Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Thursday, 16 Dec 2004

It's 6:30am and the ship is coming in to port. We are at Tortola where we expect to meet some friends on a 50 foot sailboat. I took a quick walk around deck and watched them secure the ship. They use a 100-foot casting line with an orange floating ball at the end. They toss the ball to a guy on the dock. He pulls in the one-inch line that's attached to the real anchor line already formed in a loop at the end. Once the line is looped around the pier, a ship winch takes up the slack. There weren't many on deck at this time of day, just a few walkers. You could hear them coming up the deck from the squeak their tennis shoes made on the wet teak deck.

After a cheese omelet from room service we went ashore. Since we didn't know what boat our friends might have chartered, I checked with two harbor masters as well as a few charter companies. No one knew about any Kersey or 50-foot cat (short for catamaran). We must have walked three miles and checked fifteen piers but no success. Maybe they were not scheduled to come in until later or maybe their schedule changed and they came the day before. My cell phone was working and I left voice messages but that was all I could do.

Tortola vendor and friend
(Tortola means turtledove in Spanish)

We did check out some of the shops and some tents just outside the gates to the pier. There were three other ships our size in this tiny bay, so there was a lot of traffic from the taxis and people bustling around. I have to say that we really didn't spend much on this trip. I mean I still have money in my wallet. Of course you can't use cash on the ship. You just tell them your room number and they charge it to your room. They also issue you a room access card. It looks like a credit card, and on the ship it functions like one. This is a problem since you really lose track of how much you've been billed. When we got on, we had a $300 ship credit. Today they gave us another $50 ship credit. That was cool. Since alcohol is additional, your wine and mixed drinks can add up. At our formal night I bought some Conundrum white wine. It was great but reduced my ship credits by $45.

Each evening when you get back to the room, there is usually an itinerary of the next day's activities. Also a mint and sometimes a gift is left on your bed. The first day we got a canvas tote bag "from the Captain," the note said. The tote bag has the ship's name on it. Now as we go around the towns, people know we are tourists. They may have already known that because of the cameras hanging from our shoulders and the fanny packs clipped to our waists. But now the totes make it clear in case some were questioning.

Some of our friends were left an invitation to the Captain's lounge where you shake hands with the guy and ask dumb questions like: How fast does the boat go? (it's not a boat, it's a vessel or a ship, dummy) or How many trips have you taken? or How far below the water does the ship go? Those sort of questions. But alas, we didn't get the Captain invite. Maybe they know I'd ask those stupid questions and didn't want to put the Captain under undue stress. And that's okay with me since I don't want to ruin any chance of making home again. I mean, irritating the captain would be as smart as insulting your dentist while giving you gum surgery.

I did get to talk with the illusionist while I was in the Jacuzzi. He does two shows for the entire cruise. That's two shows every week. It takes him a full day to set it up. The lights and sound are all computerized and pre-timed. He just needs to be sure he's in the part of the stage for the spotlight. It takes another eight hours to tear it down and pack it. He brings six thousand pounds of stuff with him. And I thought I packed too much. He's on for two months and then off for a month. And Richard, if you are reading this, he'll be on your cruise in June to Europe. He's got a great show, you can't miss it. Anyway he's real down-to-earth Australian and brings his family with him. He has a boy, three, and a little girl, four. In fact, she was with us in the Jacuzzi and asked her dad to turn off the bubbles. When he told her he couldn't, another guy in the Jacuzzi (they have some big Jacuzzis) told him that he should be able to do it through magic. "Oh please, don't tell her that!" he said.

We pulled out of port at exactly 4:15. A band plays as we pull away. Sometimes you'll hear over the intercom for such-and-such party to please call the front desk at #92. Here's the cool part. Remember the card you use to get into your room? It is what you use to get on and off the ship. As they run the bar code reader over it, your face comes up on their screen. They scan going off so know who didn't get back on. The mug shot attached to the card was taken on Sunday when we first boarded.

We've heard all kinds of stories about people that get into accidents while ashore. One couple got into a moped accident, a bad one. Had to max out all their credit cards to fly them off the island -- $15,000 worth! Others that miss the boat just get caught up shopping and miss the re-board, so they have to scramble to arrange a flight to the next island to catch up with their ship. We always try to get on ship at least an hour before we have to.

We decide to eat up in the Lido instead of the more fancy main dining room. The food is all good but we just wanted to try something different or someplace different because it's really all the same menu. Also, you don't have waiters fussing over you nor do you have to wait for the next course. You just get up and get what you want, which reminds me that at our first sitting we had a waiter that showered less often than I go to the opera. This tends to discourage a few taste buds.

Tonight is card playing night. We're going up to the Muth's for some Canasta. They've got one of the deluxe suites. The place is big enough to park a HumVee in. Their bath is better than I've seen in most hotels. Two basins, shower and whirlpool bath. Gold fixtures set off the smooth Corian counters and marble floors.

"To loose a passport is the least of one's worries; to loose a notebook would be a catastrophe." Bruce Chatwin


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