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While I take my sunrise photos on the bridge balcony, the Third Officer comes and hands me a document. It’s the official document that proves I crossed the equator yesterday. The captain went to a lot of trouble and printed it on the back of an old nautical chart.
I even got a baptismal name, although (fortunately!) there was no equator baptism. Salmacoma Litoralis. Of course, I look up this name in the Southern African Marine Species Book. Salmacoma Litoralis is a small shell.
Today is Pierre’s birthday. He is 69 years old. If you see him as fit as he is, then I would say: seventy is the new fifty.
Otherwise, the day is unspectacular. We are far away from the next mainland. Below us are more than 4000 m of water. During the day the sky is just blue. The sea is also blue: a dark ink blue. There is hardly any swell, but a sharp wind from the front that curls the water. It is tropically, hot and humid.
Most of the day, I stay in my cabin and sort photos. From time to time, I look out of the window to see if anything is exciting to watch. But I don’t see any spray from a splashing whale or a blow. The Second Officer spotted some dolphins this morning.
For lunch, the captain treats the birthday boy to a bottle of wine, a Merlot from South Africa. Pierre is excited: on his vineyard, he also has Merlot grapes. We talk about wine and viticulture. The captain, his wife and I now know that Bordeaux wine is always a mixture of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Burgundy always Pinot Noir.
The two glasses of wine are going into my head. After lunch, I take a nap.
In the afternoon, there is still nothing going on on the ocean. I continue with my pictures. I go shortly before 16:00 on the bridge and look over the sea. There is still no whale or dolphin to see. Only a few flying fish scurry away from the bow wave.
Pierre comes along. He also looks across the sea. Then he invites me for 17:00 for an aperitif in his cabin. He has already said several times that I could come by for a gin and tonic, but mostly it is a time when I am at the bow of the ship. But today is his birthday, and he expressly invites me again. I say, yes.
Punctually at 17:00, I knock at his door. He is happy and mixes us fierce Gin Tonics — not two fingers of gin high. Somewhere between a third and a half of the glass, he stops pouring Bombay Sapphire. He adds a little lemon juice and fills up with tonic water. We are in the tropics, where gin and tonic is a must. He has also fetched ice blocks from the refrigerator in the officers’ lounge. Our small fridges can’ t make ice cubes.
We’re talking about the shabby condition of our cabins. I can’t complain. Yes, the carpet could be renewed, but it is still bearable. It’s quite different with Pierre, who lives in the Owner’s Cabin. Both the carpet and the seat cushions are unappetizing dirty. If the owner of the ship wanted to use his rooms, he would certainly not be pleased. Although the Bright Sky was overhauled entirely last year, the cabins were probably left out.
Pierre pours us another Gin Tonic. I drink to him. May he still have a long life with many journeys and adventures. Pierre says that this was his last trip by ship. He has fulfilled his dreams in this respect. In the future, he wants to travel together with his wife. He tells me about his Scandinavian plans. Pierre has already been to 106 countries but does not know Scandinavia at all. Until now he could only travel in January to March, and he didn’t want to go north in winter. Now he’s retired and can go on holiday in summer. Iceland is first on his agenda.
It’s time for dinner. I feel the two Gin Tonics. Or is the ship swaying more than usual today?
The cook has made pizza again. Already at breakfast time, he prepared the dough. It has a thick base and is covered with Krakauer. Polish pizza, but very tasty.
After dinner, Pierre and I go to the bow of the ship. It is so peaceful there. The waves are gentle, and the flying fish float away in all directions. Today we don’t take pictures; we just look.
Then Pierre goes back. I stay and watch the setting sun. The sun and the clouds and the sea are giving their best today.
When I come back, I find Pierre on deck D. He drinks another beer and looks back, over the track of the water broken by the ship, in the direction we came from. He says that he thinks back about his life, but also forwards to what is yet to come. I say that there will still be something to come for a while.
Both of us are not talking about the ship arriving at its destination at some point and entering a port. We are still on our way.
Since yesterday I notice that I am now focusing more on the future, the time after the ship. The equator is perhaps only an imaginary line, but I am now on the side of the globe, where my future, my next stage of life is waiting for me. The northern hemisphere on which I have spent the last twenty years of my life is behind me, is past. I am getting closer and closer to my future.
I look at my navigation app at 20:00.
We are at S4° 48.180′ W3° 53.054′.
We are as far away from land as never before during our journey. But Namibia is getting closer and closer. We are already at the latitude of Angola’s northernmost province, Cabinda (1726 km from us), almost at the mouth of Africa’s second-largest river, the Congo. Although Ghana in West Africa is still closer with 1072 km, Namibia approaches us at a constant speed of 14 knots.
Would you like to see an overview of all articles about my journey on the cargo ship Bright Sky? Click here for a table of contents.