Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Letter to ‘Futurest’

Friday 12 December 2014

Dear ‘Futurest’,

I hope this doesn’t shock you as everything has happened so quickly but Janis and I are currently in the Southern Hemisphere, in the middle of the Tasman Sea on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship ‘Voyager of the Seas’ bound for the port of Auckland in New Zealand. We were standing on the platform at Warwick Station only as recently as last Sunday morning. 



Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport



At Hong Kong awaiting our aeroplane to be loaded up


Patiently waiting at Hong Kong

It’s something we have been planning for most of the year now and I am sure you must have noticed in the meantime that something unusual was afoot.

Other people will probably call me stupid and wonder why I should be nuts enough to write to a boat, but you are my little ship and I am responsible for you. Therefore I have considerable guilt at leaving you for what in fact will be the whole of the winter.



Departure Sydney on ‘Voyager of the Seas’



Looking aft towards the Bridge



Looking along Deck 5, the shopping mall


In our life together over the years it is the first time that I’ve ever left you for more than just a few days so I am naturally feeling a bit apprehensive at being away for so long, even though you are well protected and winterised while Janis and I are away on our adventure.

But let me tell you of that planned adventure in a bit more detail. Currently We are on a course of 096 degrees true heading for the Cape Reinga, the northernmost  tip of New Zealand which the ship should round during the night. However our speed has been reduced to 13 knots so as not to arrive at Auckland before  0830 tomorrow morning. We shall be spending the day there before continuing our journey south to Tauranga, Napier, Wellington and Picton  and then travelling back across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, from where we set off last Tuesday evening 9th December. We shall arrive back on the 2oth.

It’s really a voyage of rediscovery for me as the last time I passed this way was back in 1967 and the above mentioned ports were all those in the North Island that my shipping company Blue Star Line used to call at. I have many happy memories of good times past while associated with these ports.

After we arrive back at Sydney we fly on the same day across to Perth in Western Australia to spend Christmas with Janis’ dad, before returning to Sydney en route for Christchurch, to stay for a while with Janis’ mum, during the period while we explore New Zealand’s South Island.

After five weeks we return to Sydney to fly to Brisbane in Queensland, where Janis’ sister Sharon lives. After a few days there we finally fly down to Hobart in Tasmania during the last weekend of February next year for a weekend’s Blue Star Line reunion before returning to UK during the first week of March.

We left Heathrow Airport on Sunday evening bound for Hong Kong. It took us eleven long tiring hours to get there after which we had to wait another nine equally tedious hours in the airport buildings till we could make our connecting flight onward to Sydney. This flight took us a further eight actual hours of flying before we touched down on Tuesday morning to join the ship the same afternoon for sailing in the evening. So after twenty eight hours of actual flying, across numerous time zones we were exhausted when we arrived and it has taken us until now to  set up new sleep patterns.

But so far the sea trip has been a wonderful experience. The weather is fine and the sea smooth and deep blue, just as I remember it from so many years ago. But the  ship is so different that it makes the ones I sailed on seem so primitive (which they were in comparison of course). Very sophisticated and automatic navigation systems abound on this ship that make the navigational bridge look more like the one on the Star ship ‘Enterprise’ than the traditional one that I was brought up with. The only piece of navigational equipment our ships had were the sextants that we navigating officers supplied ourselves and a lot of the vessels didn’t even have a radar set aboard. On my first trip as 2nd Mate for example I sailed on a ship whose only piece of equipment was a magnetic compass.

The food and entertainment here is plentiful though with four thousand passengers on board the effect is one that I associate rather negatively with our family holidays so many years ago at Butlin’s Holiday Camps. But the ship is enormous and good exercise when one can walk around the full circuit, which is getting on for half a mile.

But I’ll keep you informed of our continued progress later. It will soon be time for dinner and Janis and I feel like a little exercise before then.

I hope all is well with you and I’ll be back to report some more news later.

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