Einstein on the Beach

Yesterday was a “sea day” on Prinsendam.  There are not enough of them on this segment of the cruise.   I like a day at sea to recharge, and go to lectures and to ask the Captain questions.  This sea day there was a Q&A with the Captain. 

Captain Marco was in full uniform but with one red and one green sock.  No one mentioned it until the last question and he had been waiting.  Suzi had already figured it out “Left and Right.”  Captain Marco said. “I’ve been waiting for that question all morning, it’s so I can tell my left from my right.”

Captain Marco got the usual “toughest port to navigate, favorite port, when the harbor pilot is on board who is really in charge (the Captain),” questions but also some more interesting ones, like why are there no female captains on Holland America?” He explained that he had female first and second officers and a navigator, but to be a captain you need seven years once you become a second officer.  The women at Holland America have not been in long enough to get their master’s ticket.  He said it is harder for women if they take time out to have kids.   He did point out that for non-operating staff like hotel managers and cruise directors, women were well represented.  The questioner did not seem completely satisfied.

My question was about environmental practices.  Recently a Holland America ship was caught dumping untreated gray water into Glacier Bay and throwing plastic into the sea off Alaska.  In response a federal judge will be considering an order to ban Carnival corporation ships from US waters in June.  The captain explained that his ship did it’s best, they don’t give out plastic straws unless asked.  They do not put plastic tops on coffee unless asked and they paying people to separate plastic from trash.  In fact the Prinsendam employee of the month does just that.  The questioner did not seem completely satisfied.

After the session I spoke with the Captain one on one about carbon emissions and how to calculate carbon so I could buy carbon offsets.  I did this for us before this cruise and put money into Sitka’s Carbon Offset Fund run by the Conservation Society but I have no idea if I came close to the right estimate.  Ships burn different fuels at different efficiencies, and being a smaller and older ship, my guess is that Prinsendam produces more carbon per person per day than a larger ship.  He confirmed that this was probably true.  I left him with the suggestion that HAL start its own carbon offset program or at least provide us with information on carbon emissions

Perhaps fate didn’t want me to ask those questions because as I walked away from the Captain I stumbled and pulled a muscle in my right calf.  I went to my stateroom, took some aspirin, got some ice, and put my foot up and started icing.  Suzi came beck from her sea day cooking program and wrapped the leg in an Ace bandage.  I got out my cane out to remind me to be careful.

Today we are in Zebrugge.  We are here a long time, until 10 PM.  That’s to give enough time for ship’s tours to Waterloo, or the World War battlefields.  They are also running tours to Bruges and Ghent.  Others cruise mates are taking trains to Bruges, Ghent or Brussels.  We had planned to go to the rail station and go wherever struck our mood.  But I was gimpy enough that I didn’t want to spend a whole day on my feet so we stayed on the ship, enjoying a long breakfast and icing my leg.  At breakfast we talked to the port agent who confirmed that there is a tram line that runs the entire length of the Belgian coastline from the Netherlands to France, it isn’t very long, but we could catch it outside the port gate for a nice ride. It was a dark, cloudy, windy and cool day but it wasn’t raining so off we went.

While the tram does run along the coastline it does not run on top of the dykes along the coastline, so out of the right window we sat dunes and dikes with an occasional forest of sailboat masts sticking up above the dunes and dikes.  We got off at De Haan ann Zee (meaning the cock by the sea, so called because the town had so many crowing roosters that sailors said the town didn’t need a lighthouse or foghorn.)   It is a charming beach resort, what I call a boardwalk town, although its “boardwalk” is a promenade that runs along the top of the dike with hotels, restaurants and fine houses also running along the top of the dikes.  Behind is a town center with parks shops hotels and a beautiful old and classic station, now used for the trams.

The town is best known as Albert Einstein’s way station after he left Nazi Germany and before he decamped for Princeton New Jersey. He remained long enough to have his portrait painted.

The land here is constantly being reclaimed.  The beach currently is closed as workers lay a line of thick pipe above the water line and fill in the area behind it with sand pumped from offshore.  They will pump sand in front of the pipes to create a nice slope to the North Sea.  This resort is in a constant state of land reclamation.  Today the community was also painting benches, bollards and stanchions.  Some restaurants were open and Suzi and split a sandwich and each had a milkshake in a nice place with heaters and glass protecting us from the wind.  We watched folks bundled up far more than we were walking the “boardwalk” not waiting for summer.

We were out for four hours and, even with the milkshake break and time sitting on the tram it was enough for my leg.  I’m back on the ship and back on ice.  Tomorrow Antwerp, I have never been and there is lots I want to see.

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