Director of Operations – Bluenose II
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/
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 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)
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
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.
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.”
“Yes.” Cepa turns to scan the dock. “Look at those three men on horseback.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.