Saturday, January 15, 2022

Moths to a Flame - Part 6, Oh Dark Thirty

It was “oh dark thirty” when I slowly focused on the dim display of the bedside alarm clock. I’m pretty sure the large numbers said 4:40, or something pretty close to it. “Oh dark thirty” was the Air Force way of saying very, very early in the morning. Many civilians don’t know the military says “Oh” in place of the technically correct numeric “zero” when saying twenty-four hour time in spoken English. Trust me, I can make this worse. You’d have to understand that both words zero or “Oh” are redundant. There is only one four-thirty in military time and that comes way too early for most of us. Four-thirty in the afternoon for normal people would be sixteen-thirty in military time. No excuse for somebody to miss a war just because they were sleeping in. But everybody in the military says “oh four thirty” as if they have to define the missing digit. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be funny to ridicule military time.

I finally found my glasses and confirmed it was far earlier than I expected. It was not pitch black outside despite being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I knew we were three days from the next full moon but that didn’t seem to be source of the odd, dim light. I pulled the curtains back slightly to see outside. Opening the balcony door was out of the question. The ship was balking at leaving its comfortable berth in Nassau and heading into a twenty-nine knot head-wind over twelve hours ago. We turned south after clearing the Northeast Providence Channel and were now in nine-foot seas. Moderate seas, as I hear the Captain say later. We are one hundred twenty miles due east of Port Nelson, Bahamas as we head toward San Juan at nineteen knots, about twenty-two miles per hour. The wind across the deck was a brisk forty-eight knots, about fifty-five mph. The low white light was from the ship’s lights illuminating the periodic, wind-swept ocean spray that seemed to encapsulate the ship. No wonder we were occasionally shuddering and shaking. It didn’t matter, Ilse was sound asleep as were most of the passengers on the ship.

A small, odd, faint glimmer of light caught my eye on the dark balcony sliding glass door. The dim light appeared to be on the horizon. But then it was gone. I tried to find it it and once again it appeared, and just as abruptly disappeared. Was that a ship? By then I was wide awake staring blankly into the darkness when I realized the pinpoint of light was on the glass, not on the horizon. The light was coming from the hallway through the peep-hole in the cabin door behind me. No phantom ships in the Bermuda Triangle to write about after all.

Sleep was out of the question, so I quietly dressed, picked up my camera and slipped out of the room. I had the ship completely to myself. I’m usually wide awake well before daybreak every single day we’re onboard. This day at sea is no different. I watched our early morning arrival in Nassau the day before, chatting with the only two other people on deck as we watched the beautiful sunrise as we pulled into port. They were both walkers, using the walking path through the chaise lounges on the pool deck before the sunbathers even woke up.

The only people on deck are the same two dedicated walkers I met yesterday, but today we are at sea. They press on, both wearing windbreakers and not stopping to chat for long. I had a reminder from the ship’s app to move my time ahead one hour as we had crossed into the Atlantic Time Zone but I didn’t bother. If my cell phone self adjusts, great, if not I’ll just add an hour… maybe. I haven’t worn a wrist watch since I retired.

I stood on the top deck as the wind began to subside and the white caps began to to diminish. Once again, I get to see my favorite part of cruising, the phenomenal, deep blue of the open ocean. The shuddering subsided as the ocean smoothed out. It doesn’t take mother nature much to remind us we are just small humans on her big, powerful planet. Even though the ship weighs more than ninety thousand tons and pushes over twenty-one million gallons of sea water aside just to float, Planet Earth still taps us on the shoulder every once in a while to let us know we are here at her pleasure.

Ilse and I sat in the room and talked about our plans and promptly forgot about the time change. When we went to the dining room for breakfast, of course we were late. It was quarter after nine not quarter after eight, and the tables were being reset for the next meal. Besides, they were having a tour of the kitchen later. When we realized our mistake, we got up and apologized, told them we were going up top to eat at the open buffet, but Maitre ‘d and our staff would would not hear any part of it. To say the service on the Millennium is outstanding would be an understatement. We were re-seated and served a marvelous breakfast as if nothing happened. We decided not to miss the kitchen tour.

We spent the rest of the day after the tour just exploring shops and facilities, and of course back on deck where for the first time ever, we looked down on a rainbow. 

By four in the after noon, the wind was down to around forty knots but the shuddering snuck up on us occasionally.

After another great meal, we worked our way slowly to the theater for the evening show, stopping at several lounges and getting to listen to our friends Daniela and Seba once again. 

It is eleven thirty when we head back to the room after meeting new people who dance socially distanced from each other. The huge beautiful skylight lounge had a five piece band and exactly seven patrons.

We are two hundred and fifty miles from Puerto Rico.

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