Have you ever travelled on a ship? No? Then you really have to read the following story in which Alan Townend gives an account of his latest cruise. You will find a number of sea expressions and I can guarantee that once you begin reading through Alan's essay, a smile is going to come across your face. That is provided you read the story carefully enough.
In case you don't find anything funny in the following text, you have the right to tell us about your feelings on our forum at http://www.english-test.net/forum/
(you will have to look for an appropriate place) and we will do our best to entertain you better in with our upcoming newsletter issue.
So, sit back and enjoy the ride...
Once you have boarded an aeroplane and everyone has settled in their seats, it's common practice for the flight staff to show you what to do in the event of an emergency. Now what exactly an emergency is, nobody talks about but everyone knows that this is possibly a situation when the plane, which is supposed to be up there, for some reason or other has decided to come down – and not I hasten to add in the airport. It's a kind of euphemistic way of talking about a disaster. The other week I discovered that the procedure on a ship was the same but slightly different - what you might call "nautical". The reason was that we went on a "cruise" to see the northern capitals around the Baltic coast. Incidentally I learnt that a "nautical mile" is 1.85 kilometres but an ordinary mile is 1.609 kilometres. Perhaps that's because on a ship you go up and down a bit more! Anyhow there was no nonsense allowed with the "emergency drill" here.
You all had to report to one of the main halls (it was the one used for the musical shows in the evenings) and so there was plenty of room to stand up, put on your lifejacket and even simulate stepping off into the water as you took a deep breath and held your nose. A very jolly start indeed to the 14 days at sea. Now I don't propose to talk about the wonderful places we stopped at like Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Gdansk, Tallinn and Klaipeda - I'm going to talk about life "on board" the ship. And I had to stop talking about the boat, the word that made regular "cruisers" as well as the "crew" start to cringe because a boat simply swans around in rivers and is small. After all we were 1,000 strong – passengers and crew. And we had the title MV attached to the name of the ship. It sounded grand until I found it was an abbreviation for "motorized vessel". Vessel of course is another word for ship but it doesn't have the same ring about it as ship and so I've decided now to honour it just with MV whenever I refer to it.
Of course if in your daily life you travel mostly on the flat, on foot or in cars and trains, you experience a strange sensation when on an MV which has a tendency to bob up and down especially as it travels along nautical miles. And the North Sea has a reputation for being a little bumpy. When you're walking about you have to develop a particular "gait" (way of walking) because whereas you would expect your right foot to be landing on the same level as your left foot has just done, you find that the floor – sorry the "deck" – is immediately ready to receive this foot and comes up earlier than you expect. At night as you sleep, this rocking sensation tends to upset the stomach – leading to nausea and seasickness. I became aware of this at my first breakfast when food seemed not a good idea. Sitting opposite me was a very hearty and seasoned cruiser who was tucking into bacon, eggs, sausages, beans and bacon. Perhaps he'd noticed the whitish green pallor on my cheeks and the fact that I was toying with two segments of an orange and not really attempting to eat either. "What you want to do is tighten your belt to stop the insides of your stomach moving about and keep your eyes fixed on the horizon." Well, in my state I was ready to give it a try.
Tightening the belt seemed to work but keeping your eyes fixed on the horizon could be hazardous if you didn't want to crash into other individuals with tightened belts looking in the same direction. After a while you begin to "get your sea legs" – you start to get used to walking around on a ship. You become very organised in the way you use your cabin, as it's not very big. You have to make sure that everything is "shipshape" – everything is tidy. You get to know people quickly because it's really like a small community and everybody has to come back on board before you got to the next port. You acquire new friends you eat with at your evening meal night after night. You make vague promises that you'll meet up again when you get home. Of course they may just be "ships that pass in the night" – people you meet once and never see again. I suppose it's rather like when you meet someone on one of our forums at english-test.net The other guests on our table all had cabins on the 8th deck. The great advantage for them was that they could hardly hear the sound of the engine. Maybe when "my ship comes home" – when I become rich I'll be able to afford a cabin right up high because where I was I could certainly hear the motorised part of our MV. Round about day 5, you get used to it. You grow so accustomed to it that when you get home, you miss it. My big problem now at night is the sound of silence and the fact that nothing moves. I look out of the window in the morning and discover we haven't moved an inch! And then there was the huge amount of food we ate. I can't help thinking of my breakfast companion on that first morning. I can keep my eye fixed on the horizon all right. It's the belt tightening that I'm finding a problem.
Yours, Alan Townend