Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Too Many Rivers to Cross

July 25, 2011

I send you today’s scuttlebutt from the very mouth of the Mediterranean, upon which converge Spain, Morocco and...England? Yes, sir. Or hath ye not heard of Gibraltar, also known as the Rock? For those of you who flunked History—go on, raise your hand—Gibraltar, like much of Spain, was ruled for 700 years by the Moors. Recaptured by the Spanish in1462 and Britain got its paws on it in 1704, where they remain today.

Sounds like an exciting place to visit; or, in the case of TS Empire State VI, to drop anchor within tantalizing eyeshot of—“bunker,” as it’s so called—and refuel; British Petroleum, you know; can’t beat it; what, with its excellent track record in offshore...hey, wait a minute! Unfortunately, the only person to debark to Gibraltar was Admiral Craine. Being the president has its privileges.

And now to discuss matters more pressing: my personal appearance! O, I’m vain! Vain, I tell ye! I can’t help it; I come from a long line of female beauties, whose continuation now so delicately rests on my volcanically erupting waistline. See, when I was told that the food on the ship was “good,” apparently that meant intolerably fattening! Truly, no matter the breakfasts I skip, miles I run, salads I substitute for heaping Tower of Babel portions of the flesh of every animal known to man, desserts from which I avert my eyes, etc. I’m still kept awake nights pinching mine stomach, thinking, “OMG! I’m getting fat!” Which is why I’ve replaced my impossibly handsome, slimming, pinching size-31-waist khaki trousers with this delightfully oversized white boiler suit! Indeed, I can now accumulate the collective blubber of some fourscore whales.

Lastly, Kurt Niemeyer addresses his kin thusly: “Hope everything is well. See you guys in 11 days!” And Nick Jones addresses the Jones Family: “Hope you’re enjoying your great PNW.” That’s Pacific Northwest, for those of you out of the know.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Homeward Bound

July 21, 2011

Homeward bound

The boat that I row won’t cross no ocean The boat that I row won’t get me there soon -Neil Diamond

BREAKING NEWS: TS Empire State VI and the Boys of Summer have turned a late-scheduled one-day stop in Mallorca into a four-day festival of fun, sun and Spanish Castle Magic. On account of our extended holiday in Spain, we are not—repeat, not!—going to France.

Four days in Palma de Mallorca, the disco inferno capital of Europe? ¡Hey, Macarena! Don’t get me wrong. There’s more to it than just shake, shake, shake—shake your bootie. I, for one, felt like everyone’s favorite knight errant, Don Quixote of La Mancha, when I disembarked the ark and what did I spy but a fort guarded only by a couple of grazing burros. I kid ye not. And what upon a hillside but a castle and a windmill! ¡Dios mio! My father, the medievalist, would have thought he’d died and gone to Dante’s Paradiso; if not that juxtaposed with the splendid medieval architecture—a 10th century Arab Bath, for instance; one of the few remaining testaments to 700 years of Moorish rule in Mallorca—were clothing optional beaches and all-night foam parties; in other words, a 21st century bath, if not quite Arab. Add expats and immigrants, and Palma is quite the mixed-up, perhaps reluctantly cosmopolitan place; a far cry from the passed over provincial backwater it had been before Franco opened the floodgates of tourism in the 1950’s. ¡Gracias al Caudillo!

Continuing on the subject of Gold Star dedications, my dear friend Nicholas Valavanis says hello to his mother and father, whom he loves and misses. And I, ol’ peppery Curley, say Happy Big Fat Turkish Wedding Day to my cousin Paul and his wife, Aylin. Wish I could be there to dance the Macarena—¡Hey, Macarena!—late into the Istanbul night, but, alas, duty calls.

