Saturday, August 29, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 36 - Homecoming

Keith is up at 4am, anxious to see our night approach to Boston, worried about visibility in a light rain.

Topsides at 4:30, coffee in hand. Didn't see anybody in the lounge, but a voice called out when I turned out the lights, saying it made it difficult to read. Rude Keith told him that there are numerous other lighted spaces to read by a window, but only one observation lounge. He apparently didn't know where to turn the lights back on, nor to engage in fisticuffs, so bad Keith prevailed.

Other early risers soon arrived, and we spent a glorious hour watching the lighted shoreline approach from the darkened Crow's Nest, whilst Mr. Grump continued to make nasty comments. Keith went out in the rain to take a few pictures, but they didn't turn out real well, as I am sure you can see.

Our Approach to Boston Harbor


Boston By The Dawn’s Early Light i.e.,

The New England Power Grid

Keith descended at 6, when we were firmly tied to the dock, to bring Kathy Coffee and to do the final packing. Up for breakfast at 7am. We have scheduled a 9:30 departure, to give Jennifer time for a decent sleep before arising to drive into Boston to pick us up. We hope we don't get tangled up in traffic from the Kennedy funeral. Our only remaining obligations before debarking are to finish breakfast, to go through shipboard customs, to collect all of our carry-on luggage from the stateroom, to cross the gangplank to the terminal, to find our checked luggage in a large pile, to exit the terminal building with carry-on and checked luggage in hand, and to find our Kindly driver, and Turo. Sounds simple, don't it?


A Leisurely Last Breakfast


The Perpetual Blogger Makes One Last Entry

at 7:30am, Eating and Waiting.

8:am announcement: "Please do not congregate in the stairways or around the gangway. It is creating a safety issue."

8:15am, and they are out of Danish. Outrageous!

10am, through customs and ashore, waiting for our Turo.


Walking the Gangplank, Exiting the Ship


Home At Last

10:15, in the car with all our luggage, glad to see our kids. Jennifer asked if we were glad to be on dry land. The answer is no, but we are glad to see her and Turo. In the best of all possible worlds, she and Turo, and the rest of the family, should re board for another 35 days on the high seas.

It would be nice to say that we are on the way home to relax for a few days, but family obligations intervene, so we are on our way to to Nancy's house for a family get together. Tomorrow we relax, and start editing out journals. Unless something comes up, that is...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 35 - At Sea, Bound for Boston

Up late, at 7:30 (6:30 after setting the clock back. Continuing to steam for Boston at 14 knots. Skies overcast (a for-runner of hurricane Dennis, or just local weather?), wind somewhere at 8 knots. Calm sea, the kind we prayed for on summer weekends in southern New England.

I didn't catch our geologist speaker's pitch a few days ago on Inuit culture, so I watched a bit of it on channel 29 before going up for first breakfast.

8am, relaxing in the Lido over a cup of coffee, while reviewing our shipboard account. Prior to embarkation each passenger must register a valid credit card. The cruise company immediately places a $1000 hold on this card, to cover anticipated shipboard charges.

It's hard to believe how we could accumulate over $1100 in charges, just sitting watching the world spin by. Most of it ($770) is the $22 per day daily gratuity for the help. Why this is levied as a separate charge, instead of being built into the overhead, is a mystery to me. Tradition, I guess. Most of the rest is Kathy's daily drink, plus a few miscellaneous charges such as SD cards and Internet service.

It's a constant battle to keep from charging stuff to the room. They make is so easy! The most egregious example is the opportunity to charge as much as $1000 per day in the casino. I haven't investigated their policy, but it is my guess that they check your registered credit card limit at embarkation, and cut your gambling off at that limit. I must report that Kathy has been scrupulously careful about this booby trap. It's not easy for her, because she loves to gamble so much.

8:30 and the southern tip of Nova Scotia is in view on the far horizon.

1pm. Our morning was filled with fun activities like a disembarkation lecture, and a session on backing up and sorting photos.


Room Boys Displaying Towel Creatures


Deck Crew Wishing Us a Fond Farewell


Proper Way To Fold A Napkin

(What Everyone Needs To Know) NOT!

Wind is variable at 3 knots, seas placid. This is the calmest I have seen on this trip. The skies have cleared for a bit, so Keith ran out and took a photo.


“Blue Skies, Nothing But Blue Skies, Do I See”

Lunch was a mixed theme buffet by the pool, featuring carved lamb accompanied by a diversity of ethnic dishes. All topped off with an excellent blackberry - blueberry crumble, a la mode.

The kitchen staff also displayed their creative and artistic talents with food.


Eiffel Tower Crafted With White Chocolate


Bread Artist Displays His Masterpiece


Bread Animals


Fruit Artists Display Their Skills


This Watermelon Looks Just Too Good To Eat

Our captain was just on to announce that Denny has spluttered out, and is no longer a hurricane. Our next question is, will we be able to get home before it rains.

