[image of Bartholomew Roberts (1682-1722) , aka “Black Bart,” courtesy of Wikimedia]
We just returned from our final trip of the summer, a cruise that took us to the Grand Caymans, Cozumel, and back to Ft. Lauderdale. Hours after getting off the ship, I could still feel the waves surging underneath my feet.
Coming off a boat that was the size of a 10-story building laid on its side, a boat with all the grace of a submersible refrigerator, I was thinking about how little we fear ocean travel nowadays. We used to associate the sea with risk and uncertainty. And many still do experience it this way, at least those who work there, or who are seeking work.
And I suppose this is also why we still dream of pirates, since those were the lucky romantic few who managed to fight their way out of the routinized, regulated time of wage-labor, and paid dearly for that privilege. But for the most part, we have opted for a mode of sea travel whose adventures are largely devoid of risk, and created a “leisure industry” that must constantly remind travelers of the dangerous stateless men who were eradicated to make way for bars and buffets, which of course I enjoyed a great deal.
The strangest thing about spending extended time on a ship lies in the contrast in scale and sublimity between the boat’s teeming social life and what lies just beyond it: outside the ship, the water stretches out to the horizon, where it meets an equally vast and unremarkable sky; inside the ship, we are crouched together in even the largest staterooms, relieved to close a cabin door from time to time and find ourselves alone. And yet we cling to the edges of the deck, mindful of the ocean all around us.