Strong winds and a cold, sideways winter rain followed what had already been a very average afternoon, at least when considering the weather. I guess that was the norm for the greater Melbourne area, cold winds and wet clothes followed by the odd storm. A miserable place Melbourne turned out to be at least when looking at the climate they encounter here. I never understood the people who made it out to be the nicest city in the land. Maybe they haven’t seen much of their own country or maybe they were just oblivious to their surroundings. I on the other hand saw clearly. This climate was not for me. Cold and wet in the winter and dry and hot in the summer, what worse predictions could one get. This made me appreciate the tropics, where the cool and dry winter suddenly shifts to the heat and rain, even more. A much better combination in my personal opinion. I generally wasn’t a big fan of loud and busy cities as it was, but a loud and busy city where the weather is shit most of the year, I couldn’t think of anything worse. But enough rant of my distorted view of the Victorian capital, more important matters were to come.
„She seemed smaller in the brochures“, I said to her. Indeed she was enormous. Twelve stories high, seven for the vehicles, three for the people driving them, one for the crew and one where the captain would watch the auto pilot doing what it was meant to do. She must have been over a hundred meters long and over forty meters tall, made from metal and filled with metal and flesh. A floating example of the worlds engineers greatest achievements. An enormous floating metal block weighing more than one could handle to say in one sentence, only second in greatness to the planes and spacecrafts and satellites and so many other things, the engineering world has brought to us.
There was still some time before the engines would start roaring and pushing this seemingly unmovable object across the treacherous waters of the Tasman sea. Indeed the wind predictions hadn’t been the most promising and thirty to forty knot winds were going to make the next twelve hours interesting and entertaining for some, but less for others.
„Do you have any illicit weapons in your possession sir?“ Inquired the quarantine officer. „Well of course!“ I said, and so my compound bow would not be able to join me on my voyage across the ocean, had I hoped to catch a huge blue fin tuna bow fishing from the balcony of the seventh floor deck. What a rip off I though, can’t even shoot over sized fish with undersized gear from a ridiculously unsafe position in the middle of the night, on the Tasman sea anymore! What else were they going take from me I thought. „Are these fuel canisters empty?“ the man continued. „Well of course not, what was the point of carrying empty fuel canisters with me?“ I looked at him with a face that should have showed him, that I was not only confused but also highly disappointed in this nonsense. „You will have to empty them sir, over there in the containers sir.“ How dare you, I thought to myself. With your muscled arms, huge tattoos and your government law enforcement, whatever else outfit, your polite and calm way of telling somebody all the things they are not allowed to do, moving around like a Rambo wannabe. I was not content. First he takes away my right to bear arms on public transportation, then he continues by taking away my flammables! What was to come next? Maybe he wanted my food and drinks also? „Do you have any vegetables on board?“ he inquired…..
Finally we were on board. Our car was now half a ton lighter than before and suddenly it hit me. They do this not for safety reasons, but economical gain. If there were a thousand cars on board, and everyone had to lose as much as me, that would make their ship five hundred tons lighter and hence they would safe enormous amount of fuel on the way over there. I had triumphed, finally seen through the disguise called quarantine. Another great achievement in my otherwise so boring life.
We decided to have a look at our cabins for the night and meet later on, for drinks and dinner. Three old and grey, partially smelly characters awaited me sitting on top of their bunks, reading the papers and making the already tiny cabin, seem even smaller and more uncomfortable than it actually was. I decided to introduce myself, use the restroom and then flee into the endless labyrinth that was the ship. There were bars and restaurants, souvenir shops and cafes, even a cinema was on board. People were wondering all over the place, no sense of direction or purpose, confused, aimless, gathering in various corners, praying that no one would find out that they were lost. It was a strange place. Suddenly I stumbled into Nina. She too must have left her cabin shortly after entering it. As we looked at each other, it was clear that it was time for a drink before engulfing us in the culinary masterpieces that the captain’s table had to offer. The taste of beer flowing down my throat was not only refreshing but also highly calming and soothing to my mind. I was comfortable once again, a feeling that quite frankly I had for most of my life, and for the better part of the day already.
The ship has started to move. Gentle waves could barely be felt as the huge ship made its way across Victoria harbor. People seemed surprised and comfortable, oblivious to the fact that all this gentle sailing would be gone as soon as the open ocean would unleash its full fury upon them. The captain’s table, or whatever the restaurant was called, seemed to be the only place on board where one could eat a half descent meal that was not served out of heated saucepans that one would find in the canteen of an overpriced college, and was hence the logical choice for a meal. After a surprisingly elaborate meal and a couple of bottles of wine, the ship suddenly began to move heavily. Or maybe it wasn’t so much the ship but my dulled sense of balance. Suddenly we realized that the, earlier, so overcrowded ship was now only harboring a few characters stumbling around in small groups, sometimes forgetting to holding on to the wall or railing, sliding and falling over, seemingly embarrassed by their clumsy effort.
We decided to get another bottle of wine and climb to the tenth floor, high up into the center of the ship, to explore the, for us yet, unknown. It was empty, the entire floor void of human life. There were chairs and tables, even a small dance floor in the middle. The swinging chairs were moving in all kinds of directions, something frequently observed in cup carousels from theme parks such as Disney Land. Heavy rain was pounding the outside walls of the ship, and surprisingly I could walk in a straighter line than ever before as if the massive swings of the ship where in tune with my heavily distorted view of the world around me. Suddenly we heard laughter coming from the far reaches of the deck and we decided to investigate. Drunk Kiwis! What a pleasant surprise! We were not the only ones enjoying this for some people seemingly rough ride. We had found our entertainment for the next few hours, and strange discussion, dancing, laughter and the odd cigarette on the windy decks of the tenth floor made my memory of the actual happenings very fuzzy. But I do remember it was fun. A lot of fun! As I stumbled back to my cabin, the smell of puke, from various corners of the ship, even in my state, was hard to miss. It appeared the majority of travelers hadn’t trained their sea legs in a while. I didn’t feel sorry for them, I felt sorry for me! I was the poor guy that had to smell the contents of their stomach, they couldn’t smell anything anymore anyways, as their nasal passages were surely blocked with pieces from last night’s meal.
The dream ended abruptly. I lifted my head and was utterly confused. For a moment I had absolutely no idea where I was. A loud voice from an unidentified source seemed to inform people that we had arrived at our destination. Was this another dream or maybe this was the afterlife. Suddenly it hit me! Of course! I was on a boat. It all made sense to me now. My fellow inmates had already left the room, the lights blinding my half glued together, glassy, red eyes. Time to take a shower, I thought. As I left my room the calm and empty corridors of the ship where littered with peoples green and grim faces. Some clearly still feeling the effects of the seasickness medication they forgot to take. While ordering a coffee and watching the live TV coverage of the US Open, I suddenly realized that despite my lack of sleep and the ridiculous amount of beverages consumed the night before, I felt surprisingly fit and ready for the five hour drive to Hobart, where my brother Simon would await me to join the adventure of the month to come. Nina didn’t appear that lucky. She did blend in however, with all the other people around her, but unlike them would only relief herself of her insides after having left the vessel and sitting next to me in the car. I guess she wanted to take the theme of the ship back on to the mainland. The Spirit of Tasmania.