Low seas, high hopes
Drove the car onto the ferry this morning, which promptly executed a reverse three-point turn and started cruising towards Devonport in the north of Tasmania - at a very creditable 27 knots.
Not a sign of any high seas at the moment - blue skies, calm and clear - so a look of relaxed but cautious confidence on passengers' faces.
Only fly in the ointment is that we're not really out of Port Philip Bay at the moment. Once we're clear of the Bay, we'll be sailing into the far less protected waters of Bass Strait.
It's called a strait, but really is, for all intents and purposes, open water - where high seas and rolling swells are quite common. Not necessarily the norm, mind, but frequent enough to be perfectly possible on any given crossing. Such as this one, for example.
As we approach the heads, the Captain is talking in those perfectly calm and reasoned tones they learn at Naval School (and Airline School) about the possibility of "some swell" ahead of us.
Everyone's now starting to think but not ask the very same questions: How big is "some swell"? Will I be able to make it to the loo in time if I start to feel sea-sick? Did I really need to eat that egg and bacon toasted sandwich at the onboard cafe earlier?
Not feeling too anxious in that regard at the moment. After all, if cruising up and down the Baltic Sea is not the ultimate test of propensity to sea-sickness, then I'm not sure what is.
Having passed that test with flying colours only a few years ago - no queasiness at all - can give one a certain sense of confidence at acquitting oneself well in the face of a rising swell. Dignity can be maintained, and composure can be retained.
But self-doubt is never far away, and the memory starts scrutinizing that sense of confidence for any signs of flaw or hairline weakness.
Like the fact that the Baltic cruise occurred in one of the warmest, calmest and least windy autumns in living locals' memory.
For whole afternoons we were able to lounge on the deck with beer and wine and snacks, watching the landforms gently drift by on perfectly calm, glass-like seas.
There was much talk amongst fellow passengers - newbies and old hands alike - about the idea of an Indian summer on the Baltic being so scarce and improbable as to almost be an oxymoron.
The Captain seems to have called this one quite accurately, for as soon as we had ventured out into waters beyond the Bay, a slow but steady swell started to make its presence felt. Very subtle at first, with just the occasional, gentle rise and fall; but gradually building into more regular and noticeable rises and dips.
Suddenly it's not as easy navigating the narrow stairs and corridors, and passengers begin to see and use the various hand rails, handles and poles to steady themselves along the way.
Behind their Covid masks, you can see that that cheery look of quiet confidence is now fading a little, to be replaced by a more wan look of uneasy apprehension about what the route ahead might throw our way.
A mere six hours to go, but so far, so good.
- Sony DSC-RX10M4