This afternoon promises to be the most fun we have had so far. It's time to pack. Our luggage must be outside the cabin by 1am tonight. Not wishing to stay up that late, we shall pack this afternoon, except for the carry-ons.

4pm, all packed, and in the Crow’s Nest for Kathy's daily double. Except it won't be a double today, since we are not in port. Must run. Kathy is expecting me to play cards and chitchat with her, and she is worth the effort.

7pm, our last supper aboard is done, and Keith is showered & in bed. Kathy is in the library puzzling, and e-mailing. We are meeting the pilot boat at 4:30am tomorrow morning. Keith hopes to be in the Crow's Nest for the sail-in. I hope it's not raining. The weather here, 130 miles east of Boston, is starting to cloud over and look threatening. Wind is still light at 8, so the ride continues smooth.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 34 At Sea, Bypassing St. Pierre, bound for Boston

Awake briefly at 2am. The boat is moving about a bit. Channel 40 says the wind is blowing out of the south at 40 (again), on our port beam. We are proceeding west ar 14 knots. I thought we were through with this nonsense!

5:30am, showered and waiting Danish at 6. I am anxious to watch our approach to St. Pierre.


In the Lido Awaiting 6am Donuts

6:01am, in the Crow's Nest, alone. It's pitch black outside. The GPS says sunrise is 6:58am. The interior lights are dimmed, but there is enough artificial light to completely destroy night vision. Oh well, daylight can't be that far off.

We are still almost two hours from port, and there is a good book to listen to. I am currently listening to a series of Teaching Company lectures, on the history (not the content) of Darwinian theory.

Surprise! Kathy is awake and has joined me for the arrival in the Crow’s Nest.


Our morning advisory group is sitting in the Crow's Nest watching our supposed approach on the GPS, when it became obvious that we were sailing away from, not toward St. Pierre. David is the first to make note of this.

At 8am, our intrepid captain came on the PA to announce a strikeout. First strike, dense fog. Second strike, a broken down pilot boat and no pilot. Third strike, a combination of 40 knot breeze and substandard dockage which is judged inadequate to securely hold this vessel in this breeze.

We Bypass St.Pierre Harbor in the Fog

Since there is no port and few scheduled activities today (it was supposed to be a port day), we thought this would be a good point to include some shots of our room.


Our Boudoir, With Excellent Mattress


Foggy Day View From Our Cabin Window


Sitting Area, Where We Dump All our Stuff


Desk and TV Monitor Where Cable Appeared Sporadically

Ship Navigation Information Was on Channel 40, 24/7


Keith Takes His Own Photograph in The Necessary Room


Deeply Set Bathing Facilities

Are Challenging for Us Shorties


Commodious Closet Space, Sufficient For All the Clothes Kathy Brought

We currently are on a course for Boston, hi-tailing it at 20+ mph. We are trying to beat Hurricane Denny to port.

Room TV Monitor Shows Ship Position and Course

11am, still boosting 20+ knots, straight for Boston. We were informed earlier about hurricane Denny, lurking off the US east coast, and threatening to move north. I believe our intrepid captain may be trying to make port early, Friday night instead of Saturday morning, to avoid a schedule delay. I'm told that one thing HAL doesn’t mess with, schedule-wise, is turnaround day. Fine by me, as long as we don't get kicked off early. Kathy is disappointed. She was looking forward to getting off in France.

4:45pm in the Crow's Nest, looking for Nova Scotia on the starboard. Beautiful sunny day. Wind is down to 25, on the port beam, but we now are sheltered in the lee of Cape Breton Island, so we have a smooth ride. Two downsized drinks for the price of one full size drink.


Kathy in the Crow’s Nest For the Last Hurrah


Choppy Seas Homeward Bound

The captain announced we will be docking in Boston at 4am Saturday, just a tad early. The approach in the dark should be spectacular. It will seem plus strange to awake to corn flakes Sunday morning.

Formal dinner 5:30 to 7:30. Escargo was on the menu, as well as baked Alaska. Kathy wanted both. I believe she secretly wanted to dress up one more time. Curmudgeon Keith has warned her that he will be leaving the blazer ashore for our next cruise.


The Presentation of the Baked Alaska


Farewell From Our Chef

Who Apologized For an Ageing Vessel

Keith to bed at 8. Kathy out partying to 10.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 33 - St. John's, Newfoundland

Up at 5, crusing south at 17 knots (just about as fast as this tub will go), wind W at about 10, seas calm. Beautiful ride.

Shave, brush teeth, and dress, then stall around in the room 'till 6, when danish are served in the Lido. Up to the Crow's Nest at 6:01am, coffee and danish in hand. Just a glimmer of light on the eastern horizon to port, town lights in view ashore to starboard. Keith just loves this time of day!

