Slow Boat Almost to China.... Ten days at sea, passing like a dream...each day the same yet different. The ocean changes from frothy wind driven white-caps to a calm and glassy mirror reflecting golden sunlight, to long rolling swells and back again...the motion of the ship changes with it from barely perceptible rocking to long pitching rolls and everyone scrambling to secure items left unsecured, grabbing handrails as we lurch through halls and rooms - at least I lurch...they are more graceful than I. The clouds, the moon and the sun decorate an unchanging horizon in an ever-changing array of color and shape. And always the roar and vibration of massive engines - three stories tall!
The miles churn away leaving behind us a wake 60 meters wide, the water a beautiful aquamarine mixture of sea and froth. The days are actually longer - 25 instead of 24 hours! I begin each morning by turning the clock back another hour and then, one day, forward an entire day from Thursday to Saturday, skipping Friday the 13th entirely. All of this fosters a sense of isolation as if we are in another world or another dimension.
One day, I go to the swimming pool and find there is a small reddish brown reptile - about three inches long - on the concrete deck. He has black round. webbed toes. I have never seen anything like him. I am worried for him because he appears to be headed for the pool which is not only seawater - it is super-salinated seawater. The second engineer has filled the pool from water which is part of the de-salination system - the concentrated, saltier part. It is very warm and wonderful to swim in, I am so buoyant I can fall asleep in this water rocked by gentle waves created as the ship rolls and pitches. I am not, however, at all sure the reptile will like it. I am imagining that he has come aboard with the ships stores and escaped from the hold or the galley. I splash a little water from the fresh water shower onto the deck thinking this will satisfy his thirst and keep him from falling in the pool to drown. He doesn't seem impressed. Catching him doesn't seem like a wise option as I have no idea what defenses he might have. So after my swim I tell the captain about him and forget about the matter.
Later, at dinner, the captain and the second engineer have both seen my friend in the bottom of the pool - where he seems perfectly happy, moving around the water. They make the decision to empty the entire pool so they can capture this small reptile...no one wants to swim while he is in there... Of course, there is no shortage of water, the pool is routinely emptied whenever the swell becomes too heavy causing the water to slosh, so emptying the pool to catch a reptile is not completely crazy.
As we discuss the reptile's fate....death at sea, or perhaps he can swim in 4000 meters of water?... and where he might have come from, I suggest that this innocent looking creature may in fact grow into a monster. Soon we are all weaving tales of a giant creature loose in the catacombs of the hold and eating the crew members one by one. I point out that, as the only woman aboard, I am safe. After all, doesn't the heroine always survive? Immediately, this prompts several alternate scenarios involving my certain doom.
In the morning, after the pool has been pumped empty, the reptile has escaped and disappeared. Now we are only waiting for the first crew member to disappear....
Another morning, shortly after sunrise and as I am looking out of my open porthole, the ship's course begins to change. I watch with interest, the sun swinging across the stern wondering if I will now have an even better view of the sunrise from my cabin for the remainder of the crossing, but the ship keeps turning through a complete 180 degrees. Just as I am wondering about this, the ships alarm sounds, I dash for my life jacket, and head for the muster station, realizing belatedly that I am on the port side and everyone else is mustering starboard.... I arrive, and the first and second mate appear shortly telling us that is a man overboard alarm. I am of no use here, so I climb back to the upper deck where I can stay out of the way and watch.
Speed reduced, we return in the direction we came and I can see a white object floating in the sea ahead. It doesn't look like a man, but what do I know? As we approach, we can see that it is a boat floating upside down. It is not one of our men who is overboard (thank goodness!). The captain has stopped and turned the vessel so that we can check to be sure there is no one here hoping to be rescued. It is a small craft, 6-7 meters long, floating upside down. We draw close enough to get a good look, to find out if there is a possibility someone is sheltering underneath the hull. But this boat has been floating upside down for some months. Except for a snall patch on the highest part, the hull is encrusted with barnacles. It is a strange and lonely sight. We are about 1000 miles northeast of Hawaii so the captain reports this to the USCG who tell us they think it probably came from the tsunami is Japan.
And this morning I wake to clouds and rain, a warm tropical soup. In the next 24 hours everything will change. We are directly south of Honshu, Japan and around 8 this evening, we will pass the southern tip of Okinawa - we should be able to see the lights - and enter the East China Sea. By tomorrow morning the solitude will end in Tai Pei harbor. A new phase of my journey begins....