Casual on the Bridge
Thursday, November 18—8:48 AM
The weather out here in the middle of nothing is like the special effects department is having hallucinations. I woke up around 5:30 this morning and from my window I could see blue skies and grey seas, rocking hypnotically. (If I look too long, I want to take a nap.)
I had a pee and when I came back, we were in a fog bank. Even the waves had calmed.
I got dressed and turned around and it was snowing. Sideways. The wind was massive; water rushed up the sides of each powerful wave and reached the top to be caught by the air in a whitecap and spray that was clearly screaming “Wheeee!”
It’s a non-stop thrill ride in Drake’s Passage!
I surrendered to practicality and forewent the outside passage to the chart room. (The chart room—with its steady supply of mugs of tea—and my cabin are on the same level, but between us is a large stretch of “Crew Only,” so if I want tea without going down to the next level, across, and back up again, I can take the outside passageway. But not today!) Making tea was a dance of excitement, with waves occasionally crashing over the bow and reaching up to the chart room’s windows.
Hm. How high is that? Let’s say water level is the ground floor—the 300 level of cabins, which have portholes. Then there’s the second floor (the 200 level cabins), and the main floor (where the dining room is), and then what is hopefully called the Veranda Deck, where the chart room is. So the waves were crashing over the bow up four stories. Not very often, and usually carried by a vigorous gust of wind, but don’t trouble me with your details. The front windows in the dining room (right below the chart room) have been covered with storm shutters; no front-facing view at all from there.
Tea mug (with lid, obviously) in hand, I clambered gracelessly up another flight and a half to the bridge. Eduardo was there, chatting with the officer on deck, and an able-bodied seaman was watching the horizon with bored dedication. (These people, I’ve learned, are called AB’s, for able-bodied, or AB-seas. Maybe that’s written ABCs.)
And Rod Stewart was crooning big band hits over the sound system. Awesome!
There were smiles and nods when I came in, but no one bothered me and I bothered no one. The bridge is huge; it’s the entire width of the ship and from there you have a 180-degree view of the horizon. When I arrived, half the sky was black, sunlight and blue skies shone ahead, two small squalls were busy raining down to starboard, and the water was gunmetal grey.
Fifteen minutes later, the cloud information was entirely different, the water was navy blue streaked with white foam, and a fin whale stopped by to see who we were. Half an hour later, the water was tropical with whitecap fringe on each leading edge.
The waves have no rhyme or reason. It’s not like whatever is generating them is always in the west, pushing waves steadily to the east. No, it’s less understandable than that. Sometimes we ride over mountains and into valleys; sometimes we summit hillsides to discover we’re on a tableau of high water. There’s simply no predicting when the bow will crash down without a drop showing or when it will crash down with an epic fanfare of white foam shooting up from the bow rail. Last night we were all trying to predict it (because when the fan of water is a big one, it’s quite staggeringly impressive—like fireworks that leave the bow deck dripping with water) so we could video it, but many a battery went dry in the attempt. The answer is—too bad. It happens when it happens, and we don’t run this party according to YOUR schedule.
Rod Stewart crooned his last and silence took his place. “More music!” I demanded. The officer on deck looked pleased. “I have some…” and then he said something I couldn’t hear. I think the word “black” was involved. Sure; officer’s pick. The resulting music was the antipodes to Rod Stewart singing big band music; it was a basso profundo chanting some kind of heavy metal darkness featuring the refrain of “When we take Berlin.” Oh. Well, okay. Whatever. (Four or five songs in, he must have felt the eye-rolling and the music stopped. Yay!)
Santiago the ornithologist wandered past; I questioned him on the stunning ocean birds gliding around the ship. The answers: No skim-feeders out here; the albatross will dive in up to half a meter to get krill, and just because I hadn’t seen it happen didn’t mean they didn’t feed. Also: They sleep in 90-120 second microbursts in which one half of the brain goes to sleep and the other half keeps the bird flying—which, hey. That’s efficient as hell! Good plan for a bird that does not come ashore for 11 months out of the year. The wandering albatross’ heart rate is slower when flying (or gliding) than it is when resting on land. Evolution for the win!
Breakfast was exciting. Silverware shot off the table with particularly vigorous plunges into the briny deep. But the wait staff is utterly casual, still pouring coffee from dangerously high up (not a drop ever spills) and escorting the more frail passengers to and from their tables.
Come to think of it, the bridge crew was remarkably casual, too. Santiago—not bridge crew, but certainly a seasoned hand—told me that the birds we were seeing would have been behaving differently “if the weather had been rough.”
Oh. This isn’t rough?
Psh. This is nothing. This is a nice crossing. A spray of sea foam shot up from the bow as he spoke and I smothered a giggle at the over-the-top-of-the-roller-coaster feeling of sliding down a massive wave. It’s said that everyone is seasick if the seas are rough enough; I’m proud that we haven’t found my limit yet. I’m either going back to the bridge to say “Wheeee!” like spray in the wind, or I’m going to stare out the window until I fall back on my bunk in a snore.
By the way—I chose the photo (incomprehensible navigational screen from the bridge) because I can’t post another snow-and-ice or water-and-sky image again; I would die of boredom.
Oh—it’s the 18th! FARRAH & THE COURT-APPOINTED BOSS releases today! If you want a silly, funny, sexy rom-com to while away a little time, go buy it on Amazon (or Apple) (or Kobo) (or Barnes & Noble) (or Smashwords) (Self-publishing is kind of a pain in the ass). Happy release day to me—time for a nap!