Sailing in waters around the Caribbean islands to Alaskan passages, we have had much joy. Around the United Kingdom and skirting the shores of South America on our way to Africa and on to Europe, we have seen sights that have amazed and delighted. Passing through the Panama Canal and cruising the Baltic Sea, we have been taken to “fair enchanted lands”.
Beyond the landscape that magically appears on the horizon, the happenings on and around ships ignite our curiosity. We have had our sunning interrupted just off Cuba to take on board from a small open craft ten people fleeing the Castro regime. On our way to Aruba, we thought that these desperate people would welcome the hospitality of that Dutch island, only to find out that a treaty between those two nations would result in the refugees’ immediate return to their native land. Despite a number of attempts as we sailed through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and on to California, no country along the way would give a haven to these now homeless people. When we reached California, a squad of large well-armed military types boarded our ship and escorted the tiny terrified Cubans down the gang plank. It was on that ship as well that a passenger from Germany with cement-coloured complexion very suddenly died. International law makes it very difficult to take a body from a ship and so his body stayed with us for another nine days. I guess the crew simply put him on ice.
After our first crossing of the Atlantic on a small 10,000 ton ship, The Franconia, shortly after our wedding, I was sure I would never sail again. The painting shown here gives an idea of just how bilious that I felt. Although everyone described the sea as calm, I became horribly ill and ended up getting a jab in the bum from a pretty female doctor. I was embarrassed but so sick that I just didn’t care. I should mention that it did take a bit of the edge off the honeymoon as well. For twenty years after that crossing, I could close my eyes and feel the movement of the ship. When I was finally persuaded back on board a ship twenty years later, I found a principle that I learned in horseback riding helped me immeasurably. “Take the motion of the horse through your body” was the equestrian advice, and I found that if I did not fight the ship, but absorbed the movement, I was all right. Now to be honest, there was one incident on the Queen Elizabeth 2 when I had the good fortune of passing near the infirmary while feeling dodgy. A nurse emerging from the sick-bay took one look at me and, grabbing my collar, yanked me over a corridor waste bucket into which I made a sudden deposit.
Lest I leave you with the idea that I have confined my aqueous adventures to huge ships, I should mention ferries both in North America and in Britain. I enjoyed also a leisurely progress on the Mississippi in a paddle wheeler. Motor launches in Argentina, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Costa Rica have brought me up close and personal with views that could be seen no other way. My fellow passengers on these travels added to the travel experience. It is amazing the personal information people will divulge as you sit knee to knee, baking in the sun.
On a recent river boat trip to the South of France, I delighted in the sparkling sunny autumn tableaux along the Saône and Rhone rivers. Passing so close to the ever changing views of the shores, I was fully challenged to paint the landscape as it slipped so quickly away. On that trip, we had a fellow guest from England who was there with wife and sister-in-law. (“His two wives” became the joke.) This fellow was sixty years old and an avid amateur artist who did not hesitate to give me the benefit of his insight and expertise as I struggled to record the quickly passing parade. Beside our interest in painting, we also shared another thing. We were, and still are, both bald, however in his case you would hardly notice as he, through the use of corrective combing, slapped a hank of hair across the top of his head from its root well down the side of his scalp. His intense interest in my work brought him so close to me that whenever I backed up a step from my easel to survey my work, I trod on his feet. Being a plein aire painter, I am used to being crowded by people, but because he was in deep deodorant denial, he smelled so badly that it made my eyes run. There were times that I was only too pleased to hear, “All ashore that’s going ashore.”