Lastly, far be it for a seasoned—or seasonal, as the case may be—journalist to report on hearsay and rumor, but the hearsay and rumor scuttlebutt has it that our scheduled bunkering in Gibraltar for fuel and supplies might—repeat, might!—turn into a full-fledged pull-out-all-the-stops stop with liberty and justice for all...well, except for those naughty boys and girls assigned ED. I, for one, am as sure as Dante’s Purgatorio hoping for one last chance to sink my little tootsies into European soil before the long cross-Atlantic trek; but if Providence—or Captain Smith, whomever is calling the shots—wills it, then we’ll hunker down like Saint Brendan the Navigator, steamroll this here steamer past Go without collecting 200 greenbacks and head straight for Throgs Neck!

¡Hasta el próximo!


Monday, July 18, 2011



Penny Lane

On Watch

Hotdog Eating Contest

Hotdog Eating Contest



Castle in Rijeka

Mr. Curley

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Croatia to Venice, and back

July 13, 2011

Hang on, Sloopy! Sloopy, hang on!

-The McCoys

When last we checked in our vessel was slip-sliding into Rijeka, Croatia. We welcomed aboard Rijeka's cultural dignitaries who told all about what rich splendors awaited us 600 red, white, and blue-blooded Americans in their industrial port town. We thanked them for their detailed presentation...then revealed our change of plans to travel via speedboat ferries by the boatload to — how fitting! — Floating City of Venice. We really love our boats, you see.

O, our cadets imbibed the culture of Venice and its oozing history like only land-thirsty sailors can; marveling at the great domed cathedrals—or “chapels,” as many of the boys curiously refer to them—labyrinthine infrastructure, and world-famous gondolas. To say nothing of the gondola drivers! What precision! The way they take those corners makes my parallel parking, which is renowned, by the way look like a hack job. And, finally, Gold Stars for all for such truly remarkable first-class American behavior! I’m sure our Italian and Croatian hosts would welcome us back at the drop of a beret!!!

Let us not forget Rijeka. No, we didn’t spend all of our time getting out of Dodge. And Rijeka had much to offer. For instance, there’s also a splendid old castle up an exhausting flight of stairs, which many of us braved for the views of town, but in which there was also a classical music ensemble that played Baroque-era tunes on Saturday night. I would speak to their playing and the stonewall acoustics; however, I went to see — and sit in with! — a Bob Dylan cover duo that night instead. O, and there were beaches…outside of town — none in Rijeka itself — rocky beaches with crayfish waiting to sink their little pinchers into our unsuspecting American tootsies! But I’m sure we’ll make up for that when we pull in to white-sandy-beached Palma de Mallorca. Can we pick ‘em or what!

Lastly, my dear friend Noah Collins sends his love to Grandma Bobbie! And I send greetings to my lovely wife. Wife, please send me another postcard.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day!

July 4, 2011

The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas
-Gene Autry

Happy Birthday, America! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and proud parents of, we have a winner in the 2011 SST II Hot Dog Eating Contest: 1/C Michael Neimes, a strapping young Mustache Man who wolfed down ten dripping wet dogs and buns in under three minutes, exhilarating the capacity crowd as Old Glory waved triumphantly, fireworks parted the skies, and potato cannons launched tater tots into the sea. Poignant, such a fine display of floating patriotism; and further evidence—as if there were any doubts—of America’s unequivocal standing as the world leader in culture: boat, culinary, facial hair, and otherwise.

To be sure, today fun, sun and patriotism reigned wherever ye cast ye gaze (or ye fishing pole, for that matter, considering the lucky boy who reeled in a thirty-five pound albacore on behalf of Uncle Sam). That’s because, with the exception of a few naughty boys and girls assigned “extra duty”—ED—Sunday is a welcomed day off from the restrictive row-row-row-your-boat world of training ship life. Even yars! truly is allowed out of his Bat Cave deep in the heart of TS Empire State VI for part of the day to expose his anemic skin to the rejuvenating Mediterranean sun.

