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Cruise Control

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(Oceania Marina)

This cruise on the Oceania Marina caught my eye because 1) it actually comes to the Atlantic coast of Canada the second week of April (the earliest I have seen) and 2) it ends in Barcelona – a destination I would appreciate.

In between it goes to Ireland, France, England, France again, Spain, Portugal, Spain (again). It takes twenty-eight days out of New York.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a publicity writer for pricey cruises. If I ever did go on such a jaunt, I’d prefer a ship much smaller (the Marina can handle 1258 – 1447 passengers). And – in truth – I would rather go on a Freighter that only handles a dozen or so paying passengers. Oddly,  the main character in my  work-in-progress, Alison Alexandra, went on such a Freighter cruise and enjoyed herself immensely. But she’s that type of gal.

However, Alison Alexandra also enjoys the finer things in life (she also had a hearty jaunt on The Orient Express), and would not eschew the accommodations and offerings aboard The Marina.

In addition to the extensive voyage, and numerous ports of call, (and the complementary 24 hour room service) Alison Alexandra would enjoy a night or two in the twelve dining venues offered.

Alison Alexandra could dip into various menus to have :

Roasted veal rack: marsala sauce, mascarpone polenta, sautéed asparagus, tomato

Tournedos rossini: foie gras, truffle sauce, fried lorette potatoes

Roasted Beetroot and Garlic Goat Cheese Napoleon with Champagne and Truffle Vinaigrette

Pancetta Wrapped Filet of Veal with Bay Lobster Tail Oscar Style

Bone-In Milk-Fed Veal Chop prepared in your choice of style: Grilled to perfection and topped with Sautéed Piedmonte Wild Porcini Mushroom Sauce Pounded thin, lightly breaded and sautéed in Lemon-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vinaigrette, crowned with Trio of Diced Roma Tomatoes, Radicchio and ArugulaAged Marsala Wine Sauce

Gambas Sautées ProvençaleSautéed Jumbo Shrimp in Lessatini Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Garlic, Parsley and Tomatoes

And, from he Dom Pérignon Experience:

Curry jaune de homard bleu, nuage de coco: Brittany blue lobster, yellow curry broth, coco foam:

w/ Dom Pérignon 2006

Alison Alexandra is not (unlike her author) much for desserts.

All the menus, and other cruise details, can be found here: https://www.oceaniacruises.com/ships/marina/cuisine/

 

 

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In Port, & Dry Land Ain’t All That Great

It’s Thursday in the Port, and I’m walking in what some folk call the rougher part of the city. This always means “poorer”. Which always seems comparable to what the more genteel folk of a place class as, well, genteel. Go three streets over and one down. You’ll be walking where the genteel live and money talks up a storm. In a genteel way, of course.

But where I’m walking, money only whispers if it says anything at all, and there are bars and used furniture shops and tenement buildings. The cars are old, not vintage. As I walk along the sidewalk a van enters the driveway immediately ahead of me. Stops so its ass is on part of the sidewalk and I have to swerve.

The side doors slide open and out come a dozen or so men and women. Poorly dressed. Unkempt. Quiet if not sullen. They are intent, and follow the gestures of the driver. This way. This way. They are all headed to a tavern on the corner. I follow the group along the sidewalk, although not into the drinking establishment. As I pass I notice the marker-on-cardboard signs in the window. ‘Two Bucks a Drink Thursday’.

I continue up a hill and then down a hill. I’m aiming for the harbour because I like the water, and the boats, and the vistas. This part of the harbour is also genteel, because there is a large hotel and retirement homes along the genteel boardwalk. There are benches upon which to sit. I appreciate all this. I chose a bench and I sit.

I can sit literally for an hour and more. I am no where near my quota when a roughly, though neatly dressed, young man sits on a bench a couple away from me. He stares out to sea in silence for a number of minutes. Then he starts to talk loudly enough for me to hear. I am the only one present.

“Gotta storm coming down the coast.”

“I heard.” And I have.

“Going to be bad.”

“So they say.”

“Not good to go out on that.”

“I bet.”

“I gotta boat waiting for me.” He mentions the name of a fishing village. “Haven’t been out for awhile.”

“I wouldn’t start today.” And I wouldn’t, but I don’t fish.

“It’s a bugger.” He has not once looked at me. “Gotta go back sometime.”

“I’m sure you do.” And I am.

“Lost a man last time.” I’m not sure I hear him correctly. “Messy death. The sea’s like that.”

