Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Sea Voyage Begins [clickable pix included]

Today is the day I am leaving for my ocean voyage. It is off to a little hickupy start. First off, I discovered that there had been a short in the plug of the computer, or it wasn’t plugged in properly or something, because the lights were not on for the computer or the plug itself, and the battery was almost fully discharged. Second, I had to pack a white shirt and two neckties due to L**’s urging, on top of S**’s. ‘Pack the shirt the way you think the laundry would do it’.

The digital numbers on the bose radio are going off and on, making it impossible to read the time or alarm. And the MSN web tv is unavailable periodically, so I have been unable to check Long Beach weather, or the distance there. Currently the puter is charging but 61% battery is not going to last the length of this day. Glad this stuff all didn’t happen upon my return. And the coffee looks funny but tastes ok. Got emails from p** and M**. And the format on the computer here is funny.

Looking ahead, I think my biggest concerns now are missing the flight because of a foul-up of some kind and whatever hassle is involved in getting my suitcases to the ship and to the cabin. Have done what I can to take important stuff with me so that if stuff gets lost or pilfered I won’t be helpless. Long Beach identifier is KLGB. The distance from JFK is 2136 NM. Temp in Celsius is 20 and dew point 17. I decided to throw in the instruction book for the new handheld scanner and see if I can work out how to use it in a half month.

Hurricane Javier is headed toward Baja. Charge is now up to 61%. The alarm is set for 0400 and will be going off shortly, but I woke at -0300 and decided it was useless to toss and turn, so I made the coffee and turned OFF the dehumidifier. It is currently clear in Long Beach and 68 degrees with a lite NW wind. Javier may impact our route. // checked and the puter is now up to 90% battery capacity…much better. The shore excursions for Aruba include horseback riding and tank diving, but also show a submarine ride, which I caught a quick [two second] glimpse of as I left Aruba last time, on my way to Caracas, and would like to do that. It is gonna snow in Colorado. Gonna have some toast and jam and put the little remaining bread in the freezer. Checked last websites for awhile if it costs 75 cents a minute to surf aboard. Think I will call limo service at 0500 just to be double sure.

// 0445 had some toast and jelly and dumped the dehum and left it turned off - doh. The puter is back up to 97% charge. . One of these times when I am looking at old diary, gotta figure out how many times I have crossed the country, including ocean to ocean. It’s a lot, as I prepare to put the puter into a case and connect the phone. Just 0500.

Dateline jfk airport, jet blue terminal, gate 17.

so far, fairly routine trip. The limo had the usual trouble finding me, but I was the only passenger and I was at the airport way early. The limo was pitch black inside and stank of gas. He was a very jerky driver and I almost actually fell twice as I sat in the third row (2 suitcases in row 2) and the seat wasn’t as long as I thought. There was almost no traffic at all, and he took sunrise to robt moses and didn’t hit his brakes till he was a quarter mile from jfk. I tipped him *** bucks. We argued before leaving over whether the fare was $45 or $49 and I won. He wanted me to pre pay the return and I refused, as I didn’t want to strip half my cash before getting out of the driveway.

There was nobody in line at jet blue and I checked in quickly and without hassle. When I got up to the security line I realized I had left my water bottle at the checkin counter 25 and went back to get it. Security was the longest delay to date, with four lines but over a hundred people waiting. It was very slow and the computer had to come out of its case and go thru on its own. They checked my other bag for residue and put d**’s camera thru twice.

When I got to the waiting area I sat where I could see the tail number of our bird when she came in, and got it. I asked another passenger to watch my bag while I tapped a kidney and topped off the water bottle. We have an hour to go before departure, but I am calm and relaxed and everything so far is under control.
My seat was 4F for Jet Blue flite 221 nonstop from JFK to Long Beach, Calif.
Captain was E— and FO was R---. Totally full flight. I had a young couple sitting beside me who held hands and absolutely STARED at a golf game the entire trip…transfixed. We hit clouds immediately on takeoff, and were in the soup till Gary, Indiana, when suddenly I saw and pointed out first lake Michigan and then an absolutely thrilling view of Chicago with both remaining airports and the sears tower clear thru my binocs. Although the moving map display is crude and totally inappropriate for aviation use, I did the best I could to keep track of our progress across the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and Iowa and Nebraska.

