I am a cruiser but I’ve never been on a cruise. Being a native Floridian, I grew up with an understanding of cruising that came from watching the pale-skinned, cold-blooded creatures who took over our beaches each winter. These fascinating beings stopped at our gas stations and ate in our restaurants with their newly-sunburned shoulders radiating from tank tops while their flip flops shuffled loudly because their tube socks would not let their feet truly inhabit their shoes. And they made me giggle. Occasionally I scoffed. OK, so maybe I never really understood them, but now I see the error of my ways. They are just people looking for a good time in the warmth of the ocean breeze. But I am not that kind of cruiser.
My skin is almost always covered so as to avoid those seemingly desirable but actually devastating tropical rays. My flip flops shuffle not because I’m wearing socks (who actually DOES that???) but because I’m too tired to lift my feet properly. My clothes do not bear the palm trees and surfboards of cruise ship attire but instead show grease stains from the recent wench rebuild and rips from catching the rigging. And I don’t always smell so fresh. But I am happy and I smile a lot, if that counts for anything.
As you can see, I view myself quite differently than the average cruise ship aficionado, but given our recent experiences in returning to our cruising life, perhaps I should reconsider. It is beginning to seem that I am on a cruise of the truly carnival type. Our plan was to leave Thursday by noon, enjoy the uncrowded trip down I-95 to Ft. Lauderdale, and check into our airport hotel early enough to enjoy the area and some good food. The carnival that is cruise life, however, had other plans.
In Ring 1: Wednesday afternoon we discovered that our sail drives (the things that turn our propellers) had a problem that could not be fixed by parts available in Trinidad. Clint then had to spend all of Thursday frantically sourcing a part in Florida, finally finding it at a Napa Auto Parts store in downtown Jacksonville. A last-minute, breakneck trip to get it allowed us to pull into Ft. Lauderdale in time to get about six hours of sleep before dragging ourselves and 300 pounds of luggage to the airport the next morning.
In Ring 2: Returning the rental car meant Clint had to take a shuttle back to the airport. When he first reached us Marley discovered she had left one of her earrings, the sterling and turquoise earrings her grandmother had just given her two days before, in the door of the car. Back Clint had to go to the car. After a long and kind search by the staff at Enterprise the earrings were located and Clint returned, only to find that Marley suddenly realized she had left her Kindle in the seat pocket of the car. Uh-huh. She’s my “If her head wasn’t attached to her neck…” kid. Ever the dutiful father, Clint returned for a second search but came back empty-handed. The Kindle was eventually recovered but it took multiple phone calls, a computer lost and found claim, and a third trip to Enterprise the next day (huh?) to get it. My lovely space cadet was gracious and appreciative for his efforts, at least!
And in the Center Ring, under the Big Top…..we have mayhem! This is the best part, folks! We arrived at the airport at 6:30 am, fully organized and excited, but JetBlue and Trinidad immigration thwarted our plans for return to MarVyn. Trinidad doesn’t like it when people from the States fly on one way tickets and JetBlue did not like the stamped letter we had from immigration clearing us for our return. The real irony? Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:40 am. Trinidad immigration finally confirmed to JetBlue that we were not drug runners or revolutionaries and we were clear for return at….catch this….9:44 am.
We took a “distress rate” at the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel, according to our friend Jim, “a Hilton product.” I decided to call it the half-way house for cruise ship customers. After a few trips in the elevator listening to the worst early 80s music montage for white people I’ve ever heard, I was ready to run an ice pick through my eardrums. And if one more smiley, pastey 73 year old asked me which boat we were taking I was sure I would become a felon truly deserving of denied entry to Trinidad. We stayed there for two very long days and nights, and finally made it out of the US to Trinidad early Sunday morning.
In Ring 4: Since arriving in Trinidad’s Power Boats Marina we have been working very hard to get MarVyn ready for the water. It’s hot here, folks. Really hot. Our boat has AC that we never use (and can only use when in the water anyway). And the mosquitoes are the size of hummingbirds. And they frequently carry Dengue virus, the virus that gives Dengue Fever, aka breakbone fever. None of us has become sick but Clint and I have been so exhausted that we frequently feel we are coming down with something, just sure it’s going to be the horrific fever and aches of the disease! Meanwhile, our children have been running through this highly toxic and dangerous boatyard environment with the six other children temporarily stranded here. They have built forts, created hierarchical societies which frequently form splinter groups and coups, and they carry bow staffs and practice their martial arts skills. Very Lord of the Flies.
Finally, despite what seemed crazy odds, we have made it. MarVyn was put back in the water late yesterday, and she’s still floating. Sleeping on the water last night was not only cooler but mosquito free. And lovely. We plan to make our escape north to Grenada in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow. Perhaps we will see a Carnival Cruise ship out there, as we sometimes do. Maybe we will gaze upon the towering vessel always lit up like it needs to be seen from space and wonder how it feels to be on a boat but not know the ocean, only the buffet line. Given all the insanity we have endured the last two weeks, I am beginning to consider the benefits of a cruise ship vacation away from my life aboard. Next time I would like to book through a different agent. I don’t think our reality is the easy vacation everyone back home thinks we’re living. This is our life. It’s our carnival. Now, where did I pack my tube socks?
(Pretty pictures of the Caribbean to come as we begin again…)