bobbing in the gulf

There was a mysterious white object bobbing in the Gulf. Our cruise ship had cleared the Yucatan straits, re-entered the Gulf of Mexico and was heading back to New Orleans.

News of the oil spill and those hurtful pictures of the greasy slick reminded me of that day at sea and just how big the Gulf is. This was to be a full day at sea, and for most of that time, the view was nothing but a plain of green water surrounding the ship to the horizons at all sides. There was not even a passing ship to wave to. It was the sort of day for which cruise entertainment directors plan games and events to keep the passengers amused, but for the moment, the Gulf was providing its own drama.

Because it was such a clear day, the white object, in visual contrast with the sea, could be seen from a distance.

Someone in the pilothouse had spotted it first, perhaps when it was about a mile away, and relayed the word to crew members on the deck. I happened to be passing by as they were getting the news. Ships will always respond to something unusual in the sea, especially since it could involve human life, and this Royal Caribbean liner was preparing to do its part. To get close, the ship would actually have to make a full circle before setting its course in the direction of the object. Knowing that the passengers might wonder why the boat was turning around, the crew made an announcement, and that drew more people to the deck.

I hurried to my room to grab my binoculars, the lenses of which became immediately foggy once moved from the air conditioning to the balmy outdoors. I wiped the lenses furiously as the ship approached the object. crew members leaned over the rail to get a better view. The ship slowed. Soon the object was drifting alongside us.

For all the excitement, this could have been a gruesome moment had there been skeletal remains or something macabre. Instead, we saw the remains of an overturned catamaran-style sailboat licensed to the Port of Galveston.

A crew member wrote down the boat’s serial number and explained that it would be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. The whole incident might have been about nothing more than a sailboat that broke away from its mooring. What impressed me, though, was how far it had traveled, from the Texas shore to practically the other side of the Gulf.

It wasn’t until near sunset when we saw something else in the water, this standing erect and proud. It was the first of what would be many offshore oil-drilling sites existing, at least this day, in harmony with the Gulf. Man and nature seemed to work well together that day. Barring a catastrophic mistake, the relationship could stay that way forever.