Thursday, April 28, 2011

Entry 47 4.23.11

Entry 47, April 23rd, 2011, 5:05pm (ship time GMT -5)

Course: SSE, Speed: 18-19 knots

Light swell from N, wind from E

We're steaming South to Colon on the last day of my seventh cruise. The Lady G is loping along with a strange gait, as the sea is rolling in long low swells from almost directly astern. I'm watching the shadows on the back deck move more than half a meter as the ship rolls.

The weather is clear though, and it as nice an afternoon as one could ask for. The motion of the ship is a far cry from the stories I've been reading about lately – I found a book titled “A Million Miles in Sail” by John Herries McCulloch, a slightly grumpy British sailing captain who caught the end of the great age of clipper ships. The last story I read had his ship caught in the teeth of a storm around Cape Horn, making 12 knots without carrying any sails (due to the ferocity of the wind), the lee rail buried in six feet of water and ice floes occasionally smashing across the deck.

The book itself is not so much a biography as a collection of transcribed stories, most of them typical of what is probably told around the wardroom table when the ship is becalmed at night. Each chapter begins with a tale that is in roughly chronological order with the chapters on either side of it but quickly branches out into a discussion of average temperatures at the equator or the differences between Antarctic and Arctic icebergs and usually ends with a trip around Cape Horn (legitimately enough, he did round the cape twenty six times).

I say slightly grumpy because he prefaces the book with a paragraph or two on the great collection of myths people have embraced over the years about sailing and how he intends to dispel as many of them as possible with this book. He carries a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to stories of forecastle cruelty and barbarism, asserting that most of the sailors he lived with were quiet, hard-working men and that the tales of drunken, swearing hulks who drag their knuckles onto deck only to fight and mutiny are the product of overly imaginative, land-dwelling hack fiction novelists. He also elucidates the reader on several of the differences between American and British sailors, asserting the latter's superiority on most counts but grudgingly allowing us a few small victories.

Despite the need of a good editor, it is an entertaining book.

This is the end of our stay in the Caribbean, and I'm sorry to see it go. There are a few places I haven't explored fully, such as Cartagena or Aruba, and a couple I barely managed to touch at all, such as Santa Marta and Jamaica. Still, I have seen a lot, and have stuck to at least some semblance of a budget, and so I am happy with how I have spent my time here. Sunday begins the crossing – I believe we stop in Curacao and Barbados before I am done with the bright waters of the Caribbean for good.

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