cruise ships

Back from the Bermuda Triangle

Mark Twain once called Bermuda his favorite place to visit. Here’s a view of the ocean en route there.

 

Earlier this month, I returned safely from my son’s honeymoon cruise to Bermuda and the Devil’s Triangle, but it felt a little strange for more reasons than one.

First of all, I never embarked on a cruise ship before without visiting the Caribbean. Because my soul is so attracted to those islands, I suspect my ancestors are from there, but I wouldn’t dream of taking one of those DNA tests to find out.

I always believed it’s more important to focus on where you’re heading in life and less on where your ancestors have been. Do you really want to head back to the Stone Age or the Middle Ages?

Bermuda is a very nice place. Mark Twain once said of all the places he traveled to on earth, it was his favorite destination. And he visited hundreds of locales on world tours so he would know. As I said, Bermuda is nice, but for Twain to be so impressed, I think he must have visited a different part from where I landed.

The Carnival ship, Sunshine, took us to King’s Wharf. Once we disembarked, we were greeted by two tugs. Faithful and Powerful. I have to confess, as a photographer, I’m a sucker for boats and ships. If it floats, I want to photograph it. That includes everything from the lowly tugs docked in King’s Wharf harbor to the United States Coast Guard’s training vessel, Eagle, which I was once privileged to photograph when docked in Key West.

I was so enamored by the two tugs tied up not far from our haughty ship that I got lost in the moment capturing them on film. Well, it’s not really a film camera. I just don’t want to be negative.

Fortunately, my two grandchildren, James and Brian, who are closer to men than children, came to fetch me, and we followed the road to the beach where everyone else on ship was already scrambling like lemmings.

James (left) and Brian (right) pause after rescuing their grandfather from some buccaneers in Bermuda.

Let me tell you about this road from the cruise ship to the sea. They have these green feet painted on the sidewalks, and even if you never look up, you can still arrive at the beach if you follow them. You’ll have more difficulty seeing the ocean once you arrive because the view is mostly blocked by beach chairs and umbrellas.

It wasn’t till I was back on ship that I realized even a drunken sailor could find his way to the beach and back though I suspect these green feet were more for tourists who were already half in the bag when they disembarked.

What little I saw of Bermuda was quite charming. Before the main beach, there’s this not-so-small side beach that butts up against the wall of an old fort. Scattered around the beach, but mostly along the wall, are miniature sailboats with sails painstakingly painted in incredible detail. Most depict nautical and tropical scenes, but one even portrays the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. I was thrilled at the discovery, but I doubt few of the hordes that descended on the beach even noticed them.

The Birth of Venus is one of several scenes artistically depicted on small sailboats in Bermuda.

One thing did surprise me about our port of call. Just beyond the reef was a treasure trove of sea glass. My son and daughter, before reboarding, had taken their share of booty and donated a generous portion to my wife. She decorates her shell wreaths with them and sells them in galleries and art shows. Anyone lucky enough to own one of her wreaths is a lucky person indeed.

Maureen’s shell wreaths are so popular, she has difficulty keeping up with the demand.

There was another strange thing I found out on the cruise. None of the dining rooms on the Sunshine open out onto a deck where sunshine abounds. All you can see is a fuzzy view of the ship’s wake through large glass panels. I felt part of a surrealistic Dali painting, looking out at the ocean much like a goldfish staring from his bowl.

This view of the ocean through a wall of glass was more than a little disappointing.

Maybe it’s a growing trend in cruise ships, but I find it disturbing to spend a ship load of money and not be able to feel the sun and breeze on my face while savoring my omelet and morning coffee with my mermaid.

The other thing I found intriguing was at the aft of the ship on deck nine. There a swimming pool occupies the center of the deck and is shouldered by a couple of bars. The puzzling thing is that high above the pool is a huge movie screen. During the day, you can watch a videotape of all kinds of tropical fish, some darting and others swimming lazily. Funny thing though. I never saw any sharks.

I still have yet to find someone who can explain to me why a sane person would spend thousands of dollars to go on a cruise then sit in front of a TV screen you can watch at home for free.

