I try to remember if smugness is one of the seven deadly sins. I know that pride is a sin, and smugness is born of pride, so I guess I’m failing. As sinners do. I’m not meeting a high moral standard, but any guilt that I might feel runs like water off a duck’s back.
Looking at a passing cruise ship, I can’t stem my satisfaction. As one of twelve passengers aboard the Aurora, a working ship that also accommodates paying guests, I feel privileged. With a 30 – 35% rate of return passengers, Marine Link Tours must be doing something right.
True, we don’t have a swimming pool or a spa. We don’t have a theater, and with only two dining tables, one table seating only four and the other seating eight, I can’t imagine where the captain would sit. It is just as well. I left my cocktail dress at home.
I guess I’ll (dressed in the same clothing that I have worn the past four days) will just have to go up to the wheelhouse and have some one-on-one with the captain. He led us through the lifeboat drill, and I found him accessible and engaging. The water running between Vancouver Island and the mainland is cold. After talking about life preservers, the captain says that if we should find ourselves in the water, we should clasp our knees to our chest to preserve body heat. We passengers, all in our maturity, have a bit of a laugh. Our knees to our chest? In some cases, fat chance!
The crew of six is open and friendly. If I have a question, I only need to ask. You might think of the Aurora as a UPS truck on water. We deliver goods: heavy machinery, drilling rigs, groceries, gasoline and must-have luxury items demanded by those who can afford to own their very own island. Given that the islands are not linked to land, the Aurora is it.
Built in 1972, our 135-ft ship began its working life doing seismic surveys in the Northwest Territory. If you’ve seen photos of the WW II landing craft discharging soldiers on the beach at Normandy, you can visualize the Aurora with its landing ramp at the bow. The ramp is up when we are under power but is lowered for deliveries. The design is perfect for off-loading goods at remote inlets and sites without docks. I write about delivering, but what comes in, must go out, so in addition to delivering, the Aurora takes things away. This morning we picked up giant crates of aluminum cans destined for recycling and porta-potties… on their way to be flushed clean.
We boarded just north of Campbell River, mid-way up the west coast of Vancouver Island. As we worked our way between Vancouver and Quadra Islands, we learned that years ago, Ripple Rock was particularly dangerous with peaks just nine feet below the water’s surface. The problem was solved in 1958 when the channel was cleared by the world’s largest non-nuclear explosion. Tidal wave warnings went out, but the wave never materialized despite an estimated 700,000 tons of rock and water reaching 1,000 feet in the air. The channel’s depth now measures a safe 47-feet below the surface and, thanks to the blast, allows cruise ships to travel up the Inland Waterway.
Our ship travels north with stops dictated by deliveries. The irregular fiord-like coast is rugged with a narrow, rocky beach below cliffs. Above the beach, mountains loom – packed with trees, pockmarked with clear-cut scars and shrouded in clouds .Travel is in tune with the tides and the threat of riptides, whirlpools and rapids at low tide.
This afternoon I sat behind the wheelhouse – out of the wind and in the sun. The water in our wake glistens. Squinting, I see a thousand points of light. The wake itself is opalescent, mint green and foamy white. It looks like spearmint gum tastes. To either side of the wake, the black and navy-blue sea appears walk-on-water solid, as heavy and beautiful as watermarked satin. I should be looking up at the landscape, but I’m seduced by the sea and lulled by the hum of the ship’s engine.
I write from the womb.