Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The bonds of the sea

Last night we officially began cruising on the Main river. The ship is almost silent and very little disturbs it. We are travelling down river and this requires passing through a number of locks. After dinner I went up on deck as night fell and witnessed this process first hand. The First and Second captain (there are three) were sipping drinks which alarmed me at first.I mean this IS Germany and they do drink a lot, but apparently their shift was over and they were just relaxing before going below. The third Captain wasnt actually in the pilot house. He was posted at a set of controls port side. There is a matching set starboard. Although the ship is fairly narrow there is no room for error in entering the locks.

As the ship moved forward the captain made dozens of small adjustments using bow thrusters. Inside the pilot house a mate and a sailor watch the radar and use binoculars to keep an eye out for obstructions and other craft. Not only is the ship a tight squeeze side to side but top to bottom. Some of the locks and bridges are so low that the pilot house and a sun screen must be lowered in order to make it underneath them. This was done as we entered the lock. The pilot house lowered about three feet into the body of the ship.

About five of us male passengers stood on deck for this, despite the cold. A woman popped up top and asked what we were doing looking so intense.

" We are sharing the bond to our seagoing ancestors" I said.


"We're ready, at a moments notice, to unfurl sails, or heave to on the mainbrace. Should there be call, we will waltz the capstain and climb the mizzen."

The woman looked at us like we were mad, shivered, and went below.

The man folk kept our vigil.

"Does this ship have any of those things?" asked the man next to me, as we narrowly passed below a gangway on the lock.

"No. But but thats not the point, is it? We could."

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