Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smooth Sailing

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian, Tuesday, July 7)
As the cruise comes to an end, I can't help but note the fantastic weather that we had for the entire voyage. Except for about 30 hours off Portugal while heading to Iceland, the seas have been remarkably calm. There was very little rolling which obviously held seasickness down to a minimum. We had some morning fog for a couple of days off the north coast of Scotland heading to Belfast and a full day of rain and fog that ruined our last Sunday at sea. Otherwise there was lots of sunshine almost every day(and nights in the Arctic).
I've heard about storms and rough seas on previous cruises. All I can say is that we have been blessed on this one. I just hope I haven't jinxed us for the last two days.

1000 Miles to Home

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian, Monday, July 6)
As I write this (Monday July 6 @ 10:30am) we are about 1000 miles north
east of New York. After yesterday's Independence Day/Sunday at sea
washout, the weather today is gorgeous. Go figure!
It is the last day I am keeping the Library open. For the next several
days I will be packing up all of the items that have to return to shore
and writing my final report of the voyage.

From what I've gathered, the plan is for us to reach Montauk sometime
Thursday and anchor to await Admiral Craine, the College's President, and
make the ship presentable for the return celebration. We will then move
on, sailing south of Long Island to the mouth of NY harbor and anchoring
again early Friday morning off Staten Island. There, we will be met by
the new Chancellor of the State University of NY and some other
dignitaries who will accompany us into the harbor and up the East River
for the final leg of the voyage, our grand journey home.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Final Exams

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian, Mr. Delbango; posted July 2, 2009)
It's almost the end of the voyage and that means the end of classes and
final exams. The cadets have been studying diligently in the library, in
the classrooms, in the mess and on the deck (when the weather permits);
anywhere they can find space to lay out their books and notes. They are
also scrambling to finish assignments, some due now and some that were due
weeks ago. The Library has been busy all day but especially so in the
evenings. You can feel tension in the air.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Homeward Bound

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian, Mr. Delbango)
We left Belfast around 17:00 Sunday evening. That was late for a port departure for us, but we had to have a high tide to leave. The tugs hooked up and pulled us out backwards out of the Victoria Channel and then turned us around. As we pulled out, we got a clear view of the now dormant dry dock where the Titanic was built. Steaming ahead, we entered the North Channel, rounded the Ards Peninsula and headed south into the Irish Sea toward the Atlantic and home. By Monday evening, we had past the southern tip of Ireland and left behind our last view of land until we see Sandy Hook. No more ports for us but home.
Everyone is busy finishing up their work. Finals will begin this week for the cadets' classes. Projects are due. Things have to be packed up around the ship. Grades have to be submitted. Final cleaning and repairs have to be done to make us presentable. There is no down time until July 10th. We can rest when we get back to the Bronx.

Around Belfast

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian, Mr. Delbango)
(images from
Belfast was a good walking city, very compact and organized. Unlike Sao
Miguel and Gibraltar, they actually had wide sidewalks and pedestrian
malls. This made walking fairly safe, except for the darn traffic moving
in the wrong direction. Three days isn't enough time to get used to cars
coming at you on the left side of the road.
The busses from the Ship left us in the heart of Belfast, right by the
City Hall and there was plenty to see and do in the immediate area. Most
of the shopping is within several blocks of the City center. There are
two really nice malls right there, Victoria Square and the Castle Court
and several smaller arcades. Most of the shopping district is either new
construction or beautiful restored Victorian buildings. The area has been
re-invigorated since the Peace of 1998 made the area safe again. For
almost 30 years it was an armed camp with roadblocks that wouldn't allow
traffic into the zone and pedestrian checkpoints. Unfortunately, the
re-construction process is continuing and there are lots of what they term
"diversions" (detours) that I had to maneuver around.

Other things I saw nearby were the Albert Clock Tower which is listing to
one side after 120 years like the Tower of Pisa, The St. Anne's Cathedral,
the Linen Hall Library and the Big Wheel Ferris wheel next to the City
Hall that I had to ride.

Outside the City center, in the working-class residential areas of the
west, are the former battle zones of Belfast's religious conflict. Here
are the Peace Walls. These are huge murals painted on the sides of row
houses commemorating events and personalities of what they call "the
Troubles". There are dozens of them. It was a horrible time for the
people of Belfast and it pervades the psyche of the whole population who
lived through it. The murals are mostly in the areas known as Shankill
(the Protestant area) and the Falls (the Catholic zone). I was able to
only get to the Shankill.

In the north part of the Shankill district is the 164 year old Crumlin
Road Prison, now closed but open to the public for tours. It was an
active prison until 1996. I took the tour and it was awesome, especially
the execution room where they hung 13 men over the years.

The north and south of the City are the more upscale residential areas. I
spent a bit of time exploring the north. Here are nice single family
homes and garden apartment complexes with beautifully landscaped grounds.

I was able to see a lot in three days. It was a great port to just roam

The Giant's Causeway

(Excerpt from Ship's Librarian)
(image from
On Friday several cadets and I took the Giant's Causeway tour to the northcoast of the County Antrim. This was an 8 ½ hour tour of the beautiful northern region. Only 13 of us chose to go that day. It was unfortunate for those who didn't come along because we saw some of the most astounding scenery of any of the ports of this cruise. We traveled through peaceful, green farm country passing quaint cottages and farmhouses. Reaching the coast, we traveled though the seaside villages of Portstewart and Portrush and stopped at the ruins of Dunlucie Castle on a cliff overlooking the sea. This castle was the ancestral home of the McDonnell clan, the chiefs of Antrim and my Mother's family.. The day was clear and warm and we could see all the way over to Scotland from the site.
Traveling further west, we came to the Giant's Causeway itself. The causeway is a natural formation of regularly shaped basalt columns formed 60 million years ago by volcanic activity. They extend out into the sea. The weathered tops are so regular in shape that they look like floor tilesmaking up a walkway to the ocean. The legend is that it was created by the giant, Finn McCool so he could walk to Scotland to battle another giant.
After exploring the Causeway for an hour we had a traditional meal of Irish stew for lunch. Our bellies full, we moved on to the adventurous part of the trip, crossing the rope bridge or Carrick-a-rede. The rope bridge was first built centuries ago by fishermen so they could reach their fishing spot on a small, rocky island 70 feet offshore. It hangs precipitously 80 feet above the sea. Walking across on the narrow planking was a harrowing experience to say the least. The bridge shook and swayed while crossing it and some of us managed the crossing better than others. My method was just not to look down. After walking around the tiny island on the other side with cliffs dropping straight down to the sea, we had to make a return crossing to the mainland. It was just as thrilling.
Heading back to Belfast, we took the Antrim coast road passing through the spectacular Glens of Antrim and the lovely seaside towns of Ballycastle,Cushendall, Larne and Carrickfergus. Returning back to the ship that evening, we were exhausted yet invigorated by the beautiful Irish sights we had experienced.