Director of Operations – Bluenose II
The sea plays a big part for Alison Alexandra in my manuscript There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth. This is at the beginning of a night that is going to last a long time.
There seems to be a touch of mist coming over the ocean as Alison Alexandra looks from the windows of her prow of a ship house on the top of her cliff. Well, she calls it her cliff and no one – yet – has said ‘nay’. But then, she thinks of it as her ocean, so what is someone going to do with that?
She turns the lights out in her prow of a ship room and settles into her comfortable winged chair. The sun is in its last minute of setting and Alison Alexandra concentrates on the positions of the ships settling in for the night. There are always ships that have no space for a berth until the next day. One or two always seem to have to wait until the day after that.
The vagaries of shipping and commerce, and the whims of an erratic sea, can only be predicted with moderate success. The tides and the winds and the atmospheric pressures high and low make merry over and under the endless horizons. They whirl and they twirl and they scud and skip with gay abandon. ‘Catch them and predict them?’ – well, Alison Alexandra knows better than that.
As it is, her sea eye – well-honed after these many years of coastal watching – is certain the touch of mist that kisses the top of the waves in a most flirtatious manner is deciding whether or not to settle in for the night and become mistress to sea and ships and those swabbies who – oh, so quickly – will be told that the watch must be doubled.
No matter that they are within sight of shore and already have their imaginations stirred by what will be offered at fine establishments such as The Tugboat Wharf And Seafood Lounge with its All You Can Eat Beef Buffet and waitresses who are never going to give them the attention they crave but will still be a damn good source to stroke the imagination and then they can hit the streets and hope to find some pliable bodies with whom to hit the sheets if only by the hour.
“That is a peculiar-looking ship.”
“It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra. She agrees because it is a peculiar-looking ship. She is studying it through her military-grade binoculars as she stands near the edge of her cliff, leaning against a waist-high barrier she had constructed just for this purpose.
Three sturdy posts painted blue.
There is a wooden knob atop each post, painted red. Four broad boards, painted white, are securely nailed to the posts, with slight gaps between them. There is room for five people to stand side-by-side. Alison Alexandra has never had more than one person at a time accompany her on this venture. A slight problem at the moment is that this is not one of those times. She is standing alone, binoculars to eyes, looking out to the ship in the harbour. The peculiar-looking ship.
“In fact, it is not just peculiar-looking, it is actually peculiar.”
It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra, who does not lower her binoculars. “Though that is not the only peculiar thing at the moment.”
“It is not?”
“It is not,” says Alison Alexandra. “One other peculiar thing is that I am standing here by myself.”
“I don’t,” says Alison Alexandra.
“I’m out of your vision.” The voice does not falter. “I’m R/Jane-the-Ghost.”
“R/Jane-the-Ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra.
“Yes,” confirms R/Jane-the-Ghost.” Yes.”
“A for real ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra. “Not a figment produced by an undigested piece of potato?”
“I like that idea,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “Being a Dickensian ghost. I liked reading Dickens.”
“As do I,” says Alison Alexandra.
“But – no – no Dickensian ghost am I. I bring no warnings.”
“”No festive cheer?”
“Nary a candle.” Says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “No bony finger have I, pointing at anything.”
“You did – in your way – point out the peculiar ship.”
“In my way.”
“Point taken,” says Alison Alexandra.
There is a low chuckle, bordering on hearty, close beside her right ear. She does lower her binoculars at that, and moves her head to look. Her view is unobstructed all the way down her cliff. The water sparkles.
“It’s a fine, clear day, isn’t it?” asks R/Jane-the-Ghost.
“Remarkably clear.” Alison Alexandra keeps staring toward the point where she perceives a voice to be. “One might think one could see forever.”
“Perhaps you do.” R/Jane-the-Ghost chuckles again. “All things considered.”
There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast.
Quarts of wild strawberries will float in flagons of cold Rhenish wine.
Blueberries will be hidden by thick cream, and golden honey shall trickle from plates of buttered toast.
Braces of quail and brown roasted turkey will be surrounded by steaming heaps of new potatoes and tender ears of corn.
Joints of beef and lightly curried lamb will stand between bottles of red Anjou wine and jugs of red Italian fire.
A smoking, suckling pig will have bowls of dry, yellow squash at its feet and stacks of cheeses at its head.
Pastry and pies and a foot high chocolate cake will stand among jars of brandied fruit.
A cask of aged port will remain, to do justice at the end.
Then I shall settle back to patiently await my dinner.
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/
Yesterday, I wrote the following blog, explaining my attempts to perhaps wed fiction and reality.
TODAY, I’ll relate what really happened.
I did get down to a chill and cloudy harbour in time to see The Alexandra. In fact, I was in good early time, for the ways of the sea don’t always fit schedules.
I stayed an hour and a half, with no sight of the ship. I would have stayed longer on a more pleasant day, but I was reaching a degree of cold that it is best not to ignore. So I returned home.
I started to follow The Alexandra on three different Marine sites. I could not fix an exact location, but it was obvious by its speed that it was not coming into a harbour. I then came across an arrival time of 19:00, instead if the original 15:00. But, even following it at that time, it was obvious it was not in Halifax harbour.
So, I kept a periodic watch from my windows, the manuscript for my own Alison Alexandra literally at hand. perhaps that was in some way more of a connection of reality to my fictional world.
At 21:00, well after dark, I watched The Alexandra and its tug boats pass along the harbour. It was a good view, though not as good a view as from a pier. I’m sure Alison Alexandra was pleased. Or, as she sometimes says, “pleased enough”.
I made the assumption that a ship six hours late would leave around six hours late. And, although I awoke well before such an assumed departure time, I found it had already left. I was, however, able to see The Alexandra depart the mouth of Halifax via port web cams.
I was by the harbour – chilly though it was – standing on one of the wharfs that was still in sunlight.
I had been cautious as I approached the edge, because I did not want to disturb an injured seagull, It was huddled beside a corner post, trying to stay out of the wind. I figured there was enough room for both of us.
The gull did shift its weight from time to time, and seemed to keep its side toward the wind. It was not a sleek-looking bird, and had misaligned feathers on one of its wings. It favoured an odd side-hop when it moved. I wondered what misadventure it might have experienced.
There was little traffic on the harbour, but the sunshine and clear sky made the water a deep and beautiful blue. I was looking out toward the ocean proper when a commotion startled me. My decrepit gull was fast into the air and then, even faster, into the water. Seconds later the bird was back in the air, its beak full of crab.
The gull landed a very safe distance from me. It began to dispatch the crab with fast and furious strikes of its beak. The gull kept the crab on its back as it pecked away at the softer underside. This was no delicate fine dining, as pieces of the crab’s shell flew in various directions, and made sounds as they landed on the surrounding dock. Soon, the only motions the crab made were from the piercing of the gull’s beak.
Considering that I dine – admittedly, with a tad more finesse – upon lobster, I had no problem with the gull acquiring its own meal. It had been earned.
And I will make no more assumptions about the state of gulls by appearance alone.