Land Ho

April 7
Land Ho

Our last day on the boat dawned sunny and clear. The cold winds and big waves of the North Atlantic in early spring had washed further south. The ocean also changed color, from a slate gray with wind-blown white caps, to an almost turquoise blue. I think this might be in part due to the depth under our keel, which has gone from 4,000 meters out in the middle to less than 90 as we come to within 250 miles of port.

The warmer weather brought many people outside to what seems to be known as “the promenade deck ” on the third level where you can walk all the way around the boat. Three laps equals .9 miles.

By 10:30 so many people were out there strolling that occasional traffic jams ensued in the narrow spots. Empty deck chairs became scarce. But every one was quite civil, cheery even, warmed up by the sun and the shared experience.

On this last day, the ship’s entertainment director hosted a passenger talent show. Nine people performed including a woman in her last 70s. “Next week I am going to my first folk festival and this is the first time I have ever stood up and sung in front of a crowd and I am scared,” she said before singing an acapella version of “My Bill,” in a tremulous, hesitant voice. The woman who played the bagpipes as we left New York played them again in the talent show, including in her several songs a version of “Auld Lang Syne.” She told the audience she was playing the song for the friends she had made during the crossing and for the camaraderie the passengers had shared.

I was back out on deck at 3 p.m. when we caught our first sight of land, the Isles of Scilly, shimmering far off the port side like a warm mirage. “I had my supposed honeymoon there,” a man on deck told me. We passed a half dozen, high-sided fishing vessels and picked up a scattering of seagulls in our wake. A fellow passenger said they were gannets, the largest English seagull with a wingspan of 5 feet. Some 40 minutes later, we could see a distant mountain off to port. Land’s end in Cornwall where we will be in a week.

We’ve done it. Crossed the Atlantic in a boat. Sure the boat is bigger than most houses, hotels even. We did not have to navigate, stand watch or eat our meals with one hand while gripping the wheel with the other. But still it feels good to know we survived the North Atlantic. It gives me new insight into Samuel De Champlain and other ocean explorers who made these crossings so many times and a new appreciation for their skills and courage. I have always wanted to do this, but never could figure out how to pull it off. Thankyou Mom for making it possible.

That night, we could see lights out our windows and by early dawn, the vessel had stopped. When I went on deck at about 6 a.m., the Queen was inching sideways alongside a long pier, in between two tankers. Men stood watching on the shore and two blue gantry cranes taller than the ship moved into place with hooks to lift up the shoreside gang planks. Towards the bow of the ship, about halfway up, the starboard side of the bridge sticks out like a small wing. Inside stood two men in uniforms looking up and down the pier and occasionally looking through binoculars–the captain landing his ship. We are in the Solent in Southhampton.

It took about 20 minutes to move the ship 10 feet into the pier, then long, thick lines emerged from the sides of the vessel and were thrown over massive bollards.

We have arrived. Our packed bags have been taken from our rooms and we are off for the shoreside portion of our adventure. As we leave the ship, porters are loading supplies. The Queen leaves this afternoon at 4 pm headed for Madeira.

Photos
A chart of our voyage signed by all the officers was auctioned off the last day, fetching $350

Docking the vessel

The captain on his bridge

tugs heading out the Solent to bring in the next big ship

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