Monday, February 12, 2018

Oh, restless spirit …

January is always a time to reevaluate priorities and to put into place plans for the coming year. When it comes to the business of Pyalla Technologies, LLC, we are both fully engaged now with Margo working hard to establish her latest venture, the monthly digital publication, NonStop Insider. As a result of working the way we do, we are discovering just how flexible we can be with our time; yes, we can work at any time, almost anywhere and this month we put this into practice. Call them BizCations, as we are want to do, but the bottom line remains the same - we fill our waking hours with work even as the scenery keeps on changing and for that, we have no complaints!

As for our plans, it all happened rather quickly. The need to meet with clients in Los Angeles mid-January and then late-January left two weeks of “calendar free space” and, with no appointments we decided to, once again, take to the seas and see how well we could work far from shore. We had done it once before, but only for a week and you can read about that in the November 5, 2014, post,
The A, B, Zs of Fall! This time we would double the time at sea and it would be a test of how disciplined we would be not to mention how practical it was to depend on the vessel’s Internet capabilities for an extended period of time.

We have been sailing with Princess cruise lines for a very long time and our status gave us a combined 500 minutes of free internet access, but with so many passengers on board, it turned out that early mornings worked best. Princess has an International Café that serves Lattes and pastries around the clock so from 4:00am onwards, you would find me working from my new, impromptu desk. And yes, it all worked out and a number of our clients, until I updated them on our return, were unaware of our newly equipped remote office!

By chance I came across the poetry of Tyler Knott Gregson, whose poems can be found on the web and among her short verses, this one struck a chord:

Oh restless soul, oh wandering spirit, come, and breathe a spell.
Come, and gently fall into peace.
This is what you were seeking, this, is home.

I have always been fascinated by ports and terminals handling container ships. This fascination dates back to when I worked for Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) as they first entered the container shipping business back in the late 1960s.

My time with OCL was way back in the early 1970s, when container shipping was still a novelty. Long before the construction of the very large Botany Bay facility you will fly over on your final approach to Sydney International Airport these ships would sail under the Sydney Harbor Bridge and dock at a small facility in White Bay. As a sailor, I just couldn’t wait to get onboard to take a look and when the opportunity presented itself, I was hooked and asked for a transfer to the London head office – an approach that turned into reality and laid the foundation for the wandering that to this day simply hasn’t stopped!

This January, as we sailed out of the harbor at San Pedro, we were passing a complex made up of two ports – the port of Los Angeles and the port of Long Beach that are the two biggest container terminals in the US. Combined, they would be in the top 10 worldwide and the perpetual movement in and out of the facility meant that cruise ships as big as the Princess Star had to do some pretty tricky backing in order to safely leave the port, but as the sun was setting and the lights came on, Margo and I felt right at home on the ship – yes, this is what we had been seeking; this is home! Or, so we thought at the time.

 As it turned out, the two weeks kicked off with us celebrating our wedding anniversary and ended with Margo celebrating her birthday. Having advised Princess of these dates we ended up eating a lot more cake than we have in years but it was a fun time. Each bar we stopped by over the course of the evening was only too happy to pull out from the counter yet another treat. In the picture above we were seated by the Crooners Bar that became our late night retreat. 

Before going any further, we did manage to burn through all 500 minutes of free Internet access across the two weeks so if we plan on doing anything longer it may be a bit of a challenge, although, as Margo noted on more than one occasion, the discipline we would maintain meant that we didn’t have to be checking our email every hour or so. Well, I tried! Bottom line, in this respect, I only stepped away from the laptops and phones on weekends which I rarely do back on shore. As for Margo then there was plenty of time for reading.

Our destination would be the major islands of Hawaii and given that it is the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere, breaking away from the clutches of winter seemed more than appropriate. As we drove away from our Windsor home, it was 8 degrees, Fahrenheit. By the time we arrived in San Pedro, it was a balmy 70 degrees, with the forecast for the voyage suggesting that we would be enjoying even more balmy days of 70+ degrees. While the sun managed to break through the clouds on occasion, the first two days at sea were cloudy with the wind whipping around the deck all the time.

As for the seas, well we were sailing through 20 foot swells and it was fun to listen to passengers complaining about how rough the seas were and of whether or not the ship’s master could do something about that. At one point, he did come over the ships coms channel to note that well, this is the Pacific (and not the Caribbean or the Mediterranean) and it was winter so yes, the movement onboard wasn’t entirely unexpected. As for Margo and me, we barely noticed it, but it was a reminder that on deep water voyages the sea can be very restless!  

Another short verse from the same poet seemed more than appropriate for the times:

A time for movement,
and a time for sitting still.
We need both of these.

