Sing a sea shanty with me

Onboard the ferry from Seattle to Victoria last Thursday was a little blond boy, eight or nine years old, running up and down the aisles, swinging from the armrests and chasing his brother.

About twenty years ago my family took a summer vacation to Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver Island. I was the little blond boy, running up and down the aisles… I wonder what the me of then would have thought of the me of now. Probably just another grown-up to avoid disturbing?

Those thoughts made me smile as we sailed across birdbath-calm seas on the way up to Canada. Two excellent days later we were returning, and the birdbath was gone.

The northern part of the trip goes through the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which is open at the west end to the Pacific Ocean, and Saturday night the ocean rollers were taking advantage. The Clipper is an impressive ship, a catamaran that holds 30 knots the whole way, but it started feeling smaller and smaller as the waves got bigger and bigger.

I enjoyed the flying lift in the belly at first, watching as the faces around us on the boat got tighter and tighter, greener and greener. You could see people’s bodies floating up in the air as the boat dropped into each trough between waves. The cabin crew came around with little ginger candies to calm stomachs, and reassuring smiles to calm fears.

Smiles and laughs started getting fewer as the troughs deepened, and passengers started staggering to the stern to find the restrooms. The sets got stronger, and things started falling off tables before they were quickly packed away.

We weren’t sure if K gets motion sick, but about the time she thought it prudent to go linger in the vomitorium vicinity the young lass of the cabin crew stopped smiling. I watched her go over and secure the external door, brow wrinkled.

The troughs were deep enough that you could hear and feel the slap of the hull coming down out of the air to contact the waves. A second sailor (this one I swear looking like Popeye, with broad tattooed forearms) came and peered out the windows and at the horizon, looking far less than reassuring before moving back to the stern, not making eye contact with anyone.

The horizon leaped out of sight below the window, faster than it had yet, the cabin girl grabbed two handles, bent her knees and said “shit!” before we came slamming down, spray lifting over the bow and smashing along the front view windows.

I heard a groan that would have been more amusing if I was sure it hadn’t come from me.

The Straight of Juan de Fuca seemed to last a looong time, but we finally made it through, and the troughs were reduced to simply stomach-dropping levels, but everyone’s faces stayed a little tight until we docked in Seattle.

A good friend picked us up at the pier and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying good company and being on solid ground.