I like to have lunch by getting a sandwich and taking it down to the waterfront. There are lots of ships there, of course. The U.S.S Midway, a carrier with a long and noble history, is there to be toured, as are the Star of India, Berkeley, Californian and some other historical treasures. Cool stuff. The U.S.S. Reagan is in port across the harbor right now, and she gives new meaning to the term “really big ship.” I eat my sandwich and then stroll by the historical ships.
Two ships I omitted above are in port long term but temporarily. One is a Russian nuclear submarine, and the other is H.M.S. Surprise. Yes, as in Master and Commander. The set of books by Patrick O’Brian holds a place of honor in my bookcase (I have read all of them twice) and I have seen the movie so many times that my wife says I can quote the lines before the actors speak them.
The other day as I was gazing at Surprise a family of four came up. The kids, ages perhaps eight and ten, were more interested in tee shirts for sale than in any of the ships. The wife saw me smiling as I watched her family and, as her husband went off to buy tickets, told me, “He just finished reading book number twenty.” When he came back with the tickets we engaged in conversation and he said that this ship was why they had come here from Seattle on their vacation.
He gazed at Surprise with his eyes dancing as we talked, and I could see that our conversation was giving him a chance to prolong the anticipation so long enjoyed. We talked about reading the books and watching the movie as his kids looked for tee shirts and his wife looked on, sort of lovingly tolerant. I didn’t say a whole lot, I was just enjoying watching him as he eyed the ship while we chatted.
Then he wished me a nice day and walked up the gangway, his family trailing behind him, his head tilted way back to admire the forest of rigging, clearly enraptured as he at last realized his dream of treading the deck of H.M.S. Surprise.
It was a really nice lunch hour.