Sunday, November 11, 2007

1977 was a pivital year for me

Think back throughout your life and see if you can recall a pivotal moment or experience that may have set the course for your future. It's a challenge, but everyone must have that one special moment in time that earmarks the beginning of a journey. For me it was in 1977 when I traveled with my family to California for a vacation. I distinctly recall that my father had planned to have us stay at a hotel right near Universal Studios, but the hotel was full, so he suggested we stay at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I know my brother and I were in the back seat of the car and we both thought that would be fun to stay on a ship. I'm trying to remember what I knew about the Queen Mary, before I ever saw the ship for the first time in 1977, but cannot recall exactly, other than I knew it was a big ship. Our family stayed on the Queen Mary Hotel for two nights, and I have faint memories of exploring the ship with my brother Paul. I remember seeing the Jacques Cousteau Museum on the Queen Mary, where there was a large tank with real sharks swimming in it, and visitors could touch an iceberg. There was a tour where visitors went from section to section for various presentations, and one of those presentations was by what seemed to be a robot that would answer questions from the audience. During our particular visit to the Queen Mary there was a film crew shooting scenes for a TV show about Nancy Drew, and my brother and I got to meet the actress, Pamela Sue Martin, who was in the original Poseidon Adventure, and on Dynasty.

I don't remember much else from that first visit to the Queen Mary in 1977, but what happened after we returned home from our California vacation changed the course of my life. It was a slow process, but I began reading some of the booklets my Dad purchased while on the Queen Mary and I built a model of the ship from a plastic kit. Reading about the Queen Mary and her illustrious history fascinated me, however, I think I was mostly intrigued by the size of the ship and the size of the machinery that propelled her through the ocean during her regular trans-Atlantic schedule. My fascination for the Queen Mary snowballed into an obsession for more information about the ship. I visited the library and checked out books about the Queen Mary and other ocean liners, and at age 13 I became a student of the history of ocean liners. It was a strange obsession for a land-locked 13 year-old to have, living in Minnesota, but it was an obsession that would eventually cause me to seek some sort of career related to liners or cruise ships. That was 30 years ago!

I think I'm very fortunate to say that I followed my dream and set out to fully embrace this passion for liners and ships by moving to California to attend a college near the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I made numerous trips to Miami to visit the cruise ships. I had an amazing opportunity in 1979 to visit the mothballed SS United States in Norfolk, Virginia, while the ship was still in it's original condition. I made special trips to Miami just to visit the SS Norway, which was originally the France. My father brought me to New York to see the QE2, and of course I made a number of trips to California to see the Queen Mary, before attending college in 1985.

Another venue that would feed my quest to fully understand the history of ocean liners was a book called "The Only Way To Cross" by John Maxtone-Graham. I read the book numerous times and recall daydreaming about someday crossing the Atlantic ocean on a liner. At this time in my life there was only one ocean liner making regular trans-Atlantic crossings and this liner was the QE2. I wanted to experience first-hand what ot was like to cross the Atlantic on the QE2, and after reading the many books about liners, I could almost feel what it was like, and I was drawn into the lifestyle of being at sea on a liner. I collected brochures & posters of the QE2 and other cruise ships. Although our family had the means to perhaps make a crossing on the QE2 or go on a cruise, my parents didn't share the same passion I had for experiencing life at sea, so as a young man living with my parents, I never was able to cruise or cross. If I was to ever make my way on a cruise or a crossing I was just going to have to do it myself. My very first experience with being on a cruise at sea wasn't until 1984 when I orchestrated a plan to be a stow-away aboard the Caribe....but that's another story.