A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

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Ferry Luggage

Blog Date - 12 January 2018

Sometimes it's the simplest things that require the most planning. Here - let me explain.

Sharon and I have been on several ferry crossings so this is not our first rodeo yet the forthcoming crossing from Blighty to España is over 27 hours! On previous crossings one serious problem is that of what to take with us "up top" and what to leave on the bikes. Well, not just *what* to take with us but *how* to take stuff with us.

We'll be loaded for 2 weeks of camping and riding. There is no physical way we can get all that gear up perhaps 4 to 6 flights of stairs and down long narrow corridors while battling with perhaps a thousand other equally overladen tourists. Most of the kit will remain with the bikes but we will need some things.

We'll be loaded for the riding part of the trip and not the ferry. By that I mean the clothes may be buried deep beneath camping stuff because we usually put the tent up before we get changed. We won't be needing the tent on the ferry, well I blooming well hope not anyhow. 

Sharon is smiling at the camera with motorcycles and cars in the queue for a ferry behind her
Get yer fresh undies out of the bag buried under the tent, food, tools and waterproofs will ya.

We'll want a change of clothes and comfortable shoes, we don't want to be stuck in bike gear for a day and a bit. We'll want a handful of toiletries although I expect there'll be soap in the shower. We'll keep our valuables with us too, paperwork, electronics and cash etc. These are the things we'll definitely have with us.

I am also hoping to take some food on-board too. Wait - what - why!? Because I am tight. Because food on ferries is expensive. I don't plan on taking a full day's supplies but we could save a few quid by having some sandwiches, some chocolates, some crisps and a pot noodle or similar. We may only have to buy one full meal rather than 3 or even 4. It's a long trip.

Should...should we leave our riding kit with the bikes? I certainly would not leave the helmet because gosh only knows who might kick it or bash something into it but the jackets and pants ought to be OK? I supposed we could even leave our boots too. 

But this stuff might get stolen? Maybe but the same risk applies to the tent and the clothing and the cooking stuff that remains on the bike. But then they're bungeed and fixed and people just see bags and not what's in them - a jacket and boots are obviously jacket and boots. Hmmmmm

Sharon stands straight next to Ren's motorcycle on the Newhaven - Dieppe ferry
Tell you what sweetie - you just stay here with the bike and the kit OK?

Here is my thinking so far.

We need 2 large shopping type bags that wrap up into small little packages, maybe those hessian reusable environmentally friendly shopping bags the supermarkets have these days. 

As we're waiting in the long boring queue for the ferry we make our start. We put the clothes and the toiletries and the valuables into our "ferry" bags. We've still got to ride the bikes onto the ferry so these bags will need to be temporarily fixed back onto the bikes. This doesn't need to be a perfect solution, we're only riding onto the ferry.

Once aboard we strap the bikes down and grab our "ferry" bags. We will keep our bike gear on us, sweaty but the easiest way to transport it all. If needs be we can even keep our helmets on our heads which reduces the risk of whacking them into handrails and other passengers. 

Once in the cabin we can strip off and change then settle down for the long long crossing.

At the other end we refill the "ferry" bags and put on our bike gear. Down in the hold we will need to temporarily refit the "ferry" bags to ride off the ferry and into the port. Once we've cleared the port we can the stop and put everything back where it belongs in the riding luggage, stowing the "ferry" bags for the return leg.

7 or 8 motorcycles lined up in the hold of the Ferry to Ireland with a biker smiling at the cameraIt's not like we're doing something countless other motorcyclists haven't done before.

This all seems like making a mountain out of a mole hill but I remember the last time I went to Spain and how I wished I'd been more organised and prepared. "I want my XYZ, damn it's on the bike!" 

I'd like to hear your thinking and experience on the subject.

Do you have any delightful travel tips for the would be motorcycle explorer? We'd love to share them here on Bikes And Travels. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
In the days when I did this regularly, I would have my "on-board" stuff in the tankbag which I would just take with me - although usually it was just the overnight from Portsmouth to Cherbourg / Le Havre etc.

One thing I always found essential was a comfortable pair of shoes. I'd keep the bike jacket on but I'd leave my helmet and gloves with the bike - in the top box. Of course, not being one to strap myself into endless layers of leather I'd be wearing an ordinary pair of trousers. I've never worried about stuff getting stolen on a ferry but I suppose there's always the chance.

I think you could easily get what you need for the pair of you into one tankbag or at a push two. I wouldn't be keen on the shopping bag idea as boarding, especially if it's pouring with rain, can be a bit fraught and it would be easy to lose stuff.