Overnight Passage From St. Anthony to St. Johns

Map of St. John's Harbor


Sunrise Approaching St. John’s

We were an hour late departing St. Anthony yesterday, because of late tours. We hi-tailed it all night and didn’t slow down until about a mile off the entrance to the St. John's harbor, where we picked up the pilot boat, a bit past 7am, when we were supposed to be tied up in port.


Approaching St. John’s Harbor

Note Signal Hill Tower on Right


Close Up of Signal Hill Tower

Shot Over the Stern


View of St. John’s Harbor Channel

Photographed by K&K From Signal Hill in 2006


St. John’s Harbor, Photographed by K&K From Signal Hill in 2006


Proceeding Through The Narrows Into St. Johns Harbor

The entrance to the St. John's harbor is very impressive. It is a narrow opening in the hills, which debauches into a small but commodious harbor surround by the hills.

The town marches up the hill on the northwest side of the harbor. The architecture spans about three centuries, ranging from simple colonial homes, to late 18th century Victorian grandeur, to modern glass and steel.


Example of Colonial Architectures


Gingerbread Victorian Homes


Modern St. John Skyscraper

About a block or two from the harbor are two imposing granite churches.


St. John’s Abounds With Churches


Another Beautiful St. John’s Church


A Mix of Religious and Secular Buildings

Up the hill another block is a modern looking building (another church?) and two more granite buildings. One is a twin-tower church. The other looks like a 19th century municipal building.

Keith went down to breakfast about 7:30 to wait for Kathy, who showed up about 8:30. This gave Keith time to go out on the aft deck and take a few pictures before the sun disappeared.

Keith lingered over breakfast and the NYT crossword 'til 10:30.


N.Y. Times Puzzle Expert

Kathy went ashore briefly, seeking retail therapy, after which we met in the puzzle room. Kathy did what one does in puzzle rooms.


“The Puzzler”

Keith listened to the last chapters of the seventh Harry Potter book. He has read it previously, but he enjoyed s listening to good stories more than once.

There was excellent "crab" salad on the salad bar today. Crab is in quotes because it really should have been labeled seafood salad, but there was crab in it, and it was good enough that Keith had two helpings. Keith also had a large serving of blue cheese, a cup of lentil soup, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with crème de menthe sauce.

Some of the soups are very good, and some not so good. This was in between; a good flavor, but there was no broth. I'm guessing there was another pot with all broth and no beans, poured off the top of the mother pot. The soups that aren't so good are the "cream of ---" soups, which are thickened with too much corn starch. Just like the soups served in the company cafeteria twenty years ago.

We both had long naps after lunch, and are now in the Crow's Nest at 4:30, watching sail away. The exit from the St. John's harbor is every bit as impressive as the entrance, except for the conspicuous absence of sunshine. But then, this is still the North Atlantic.

As we exit the narrows we turn north slightly, then cruise east until we are clear of Cape Spear, after which we turn right and head south toward our next port.


Approaching the Narrows From the Harbor

We Must Squeeze This Giant Tub Between

The Lighthouse and the Green Buoy


We Graze By the Green Buoy


Then We Graze by the Rocks Exiting the Narrows

This Captain is a Truly Good Boat Handler

Cape Speare is advertised as the most easterly point in North America. We fondly recall visiting this and many other sites in St. John's three years ago with WIT.


Cape Spear Visitors Keith & Kathy, Photographed On Our 2006 Visit to the Area

The Sign Proclaims This to be the Most Easterly Point in North America


We Sail By Cape Spear in the Maasdam

It's about 5:30 and we are steering south at 15 mph in a light breeze, with what appears to be about a 10 foot swell on the stern. We are riding very comfortably, with very little pitching.

This would be a good point for me to apologize for mixing units in these blogs. Being lazier than the average bear, Keith reports whatever is to hand. In Europe, where the tour guides talk SI, Keith reports in SI. When reporting from the channel 40 navigation channel, where speeds are reported in knots, I report knots. When reading from my GPS, which I have set to statute miles, I report mph. I could reset the GPS to read nautical miles, but I am too lazy. If this bothers you, read somebody else's blog.

Excellent dinner at 6:30; prime rib (Kathy) and tuna (Keith). An excellent seafood soup, and apple thingy (Kathy) and chocolate eclaire a la mode (Keith). After lingering awhile over tea, Kathy puzzled 'till 8, when she went to the show. Keith kept her company 'till 8, then to bed.

We currently are cruising comfortably at 15 knots. Wind 20 on the nose. Outside air temperature a balmy 55 deg. This southern air has a much balmier feel than the cold, biting wind further north. I sincerely hope we do not feel any more 65 knot winds before we disembark in Boston Saturday.

More tomorrow, when we visit St. Pierre, the only remaining French possession in North America.