Articles By Gord
As I see it... Adventure At Sea

October 2010 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

As I see it... Adventure At Sea

Pirates! Pirates off the starboard bow. Shouted from the crow's nest, Pirates! The terror, immediate. PIRATES!

A cannonball rips through the rigging and sails, splintering the mast and showering debris on the decks below. Screams from the dying surrender to the confusion, to the captain's rallying cries, to the clash of sabres and roar of pistols. It is a brutal, ugly, wild scene of smoke and blood, destruction and despair.

Now slowly rouse yourself from that chaotic scene. Slowly, careful now. Not too fast. Now discover you are not about to walk the plank, your hands are not tightly bound behind you, only entangled in the shoulder strap of your wife's leather purse. There are no hungry sharks circling waiting for you to drop. It has been a dream. A horrible, ugly, nasty dream. Instead you find yourself lounging on a deck chair aboard the luxury cruise ship, the Azamara Quest. You are peeved as again your midmorning nap has been disturbed by all the passenger chatter about possible attack by Somali pirates. Chatter fuelled by a letter from the Captain. A letter given to each passenger as they boarded three weeks ago in Singapore.

“Our planned course will take us through the Gulf of Aden. Owing to the possibility of attack by Somali pirates, we have undertaken precautionary measures to ensure passenger safety. These measures include travelling through the Gulf in a militarily approved zone. We are currently and will continue to be in constant communications with allied naval ships patrolling these waters. We are a much faster vessel than most others travelling through the Gulf, but should any ships get too close, I may have to begin a zig zag course of action to discourage them. As we near the gulf other safety precautions will be outlined and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

You scoffed at his letter. To you his plans sounded goofy. You never once imagined a band of Somali cutthroats attempting to commandeer your cruise ship. Like they'd have the time or wits to sort out six hundred hungry passengers and four hundred irritable crew who'd be wondering if they were making time and a half during this action.

Our cruise aboard the Quest was a fantasy come true for Cath and I. We were going to sail for twenty four days from Singapore to Athens with numerous ports of call along the way. Our route included passage through the infamous Gulf of Aden.

Our good Captain was not taking the threat of pirates lightly. Two days before we entered the waters of the Gulf we practiced our safety drill should we actually come under attack.

“Safe Haven! Safe Haven! Safe Haven!”

The words charged through the ship. We stopped what we were doing. I was snoozing, Cath was reading, so in either case stopping was not too difficult. We dashed, how be it in a calm and orderly fashion, to the centre of the vessel. We were ordered to stand away from all windows and doorways.

It was a flawless drill. We were ready.

Bring on the pirates! we chorused.

There was more.

The morning before we entered the Gulf I stumbled over something laying across the deck.

“What the hell was that?” I snapped.

“A fire hose”, Cath calmly replied. “They have them stretched across all the promenade decks and tied off at the rails”. Because apparently nothing frightens off fierce pirates armed with semi-automatic weapons like a squirt from a fire hose.

“Hey come on you guys. Stop it! You're getting me all wet. Stop!”

“Yeah, well come another step up that ladder and we'll turn the sprinklers on ya.”

Each day we received pirate updates,ruffians spelt trouble, clean shaven, clad in their distinctive uniforms, sneakers and shorts, golf shirts and ball caps. Yep, trouble with a capital ‘T'.

They refuelled from our supply of gasoline and occasionally pushed away from our side, raced ahead and then they'd slowly drift back to us, their Mother ship. This was high seas drama at its very best, witnessed by a slew of passengers who watched the mercenaries watching and reported on everything they watched.

A person would have to pay a bundle to get this kind of adventure on a Holland America or Princess cruise.

For these hardened mercenaries the toughest part of their assignment was staying awake. They dined on our cruise ship food, spent the bulk of their day basking in sunshine and occasionally picked up a pair of binoculars.

Binoculars!

“He sees something,” murmured through the crowd. And with our collective breath held, he lowered his binocs, turned to us and yelled, “Sorry, folks. . . fishing boat.”

No Somali pirates. No cannonballs ripping through rigging. No Long John Silver. No patch over one eye or wooden peg leg. No Captain Hook or clashing sabres. And sorry, Ladies, no Captain Jack Sparrow.

 
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