Day three at sea. On my now routine morning Bridge visit, Third Officer Myo Han informed me we had covered about 400 nautical miles the day before. We were still in the Philippine Sea and expected to reach New Guinea in about four days. We would see Brisbane on 18th November. I should be able to see my friend Louiselle for the afternoon.
Whereas yesterday the horizon was obscured by rain, today it seemed to glow with distant sunshine.
We proceeded East. I supposed we had to move out to get around New Guinea. We seemed to be sailing into cleaner skies. Although the sky softened the sea, it was still gray with small white horses galloping, galloping …
I thought it would be better when I could get outside for a walk. My convalescence was at an end. I established a small routine. First up, whatever yoga possible given pitching and rolling (and my mood) ate breakfast, visited the Bridge and then to rec room where the card table was the right height for typing and there was a coffee machine.
I had a new rule. If the wind was pushing against it so strongly I couldn’t open the door to go outside I wouldn’t go out. Who said I didn’t have any commonsense?
Not much life visible around these parts but I did see another bird. Had a black face and lovely patterned wings. Maybe a juvenile booby? Petrel? The weather did not improve. If anything the seas seemed to be increasing once more and the sky became darker.
I thought a lot about my Uncle Noel who served in the Royal Australian Navy. Noel probably sailed these waters, perhaps even serving during the battle of the Coral Sea.
I know his brother, my father, loved being at sea. He had served as a navigator in the RAAF. He spent some time in the Mediterranean due to being shot down whereupon, luckily, he was rescued by the British navy.
When we endured a massive storm in the South China sea on the way to Hong Kong in 1967, everyone went to bed (or to retch). The fiddles were up around the tables (none of those evident on board Coral BTW), my father taught me to stand on my toes to keep from feeling sea-sick. I remember distinctly the waves being taller than the ship. Because my father was not afraid, I was not afraid. I believe we were the only two passengers in the dining room that night. I cannot recall if my father said to me, or I made it up, there’s no good trying to hide from the sea at her most powerful. Those forces behind the waves, the roiling waters looking for a coast to smash down, must be gazed upon and admired (not evaded by detective novels or sleep!) for therein lies the most awesome part of the ocean’s life. Try to make sense of the crests, turning into, rising up and rolling over. Find the points where she rises and then sinks. Feel the peaks and troughs as the ship rolls over and through. (And maybe don’t have a big breakfast.)
I also remembered a chart in the lounge room of the ship back from HK, showing how far we had travelled the day before. There was a guessing game where you could attempt to calculate the ship’s position for the next day. They used to put a line out behind the ship to measure the speed somehow. None of that old-fashioned nonsense goes on in this ship, I can assure you, with the Bridge line-up of screens and ricocheting message machines zip-zapping up-to-the-second weather reports and pings from other machines needing to be acknowledged every five minutes. Although …
Speaking of time, ‘Today,’ said the announcement from the Bridge, ‘Ship’s time will advance one hour.’ 14:00 will become 15:00. I wonder if my phone would be able to keep up given the flighty internet? The whole experience had levelled up in difficulty. My clock was an hour behind the ship’s time. I was in great danger of missing meals. Just when I was starting to enjoy them! Without WiFi to jog my phone, I set an alarm for 06:00 when it would actually be 07:00 – breakfast. And another for 17:00 when it would be dinner. Lunch was at 11:00. Sunset just after 16:00. This was worse than Sudoku.
Unlike bus, train or Camino, the sea voyage could not stop just anywhere. We proceeded through different colours and shapes of the always-sea and vastness. Because we were a great behemoth of commerce we lumbered through the waves, now smooth, rolling and oily from the constant rain. There was no putting in at scenic ports to refuel or bring on limes for the crew! The ship must be provisioned for months ahead. (I must say the tomatoes and bananas suffered, tending to taste a bit forward-planned, no matter how nicely Win presented them.)
When I last looked, there was no horizon. The rain had obliterated it in one smooth sweep in a Rothko-range cream-gray down to mean metal-dark roilings of water.
And at next look, changed again, to slate, evened out, pimpled with tiny wind waves into the strictest delineation; a sharp, straight, one-line horizon with a clear-white light lifting the whole score-line of clouds evenly above the sea.
At next glance the sea was rough with bigger waves and the clouds were no longer pale but dark against a pale background. They were puffs of leaden smoke jutting from a background of cream and pale-blue uneven heaven stripes.
Whereas Camino or train, bus or car journeys were literal and you saw objects: farms and factories, people, trees, and roads, shops, buildings and cars … Going by sea was abstract. The sea was never one thing, apart from that vague watery concept of ocean. It had waves but it was not waves. It had currents, visibly roughing the nap of the waters’ surfaces and flattening other sections, but the sea was not currents. It was habitat and … do you think I’ve read just about enough of the Tao?
Decided to watch one of the collection of videos after dinner and found the bio-pic Ray Charles. Couldn’t get the machines to line up so asked a passing Deck Cadet, Way Yang, to help. He got it to play, but in B&W, which I didn’t mind, noting the sound system was excellent. Still, he alerted Second Officer and Chief, who both arrived, dressed in their work boilersuits to assist. Or rather, inform me I was on a hiding to nothing watching cheap DVDs on a set-up all from different zones and the Chief would bring in the Officer’s hard drive which offered a wide range of movies in better condition. I was extremely grateful.
Captain Alessandru showed me the bigger cabin, the Owner’s, that featured two windows out to starboard and one onto the containers. And a fantastic Dalí print featuring elephants and a fully clothed man.
He also provided me Wifi access but couldn’t promise quality. At least, over the next four days, I would be able to get a message to Brissie and make arrangements with friend Louiselle for our visit. He took the Officer’s Hard Drive to check the contents for any potentially soul-damaging content. It was a slightly fraught feeling as I realised I was the only female onboard. The Captain announced he had to delete some things (don’t tell me!) but left the Victoria’s Secret Show … ah … multumesc … Must keep up propriety. There was a good range of films to see. Later.