------------Chicago and Lake Michigan

To my surprise, I caught sight of Longmont Airport and the diagonal road, following it up to the school which is located just about where B Drive is and couldn’t wait to tell S**, although she did not pick up after four rings, (or $1.10 in minutes). I also rang L** four rings for another 2 units. I also got great views of Las Vegas and so much of the countryside – shots of Interstate 70 running thru the wilderness of Utah etc.

IN short the flight was a great one, with sensational views, Saw several eastbound jets but not in time to take pix of them.. I ate blue potato chips and a bit of the snacks that I had with me, and half finished my bottle of water. I was as excited at seeing the mountains etc as the first time I saw them, and didn’t bother my seat-mates a third time. Almost sure I saw the same Cedar City, Utah motel where I stayed two nights, including coming over the mountain with the elk in the roadway after about an 800 mile day and they had power out.

Sign on the tv: “Without you, we’d just be flying a bunch of TV’s around”

At destination, we hit some clouds and the approach had to have been ifr. I used the bathroom and filled my water bottle before going to baggage claim which was OUTDOORS, and HOT. I was wearing the blazer and a cashmere there was nobody there from the cruise lines, and a taxi cost twenty two bucks to get to the ship. I balked and tried to find a shuttle van that would do it cheaper, and just wasted time because I got my suitcases fairly quickly but there was a lot to handle and it was hot and I had been up since 0300. On the plus side however, my bags came off the belt fairly promptly and I was somewhat mobile without a cart or porter. Carts were for rent, didn’t see any porters.

Finally I decided on a taxi and they helped me with the four bags and took me along the interstate to the pier with the dozens of cranes, past long flatcars loaded with containers, many of them coming in on Chinese ships, which reminded me of New Orleans and the grain going to Russia on eastern bloc countries when j** and I were there in 76. Or the steel mills in Bethlehem with the acres of empty parking lots.
He let me off in a parking lot ($25) and I walked toward the ship past dozens of guys standing around with vests saying ‘security’. They were apparently porters and they ignored me, and as a result, plus my own innate cheapness, I ended up on a line with two thousand other people in the broiling sun and I was the only person who had ALL my stuff with me. The rest had just carry on stuff. There was a group of 47 pushy Asians behind me and young couple in front of me smoking – tattooed truck driver appreciaters. And that is when D**;s camera decided to act up as well.

Many of the people are a good deal older than I, and they didn’t appreciate the hour or more standing in line any more than I did. It was also at this time that d**’s camera decided to stop working and give me a yes/no screen which none of the buttons had any effect on,. The only way I was able to resume was to take out and re insert the memory card.

When we got inside, it got worse, as it appeared that my big suitcase would not go thru their security screening. We were all forced to go thru airline style security screening, with scanners and baggage exrays. When I got up there, between the computer, green knapsack, H’s bag and my two suitcases, kangaroo pack, I had about six separate items on the belt. Guy told me to take the big suitcase back outside, and I said , look – I’m **** years old and have been traveling for 14 hours, and he lifted the metal gate and put the bags thru.

I then managed to lose first my tickets and then the passport. I was really low. I kept going thru the kangaroo pouch, the green knapsack, zipper pockets on the leather bag etc, but I had put my suitcase down on top of them. [Note-I have some good pix of this stage, but do not want to post any photos of people with identifiable faces on the internet!]

Next stop was a huge long counter and I was behind a very jovial and chipper employee dealing with a pair of Asians who understood not a word. It must have taken ten or more minutes. Finally I jumped to the line beside me and a nice lady filled out a credit card receipt for onboard purchases and some info about my return flight, and I then dragged all the suitcases to a shot taken by a camera, and then an on-board ID card (which I was subsequently to find was for late seating)then a room key (don’t lose it –ha) and then, after what seemed like hours of stress, heat, sore back, sore neck etc, I struggled across the gangplank and onto the Ecstasy.

