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At about 11:30 p.m. the engines were started, the anchor was lifted, and the sails were mechanically unfurled. Standing out on deck, I thought, What a wonderful time this is, the moment a voyage—any voyage—gets under way. Even Ishmael felt there was "many a pleasant haven in store" when the Pequod set sail. That lofty thought gave way to a worldly desire to try the casino, which opened as soon as we left port. Our bad luck at dinner was reversed at the tables. If we invest our small blackjack killing wisely, we will be able to send our two sons through college.
Now, as I finish this entry, I can see through the portholes a sea made blindingly white by the fullest moon imaginable. How nice of Club Med to arrange that.
G.M.'S LOG, SUNDAY, DEC. 2, 1990.
The ship has this drill called the "abandon exercise," in which the crew and passengers walk through what would happen if the ship hit an iceberg, went aground on a coral reef, rammed a competing cruise ship, ran out of wine. In a way, a cruise is a series of abandon exercises in which passengers throw off their inhibitions, make new friends, do stupid things.
Being on assignment for a sports magazine, I was honor-and duty-bound to participate in the many sports the Club Med 1 offers. Unfortunately, most of them are water sports, and my affinity for aquatic recreation usually stops at my Top-Siders. But there I was, bright and early in the morning, waiting on the open hall nautique for my turn to water-ski. I had been up on water skis before. However, that was 10 years and 30 pounds ago, so I had my doubts.
Ma femme went first, and as she bobbed up and skimmed across the water, so did my heart. Piece of cake, I thought, as I watched the towline grow taut between my skis. "Hit it!" I called knowingly. For some reason, I lost my grip on the tow handle on the way up. On the second try I arose, only to keel over. On my third attempt the unseen hand of Ursula the Sea Witch grabbed my skis just as I was about to surface. Glub Med.
In waterskiing, as in baseball, three strikes and you're out. On my way back to the ship, I feigned nonchalance while I imagined 200 Frenchmen watching from the deck, laughing, pointing and shouting, La baleine blanche, la baleine blanche!
Our afternoon was spent stumbling around the island of Bequia, the first stop on the Club Med 1's southern route and the largest island in the Grenadines. Picturesque Bequia is the last of the old-fashioned whaling centers, but there aren't many harpooners left. The people cater to the yachting crowd, and there are a number of scrimshanders and model-boat craftsmen whose wares are well worth purchasing. Taking a Jeep taxi from Port Elizabeth to Princess Margaret Beach, we encountered a lad walking in the middle of the road on stilts.
"Do people do a lot of that here?" I asked the driver.
"Oh, yes," he said.