Friday, August 05, 2005

A Very Odd Time Zone

"Alice's Restaurant" in Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia. Great mussels!

10:00 p.m. Newfoundland Time Zone (30 minutes later than the Atlantic Time Zone).

On the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland. For those of us who didn’t plan ahead and reserve a cabin, or a dormitory sleeper, beds come in the form of reclining chairs, all in darkened theater-type areas with TV’s prominent. So, if you want to rest, you have to find a way to block out all the noise, music, doors opening and closing, conversations, etc.

It wouldn’t be bad if I had slept the past couple nights. But now I’m pretty wasted. This is bordering on an ordeal. (Though it’s a kick to be on a ship again, on the “high seas”.)

Quite a social place for a ferry: theaters, bars and lounges, a cafeteria, shops, etc.


After a night of abdominal cramps and pains, I went to sleep about 6:00 this morning. Jeff woke me after 9:00. I was not thrilled, but I couldn’t lie there all day. Truck traffic on the highway, across the valley, some 3 or 4 miles distant, was incredibly loud throughout the night.

Loading up, Jeff was unable to find his gloves. He felt certain he had mistakenly packed them somewhere in his bags. They certainly weren't anywhere around the camp.

Riding to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, my energy was low, driving erratic. Arrived at noon. Drove right to the ferry terminal. I was intent on making the 3:30 p.m. ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland. There are only three sailings per week, and the timing was such that, if we pushed ourselves a little, we'd make this Friday sailing. This was the only way we were going to cross Newfoundland. But I was dragging an unenthusiastic riding partner along. "He asked for adventure. I'm going to give it to him!"

Greeted by a very chatty agent at the ferry toll booth. When she found we lived in California, she talked about her cousin’s houseboat in Marina del Rey and being followed by a stranger in the Hollywood Hills.

"You guys DO look like brothers! And you even have the same bikes."

"But mine is the prettier blue color."

"I'll have to disagree. I like the yellow."

Unfortunately, Jeff overheard this. Paid the $154 charge and were told to be back in line at 2:30. Just enough time to do laundry.

In town, spotted the library. Asked the librarian directions to the laundromat (just two blocks away.) While waiting for the wash, Jeff took apart all his gear searching for his gloves. I had jokingly suggested a chipmunk ran off with them. Now that scenario was becoming more plausible. They were nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, I went back to the library to load up some pictures and check e-mail. A very quick “Tim Horton’s” stop for sandwiches.

Our ship, the S.S. Joseph and Clara Smallwood, waiting to swallow us all up.

Back at the ferry terminal, we assembled with about 12 other bikes at the head of the line. Got to know a few of the neighbors before boarding.

At the head of the ferry line. Trading stories with other bikers.

Jeff and "Ken". Ken and his wife are riding a red 2004 R1200GS, the same GS that passed us beneath the Harmonic Convergence Underpass in New Brunswick. "I hope you didn't see me behind that pillar (answering nature's call)," I said. "We sure did." We compared notes on the bikes. He told of losing his rear drive early on due to faulty splines. Having reservations about buying a brand new model seems justified!

An agent gave the signal, and the bikes roared into the ship's belly, lining up along the starboard bulkhead. Everyone set about securing the bikes for sea, using heavy tie-down straps provided by the ferry. This was new to Jeff and me (as well as to others), so there was a lot of looking around to see what the other guys were doing. Jeff quickly had a handle on it and got ours strapped down. It grew quite warm on the car deck, with all the activity and vehicles, and he was soon soaking in sweat.

Securing the bikes for sea. (Jeff did all the heavy lifting.)

Then, I figured we had to scramble to stake out a sleeping space. Until people have settled in and taken care of their animal needs, it's a pretty competitive little game. Not many instructions on what to do and where to go. It took a long time to figure out the ship, its 9 or 10 accessible decks, the open areas, restricted areas, etc.

Calm in the harbor and a very warm day out on deck. It took a long time to get out through the channel to open water. Gradually, the wind picked up until it seemed gale force. Jeff and I sat up on a forward deck right below the bridge, until it became too cold.

Went below and found a dark corner and tried futilely to sleep in the airline-like recliner seats. (On these, however it was impossible to raise the armrests between seats to allow one to stretch out.) People were contorted in all different manners trying to rest in these chairs. "Health and safety regulations" prohibit sleeping on the decks. I was beginning to hate those who had the foresight to reserve cabins or dormitory bunks.

Saw a few people working on computers, so I inquired if there was wi-fi aboard the ship. A crewmember said the ship has satellite service. Tried connecting, but found the service was sporadic and weak, the computer losing the signal every minute or so. This made it impossible to transfer anything but the shortest message (S.O.S.?)

As darkness fell, we were sailing under overcast skies. The sea was surprisingly calm; almost no swell, though the winds were whipping up plenty of whitecaps.

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