I feel I should say something, and I’m sure I should have. But what? I am not certain, truth be told, that he is even – really – talking to me. There is no emotion in his voice. He has yet to look at me. At best it’s a monologue and I’m the audience.

He then opens his outer windbreaker and takes a large bottle from an inner pocket. It looks like a bottle that commercial mouthwash is sold in. He screws off the cap and starts to drink. He does not gargle.  He takes a number of drinks in quick succession, and I am convinced it is not mouthwash. But I do not know. He screws the cap back on and puts the bottle back in his pocket. He sits. He sits in silence.

“Sea’s getting rough.” He stands. “Lot of wind.” He starts toward the railing along the boardwalk. “I’ve got the Spring run, but I’m not going out after that.” He leans against the railing. “Time to stop. Yes, it is.”

He stands, looking out over the raising waves for a couple of minutes. Then he walks away.

 

(Jacques Brel’s “Port of Amsterdam” via David Bowie)

Anniversary Of The Sinking Of The Titanic

titanic_in_southampton
Halifax is significant to the Titanic, and vice versa. It is the port where 209 of the victims from the Titanic were brought after being retrieved. 150 of these bodies were eventually buried in Halifax.   I live a short city bus ride  from one graveyard where many Titanic victims are buried.  I am also a longer bus trip to another graveyard where more of the dead are buried. I usually visit each once a year.
When cruise ships come to Halifax, one of the ‘tours’ offered the passengers is a visit to the Titanic graveyard. I assume the irony of this is lost, but I do wonder about the ‘tempting fate’ aspect of such an excursion.
One year I went to a Titanic “parade” down on the waterfront. The event started one hour late. The horse-drawn “hearse” was really a waggon from a local farm. The candles were  fake electric. Still, the team of Percheron horses was wonderful, and the folk in period costume were well done.
The ‘undertaker’ driving the team had a black frock coat and black top hat but – alas – no black riband around the hat. There was a plain, grey wooden box in the back.
Whatever the reason, a half dozen present-day undertakers from Snow’s Funeral Home (the funeral home which had tended to the actual Titanic victims) marched behind the waggon.
As a macabre aside (and I generally favour the macabre, but I found this creepy) there were meals to be had in some of the downtown restaurants which featured the menu of the last meal eaten on the Titanic.
One of these restaurants was The Five Fishermen. At the time The Titanic sank, Snow’s Funeral Home was in the building The Five Fishermen now occupies. So – literally – the coffins were once stacked in the same room where present day patrons were chowing down on The Titanic’s last meal.
I did learn one new thing. One of the people crowded around the ‘hearse’ opined  there would have been no women undertakes in 1912. The group following the waggon did have one woman. A member of the real undertaker group said that was not true. Indeed, two women embalmers from the city of Saint John (a port city in the adjoining province of New Brunswick) were brought in by train to help with the vast numbers of dead.

TRAVEL The Ocean: Atlantic Container Line’s North Atlantic Cargo-Passenger Service Opens This Week Between Hamburg, Antwerp and Liverpool and Halifax, New York and Baltimore With Return To Liverpool — The Cruise People Ltd

This is how i would like to cross the ocean.

The Cruise People Ltd is pleased to announce the opening this week of a new cargo-passenger service between Europe and North America with five new ACL vessels called the G4’s. Delivered over the past two years to Grimaldi Lines subsidiary ACL, these ships now offer a weekly year-round fixed day of the week passenger service […]

via Atlantic Container Line’s North Atlantic Cargo-Passenger Service Opens This Week Between Hamburg, Antwerp and Liverpool and Halifax, New York and Baltimore With Return To Liverpool — The Cruise People Ltd

Cheese And Rum Aged At Sea In Ancient And Modern Times

 

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(image) images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/1-sailing-ship-anonymous.jpg

This is not only an idea whose time has come, but it is an idea I have used in three novels starting over three decades ago. In my novels, I have some edible substance aged through transport at sea.

In A Lost Gospel, set in the time of Christ, I have seafarers strengthen an unnamed gruel stored in a barrel that is used to relieve the effects of seasickness. It tastes vile.

In my two  historical “Onion” novels, I have special cheeses aged during the two year long sea trips my characters take for trading purposes. They return tasting right (and ripe) fine.


Here is a current news story set along the same lines.

A Nova Scotia distillery is sending its spirits out Monday on an around-the-world trip on a tall ship, promising it will taste better for the journey.

Four barrels of rum from Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery will spend the next 15 months in the cargo hold of the three-masted tall ship Picton Castle.

https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/local-news/nova-scotia-distiller-sending-four-barrels-of-rum-on-round-the-world-voyage-837196?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And here is an excerpt from my novel, China Lily.

