12-hour ferry trip turned into 30-hour nightmare by stormy seas

PASSENGERS who endured more than 30 hours at sea on a storm-hit ferry before reaching dry land yesterday described their "nightmare" journey.

The MV Hjaltland left Lerwick in Shetland for Aberdeen at 7pm on Sunday. But atrocious weather turned a 12-hour overnight sailing into a marathon journey which ended with the vessel being diverted to Rosyth in Fife.

The ferry, with 87 passengers, was due to dock in Aberdeen at 7am on Monday but arrived at the city's harbour several hours behind schedule. Two attempts were made to dock at Aberdeen Harbour but it was unsafe to continue and the decision was taken on Monday evening to sail 100 miles south to Rosyth where it arrived at 1:24am yesterday.

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Passenger Ed Walker, 20, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Griffiths, 19, had gone to Shetland to celebrate Mr Walker's birthday. The University of Aberdeen students said the journey had turned into an "absolute nightmare" as the ferry was tossed around with winds reaching up to 60 knots.

"It was pretty terrifying," said Mr Walker. "It was beyond belief how far the boat was going over. It was pitching so far.

"We were on deck five and at one point we were looking out the window we were so close to the sea you could actually see the waves directly in front of you.

"It was absolutely horrible. We were told it was going to be gale-force 8 or 9, but it actually turned out to be worse than that.

"It was an absolute nightmare really, we were both sick twice and we couldn't get to sleep."

Ms Griffiths said: "(The ferry] was rocking from side to side at first and then it started going up and down as well. We just can't wait to get home and get a shower and a bit of a lie down."

Salmon farmer Kevin Hodgson and his partner, Tara Payne, were travelling from Yell in the Shetlands to Aberdeen with their nine-month-old baby Chloe for a hospital appointment. They said the conditions were the worst they had ever seen on the ferry.

Ms Payne, 37, said: "It was really bumpy, a lot of people were sick. We've done the crossing quite a lot and it's never been as bad as that. I felt sick a few times.

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"Chloe was as good as gold, she was an angel. It's the most she has slept since she was born."

Passengers had been provided with free cabin accommodation, meals and refreshments. And ferry operator NorthLink provided two buses at Rosyth for passengers who wanting to travel to Aberdeen or Edinburgh.

A spokesman for NorthLink Ferries said: "We would like to thank all passengers for their patience and general good humour during the journey, but would take this opportunity to apologise again for all of the inconvenience caused.

"The conditions we experienced were much worse than expected.".DISRUPTION

FERRY services continued to be disrupted on the West coast and islands after storms earlier in the week.

Gale force winds forced the cancellation of two Caledonian MacBrayne services and delayed 11 other links on Monday. Yesterday services to Rothesay, Cowal and Kintyre, Islay, Mull, Skye and the Small Isles were still being disrupted.

Elsewhere, the A93 Glenshee to Braemar road remained closed due to snow, and flooding was affecting some roads.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued a flood warning for the River Isla from Bridge of Ruthven to the River Tay, and four flood watches were in operation in Aberdeenshire and Tayside.

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South of the Border, families were evacuated from their homes and taken to shelter after heavy rain flooded scores of properties. As many as 50 flooded properties were reported in Emsworth, Hampshire, and ten in the Isle of Wight, the Environment Agency said.

Nine flood warnings were issued by the Environment Agency and 51 areas were put on flood watch.