The Banks - Half a World Away travel blog


At Sea

Our first Tropical Storm.

It was the usual milky white sun/intense muggy heat when we first got up.

Some time during breakfast this changed. Lightning was seen flickering ahead – then we sailed into it. It looked from inside the cabin like the first day out of Hong Kong – thick fog. But as you step outside you realise it is about 20 degrees warmer than that – the “fog” is the pouring rain……Apparently we are quite safe as the whole ship is a massive “Faraday Cage” (J told me that bit !) so hopefully this will not be my last despatch -?

The Thunder took a while to arrive, long after the lightning was flickering merrily…but when it did, it Really Did. The cabin has excellent double glazing, which reduced it to manageable levels, but I did step outside to check on progress at precisely the wrong moment…..

Yesterday’s programme about the Panama Canal was at pains to point out that one of the main obstacles to its completion was the weather in the area - it apparently has over 300 wet days a year, accumulating over 500” of rain – yes, more than Cumbria ! This caused mudslides into each area as they excavated it, and also spread every kind of fever associated with “pools of standing water” as there were ALWAYS pools of standing water (as there were all over the decks by midday today)

The Canal goes up 3 or 4 locks from the Pacific, across a massive man-made lake in the middle, and then down 3 or 4 locks to the Caribbean. Since they are effectively draining water away on both sides down into the Pacific and the Caribbean with every ship that empties locks as it passes, it is just as well that the central lake is fed by their massive annual rainfall – which I think we have just driven into.

After all the focus on photos and DVDs of this transit, it will be hilarious if we all watch tomorrow from inside, noses pressed to the steamed-up glass as misty shapes slide by outside until someone says we have done it……..The balcony is in fact perfectly sittable if it is “merely raining”, Deck 8 above us providing an excellent “roof”, but most of you will appreciate that I am not going to sit there in the middle of a Tropical Storm, Faraday Cage or not……

The Storm lasted about an hour and a half; one fellow passenger said this evening that when he woke, he was a bit surprised to find that the clock said 11am but it appeared to be still dark….so he went back to sleep until things sorted themselves out !

The rest of the day never got better than “fair” weather-wise, though it continues muggy. Some wag put “Singing in the Rain” on the tv-film channel this afternoon….let’s hope that is not a portent for tomorrow.

Fomo once again much in evidence, exacerbated by conflicting information. The “photograph” department have said that there is about a 3 hour delay in the timings of the in-transit photos; however they are putting the DVD-making team ashore at the same really early hour. Officially in tomorrow’s special edition ship’s paper, the “transit” starts before 7am. In practice if Photography are right this could be as late as 10am. There is a lot of info about the open deck places from which viewing will be possible – however I do have my doubts about the concentration span of most passengers, self included. I am not sure any of us can remain glued to the rail for the full 7 hours of the total transit, (with the ages of some of them, nature is bound to call first, in fact multiple times), and in fact there is the usual daytime programme of activities, so obviously the Entertainment Team are not expecting it to be much of a competing attraction.

Secondary Big News on board is the Queen’s Birthday, something to do with the demographic of the majority of passengers, possibly (many of them even older than She). We could, if we wished, attend a number of quizzes, film showings etc tomorrow, themed to this Birthday (and no doubt many will). It is also one of the few UK stories that has made it onto the BBC World News.

Interestingly, we could also attend a number of sporty-type activities, listed as Passengers v Ship’s Company (cricket, quoits, shuffleboard…) which has never happened before – presumably (we think) the Ship’s Company have been told to get off the Bridge and do something else all day to get them out of the way of the Pilot in charge of the Transit…?

Speaking of activities, I was slightly concerned yesterday that one of the afternoon offerings was “Beginners Tap Dancing”. Recollecting my concerns over the appropriate standard of dress to be worn in Very Hot and Humid Weather, it is to be hoped that those choosing Tap Dancing recollected that it takes place Inside, not Outside, and would therefore need Appropriate Clothing, as well as Appropriate Footwear as advertised….just saying…..I mean some of them could barely sit still in a chair without imminent “malfunction” - I do feel attempting to Tap Dance might have been tempting providence just too far…? Obviously I would have attended myself, but I had something very urgent to do elsewhere at the time – probably.

Off for an early night to be braced for whatever tomorrow brings. I do hope it does not come as an anti-climax……



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