Aboard Ship and Off to Sea

image1-41About to have a Sushi lunch, enjoying the view out our floor-to-ceiling windows giving out on to the Promenade Deck. We can see people, crew, passengers, going by, but they can’t see us. We can even go out directly to the Promenade Deck.

Once at sea, a storm passed and it looks like a pretty day. The gala night last night was fun. Will write more later.

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Arrived Safely in Ft. Lauderdale

The first leg of the journey is complete. We are staying in the Ramada Inn in Ft. Lauderdale, all surrounded by freeways. Windy and cool here. We are all set to board Rotterdam tomorrow. In the gift shop I found a small bag to carry my wallet and passport and things so I don’t have to carry my whole big purse. Today we are going on the sightseeing boat tour where you can get on and off at various places around Ft. Lauderdale.

Our taxi driver this afternoon was named Lodrer (pron. loh-DRAIR), and when I found he didn’t understand really anything we said, I tried French, and sure enough, we launched into a rapid conversation. He was probably 65, from ‘ah-ee-TEE,” and took us not only to Target but back via another way and safely home to our Ramada nest. I’m so glad we scheduled in this day of rest between train and ship! The floor rises still beneath our feet, the way it does when you’re just off a small boat.

On the last leg of the train trip from Portland we were passing through piney, sandy woodlands and I realized we were parallel to New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where Tom was conceived. It was when Gramps and Minie (his parents) were starting a school down here, and his brother Bill was a baby.

img_0741-1The train from Washington, D.C., was very wobbly, throwing you around a lot because of bad roadbed, and had to sound its horn almost steadily: looooooong, loooooooong, short, loooooong. It didn’t make for very peaceful sleep, but we didn’t wake up for good until we’d been in bed for 10 hours. We had a good breakfast in the cafe car right next to ours.

The morning before arriving in Washington, we woke in Southern Pennsylvania and those lovely woods had lots of yellow in them. Then into the amazing terrain of West Virginia. In the train station was saw Amish families, and Tom took a nap.

We had come through Chicago and the high route through Montana.

In the Chicago train station we saw Amish families. The children were leery of getting mowed down by the cart that was carrying us and our carry-on luggage. Even the tiniest girls wear the dark bonnets, all of that same design. Every time we’ve come through here, there’ve been groups of Shakers and Amish, different bonnets, different styles of clothing. One group was even singing acapella.

image2-16As for these two guys, one of whom is named John, they actually own this restored private car. They caused it to be hitched on right behind our car which had been the last.

All that happened in the dark near St. Paul, about 5:30 a.m. I later talked to them and find they’re heading to North Carolina to do some job or other. Perhaps buy another railroad?!

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And Off We Go!

departureThere comes a point before a trip when I feel scared that nothing is going to work. I wake in the night and riffle through possible catastrophes, (that’s a wonderful word in French….”cat-a-STROFF!”): we will forget something crucial, the reservations I’ve made will prove to be for the wrong day.

Actually once, we were coming home from seeing Hester and Len in New Zealand the year they lived there, and had not taken into account the date line. So we had a whole day, unexpected, on Oahu, and had a lovely time. We rented a car, drove out Kaneohe direction, found a motel, and even visited the place where canoe racers took off from.

Now we are under way! We boarded the train here in Portland Saturday afternoon. We will miss family, but we count on seeing them again in December. From here, we go to Chicago, then Washington, D.C., and then Ft. Lauderdale, from whence we sail Oct. 28 on Holland America’s MS Rotterdam for six weeks. Ports of Call include Athens, Corfu, Olympia, Livorno, Barcelona, Alicante, Cadiz, Palermo, Malaga, Casablanca and Gibraltar, not necessarily in that order. We sail back to Florida, arriving Dec. 9 and board the train back to Portland.

You can reach us by email at tomjoanbuell@gmail.com.

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Ships Passing – Memories of Last Fall’s South Seas Trip on the Eve of This Fall’s Atlantic Adventure

This post surfaced on the iPad like a fond memory from last fall’s South Seas cruise. Since it did not get posted at the time due to spotty internet connections, and since we are about to embark on another journey in the opposite direction that will also have long days at sea, it seems appropriate to post it now.  Details of the upcoming trip are at the bottom.

image-1Day after day at sea, we feel the Pacific take on an enormity and a stature beyond our imaginings. The explorations of Polynesians, the settlements In new places, the voyages of Magellan, Furneau, Cook, all of which we’ve been learning more about in really good lectures in the mornings, seem even more impossible.

We crossed the Equator yesterday, watching the navigational screen go to 00.00.00 and then start back up again to 00.00.01. What took us over the dateline the day before was our stretch westward to Fanning Island, an atoll that is visited seldom and almost never by any one other than Holland America ships and quarterly supply ships. The stays ashore were brief, and the tenders took a long time to load and unload merely because the swell, even on that windless sunny day, was large enough to make the transfer of passengers very tricky

The tide rip in the entrance was fierce. We didn’t go ashore, partly remembering the uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic, feeling we’ve had in places like the San Blas Islands, being part of a herd of giants debarking briefly to stare and then leave, wondering if we might actually sink that delicate place by our sheer weight and density. We listen to reports instead, and imagine the place. Mel Foster, one of the guest speakers we’ve gotten to know, described walking away just a short distance from a group along a path by the beach, stopping, and watching the sand crabs emerge from their holes, inquisitive, defensive.

unnamed-33We’ve done some painting every day at sea. There’s a studio on the top deck in the stern which is open a couple of hours every “sea day.” The couple that runs a watercolor class there encourages you to do what you want, offers some instruction. These pieces we did a few days ago. Tom’s is the dragon. My rooster was done thinking of our dear Roo, given to us long ago by Aunt Esther Strong. He used to come in and roost occasionally on Tom’s desk chair. He met a sad end, we always supposed killed by a wandering dog. Tom used the tail-feathers we found as part of the wand he made himself when he played Prospero.

We posted these on the door of our cabin, partly to help us know where we are when we’re going between decks: Tom’s dragon, my Roo. You can see them from the elevators and the stairs. Several people have said they’ve grown very fond of the creatures and, like us, use them for directional signals.

I draw regularly in my journal, sometimes from a photo I’ve taken, in case the person moves or leaves which they usually do right in the middle of a drawing.unnamed

This person was curled up reading on a couch in the library.

THE NEXT CHAPTER – We depart Portland by train on Oct. 24, 2016 to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. From there we sail Oct. 28 on Holland America Line’s MS Rotterdam for 42 days. Ports of Call include Athens, Corfu, Olympia, Livorno, Barcelona, Alicante, Cadiz, Palermo, Malaga, Casablanca and Gibraltar, not necessarily in that order (see map below). We sail back to Florida by Dec. 9 and board the train back to Portland.