was pitch dark and the water was choppy, the boat was heaving up and down. what if someone fell?? I started panicking but I could hardly tell anyone that I wanted to turn around and go home. This was something we had to do. Seeing the terrified look on my face and probably worried about the safety of the kids too, my husband contacted the Ship’s captain on VHF and asked him to slow down as much as he could.
As we started inching towards the ship, my heart was beating faster and faster. I clung to my kids hugging them tight and praying we all should be safe. When we were close to the Ship we were asked to go to the outer deck of the boat. I asked the crew if there were any life jackets for the kids and they gave me a queer look. I don’t think they’d heard of life jackets. We went out on the outer deck and I gulped hard. It was really dark except for the light from the boat and I could see just one light high up on the ships deck(during sailing at night, it is mandatory for all the lights to be off, to be able to see ahead clearly).
The boat was rocking quite a bit and we had to cling on the sides hard. Three of the crew members picked up my kids in their arms to take them outside on the boat deck because of all the movement, the children cannot be on their own. They’d fall into the sea in a second. We waited as the boat went back and forth a few times to align the boat perfectly alongside the ship, so that we were the closest to the gangway. Finally the boat stopped and before I knew it one by one these guys jumped, with my children in thier arms and deftly climbed up the steep gangway and in a matter of seconds were on the ships deck, while I stood there with my mouth open. I was so paranoid about the whole things but these guys made it so easy and I was happy to see my kids safe and sound on the ship after all the terrible things I had imagined. My husband called out to me above the loud noise of the boats engine and held out his hand. Clutching the steel bar with one hand and grabbing his hand with the other I walked unsteadily till I was next to him. This was not easy as the boat was going up and down. When I reached next to him he said “Jump”. I looked at the gangway and where I was, there was enough space in between for me to fall, and I knew if I fell I would only go up to the heaven from there. My husband gave me a nudge. I closed my eyes and said a prayer. The holding on tightly to my husband’s hand I positioned my self. The boat went up and down and I watched as I tried to time my jump. Finally, I let go of my husbands hand and jumped. When I felt the metal of the gangway under my feet and not the cold dark sea, oh it was pure happiness. The moment of happiness lasted only a minute till I looked upwards at the steep gangway I had to climb, but then I was so glad to be alive and not dead and floating I the sea that the euphoria returned. I started climbing up and saw my husband jump safely and follow.
When I stepped on the ships deck and looked around I took a deep breath, breathing in the pure air and looked at the lovely twinkling stars in the sky. I was always happy to be back on the ship. Smiling to myself I thought what a an adventure it had been to reach the ship today but it had been worth it, now that all of us were safe and sound on the ship. One adventure was over and I was ready for the next adventure that would unfold on this Ship. The new places I would visit and the many wonderful things that I would see. By now all our luggage had come and we were ready to go into the ships accommodation. Yaaayy China here I come I thought, as I followed the others inside smiling.