Out on the ocean, you can watch videos of fish in the sea. How bizarre is that?

It doesn’t get any better at night when they play pablum-puking movies, trying to appeal to the masses. Again, I wonder why an intelligent person would spend two hours absorbed in a movie screen when the most spectacular view on the face of the planet is on either side of the ship.

One thing I immensely enjoyed about the vessel were the two or three areas where I could enjoy a cigar while soaking in a view of the ocean. To be sure, I did take advantage of that. I was certain as I savored my Kristoff Maduro that I saw a ship flying the Jolly Roger not far off the starboard bow. And that was after only one margarita.

Before you go on a cruise, I recommend you do three things. Get in touch with my wife, the mermaid. She can find you deals that even travel agents don’t know about. In fact, she could save you so much, you’d fear Blackbeard would return from the dead to get his grubby hands on some of that money you save.

Two, check out the ship you’re thinking of calling home for several days. If you can’t eat outside, reconsider. There’s something about the ocean breeze on your body that makes your food taste twice as good.

Finally, forget about the big screen TV on the back of the ship and go to the upper deck where you can feel the sun on your face and the sea breeze in your hair. And remember to bring your own cigar if you want to blow smoke rings at passing pirate ships because you’re not getting mine.

                                                Bill Hegerich 

                                                The Uncommon Mariner 

To leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/back-from-the-bermuda-triangle/

Tragedy Fells Five Mariners on High Seas

A mariner died recently on a cruise ship when a lifeboat he was testing in a safety drill malfunctioned. According to reports, he was in the boat along with four others lifting it up and down when suddenly the cable broke and the five mariners were thrown. Two others were seriously hurt and taken to the hospital. Two escaped with minor injuries.

Never at any time were passengers onboard at risk of injury or death. The Harmony of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean, was docked in Marseilles, France when the tests were being conducted for the crew. Muster drills for passengers are usually held within an hour or two of sailing and do not involve them entering lifeboats.

All cruise lines that I know of conduct safety drills for the crew when in port while most passengers are off ship enjoying themselves. Conducting these drills are essential for the safety of everyone on board. No one wants a crew that doesn’t know exactly what their function is in an emergency.

After investigating the incident, authorities discovered two disturbing things that helped create the situation. One was a rope wire that was corrosive despite being coated with plenty of grease. While you might think a wire cable lathered in grease would be protected from salt air, it obviously was not the case. In fact, authorities determined that it covered up the problem, preventing anyone from seeing just how corroded the cable really was.

Authorities fixed another cause of the accident on the way the cable was wired. Because it was not mounted properly, repeated friction and tension caused it to prematurely wear. The lifeboat had actually been manipulated up and down several times with the mariners in it to make sure it was properly functioning. It was during this time that the cable malfunctioned. In essence, the workers in the lifeboat risked their lives for passengers who one day might have had to use that very lifeboat in an emergency situation. Continue reading →

Pirates Take Over Cruise Ship

PIR FLAG 1800 PIXL

You may find this hard to believe, but pirates have taken over a cruise ship. Legally. Yes, that’s right. It’s called The Bare Bones and the captain is a close friend of mine, Captain Billy Jacks Parrot. He asked me not to use his real name for fear the Enquirer would do a story on him and that would inevitably lead to an interview by the New York Times, and, being a pirate, he’s got a few skeletons in the closet. He’s got enough customs agents  down in the Caribbean wanting to ask him questions he’d rather not answer. Besides his ship is still in the testing phase of the concept and he doesn’t want to go full frontal just yet.

So I’m Captain Billy’s front man in a manner of speaking. I don’t know who’s covering his rear. Probably his girlfriend. Or is it the other way around?

At any rate, to simplify things, I’m just passing on the letter he sent me explaining how he’s plundering the cruise industry with pirate abandon. I haven’t changed a word except those parts that might be a bit embarrassing because Captain Billy being a sailor and all frequently forgets the line between proper and bawdy. Actually, I don’t think Captain Billy knows there is a line.