If you're like me you will be at the ferry port with a couple of hours in hand - plenty of time to redistribute stuff to the tankbag(s) if you need to. And when you disembark you don't have to rush away from the ferry port - again, 10 minutes or so reorganising will be plenty and will also give the opportunity to get your heads into Spanish mode.

As you will be with Brittany Ferries it's a shame to miss the Ronde des Buffets in the posh restaurant where you can eat enough for about 3 days for £15 or so......
12/1//2018 12:41:37 PM UTC
Ross said :-
I agree with Ian, a shopping bag doesn't sound great! If you don't fancy a tankbag what about a daysack/small rucksack either one between you or one each depending on how much stuff you need for the boat trip. If you don't want to ride all the time with a pack on your back (and I could understand why you wouldn't) it should fold down small enough to be squeezed in to a small gap in your luggage somewhere.
12/1//2018 4:01:17 PM UTC
Rod said :-

Just throw all the riding kit and helmet in the trailer, and take out my bag with food, drink, and overnight stuff!

12/1//2018 5:56:06 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Stay awake for 3 days then sleep for 25 hours on the boat. Then you only need a small bag to brush your teeth.
12/1//2018 9:03:26 PM UTC
Gary said :-
When are you going?
I have an RT and might have room. Crossing 15\4\18.
12/1//2018 11:18:09 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Brother-in law is planning on his son, me and the boy going across to Spain in June. 4 Bikes, 1 Part time pillion passenger and the wife. The ferry luggage will be easy as the wife is an ex biker and doesn't do pillion so she and her sister are the support team and will have the estate with all the crap in it so the bikes will be light.
From my hiking days I would go with Ross and Ian, go for a small rucksack or tank bag each, packed inside one of your other bags with what you need for the sail. Don't forget your kettle. We have a permanently packed travel kit as we dot around Spain quite a bit with tea, coffee, kettle etc. Wife has a serious tea addiction and Spanish hotels don't normally have tea making facilities, neither does the ferry.

13/1//2018 12:08:37 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks folks!

Ian - we'll be sailing on The Baie de Seine which is the economy boat. I'll check out the prices and look for the Ronde des Buffets. I bet you were on the posh boat though with you being an gentleman of style.

We both have tank bags. Sharon's is a dinky one for money and phone and that "stuff" women apparently"need". My tank bag contains my valuables. Suffice to say the tank bags will not be big enough.

Especially since Borsuk has just told me there a risk of no tea!! I too have a serious tea problem. If I find red blood cells in my tea stream I'll required medical assistance, tea intravenously.

When I say shopping bag I don't mean a thin 5p Asda bag! Something more substantial, them bag fer life things, you know!. We hope to find time to practice and realise what works and what won't.

Gary - that's a fabulous offer! We're traveling late May though. Can I come as hand luggage on your trip? Hehe.

3 days without sleep Pocketpete? I'd be in no fit state to walk let alone ride the bike onto the ferry. I'm essentially a 46 year old child and I need my sleep.

Borsuk - how's it going to go down using my petrol powered stove in the cabin? Am I better taking it on deck? Will they simply arrest me as a hazard to other passengers or throw me overboard?
13/1//2018 8:11:44 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Keel haul you then flog whats left around the fleet.

Get one of those small travel kettles, they are small enough, cost about £12, which is cheaper than 4 cups of tea each. You might need a 2 pin adapter that can take the current as the sockets onboard are all continental style if my memory serves me right. You can always stuff your socks and undies in it so the space isn't wasted.
Take a good supply of headache tablets as there is little to do on that ferry and you don't want Sharon having a headache. ;)

13/1//2018 9:47:12 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Borsuk - Sharon suggested that we buy the travel kettle and when we arrive in Bilbao rather than transport it all across the Pyrenees and Picos we bury it like hidden treasure at the beach. On our return we get our treasure map with a big "X" on it and retrieve the kettle for the return leg.

Then she found a slight minor flaw in the plan. We arrive in Bilbao but we return home from Santander. DAMN!

I'll keep in mind the headache tablets. Thing is if it's a rough crossing Sharon will be seasick and being puked upon is not conducive to a romantic and sensual interlude.
14/1//2018 10:55:20 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
The second time I crossed with the wife from Spain to UK the Bay of Biscay was pretty bad, I was one of the very few people wandering around during the passage, most people, including herself, had taken to bed to hopefully die. Get the sea sickness pills before you go as they don't sell or issue them on the boat.
I tried to get them for the wife and got told they didn't have any on board. I pointed out that they have lots in the medical stores as they are a legal requirement, (handy knowing the rules). The story changed to we don't issue them in case someone is allergic and sues us.
14/1//2018 4:07:23 PM UTC

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