So Big

Fall Waning Autumn Moon

Yes, it’s a canard. The sea is so big. The thing is, it is. Out here, some miles east of Charleston, South Carolina and many more from somewhere in Europe, out here where water pushes out from the ship as far as the eye can see and further, out here under a night sky with no light pollution at all save that from this ship, out here we can be anywhere on this vast world ocean, anywhere on this watery element, the true normal for this blue planet, not the abnormal land on which we humans spend most, if not all, of our time.

The ocean here has a depth of over 10,000 feet, 2 miles of water, beneath us, we skim over its surface and know it only by waves, white caps, floating seaweed and the occasional ship passing by faraway. Meanwhile on this ship we go about our human, land dependent activities, eating food grown on the land, except for the cobia I had for lunch, and those things, too, that usually do on land, sleeping in beds, walking past other people we don’t know getting on with their lives.

Up in the dark night sky the silence deafens, falling around this small object afloat in the bathtub of the Gods. The imagination stretches out, reaches it, all the way to the stars. This is the thing we can do, the thing that makes us like the ocean, wide and deep, every changing, our depths truly unknown, our heights never summited. We may be frail, a passenger lost in the wake of the ship would be lost for all time, never found, but we have a world ocean or two within, continents, planets, stars.

I spent the last 30 minutes outside our cabin, leaning on the rail, spreading my imagination across the ocean as it went by, touched Jupiter and extended myself right out of our solar system to the stars. This is the glory and the shame of humanity. Whatever we can imagine we can breath into life, be it for good or ill.

It’s the same night sky over Minnesota.

October 18, 2011 Late Afternoon

The blue skies have turned gray and a light rain pelts the deck. We have moved down the Florida coast throughout the day, starting the morning parallel to Jacksonville and now to Orlando.

Ships move slowly, part of their charm. I love slow travel, travel that negates the power of jet engines and time swallowing leaps from one same airport to another. Trains move slowly, too. Slow travel allows the journey to be as much of the trip as the destination. Even cars move too fast for me these days.

Today has been our second day at sea. I remembered them as relaxing and they are. Though cruise lines work hard to make something available every minute, complete with overly cheerful cruise directors pitching them over loud speakers (sort of like elementary school. Not my favorite part of the cruise experience.), this introvert finds even walking among the crowds on various decks tiring.

My antidote? Go to the lower promenade deck (our deck) and watch the wake of the ship, or go to the stern and watch us plow through the ocean. These don’t sound like much, but I find them soothing, meditative. BTW: Speaking of the wake, check out the Machado poem at the bottom of the page. As I watch the wake, I think of the path disappearing, stirred up water foaming white, then fading back into calmer waters, the ships passage leaving no trace. If a multi-ton ship leaves no trail in its wake, how much less you and me?

We’ve moved slowly today. Breakfast in the room, read on the deck chair, nap, snack, back to read.

Hopefully tomorrow will be the same. Vacation.

It won’t be though. We have a shore excursion through the everglades plus a document search required by US immigration before it at 7:30 am.

October 19 2011

Ft. Lauderdale. Going to see the Everglades today. Wearing my Sierra Club t-shirt since we’ve been in a big struggle with a potash company down here that wants to continue polluting the Everglades.

Didn’t sleep as much as I need last night. Saw a movie until 11:20, then listened to the thunder and saw the lightning of a storm we passed through on our way to Port Everglades. A storm at sea adds a little rock and roll though the ship’s stabilizers handled it well. Woke up at 5:30 am as we slowly made our way past the glittering lights of Ft. Lauderdale complete with a curved auto bridge outlined in lights.

The weather is, as you might expect, humid and warm. Not hot. Not yet. It’s still fall here, though a very Southern fall. Once we take off for Santa Marta, Colombia, our next port, temps will increase right along until we pass through the equator in Ecuador. Then, they’ll start falling again. Slowly.

Today we disembark, take our passports, ship id and a transit card (whatever that is) for a round of kiss and tell with the US Customs folks. Hard to say why. Might be watching for terrorists, I suppose, but the bad scenario takes a bit of tv thriller imagination. Still, we have to do it.

Looking forward to the Everglades excursion since I’ve never been this far south in Florida. More when we return.

Oct. 19, 2011 Port Everglades 1:00 pm

No joy on the Everglades. Got up at 6:30 am, ate breakfast (in room), got our documents in order for the US customs folks and got in line at 7:20. And stayed in line. For a long time. Until 8:00 am. Then, we got clearance, walked over the gangway and back onto US soil. Temporarily.

We handed over our passports to Holland America, in Florida for some reason, (they hold them to clear customs for the rest of our ports of call), walked outside to a rainy, warm morning. No Everglades tour. “It’s howling out there.” Oh. Well.

So we’ll go back on the ship. We try to reenter through the door we’ve just come out. Security personnel push back out into the rain. If we hadn’t come outside, if someone had told us there was no point, we could have turned around and walked back on the ship.

But no. We passed the security zone. We had to go stand in another line and wait for a different security personnel to let us out of Florida and back on the ship. Couple with this rising early and standing long, I was not a happy cruiser at that moment.

Earlier, I had watched as we docked in Port Everglades. A large blue sign said, Welcome to Florida. We had a tug that nudged us along the channel from the side, then turned perpendicular and put its rubber shrouded nose onto us just ahead of the stern and pushed us into the dock.

On the elevator up to the Lido deck for lunch I asked a guy how he was doing. And he told me. “I met up with the Jones Act.” he said, “I can’t leave the ship.” “The Jones Act?” “Exactly, I’d never heard of it either. It says if you board a ship in a US port, you can’t leave it in a US \port.” Now, I’ve heard of that odd rule, but I have no clue why it exists nor why it’s called the Jones Act.

The upshot for this guy? “I have to stay on until Santa Marta, Colombia. Course there are worse things than being stuck on cruise ship.” Looking on the bright side. Seems that if a cruise ship allows a passenger to disembark in such a situation, the fine is $4,000 to $5,000. Cheaper to let this guy ride for free. Which is what they’re doing.

The internet was down all last night, due, I imagine to the electrical storm. It’s now back up, but I’ve apparently forgotten my password so I’m waiting for the internet gut to show up and reconnect me. Kate and I sit next to each other in Scandinavian recliners looking out the window of the Explorer’s Lounge toward a lovely parking ramp and power generating station. Oh, and off to the side there are sea going containers parked, waiting for a ride.

This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.