The storage hold for the cheese is actually a room partitioned from the main hold by thick oak planks. Its back wall is the side of The Pegasus. There is a raised floor to keep the cheese from the bilge, and a barred door with heavy locks. The Cannaras had the room designed, and placed specifically, so it would not hinder the running of the ship through either weight or volume displacement. In addition, the Cannaras paid the other owners an impressive surcharge for the space.

Matzerath steps back as Cepa unlocks and opens the door. The cheeses have not been moved for over two years, except through the motions of The Pegasus itself. They are tightly packed with straw and wax, three to a wooden crate. The crates are kept in place through the use of ropes and webbing that allows them to move with the motion of the ship. If they break loose they can dent, break, or even shatter their thick outer shell of wax. The exposure to air would turn them to rot.

The two and more years of exposure to the sea salt atmosphere tightens the ropes and webbing. They reach a point where it is not worth the effort to unbind them. Cepa begins to use his knife on all the ties.

He is quickly followed by Matzerath, who does not question the reason for Cepa’s actions, but just follows suit. Together they make short work of the ropes and webbing. Matzerath gets by the doorway and takes his place in the human chain. Cepa hands a crate of the cheese to him. He carries it to the first man on the steps who, in turn, takes it up the steps to the next man. In this way the cheeses go from man to man until they are placed in the carts. It is not backbreaking work, but it is awkward and exhausting enough that Cepa eventually calls for a break. They all go up to stand on deck to take advantage of the fresh air.

“How long have you been selling this ‘voyage cheese’?” Matzerath is watching the frenzied activity on the dock.

“Over two hundred years.” Cepa keeps an attentive eye on the cheeses already on deck. “But never any trip as long as this one.”

“Any magic secret in making it?”

“The choice of the onions. But I don’t actually make the cheese – that is for others in the family.” Cepa smiles. “I help create the mystique.”

“Mystique?”

“Yes.” Cepa turns to scan the dock. “Look at those three men on horseback.”

“Yes?”

“One is a priest; one from the noble’s house; and the third leads the cheese maker’s guild.” Cepa holds up his hand to shade his eyes from the morning sun. “Their sole reason to be here is to verify that these cheeses actually come off The Pegasus. They will affix a seal onto each crate.”

“They don’t trust the Cannaras?” Matzerath turns to Cepa in surprise.

“They trust us because this was our idea.”

“Ha! You Cannaras are crafty.”

“There are few questions asked about items brought back from far away. They are so foreign they have to be authentic.”

“But cheese made right here …” begins Matzerath.

“Yes – anyone can make cheese.” Cepa indicates that he wants to walk around the deck. “And it all looks the same once covered and waxed.”

 

The Good Ship “Pegasus”, In Story And For Real

 

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In my historical novel, China Lily, set in the 13th Century, I have spent a good deal of time writing about (and thus aboard) the good ship Pegasus. It has been on a trading voyage from Europe to China for nearly three years. I have become quite acquainted with it.

Currently, a manuscript  about the same European trading family, though set a thousand years earlier, is at the historical (though they do other genres) is being considered by the publisher, Pegasus, in New York.

And, this morning, the good ship, The Atlantic Pegasus, is in port.

Let these winged portents coalesce.

Following is a brief portion of China Lily.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt from China Lily

Cepa is tending to the onions, even as the waves make Pegasus shudder from bow to stern. He knows many members of the crew begrudge his use of fresh water. He has heard the comments about him using buckets of deck wash for the purpose. A couple of the more unimaginative seamen have suggested that salt water will add to their taste. Cepa has so far refrained from asking how they would feel with no onions at all.

Pegasus makes a huge yaw to starboard. Cepa grabs for the support of his hammock hook. He holds on with his left hand as he watches the braces securing the onion boxes. Of the many things that make the crew question his sanity, perhaps the most talked-about is that he has given up the privilege of having one of the few bunks as a place for the onions. Space is so scarce on the Pegasus that he removed the wooden bunk and put in tiers of shelving of the onion setts. He even devised some crude trickle-down tubing so he only waters the top tier. So far he can claim that not one dipper of water has been wasted.

When Cepa had explained to the captain of the ship what he wanted to do, the man had not scoffed as did many of the crew. He had seen the effects of scurvy on many  voyages, and understood that this type of fresh produce did something to control it. In fact, he was very pleased Cepa was willing to sacrifice his bunk space for the purpose.This was not the typical action of the merchants he was paid to transport from Italy to China and back. It usually took half the out-voyage to get these self-important wealthy people to realize that their opinions and needs were of no importance in the world of the ship.

