Director of Operations – Bluenose II
Director of Operations – Bluenose II
“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.
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.
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.
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)