Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cruise Journal: 12/16/2007


At 7am the captain came on the intercom. Half asleep, I felt the movement of the ship on the water, and knew we’d dock in time. If we were moving, we had to be underway in the ship channel. The captain announced we’d be docking at approximately 9am.

I got up and got ready slowly, packing up my toiletries as I finished with them. Then I put on my water proof jacket, tucked a book, my sunglasses, and a camera into my pockets, and went out into the fog. I wandered around taking pictures then headed towards the elevators to go up to the breakfast buffet.

Outside the elevators I ran into James (I met him Thursday afternoon, then again in the evening, talked until 1am, and ran into him outside the gym on Friday waiting to get my nails done). He took my hand to examine my nails, and got onto the elevator with me to go look for his sister at breakfast. My personal space felt slightly invaded, but it’s nice to make new friends. In the sports bar I grabbed a roll, a croissant, a muffin, some eggs and sausage and a carton of milk, and sat down at a table by the window. I pulled out the collection of Washington Irving stories and essays that I brought.

It’s funny how I’ve managed to read just the right passages at just the right times in my life. I was expecting Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The second essay is called "The Voyage" and it brought together a lot of the loose thoughts I'd had about this cruise.

In travelling by land there is a continuity of scene and a connected succession of persons and incidents, that carry on the story of life, and lessen the effect of absence and separation. We drag, it is true, "a lengthening chain" at each remove of our pilgrimage; but the chain is unbroken -- we can trace it back link by link; and we feel that the last still grapples us to home. But a wide sea voyage severs us at once. -- It makes us conscious of being cast loose from the secure anchorage of settled life and sent adrift upon a doubtful world. It interposes a gulph, not merely imaginary, but real, between us and our homes -- a gulph subject to tempest and fear and uncertainty, rendering distance palpable and return precarious.
I finished my breakfast, and went out on the deck again. There was land to the starboard and a cargo ship on our port side. I stood at the rail and watched the ship pass by as the mist-laden wind dampened my cheek and hair with cold water. Ran into James again, and since he said he hadn’t read for pleasure in a long time, I handed him the Irving and told him to read that passage. He agreed that it seemed applicable, and we talked for a bit longer. Then I said good bye and went down to look for Mom.

Since she wasn’t in the room, I went back up to the promenade deck and got a spot at the railing (it was getting pretty crowded with passengers and luggage). I was surprised to see that we were already floating just off the dock. I watched as they began to moor the ship.

A small orange rope was tied to the back hitch of an SUV, and the vehicle drove slowly forward, hauling in the gigantic yellow hawsers that the orange rope was just a towline for. A man on the dock dropped the double loop of the hawsers over a bulky post, and they began to tighten. I could hear the motored winch two decks below as it reeled in the slack. Then another orange rope whizzed past me, unfurling as it flew towards the dock. The man below caught the end and I turned to see the crew member who had thrown the loops a good sixty feet drop the slack into the water. The man on the dock began to walk it over, off the dock and thirty yards further down, where the SUV was now waiting for the rope to be tied on, so it could haul another hawser to another post. Way up the deck I could see the same thing happening at the front of the ship, and the ship moved slowly sideways as the ropes tightened.

Now I’m just waiting in my stateroom for them to call up people with orange luggage tags (that’s us). It’s good to be home.

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