Friday, February 10, 2012

Transferring to the Long Boat

Transferring to the Long Boat

Before I knew it I was at the head of the queue. I was glad I had worn my sandals with the good grip and sensible shorts. Instructions were given to me. “Go down backwards.  Follow instructions.  The men will grab you around the waist and at that precise moment you must let go of the rope and let them pull you backwards into the long boat.” I swung myself around the pole and found my footing on the first step.  Down I went keeping my arms bent at right angles, not letting my body become elongated. I listened for the call.  Looking down I could see the surge of the boat rising and falling and felt anxious lest my leg get caught between the side of the ship and the edge of the long boat.

Then I felt strong masculine arms wrap around my waist and I was plucked off the rope and deposited unceremoniously into the bottom of the boat. My eyes widened with fright and everyone on board the long boat laughed.  I didn’t mind.  It relieved the tension. I took a deep breath to calm myself and watched as the next person lowered down the ladder.  It was not a task for the faint hearted. Many people lost their footing as they connected to the deck and had to crawl to a space to sit. Hands reached to steady them and no one was alone.  I was glad when Paul was safely in the long boat with us. The final journey was underway and there was no turning back now.
I looked up, far up there on the veranda deck the rail was lined with hundreds of passengers and it seemed every eye was on me.  I waved my arm in triumph, and in unison, like a Mexican wave every arm raised up in a wave back.  It was an emotional moment and tears pricked the back of my eyes.  I felt like I was saying goodbye to a special group of people. Many had expressed that they wished they were young enough to do the trip onto the island.
The two key men balanced on either side of the ladder in the long boat constantly hauled on the ropes attaching the longboat to the ship, lengthening and shortening the rope as the longboat rose and fell on the surf. The waves were not calm and it would not have been possible for the elderly passengers to have travelled to the island this way. A gangplank on a calm day would be the only way that an elderly tourist could have achieved this. 
Once everyone had transferred we pushed away.  I had read that in the past when the boats were manned by oars the islanders sang a song called “The Sweet Bye and Bye” as they rowed back to their island.  Now in this modern age of deep engine noise it was not easy to speak and be heard. The journey was short and the coming alongside of the concrete pier was an anti climax.  Once inside the shelter of the rounded bulb of the landing the water had lost its strength and stepping ashore was not difficult. I could see signs of mud and debris everywhere. I stood on the end of the wharf and watched the cruise ship depart.  It was an empty hollow moment for me and I felt very vulnerable as I saw the ship disappear from sight.

1 comment:

  1. Good to read all the details Ruth. Hopefully there are no alarms going off in the middle of the night in the chicken sheds in Pitcairn and you get good nights sleep as you settle in. Noel's funeral went off good. Farewelled Steve off to Tauranga on Friday.