PUBLISHED: 13:17 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 May 2010
A COUPLE were caught up in a drama on the high seas when one of the world s largest ferries was struck by a giant wave. Peter Cowley and wife Maggie, from Dale Close, Hitchin, were on board Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven when a wave estimated to be between 4
A COUPLE were caught up in a drama on the high seas when one of the world's largest ferries was struck by a giant wave.
Peter Cowley and wife Maggie, from Dale Close, Hitchin, were on board Brittany Ferries' Pont-Aven when a wave estimated to be between 40ft and 50ft high crashed into the front of the boat.
The wave smashed windows, and cabins were flooded as water poured in, forcing the boat to divert to a French harbour for emergency repairs.
The Cowleys had boarded the Pont-Aven at Plymouth on Sunday, May 21, and were travelling to Santander in northern Spain for a three-night break.
The sea had been rough for most of the journey but as the ferry headed towards the Bay of Biscay it encountered a force 9 gale.
At around midnight passengers heard a loud bang, as the wave hit.
Mr Cowley said: "Some people thought it was a bomb or something. It was frightening for people on level five because water was pouring in."
Passengers were told to gather at the bow, where they faced an agonising wait for news on what was happening.
Mr Cowley said: "There were people there with just underpants on.
"A lot of people in level five had to leg it out of their cabins because they were filling up with water.
"There was a guy standing next to me who had a towel round him and was covered in blood because he had a head wound.
"There was nothing more said for quite some time so we didn't know if we were going to go down basically."
The ship was eventually slowed down and turned around so the damaged part was no longer facing the gale, but still passengers were not sure what was going on.
"They didn't really say much at all. On level six they started giving people free water and coffee and then we knew things were obviously at least OK. "Then an announcement came that we were going to land at Roscoff at four or five in the morning," Mr Cowley said.
When the Pont-Aven, which had 1,150 passengers on board, eventually docked in Roscoff, Mr Cowley said they were given the option of a 14-hour coach journey to reach their original destination, or returning to England by another ferry.
The Cowleys opted to come back home, but had to endure another rough crossing to reach dry land, eventually docking at Plymouth at 8.30pm the day after they had departed.
The £100m Pont-Aven is the largest and most modern vessel in the fleet.
Mr Cowley said: "It was just amazing that this was supposed to be called their super ferry, why on earth the whole front should give in.
"It was amazing to see what had happened."
After arriving at Plymouth the Cowleys went on a short break in the West Country to get over the ordeal, but have not been put off future ferry travel.
Mr Cowley said: "We wouldn't go on that ferry again. I don't think it would put me off going by ferry but I don't think I would do that particular crossing again.