A Watery Ballet

Spring Waxing Southern Cross Moon

We sailed at 5:00 pm, leaving behind the Seabourne Soujourn.

I watched early this morning as a tug, a small motor boat and tanker went through a careful ballet, gradually snugging the tanker up next to the Veendam, but only after small lines were thrown onto each other decks and thick hawsers hauled aboard by crew on both ships. This stage came after carefull nudging by the Guayas II, some reversing by the Andes II (the tanker) and the aid of the small motorboat, taking lines from one ship to the other where the distance was too far for throwing the weighted lines.

A ship the size of the Veendam must go through a considerable amount of fuel maintaining its 16-18 kph on the open ocean. These ordinary parts of the shipping business fascinate me, I suppose in part because I grew up so far from big water and know little of boats or ships. Watching the pallets full of vegetables, fruits and liquor taken in during a stop shows how much human cargo rides aboard, crew and passengers.

The logistics of a cruise mount up. Food for three meals plus snacks for 1200 passengers and a similar number of crew. Fresh water. Beer, wine, hard liquor. 14 decks to clean, repair, keep painted and clear of corrosion from the salt. Security. Beds to make. Towels and linens to wash. Carpet to clean, bronze to polish. Glass, wood. Then there’s the whole matter of steering, navigating and maintaining adequate power to both move the ship and electrify it. Television. Internet. Waste storage and elimination. Air conditioning. This is a moving small town with all the needs and requirements of one, floating on the world ocean.

None of this accounts for the human interactions waiters, clerks, front desk, house keeping, shore excursions, billing and accounting. Or the crew never seen by passengers who maintain the plumbing, electrical and other mechanical aspects of ship operation including the large engines.

Stripped to its essence this is a cargo carrier, a carrier of human cargo, a cargo that needs special attention in order to arrive at its destination fresh and healthy.

Really remarkable.

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