my father had a very romantic view of life at sea. he loved the thought of old-time cruise ships, and he often used the term “when seated at the captain’s table” when teaching me good table manners as a child.. mum wasn’t really convinced, but being daddy’s girl, i thought this was a very serious matter and i was sure that one day my good behaviour would be appreciated.
some 20 odd years ago dad invested in a small cruise company and started dragging my poor seasick mum and me along on trips around the pond with m/s delfin clipper. this was no ordinary viking or silja ferry, this was a “real” ship according to dad, as luxury as you could get in finland in the 80s.
and oh did i love it. i was not yet ten, but i acted like i owned the ship. the girls at the spa knew me by name and the bartenders used to make me free colourful drinks (non-alcoholic of course, what do you think of me?) with glowing sticks and all. we went to tallinn (when it was still a part of the soviet) and visby among other places and we really enjoyed ourselves. even mum.
i can’t recall if it was during the clipper’s maiden voyage already or when, but i do remember the three of us sitting out on deck enjoying the sun when my eyes fell on a crew member. i had not seen him before and i asked dad if he knew who this dark-haired man was. dad said no, but pointed out that he seems to be very efficient in the warm sun. i watched him work for a while and decided to follow my intuition. i took my mum’s box of gröna kulor (marmalade ) and walked straight up to the man and asked if he’d care for one. to this date i don’t know who was more astonished, him or my parents, but this was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. by the time the cruise company launched their second ship this deck swabbing seaman got his fourth stripe on his sleeve and so it happened that i at the age of ten had to prove my manners when dining at the captain’s table. needless to say, my father was swollen with pride.
the cruise company went bankrupt a few years later, but a handful of years ago i suddenly saw a picture i recognised on the “you’re travelling with us”-sign on the tallinn boat. my friends thought i had lost it when i walked up to the reception and asked them to call the captain and tell him his kompis (buddy) is onboard. a few minutes later i was on the bridge, monitoring our departure from the harbour. dad was thrilled when i told him where i had been – neither of us had seen our shipsteering friend for a while.
nowadays my kompis is living la retired vida loca somewhere in spain. i haven’t even seen him since that trip to tallinn, but i was happy to hear he had visited my mum last time he was in finland. friendship comes in many different forms, and although the paths of life have taken us all in different directions, stanislaw is still a very important person for our family. last summer when dad didn’t want to meet anyone outside the family anymore, he was still asking if i knew anything about stanislaw’s whereabouts. not many weeks before he passed away i could finally answer that i had got a hold of our old friend, he sends his best. “good, i’ve been worried.. good to hear he’s fine” my father said with a faint smile and asked no more.
the reason for me writing this post today is that i during last weekend found myself up on the bridge again. my friend was saying goodnight to her boyfriend who was ending his shift and i had been left alone for a while with the other helmsman and a mate. they were treating me strawberries and cinnamon rolls whilst i was turning the ship a few degrees. it was such a weird situation, me sitting there in the darkness watching the radar, and the only thing i could think of was that i wish dad and stanislaw were there with me.
who knows. perhaps dad was.