“Carnival touts itself as the Fun Cruise Ship, but pirates know a whole lot more about having fun on a ship than Carnival ever will. After all, look how long pirates have been doing it compared to these cruise lines.

            If ye ever sailed on a cruise ship, ye know their motto by heart.  “Suck as much booty out of the passengers as you can, and do it faster than ye can say Yo Ho Ho.” I seen first hand how it works, and Captain Billy Jacks Parrot and his lusty crew can do a whole lot better.

            First off, there’s the dress code. A lot of men and women bring their whole wardrobe on ship. Are you serious? Suits and gowns and tuxedos and high heels for dining in exclusive restaurants and Dress Up Night. Not on the Bare Bones. If ye show up at the Captain’s table wearing that, me and me crew will laugh ya out to the gang plank. Fer dress up night, yer cleanest dirty shirt and a new bandana is almost being overdressed. As fer dress code during the day, wear whatcha want. A bikini works fine but not too skimpy. If the Coast Guard finds out there’s a lot of crack on board, they’ll be boarding us constantly. Deep down there’s a pirate in every single one of them scalawags.

            Veteran travelers know all about those little credit cards cruise lines give ya. Some call them Sign and Sail. They work jest like a credit card and are used not so much for yer benefit as the cruise lines. The more ye swipe it, the more money they earn. Well, Captain Billy and his crew issue you a Sail and Steal card. Once on board, it’s your license to steal anything that’s not nailed down. Of course, we’ll probably steal it back from ye when yer not lookin’, but that’s the fun of being on a pirate ship.

            Next is that expensive liquor package.  History! Gone! As fast and neat as Blackbeard’s head. Fer gawd’s sake, this is a pirate ship and it shouldn’t cost ye an arm and a leg fer a little rum. Arms and legs are at a premium on a pirate ship. So smuggle as much as ye want on board. And I do mean smuggle. After all it’s not fun unless ye think yer getting away with something. Ye jest be sure to bring a little something extra fer good old Captain Billy though, ye hear?

            Ye might be wondering how this affects the bottle of wine ye bring to the galley. Cruise ships charge what they call a Corking Fee. I say bring yer own damn opener if ye want! We don’t bloody care! We’ll even open the bottle at no charge! On the Bare Bones, the Corking Fee becomes Corking Free!!!

            Some of ye may be disappointed when we tell ye no photography on board, but what self respectin’ pirate wants anyone chronicling’ his shennanigans with photos. What happens on board, stays on board, mate! That’s why any scalawag pointing a phone at anyone will have to see the ship proctologist to retrieve it. And that stinks!

            After several cruises, we discovered our massage parlor was far more popular than the beauty parlor, so git yer hair done before boarding, ladies. We now have two locations, and massages are done by board certified pirates. Board certified means our pirates have walked the gang plank several times. Our motto: We Know What ye Knead, and We Can Put Our Finger On It. And ye get yer money back if we rub ye the wrong way.

            And when ye finish with yer massage, ye might consider getting yer ears pierced like any good pirate would do. There’s a small charge. A Buccaneer.

            There are quite a number of other changes that make us far superior to other cruise lines which I be’s glad to share with ye another time. Even so, I think ye can see yer in fer a rollicking good time. When Bare Bones Cruises is ready to go public, you’ll know first hand right here. But before I be gittin’ back to me shipmates, I want to thank the Uncommon Mariner fer lettin’ me apprise ye of things to come. See ya out there on the High Seas! But it better be on me ship, mate. Or ye be in the ship house fer sure. Smooth Sailin’, mates! Arrrrgh!

 

Captain Billy Jacks Parrot and Bill Hegerich, The Uncommon Mariner, are equally guilty of this week’s blog.

To respond to their antics, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/03/

Know your Risks, Minimize your Danger, Enjoy Life

 

Whether you're a mariner, fisherman, or tourist, you can minimize your danger and maximize your fun. Learn how.

Whether you’re a mariner, fisherman, or tourist, you can minimize your danger and maximize your fun. Learn how.