As everyone else had had their stuff taken to the cabins, I got to crowd onto a tiny elevator with one young girl pushing a wheelchair with my collection of junk, down to the Riviera deck which is the bottom one except for crew. As I knew, my cabin is all the way forward, starboard, and the final last straw when I got to the front door is that I couldn’t work the key! Finally I got it sorted and came inside and was quite pleased to find a PAIR of portholes above the waterline of my very own. The room has a tv and two beds and basically resembles a room at a holiday inn somewhere.

Minutes after I arrived, an announcement said to hurry up and book your shore tours on the Empress Deck, when I got there, surprise, there was a long chaotic line but a dynamite looking British chick blond and very overworked. I asked for the cliff divers, the jungle walk and the submarine in Aruba. And got all three although I didn’t know this until much later.

Met L** B** in the only sunny spot on the deck with a chair, and we noted that even tied up (by the Queen Mary) the ship was doing a slow roll if you looked across the rail to a shore point. Then I found out I am scheduled for late meal, and surprise, yet another line to see the maitre D and the line was not moving, as it turned out a bunch of people all wanted to be seated together.

However, in the manner of the time when I swapped a aisle seat for a window seat while waiting to fly from Calgary to Denver, I found myself behind a pair of people who wanted to switch from early to late, and so one other man and myself sort of followed them up to talk to the maitre d when the line finally moved, and I was assigned early seating for meals, and that is a good thing.

I had happily settled onto a place topside where I could watch the hawsers cast off and the gangplank pulled back, talking to the Ok truck driver on his second honeymoon when the announcement of the lifeboat drill was made. So instead of watching the pelicans, I had to go back to the cabin, a ten minute trip, get my lifejacket and go to a huge theatre with hundreds of other upset and bewildered people.

We sat there till we were mustered to a station which has life rafts only. I was, however, glad to see that we had not cast off, and in fact my muster location was almost exactly where I had positioned myself before I (very wisely) decided to conform with the request to play lifeboat drill. The power boats are for the rich people topside. Got some pretty shots of the Queen Mary, a relic from my childhood but still magnificent in the manner of the old steam engines and constellations. Heard her blow her horn and it was splendid.

It is now 1730 eastern daylight time, and I am in my stateroom, room R11 on the Riviera deck with two portholes which are above water when the ship isn’t rolling to starboard. It has been 14 and a half hours since I woke and I am whipped, but content. We sail in an hour and a half, and I plan on going topside on the front deck to watch. I am pleased to see old dell is working so well after thumping around on my leg all day. Didn’t use it in the plane or much in the airport, but I have just dumped a few pix taken around the ship into the puter and they are fine. The air trip was basically perfect and the transition from getting my suitcases to getting to the door of my cabin was a bloody nightmare.

We steamed slowly out of the harbor about an hour late, accompanied by a tiny coast guard boat that reminded me of nothing more than a yapping dog, but I find myself wondering whether it is now a requirement, or whether there was a specific threat to our ship or whatever.

Notes say that there were perfectly gorgeous clouds over Catalina Island (another place that I have often fancied visiting) and I have four or five really nice pictures to prove it. While we were still relatively close to land, I tried calling S** and L*** but hung up after three rings apiece and a total cost of about two and a half bucks. My notes say I sat by the porthole and walked topside, and played five hands of blackjack.


Anonymous said...

Noone cares.

Anonymous said...

So it would seem. Lots of work for very little in the way of strokes.

Still, I hate to quit in the middle, or even real close to the beginning.

So, it would behoove me to enjoy it as much as I can in the preparation. The next 2500 word entry begins by saying that nothing happens.

Fijufic said...

Certainly I care. Reading to digest does take me one slow pass or two regular passes.

blogger is not as efficient as any other blogging method. I have not found a suitable substitute...