Travel: A ship-shape cruise
by Millie Ball
The day was just about perfect.
The five-masted Royal Clipper sailing ship was spending a full day at sea, sweeping through the Ionian and Mediterranean seas from the Greek island of Corfu, rounding the toe of Italy on its way to Sicily. Wind in the sails propelled us over water that was a deep sapphire blue. It was a sunny day.
I relaxed in the breeze and discussed travel and books with new friends from England and Australia. But I was high for another reason.
I watched as one passenger after another -- including a few lithe young things and a stooped, older man who shuffled around deck -- hooked on a safety harness and, under the watch of a couple of crew members, climbed the ship's rope ladder up to the crow's nest. A little girl with Down syndrome made the climb, a crew member right behind her; he carried her back down. Her face was joyous.
Then I climbed up, too. Yes! My fist punched the sky.
A couple of evenings earlier, as afternoon light was fading from a soft, storybook blue into pearly pink, I scored another highlight.
Most passengers were having cocktails or early dinner when I stood at the very front of the ship and stared down over the rail at the bowsprit net. It's a safety net for the crew working on head sails, but looks like a triangular-shaped hammock and is used as such by passengers. There's one on either side of a metal pole that extends forward from the prow to anchor the rigging at the bow.
No one was around when I finally crawled over the railing and sat on the metal anchoring the net. Eventually, I inched tentatively onto the netting -- 30 feet above the sea on the fast-moving ship.