Once we had arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, the seas abated considerably so we were able to enjoy an extended long weekend cruising among them. Our first stop was Oahu, where we took advantage of the ports close proximity to Waikiki and walked along the foreshore to take in the view of the former volcano that is now Diamond Head. With wall-to-wall hotels lining the beach, it proved difficult to walk along the sandy beach without having to step onto the beach.

For me, the destination was always going to be Duke’s – romanticized in songs and, to my way of thinking, symbolic of a laid-back lifestyle - I hoped to enjoy a quiet drink alongside the sandy shoreline. Having enjoyed lunch a couple of times at Dukes in Malibu (and seeing another Dukes on Kauai), for me this was a must. Despite the overcrowding evident everywhere you turned in Waikiki, we managed to get inside of Dukes and found seats that let the day ebb away. Finding a time for sitting still was priceless!

By contrast, even with the number of passengers onboard the Princess Star, there was plenty of open space. Dining was casual even as it was what it was – large scale catering with meals dumbed down to the point where eventually, we gravitated to the specialty restaurants where there was more spice and yes, way less noise. Having spent a lot of time on much smaller vessels, it takes a little getting used to and so much has changed from when we first stepped onboard a big ship. But again, that is what it is all about – for the price you get a little more than what you expect and it is that little more that brings you back to these big ships on those occasions when you want to do a little more than zip around a few ports in seven days!

Cruise lines such as Princess still hold formal nights, but to be honest, it is still very casual and marginal when it comes to dressing up, so as to speak. Having said this, it matters little what others may be doing as whenever Margo dresses for the occasion, she steals the show. And this voyage proved to be no exception. When the camera caught up with her, those behind her complained that it wasn’t fair, as obviously, Margo had experience when it came to posing and I was asked more than once, how many times has she posed for fashion shots!

All good fun of course and none of those around us ever asked her similar questions about me but that is neither here or there – and I have to admit, I didn’t see another passenger decked out in Prada the way Margo was on formal nights. The disappointment for me was that the formal nights proved to be just a little too casual so Margo left the “red-sole shoes” in the wardrobe! We ended up not liking any of the ship’s photos, so here is a snapshot I took of Margo on our first formal night.

Each day we docked in an island saw us hanging back until late in the day. We have spent time on all the islands so for us it was more a case of checking out the area around the dock. Hilo, on the Big Island for instance, saw us walking for miles which could have been a good thing, I suppose, but there were surprises, too. On the island of Kauai, we docked in the port of Nawiliwili where we found the sprawling Marriott hotel just around the corner. On first sight, it didn’t look all that impressive but up close, and looking out over the port, it proved more opulent than we had initially thought. And did I mention that is where you will find Duke’s on Kauai, but unfortunately, we had arrived well before it opened for patrons. Then again, anchored offshore of Lahaina, Maui, with whales clearly visible nearby, we had to take the tender to shore and this time we found ourselves rooftop atop Mick Fleetwod's restaurant, Fleetwood's on Front Street! 

Hawaii Islands are mountainous having all formed from volcanic eruptions. And it shouldn’t surprise any visitors to these islands that in winter, it’s not the seas that are restless but the skies as well. Each day we were ashore we encountered rain but these downpours were nothing more than passing squalls. However, they did make the sky look moody and from the shore, looking out across the sea to adjacent headlands or even nearby islands, it looked as if at any time a major storm would develop. They never did and even when we were caught out in the rain, we never stayed wet for too long as the temperatures, often nearing 80 degrees, ensure it all vaporized quickly. However, walking along the shore, keeping an eye out for changes to the weather, gave us opportunities to take a picture or two of our ship.  

Returning to dry land just a few days later and picking up where we left off, it was yet another line of verse from the same poet that really hit a nerve:

We may head back home,
but we’re leaving one behind.
Pieces of us stay.

Yes, there is a ring of truth to that – even as Margo and I talk about the two weeks break to our schedule – pieces of us do stay wherever we set foot. Not sure I can properly explain this, but I do feel that home for us will always be just over the horizon. And as we found the time to work and to read and to just unwind as we whiled away the hours, I guess the only thing I can now say is that yes, everyone needs to find the opportunities as we have been doing and to acknowledge that truly:

Oh restless soul, oh wandering spirit, come, and breathe a spell.

1 comment:

Richard said...

With respect to the first picture atop the post, and in response to comments already sent to me, the common space surrounding the International Cafe is completely empty and void of passengers at 4:00am which is what I liked ... Jessie who was serving the Latte's knew me and always had one ready as I walked into the area and the almond croissants well, delightful!