Friday, May 13, 2011

Entry 56 5.3.11

Entry 56, May 3rd, 2011, 3:47pm (ship time UTC +1)

Course: ENE Speed: 17 knots

Wind: Calm Seas: Calm

The internet has been down for more than two days now. This is one of the beautiful things about being at sea – if anyone wants to get a hold of me, they would literally have to come out to the boat and talk to me. I am totally unreachable – no phone, no email, no text messages, no letters. I have no obligation to interrupt my own activities for anyone else (well, except for my job here, but you know what I mean). It is one of the reasons that I really enjoyed sailing back home – it represented a way of taking control over my own agenda. If anyone wanted to talk to me while I was out sailing a boat by myself, they would have to physically get into a boat and chase me down (and unless your boat is significantly faster than mine, good luck!).

The television is mostly out as well. There's a rumor going around that Bin Laden has been killed. I suppose I'll find out for sure when we get to Tenerife.

The Atlantic is like a pond today – flat and still. The only disturbance is our ship's wake, stretching out for miles behind us. Looking directly down from the rail the water is a stunning, dark crystal blue, but looking out from the ship the ocean is bright white in all directions, reflecting the high whisps of cirrus clouds that are everywhere in the sky today. The sky is actually more blue than the ocean is when you look out to the horizon.

The Lady G is surprisingly active, considering how absolutely still the ocean is. She's rolling and pitching fairly quickly – not over a very large distance, but the motions are short and sharp. I suppose this is just her natural gait at 17 knots – the wide beam relative to her draft makes her correct her roll rather quickly. We've slowed down a little since the first couple days, I can only assume that means that we're ahead of schedule.

The orchestra is working more than usual during the crossing. We've started doing big band sets in the centrum, which is nice (and good sightreading practice, since we haven't ever rehearsed most of the charts). Also, because this cruise is 14 instead of 7 nights, we've been playing a different headliner every night. A headliner is a guest entertainer who comes on board with their own music, usually a singer or comedian. We run through the show in the morning, and then perform it that night. This is really what they pay the orchestra to do, I think, as the production shows all have click tracks and could probably be done without us (although I like to think that this would strip them of any last shred of musical worth that they may still have). Sight reading skills are of paramount importance – you've got to play it right the first time you see it. I'm doing alright in this department, but I have some room for improvement. By the end of this job I will be a pretty competent sight reader.

Last night's charts were terrible, by the way. Not only were they badly written from a musical perspective, they were badly written from a formatting perspective as well. Nonsensical rhythms, broken harmony, scribbled corrections and additions dotting the page – you name it, we had it. It frustrating for both us and the headliner. We asked him to clarify something at one point, and he balked, explaining that he couldn't read music (I heard someone remark under his breath, “shit, neither can we, if it looks like this”). Singers, if you're reading this, please for the love of god: 1. learn to read music. It's not that hard, and we're not going to take you seriously if you can't, and 2. make sure your charts don't suck. This is where reading music becomes useful.


We've been moving forward a time zone each day, as I mentioned earlier, and it has led to an interesting phenomenon. It is just past 8pm, ship time, and yet the sun is up as if it is late afternoon. We've been changing time zones much faster than the ship has been sailing through them. For comparison, consider this: we're on Paris/Rome/Madrid/Berlin time at the moment, an hour ahead of London, but we are still almost two days West of the Canary Islands. There is still one more hour to make up, but that won't happen until after landfall in Tenerife.

Tenerife, by the way, was Captain Joshua Slocum's first port of call after his first crossing of the Atlantic in his small, 34-foot boat Spray during his solo circumnavigation of the world. I'm reading “Sailing Alone Around the World,” a book given to my family by some friends of ours who are themselves quite accomplished sailors (their blog about the travels of the Intrepid Fox is one of my many means of living vicariously a life of sail). Slocum sailed around the world at the turn of the century in a boat he rebuilt himself, and his book is a mix of clear, straightforward prose and brilliant high-seas adventure. I'm looking forward to spotting the island the day after tomorrow (perhaps not quite the way he did, but crossing the ocean remains a sign of adventure none the less).

I'm looking forward to some time by myself when I finish this contract. It is something Slocum has plenty of throughout his book, and it is something I have none of here, packed aboard the ship with almost three thousand other people. I have no idea what I will do when I sign off, but I am sure that it will involve some peace and quiet. Maybe I'll find a cheap little apartment in Barcelona and pretend to be Ernest Hemingway for a while. And I've heard the jazz scene is good in Porto, perhaps it will be time to learn Portuguese?

I cannot get over how still the ocean is right now. It is calmer than Lake Michigan. I can see little patches of wind move across the surface – you can tell because they darken the surrounding water. The Grandeur leaves a wake on it like a toy boat putting across a pool.

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