Life is full of risks. For the sailor, the explorer, even the monk who barely ventures from his cell. No matter where you go, even if you go nowhere, life is full of risks. Some large. Some small. In the face of those risks, some play it safe while others throw the dice wildly, gambling it all. If this is true for landlubbers who prefer terra firma to the uncertain and unpredictable seas, then it is especially true for anyone who ventures out on ocean, river, bay, or lake.

Whether you’re a sailor or fisherman who spends months at sea, or a casual tourist berthed safely aboard a luxurious cruise ship, there are risks losing sight of the shore.

Some of the dangers are of nature’s own making; and some are manmade. Who would have thought we would see the makings of a hurricane in January. Yet we saw Hurricane Alex form on January 14 this year before turning its wrath on the Azores. Hurricanes are Mother Nature’s domain. Still the decision to sail the cargo ship El Faro into the fury of Hurricane Joaquin last fall taking 33 lives was a human decision.

Sometimes the dangers we face come from our own carelessness. Mariners often sustain serious injury or death because they circumvent safety procedures. The systems and protocols in place on ships are there for the safety of everyone. Over-familiarity, routine, monotony, and being overtired are part of a recipe for bad judgment that can have horrible consequences.

Sometimes, the dangers we face are the result of someone else’s neglect. Holland America was recently ordered to pay twenty-one and a half million dollars because it was found guilty of negligence when an automatic door leading from a restaurant quickly closed on a guest causing head injuries severe enough to incapacitate him and eventually forcing him to sell his business.

A freak accident? It was revealed in court that this was a pattern repeated over and over, but the problem wasn’t corrected because a slowly closing door would have caused the ship to burn more fuel for air conditioning. Now they’re burning through investors’ money to pay for their negligence.  Continue reading →

King Neptune’s Realm Revisited

705px-Sousse_neptune

…We’re a little more than two weeks into the new year, and King Neptune is already making waves. We’ve had hurricane Alex in the North Atlantic, lashing out at the Azores. We haven’t seen the likes of a January hurricane since 1955. To make matters worse, Tropical storm Pauli formed off Hawaii last week, only the third time this has happened in forty years. Let’s hope we haven’t awakened the wrath of King Neptune. He’s got plenty to be angry about.

…Last week you read about some of the things we need to focus on this year. This week I’d like to direct your attention to a few others. If we continue to make progress, Neptune will have a lot to smile about come December, and who knows? Maybe he’ll go back to sleep. .

… Ocean acidification. Given the size of the sea, this may seem like a pretty remote threat, but the stark truth is, it’s impacting our seas and the creatures in them. When we burn fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide falls not only back to earth but the sea. The oceans can absorb only so much of this crap till it becomes more and more acidic, affecting every single species of life from coral to sharks and whales. The more we reduce our carbon imprint, the healthier the seas will be.

…The slaughter of bottlenose dolphins at Taiji Cove in Japan. Last year over 500 dolphins were driven into the cove where they splashed helplessly in nets trying to reach others in their pod. A 100 were then slaughtered, many driven onto a beach where their spines were cut, supposedly so they’d experience less pain. How’s that for being compassionate!

…The environmental group Sea Shepherd launched Operation Henkaku on September 01 last year. If you want to help stop this barbaric travesty, you can do two things: watch their videos, one of which is a livestream, at www.seashepherd.org; second, you can donate to help bring their efforts to fruition. Mailing address is Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, PO Box 96059, Washington, DC 20090-6059.

…The release of bottlenose dolphins and whales held in captivity across the globe. Performing stupid tricks aren’t the only unnatural acts these helpless creatures are forced to endure. These highly social animals are often inbred to keep the travesty going.

…If you ever swam with a dolphin or applauded at a SeaWorld when it did cute tricks, you’re part of the problem. Perhaps you never considered that these highly social animals crave each other’s company not isolated in a prison of concrete and water. They may not be ordering lattes with their cousins at Starbucks or gathering for services on Sunday, but the presence of these animals in the ocean is just as sacred as what any humans do in church.  When will you see the light, brothers and sisters, and work for their release? Continue reading →