“Will this be the ship that carries me away?” It’s a question my grandfather asked himself as a boy in Ireland. An uncle had sailed away to America. He earned enough to afford to return home, cabin passage, on fine large ship. He erected a cairn of stones on the road between Greencastle and Moville, paced off the length of the ship, and erected another cairn of stones. He took anyone who would follow him to pace the distance between the cairns while he talked about this wo
ndrous ship. My grandfather was hooked. After school he sat on the shores of Lough Foyle watching ships sail out of Derry, around Inishowen Head and into the North Atlantic asking: “Will this be the ship that carries me away?” One day he got on one of those ships, the Anchor line’s SS Furnessia out of Derry, and ran away to sea, to work as a steward.
When I was a kid my grandfather and I sat on the fire escape of his third floor walkup in Jersey City to watch ships sail past the Statue of Liberty. He taught me to recognize the livery on the ships’ funnels. Red white and blue for United
States Lines, yellow, green and white for Holland America, and red and black for Cunard. As we watched grandpa would ask “Richard, will this be the ship that carries you away?”
My Grandfather made sure that ships carried us both away together. First it was the Hudson River Day Line then, in 1958, on the three funneled Furness Liner, the Queen of Bermuda. In 1961 we sailed red white and blue on the SS United States to his boyhood home in Ireland where we looked in vain for those cairns and sat where he sat as a boy watching ships leaving Derry. We returned home on the SS America (The ship in the picture at the top of the page.)
I was hooked. Since then we’ve taken coastal steamers up and down the Coast of Norway, a Canadian freighter along the BC Coast and whenever life seemed to get too hectic rode the Alaska State Ferry on a “poor man’s cruise.”
We raised our kids and when they went to college we started more than 20 year careers as foreign aid workers. Working in places like the Balkans, Middle East and Africa we didn’t have much time to cruise.
But in 2014, after we returned to the US we got a brochure from AMEX tempting us with a cruise around South America and to Antarctica on Prinsendam. It hit too many of our hot buttons, Antarctica, the Panama Canal, Carnival in Rio, and a trip up the Amazon. We tried to talk ourselves out of it but couldn’t. Besides I had covered the sinking of the First Prinsendam in the Gulf of Alaska in 1980 and sailing on her namesake gave me a certain ironic pleasure. I produced a radio documentary about the rescue. https://www.kcaw.org/2016/10/11/smoke-on-the-water-the-sinking-of-the-prinsendam/ We were convinced this would be a one off. We were wrong. We’ve done a cruise each year since then. Here are our cruise blogs.
“We thought this would be a one off, we were wrong.”
“CU in C.U.B.A.”
“See it quick, before it melts.”
“Around the World at 19 miles an hour,”