Greetings from the MV Explorer sailing through the Atlantic Ocean.
The past week has flown by but somehow it seems as though I have been on the ship far longer than a week. When I last wrote I was about to leave my hotel to board. So lets begin. Last Monday Eddie and Bridget, who shared the hotel room with me, had so much stuff they took a cab to the port. Grant and I packed very light in comparison so being stubborn and cheap we both chose to walk the 8 blocks or so. I found my way to my cabin on the 2nd deck and quickly began to unpack. My porthole was larger than I had expected it to be and the circular window indeed gave it a fun nautical feel. There is a heavy steal plate that can be closed in the event of rough waters. We began our ship orientation a few hours later which included introduction of the Ship captains as well as introductions of the executive dean, academic dean, dean of students (my supervisor) and the rest of the faculty and staff. Our training is organized by main office staff who all work in Charlottesville VA, so they will sail with us to Halifax. After our first meeting we all made our way up to the 7th deck for our welcome reception. Our lounge is a great space and I know that I will very much appreciate our hideaway.
Before we could set sail we had our first lifeboat drill. Being the only person on the 2nd deck at that time, I made it to my muster station and realized that I had an entire lifeboat to myself. I like those odds. Soon after we gently pushed away from the port of Norfolk and passing over the Chesapeake Bridge we set off for the Pacific Ocean. The ship is impressively stable while docked at port and gave many of us a false sense of stability so it was not long before we were bumping into walls and grabbing for handrails while we tried to develop our sea legs. The sky quickly darkened turning into night and we soon lost sight of the lights on land bringing an end to our first day. As I got into bed and shut off the light I realized another perk of being on the bottom deck. The moonlight reflects off the white crashing waves and creates a sort of light show on my ceiling. An ever-changing wave of light lulled me to sleep that night as thoughts of the journey spun through my head.
The ships medical team and captain are very concerned with the likelihood of a swine flu outbreak on the ship. As we have much lower numbers, nearly 200 lower than usual we have a number of empty rooms. SO after many conversations between the admin team and the main officer in VA, they decided that the second deck should be cleared and held for quarantine. As a result, I packed up and moved up to the 4th deck and my students were dispersed between the various spaces on the 3rd and 4th deck. Upgrade!
Training is now a blur and it already seems like weeks ago when we arrived to bagpipes in Halifax and our students boarded. The LLC (Living Learning Coordinators) team is the catchall crew. Because of this I have discovered a potential career should I leave student affairs. Working for the Canadian TSA was an experience to say the least. Understandably students’ baggage went through scanners and one of my favorite co-workers Ana and I worked at the carry on scanner. With direction of Rhonda and Jill, the official Canadian TSA staff (Hi R & J) Ana would ask the student to open their bag and show us the questionable item. The items in question include the usual; drugs, weapons, knives over three inches, open containers of liquid, and tape. Yes, tape. We only use magnets on the ship. 75% of our cabin is metal and the tape damages the walls. One of my favorite things to confiscate was curling irons and straightness that did not have an auto shut off switch. While Ana and I were the third round of inspections we still found quite a few, maybe two dozen to be exact. Additionally, students are not allowed to bring alcohol on the ship and staff and faculty can only bring on two bottles at each port, and we must be subtle in caring the items on. We found two students who must have gone to great lengths to replace 5 bottles of water in the middle of a case with vodka. Before this discovery our ship security would open one or two bottles per case, and not delicately either. The guy would rip the box or plastic right open and pull out a few bottles, open them, smell them, even take a sip in a few case. Once we found vodka twice we went on red alert. We opened EVERY bottled beverage that was brought to the ship. It was a mess but ultimately I think it will make our life easier, at least for this first crossing.
Following a second lifeboat drill, for which I received numerous complements on my ‘serious voice’ instructing students, staff and faculty in my new muster station to remain quiet the entire time, the MV Explorer blasted it horns three times signaling its departure. And with that, the 100th voyage was underway. The students had two long days of orientation and have now had two days of classes. We arrive in Cadiz, Spain on Saturday and then I’ll be heading to Seville with one of the other LLCs, Grant for a nice student free trip.
Some pictures will be posted soon.