Friday, 20 January 2012

Deep Blue – Chronicles of an Atlantic crossing

I crossed the Atlantic. An old dream, a recent craving, now a lived reality which I already remember with profound nostalgia, the nostalgia of that deep blue that took me pitching and rolling from a Lisboa’s sunny autumn day to the torrid and humid heat of the tropical lands of Ecuador. Many were the emotions, the moments, the surprises that my old friend the sea had me live from the first to the last of the 21 days passed on board the 'BBC Ganges', the cargo ship with a presageful name with which I made the crossing to a new world of emotions and discoveries. Having stepped firm land once more, it is now time to share some of the emotions lived on board, the most vivid, the most striking,  those which give me the biggest pleasure in sharing. The strongest of them all, however, I will not be able to share, as it is impossible to describe the tone of blue of the ocean I sailed, that deep blue which I will always remember as the most vivid memory of the days I spent crossing the Atlantic.

Departure: until the other end of the sea

At 6pm of the 13th October 2011 departed from Lisboa, more specifically from the Beato docks, the cargo ship 'BBC Ganges'. Within the varied cargo carried, as is its purpose and duty, the 'BBC Ganges' carried one of the least usual items in its many trips across the globe: me. If any doubt subsisted that a passenger was a rare thing around here, the facial expression of the cadet that was guarding the ship when I arrived cleared them all, lost between the awe of seeing two backpacks with a man attached wanting to board the ship and the need to advise his superiors of the arrival of the passenger who was going to cross the Atlantic. In a short while, however, the Chief Mate arrived to welcome me on board and guide me to what was about to become my cabin. My impression when first walking the ship’s corridors was that of having receded in time, arriving suddenly to the 70s or 80s, or maybe of having entered an old Chinese restaurant with walls covered with pine boards and paintings of rice field landscapes. When entering my cabin, however, that first impression was lost, as I felt strangely at home, maybe welcomed by the presence of a comfortable bed and sofa and by the existence of two windows to look at the sea during my days on board. Soon after the Captain came down from the bridge to get to know who I was, giving me permission to dive back in the Portuguese capital for a few more hours, time used to say goodbye to a hefty duck rice plate, to the nice Portuguese bica espresso coffee, to the pastel de nata (Portuguese custard pie), and finally to my family, nostalgias I left behind until de day of my return.  Still slightly dazed by the novelty of it all and the few hours slept in the short week I had to prepare my trip, I boarded the ship once more, now for good, now until the other end of the sea. At 5pm, and with the duck still floating around my stomach, I ran through dinner, engulfing in one go whatever I was given so I could climb up to the bridge on time for departure, the last contact with firm land before reaching the other shore of the Ocean. The clock marked the 6pm of the 13th October 2011 when departed from Lisboa, more specifically from the Beato docks, the cargo ship 'BBC Ganges', leaving behind the wharf to slide languidly along the hills of Lisboa, absorbing from its houses the ochre tainted light the sun emanated from afar, from the west to which I’m indefinitely bound. Balancing us on favor of its current, the Tejo River showed me Lisboa’s Castle, its Alfama neighborhood suspended above the river, its  cathedral peaking over the Terreiro do Paço square so it could watch the orange cacilheiro boats stroll to the other bank of the river, the Bairro Alto neighborhood toasting from above to my swift return, Lisboa’s waterfront accompanying me until the bridge, until the Crist Redeemer gave me a last hug to wish me a good trip. Little by little I felt Lisboa letting me go, while the Intanfe D. Henrique took the honor of waiving me a last goodbye from the forecastle of his caravel, wishful of his own departure and nostalgic of the days when the seas were his to discover. I saw also myself, near the tower of Belem, looking at the ships that sailed away and thinking of when it would be my turn to go. While the Bugio and Cascais' Guia lighthouses were throwing me a last farewell with the first swing of the waves, I saw Sintra from afar and the intense light that blinks from the Roca cape, where the sea begins according to the poet Luis de Camões, sights which accompanied my first hours at sea. Nostalgic of my presence, Portugal stared at me for long hours, like a parent who looks at his son departing while wishing for a swift return. I stared at him as well, petrified, watching my country become smaller until a huge red moon broke the horizon to crown Lisboa’s sky with the nostalgia I will carry along my path, a moment made eternal in that picture I could take only with my own eyes. Finally I left Lisboa, invaded by the contradictory sensation that while setting sail to foreign lands I found in the place where I come from the beauty I expect to discover along my way, but embraced by the certainty I belong here even if I depart once and again. At 6pm of the 13th October 2011 departed from Lisboa, more specifically from the Beato docks, the cargo ship 'BBC Ganges', headed to the other end of the sea, and I departed with him.

Atlantic Ocean, October 2011

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