July 4, 2019

One of the 68 locks between Amsterdam and Budapest

Dateline: The Main River Waterway, Germany

Today was strictly a sailing day. I slept through Frankfurt but woke up soon after as the ship bumped into another one of the 68 locks between the Rhine and the Danube. The Main River is now pretty much a shipping channel connecting the two great rivers. As they are at very different elevations, the ship has to be lifted up into the center of Europe by several thousand feet. This is obviously impractical without a lock system.

Unlike the Rhine, the Main is not a particularly large river and, with a lock every mile or two, it’s more like an interconnected series of calm finger lakes than anything else. With a river boat plodding along at a slow 10 knots, an absolutely glorious day weather wise, and a still calm water, in some ways it feels a little like Bavaria Land at Disney. Cute little towns appear, glide by and disappear. There’s the occasional low bridge which leads to them needing to lower the wheel house and have everyone on deck sit down and duck while we clear by centimeters. The picture perfect flocks of ducks and geese, and even the occasional swan look as if they could be animatronic.

Hanging out on deck – note the 4th of July shirt that I actually bought in Mexico in the mid 90s

I spent some time on deck basking in the sun, some time reading (a reread of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories – there was a copy in the front of an Amsterdam book shop and I took it as a sign), I got an MNM column finished, and wrote another 2000 words on the book chapter. I finished it all up with a nap before dinner. Tonight was Captain’s dinner (they had to come up with something as we had no stop today) with surf and turf and entirely too much wine. It was followed by a classic dance party in the lounge. Watching a number of tipsy baby boomers gyrate to the music of their misbegotten youth got old after a while so I came downstairs to watch another movie and to get to bed early. Tomorrow looks to be a bit of a long day.

RV Thomas G Thompson in Alaskan waters

Story time tonight is prompted by a day on a boat. The summer of 1981, when I was 19, my father helped me get a job on the University of Washington research vessel, the Thomas G. Thompson. It was to spend two months in the Bering Sea and they needed someone to run the water sampling machinery at night so that the scientists could keep normal hours. It wasn’t a hard job, it paid well (with no ability for me to actually spend any of my earnings – not a lot to do in the sub Arctic, and it came with a lot of down time. (I was able to read the unabridged War and Peace in less than a week). I found myself bound for Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians by plane that June where I met the ship and began my sojourn. I must confess that I was seasick the first day out of port, but after that initial bout, I was fine for the rest of the trip. I ate well, read a good deal, watched a quantity of bad 70s films, and visited several places such as the Pribilof Islands and Nunivak Island that are not on the beaten path. There isn’t much there but I did go to one of the seal rookeries. Let me tell you bull seals can move quite fast on land when they want to. They also smell terrible in congregation. Nothing terribly exciting happened during my time at sea but it does mean that when we’re playing exotic places you’ve been to that no one else has, I often win.

Tomorrow is Wurzburg and Rothburg so I should have something more interesting to say.

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