My favorite place to vacation is anyplace by the ocean.
The amazing panorama was nearly as conducive to writing as the lack of internet access. We were sitting in the "Crow's Nest," a bar on Deck 10 facing directly over the bow. Laptops open, writing projects occupying us. Our ship, Holland America's Westerdam, sat idly at anchor off Santa Catalina Island, rocking gently. Below, tender craft brought back the last of our shore party. My Reggae Beat frosted over - a typical boat drink of mostly fruit juices with a splash of vodka - but Cici.... She was fighting for her life.
We'd applied a new theory to cruising this time. We totally unplugged from everything, including our usual spending the day reading and people watching aboard ship. Our port excursions were limited to brief forays ashore to eat something other than buffet fare, shop and stretch our legs. Each day we carved out four hours of writing time, made easier by awful weather on day two, and nervous seas - what our captain called "The motion of the ocean." By the time good weather returned (the swells stayed, though...yo ho ho and a Dramamine) we'd established a rhythm. Spend a few hours at the keyboard and the rest of the day was ours.
Writing in the cabin was awesome. Staring at the screen, Cici's squad pinned down and being flanked and suddenly I'm stuck for a resolution. Walking onto the balcony to see dolphins and aha! The bad guys make a basic mistake that allows Cici....
But that gives away the ending. The last revisions of A More Perfect Union fell neatly into place right there on The Crow's Nest, and I close my computer. The ship begins to ease gently forward. Happy hour is in full swing, the trivia contest just concluded ("What spirit is distilled from the agave plant?" - really, that's trivial?!) Two 40s-ish guys next to me are engrossed in a very typical 40s-ish guy cruise conversation, which are generally descriptions of mechanical issues the boats...ships...they've been on had endured. Once, the guy in the ball cap says, one of the tender craft that double as lifeboats got stuck halfway up as it was being winched back aboard. The other guy is a fit-looking man in a wheel chair, left foot booted in a walking cast. He can top that.
"On one of the Holland America ships the captain came on the PA, 'Don't be concerned about divers in the water. It looks like we blew a seal.'"
I sipped my Reggae Beat and watched sea gulls, wings skillfully managing the gusts, hovering, just outside our window, above the Westerdam's bridge roof, afloat on the bow wave created by the ship's forward motion. It seemed an apt metaphor, a punch line remained unspoken, hovering in mid-air.
Our cruise had been a working vacation...and listening in on this conversation was work. The essence of good eavesdropping - listen now. Laugh later. Maybe these two guys will find their way into a manuscript. Maybe, some day, they'll end up cruisin' with Cici.