Su Lum: Stormy weather | AspenTimes.com
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Su Lum: Stormy weather

When The Zuiderdam pulled out to sea, I left the crowd waving farewells on Deck 10 and went down to my room on Deck 5 to better savor the moment.

To our surprise and delight, we had copped three of the best rooms on the very back (stern/aft) end of the ship. The rooms were large, with a full bath, three closets, king-sized bed, dressers, desk, couch, coffee table and chair but best of all was the balcony.

The balconies on the sides of the ship barely held two chairs, where two could fit knee to knee, but our balconies were huge, each with two chaise lounges, two tables, two chairs and a rail that directly overlooked the foaming wake and miles of ocean and sky.



It is not true that cruise ships are so big you can barely feel them moving. I stood at my railing with the warm salty wind whipping my hair, watching the land disappear and it seemed as if we were racing; I was astonished to find out later that our top speed was about 25 mph.

I had decided against taking the seasick pills or applying the ear patches, whose side effects sounded like what they were meant to prevent, but it is just as well that I had two days to get used to the gentle rocking before we hit bad seas on Monday.




The ship had three “boat channels” on TV. One described the various side trips we could take at our four stops; one was an odious man who must have been plucked from a used car lot in New Jersey, shilling watches and jewelry at the shops on Deck 3. My favorite was the one showing maps of our location, our speed, miles traveled, time of arrival at the next port, temperature and sea conditions.

The sea conditions had been “moderate” or “slight,” but by the time I was donning my Michael Jackson pantsuit (black glittery bodice with bell-bottomed sleeves) for the formal dinner on Monday night, the sea was listed as “rough” and, just before we lurched down to dinner, with lightning flaring the skies, thunder booming and rain pounding, “VERY rough.”

Containers of barf bags magically appeared on the rails.

There was a Titanic moment when an improbable trio consisting of piano, bass and viola played valiantly to the accompanying clinks of silverware and crystal and, as the ship heaved, we hoped they wouldn’t break into “Nearer My God to Thee.” Our ship was 75 feet longer than the Titanic and several decks higher. The next day hardened cruise travelers said that was the worst they’d ever experienced, but I’d had a lot of rocky flights on Aspen Airways and train trips over roadbeds so warped that the dinner dishes danced on the table and this paled by comparison.

On the other hand, we had had a lifeboat drill before we even set off, traveling down secret back staircases (where was that door?) and everyone higgledy piggledy with their life jackets on wrong and straggling in late and you couldn’t help but remember that there were fathoms of water under us and wonder who you’d want to be in that water with.

At midnight, the sea conditions had been downgraded to “moderate” and my balcony was awash, but I slip-slided my way to the railing to look at the wake and the sky. By then I was already thinking of it as “my balcony,” “my boat,” “my ocean,” “my storm.” We alight somewhere and make it our home, our nest, our temporary universe.

For me, this was a very relaxing universe, rocking in the cradle of the deep breathing my own air and not thinking about anything, anything, anything.

[Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks they should condominiumize these boats. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]


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