But, alas, I’m not the only one. No, when I refer to a loosening of restrictors, that goes for the belts of our monkey suits as well. Clearly word reached many leagues under that the beach party was going on aboard TS Empire State VI. No sooner had the first two litre soda cap popped than a school of bottlenose dolphins appeared and for many hours swam lead mere feet in front of the ship’s bow, occasionally leaping above water for fresh air, turning on their side to wave hello to us sunbathing matey’s. Getting to know you! Yes, sir! Eat your heart out, Discovery Channel!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Maintaining Appearances

I’m a model you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk

-Right Said Fred

Mom, are we there yet? Yar! I kid, I joke. In truth, these leisurely days at sea haven’t been—dare I say it?—all for knot! Lately, I’ve managed to read everything ever written about Croatia, our next port. For example, this from the Culture
series guide to Croatia:

“...the culture of dress is flourishing, at times even bordering on ostentation. Looking good is more important for women than for men, but both pay a great deal of attention to appearance, designer clothes, fashion, and style...”

Well, then! Prepare to meet your match, Croatia, as I bring ye the boys and girls of TS Empire State VI!

Like in the former Yugoslavia, here aboard Empire, one’s daily life depends on his or her rank. As for the hierarchy, first come officers (captains, engineers, instructors, the all-important librarian, etc), then crew (cooks, housekeeping) and finally the lowly rank-and-file student body. These are further subdivided into first, second, and third class (1/C, 2/C, 3/C); 1/C being the salty seniors, enlisted for both first and second sea term; 2/C, veteran seamen but not yet seniors; and 3/C, freshmen, “mugs,” as they’re known, whipping boys, ye might say, one false move away from scrubbing the deck or—dare I say it?—walking the plank!

Now, the idea is to be able to identify one’s rank by his or her appearance, but it can get tricky, as officers and cadets are only given the following two options of dress: either the one piece boiler suit (“monkey suit,” if ye will), worn in
greasy locales, such as the engine room (I, despite requests, was not given one) [ed. note: He really did ask for one], or khaki pants paired with a khaki shirt (“khaki tuxedo,” if ye will, a fashion faux pas of the highest order). Monkey suits are cut and dry:

Officers = White; 1/C = Grey; 2/C = Tan; 3/C = Blue. It’s when everyone is clad in khaki tuxedos that there’s real ambiguity. Then, as in any great society, one resorts to scrutinizing certain class distinctions if you cannot quite catch the little rank badges from a distance.

For instance, with the exception of yours truly, officers are old. Spy a greybeard? Officer! But our class has another definition: after 5PM (1700 hours), we let our hair down (all one centimeter of it), button down the hatch of our khaki shirts and
replace them with fabulously handsome red or blue Maritime College polo shirts.

However, we are not the only privileged class. 1/C cadets are granted perhaps the most remarkable of honors: facial hair. Not just any facial hair. No, no. We’re not cultivating any hippies on this here boat! Like the New York Yankees of baseball, our boys are given but one option when it cometh to the hair on their chinny chin chins; that there shall be none! Mustache only!

What’s that ye say? What about our 2/C and 3/C cadets? What about them? says I. Second and third class citizens, the lot them! Utterly without distinction, utterly without importance!

O, but there is one man I neglected to mention, the one man who
sports not a khaki but a camouflage tuxedo to go along with his crew cut, well balanced gait in even the roughest waters, and combat boots. Yes, sir! To call him merely a man is to insult him; for he is a bear amongst cubs! Not only that, but a
Lieutenant Colonel to keep the Mugs in line!

Until next time,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Librarianship at Sea

Summer Sea Term 2010 Empire State VI’s librarians, Joseph Williams (Maritime College) and Richard Delbango (Nassau Community College) made a presentation of librarianship at sea at the SUNY Librarian Association’s annual conference in SUNY Plattsburgh. Topics discussed were the unique nature of providing service to an academic seagoing community as well as the challenges of the profession in an unorthodox environment. Plenty of sea stories were told in this well-received presentation.