Some sat back and made threats of what retribution would occur when they finally reached port. They always changed their minds after experiencing the first storm at sea. Most soon realized the new world of the ship, and did what they could to fit in.

DE

(image)https://balticshipping.com/uploads/ships/d/a/a/a/7/e/e/c/4/3/1/f/d/5/f/7/3/4/a/8/1/c/5/c/9/a/a/d/f/7/d/2/176447_1443024569_2007.jpg

When Writing Spooks Television

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I am currently writing a *perhaps* novel (that is, perhaps it will be a novel), though I suppose  I should find out if it is a novel since I just passed the 200 page point.

In my current project, following the escapades of Alison Alexandra (entitled Stones for short), my erstwhile activist, Alison Alexandra, is a passenger on a freighter (that takes a limited number of passengers) as it delivers goods from port to port.

I’ve done a fair amount of online research into these freighter cruises as I, myself, would much prefer such a trip over the very crowded (and expensive) Cruise Lines.  But, I will research anywhere that might help my cause. So, a couple of nights ago, on television, there was a documentary about the most recent, largest, and most extravagant Cruise Ship as yet built.

I was very interested in following its construction. I was also very interested in seeing how it was run, taking into consideration the thousands of people who had to be tended to. The delivery of provisions, the kitchens, and the massive amount of work necessary to clear out thousands of folk and then greet thousands of folk on the same day, was fascinating. Not a freighter by any standard, but basic principles were the same.

Then the documentary followed the ship on its first cruise.

Now, back to my reality. At the same time as writing original material about Alison Alexandra, I have been putting a hand-written manuscript of a novel finished a number of years ago into the computer. I do one thing in the morning, and the other in the evening. So far – no problems have arisen.

My hand-written manuscript is set in the 1300’s. The first part depicts a two year voyage from Italy to China and back. Both the voyage and events in China are described. And then, the arrival back to Italy. For four straight days, I have been transcribing the docking and aftermath of the ship at Civitavecchia, Italy. It is the closest seaport to Rome.

On television, before my eyes, after a day of writing, the Cruise Ship I had watched from inception to voyage, pulled into the port of Civitavecchia.

Maybe I should take a cruise.
 

DE

Civitavecchia (image)http://www.cruisemapper.com/images/ports/81-e23a9f4fb2887.jpg

Alison Alexandra and Harrison Ford Cast Off Lines To Get To Sea

200px-mooring

Alison Alexandra, the main character in my current Work in Progress, is about to set out on a sea cruise. She wishes nothing as boring as a Cruise Ship, so she is going on a freighter that has room for twelve passengers. She gets accommodations as comfortable as the ship’s officers, plus decent food and some entertainments. The drawback – which she does not consider a drawback – is that she goes where the freighter goes as it drops off and picks up cargo. Not necessarily fancy ports of call.

Alison Alexandra has just spent my week of writing watching the business on the dock as the freighter gets ready to cast off. For this scene I have stolen (and greatly altered) an incident that happened to me. I hear that’s what authors do, but it seems a rare situation for me.

I previously described what happened to me those many years ago, and do so again. Alison Alexandra is actually watching a crewman named Ellerton do what I did, when I stopped a submarine from running amok.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harrison Ford And Me

In 2001/02 the movie, WIDOWMAKER K-19, was made, much of it filmed in Halifax harbour and out on the nearby ocean. It deals with submarines and an in-ship disaster, staring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

I was not aware of this when I visited Halifax. I went down to the waterfront and went along the boardwalk. It was very foggy on the water (which it can be without having much on land). I was exceedingly surprised to see, looming out of the fog, a submarine next to the wharf. There are submarines in Halifax, but they are berthed at the naval dockyard a couple of kilometers from where I was walking.

It took a couple of minutes to realize that it was not a naval submarine (no markings). What was happening was that the submarine was being turned by a couple of tugboats. I read later that each side of the same submarine was altered differently so, in close ups and aerial footage, it could appear to be two different submarines.

However, there quickly appeared to be a problem. From the shouts and gesticulations of a man on the wharf, I found out that one of the mooring lines had not been cast from the wharf. The submarine was being pulled away from the dock, but it was still attached. It was a gigantic and thick mooring line, and I do not know what damage would have been done to either ship or dock.

The man was yelling to another man on the deck of the sub, who had a bullhorn and in turn was bellowing to the crew of the tug boat. However, nothing was heard over the roar of the engines (tugboats have powerful engines). The man on the wharf was trying to lift the mooring line from its post before it got too taut to move. I ran over and helped him, and we managed to get it from the post just as it started to be pulled into the water.

