Holiday over and glad to be back. Gonna start this one at the end and work my way back. We had a rough start and even rougher ending.
Our journey home began at 8am yesterday (Saturday 09/08/08). Got kids up for breakfast, packed remaining bits into car and headed off from Marton Mere at 9.15. Our sailing wasn't until 13.50 on the slow boat back to Dublin Port so we left in loads of time. By my reckoning we would be just under 2 hours early, but I hadn't accounted for the obligatory toilet stop on the way. There were little delays on the way to Holyhead (cross winds on the Britannia Bridge) but nothing major. We arrived in Holyhead around 1 o'clock..plenty of time. We got into a queue, a guy with a hi-vis jacket stopped us to let a couple of cars towing boats go in front of us to another queue. Cars were jumping lanes but we stuck where we were. Eventually we made a jump to a shorter queue and discovered we had been in an Irish Ferries queue not the Stena Line one. One car between us and the ticket booth..result. Hadn't even taken notice of what time it was. The guy in front looked to be causing hassle. The Stena worker got out of his booth and went into the next one and came back and talked to the car guy through his peephole. The guy in the car got out looking all frustrated and went searching in his pockets. Then he went to the boot of his car and Oh My God! What a way to pack a boot. Not a suitcase in sight..just clothes and plastic bags everywhere. His wife got out and helped search the boot for what turned out to be a purse. We figured they had to pay extra for some reason. 10 mins later they moved off. Our turn.
We got up to the peephole, handed in our 'ticket' (email print out). "Ok you know you missed the boat but there is another one at 3 and I can get you on it". Rewind. What did he just say. How could we have missed the boat? He said we couldn't get on the boat cos it's about to go. I demanded to get on it saying we couldn't wait for another one. We insisted that we were there on time and that one of their men put us in wrong queue and let cars ahead of us and I even played the old 'We have an autistic child in the back' card but to no avail..the boat was gone.
He said again he would put us on the next boat (the fastcraft) and we only had an hour to wait and it would be arriving into Dublin at the same time as the one we missed so we agreed - until he said it would be an extra £75. He messed with the wrong woman now. I told him there was no way he was getting any more money for something that was not our fault and was due to incompetence of their workers. He said if we had a problem to go to some building somewhere, he gave directions and said he would open the gate to let us out. I said will we have to queue again and he said yes but it would have died down by then and off he went to open the gate. I sat in disbelief. There he stood with the gate open and we just sat and I mouthed "no way you get someone here". He closed the gate and came back to his booth and said what's the problem? I said, "You may get someone down here cos we ain't movin and we ain't payin no money neither for something that's not our fault". He scowled and picked up his phone and said someone would be here shortly.
Then this woman appeared at our car window wondering had we a problem. She was very distressed. She said "I have a disabled child in the car and I need to get on the boat, could you not move over and let us get through". I was quick to tell her that I too have a disabled child and that she was going nowhere cos the boat was gone and that was what the problem was. She got back into her car behind us. I got out and spoke to her husband and explained the situation and she was crying in the back of the car. So we sat and waited.
Then a bearded man in Stena Line jacket appeared to see what our problem was. He stated that we needed to have been here at 1.15 at the latest to have got on the boat. We told him we were here at 1 o'clock and explained the hold up in the queues. I flashed my IAA card and said the people behind us were obviously in the same boat, pardon the pun. He asked us to move forward to the white lines and wait. So we did. He was talking to the family in the car behind us and next thing the gate was opened for them and out they went. They had fallen for the old if you have a complaint go to the building...story. Few more cars passed then the bearded man came back to us. He asked for our ticket and said he would book us on the next boat.....simple as that. He returned couple minutes later with our boarding card. He was very polite and helpful even asked if we knew our way out from Dun Laoighre. Result free ride on fast boat!! We drove 20 yards on and were pulled in by security. Had to open boot for a look and I just prayed they wouldn't open roof box cos it had taken ages to close it, but he didn't. We were on the boat in time to get good seats, beside food hall, toilets and exit to car. Sailing bit rough but got into Dublin at 17.00 hrs...then the chaos began.
It took us 7 hours to get home - 5 and a half of which was sitting in traffic from the boat to Blanchardstown...absolute hell. The Port Tunnel was closed, the M1 flooded, Armagh v Wexford game just finished in Croke Park, floods on the Navan Road, overheated cars broken down all added to the traffic chaos..had we known what was in store we would have booked a hotel in the city but hindsight is great. The kids were little troopers...they held onto their wee for that long. We found 24hr petrol station in Navan where we had toilet break and food. Got home at 12.15 am and zzzzzzzzzzz til 10 this morning. Great to be home.