Of course I watched the movie credits closely, but I was not mentioned.

No famous movie actors were involved in this incident.

DE

(image)https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Mooring.jpg/200px-Mooring.jpg

Eating Fine Food In 13th Century China

In my novel, China Lily, my main characters, Cepa Cannara and Matzerath, are on a year-long trading voyage from Italy to China on the good ship The Pegasus, thirty years before Marco Polo did the same. In this segment, they have a meal with their host, Lu-Hsing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

delicious-oyster-omelette

“You boys are in the Port of Zaitun.” Lu-Hsing speaks in an authoritative tone. “Fish a speciality.”

“There must be something else.” Matzerath points. “Look at all the cooks.”

“No soup?”

“Pah!”

“Trouble-making Round Eyes.” Lu-Hsing points to a wok near the end of the aisle and starts to walk. “We’ll try there.”

“What does he have?” Cepa falls into step behind Lu-Hsing, followed by Matzerath.

“Oyster omelette.”

“Eggs?” asks Matzerath.

“As many as you want.”

“That will take a big pan.”

“He can use a high-sided wok.” Lu-Hsing pretends to whisk something in a wok. “Plop it right onto a plate.”

“We don’t have dishes.” Cepa suddenly realizes the fact. “We haven’t been back to The Pegasus all day.”

“Lu-Hsing share you his.” He barks an order at the cook, then turns back to Cepa. “Stay right here. I’ll get them from my table.”

Cepa and Matzerath stand and watch the cook. Cepa notes he is using wood and not the black rocks for his fire. Some oil is dropped onto the metal and immediately sizzles. The cook holds up his hand and extends his fingers; one, two, three, four, five.

“Will you want some?”

“God – yes.” Matzerath nods.

Cepa holds up five fingers and the cook grins. He takes an egg in each hand and hits them together. The upper shell is flipped off and they pour into the wok. He repeats the gesture and the eggs land on top of the others. The last egg is dispatched on the metal rim of the wok and added to the rest before a hint of cooking has begun. The cook then begins to whisk and slide the eggs along the side of the wok before Matzerath has time to make a comment.

“I’d like to see you do that on The Pegasus,” says Cepa.

“I break eggs all the time.”

“I know.” Cepa laughs. And we eat the shells to prove it.”

The cook now twists and shakes the wok by its two handles over the fire. The eggs slide up and along the sides, then settle more thickly near the bottom. With a grin and a twist of his hands, the cook turns the wok right over. The eggs start to slide out with a couple of drops hissing into the fire. Matzerath’s mouth falls open as the cook rights the wok so quickly that the eggs drop right back into it, now cooking on the other side. The cook puts the wok back on the fire.

“Bet you can’t do that,” says Cepa.

“Just once.” Matzerath laughs. “But the whole ship was heaving at the time.”

The cook begins to nudge the eggs together with a spatula. With his other hand he sprinkles a few drops of brown liquid. Then he adds some coarsely chopped shoots of a green onion.

“Hah!” Matzerath slaps Cepa on the shoulder.

After a quick swirl of these ingredients the cook plops in a bowl of small oysters. He takes his time with these, spacing them with deliberation over the quickly cooking eggs. Then – with a flourish – he scoops up a handful of flower blossoms and sprinkles them over the whole bubbling mixture.

“What are those?” Matzerath peers into the wok.

“Chrysanthemums.”

“We’re eating flowers?’

“When in Rome …”

The cook adds a further dash of the brown liquid and then folds the eggs neatly in half. He flips the whole omelette to the center of the wok and sprinkles a palm full of spring onion – this time finely chopped – over of the still-bubbling omelette. He presses the onion in place with his spatula then removes the wok from the fire.

“Timing is everything.”

The voice startles them both. They turn to see Lu-Hsing standing behind them, holding a large platter. He barks instructions to the cook, speaking too quickly for the two men to understand.

“Stick to ribs – make you happy.”

The cook divides the omelette in half and slides it onto the platter. He then takes the wicker top off a steamer and starts to add heaping ladles of red rice along the sides of the platter.

“What’s that?” Matzerath sounds suspicious.

Hong  qu mi.”

“You can see its rice,” hisses Cepa.

“But it’s red.”

“Fermented with yeast.” Lu-Hsing scoops some into his palm and eats it.’”Looks good. Tastes great.”

DE

(image)http://www.funnymalaysia.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/delicious-oyster-omelette.jpg

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