Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At Sea: Captain Carl

Captain Carl, our ship's captain - excuse me, the master of our vessel - is a rockstar.

He is, I suspect, pretty good at his job. But, honestly, when we hop aboard a ship or an airplane, how are we able to judge whether the guy with the fancy white shirt is any good at what he does. Oh sure, there are extremes that give it away - driving a ship on a reef means you're not so good, landing a plane on the Hudson means you get to be the Rose Bowl Parade Marshal - but 99.9 percent of the time we have to trust that the head honcho got there because he was pretty competent and not because he's some flawed weasel who sucked up to the president of the company and married his ugly, autistic daughter.

But have no doubts about Captain Carl. This guy is good. Despite any reasonable way of judging whether Captain Carl is in the top ten percentile or seriously lagging, he has managed to make just about everyone aboard the ship feel they are fortunate to be sailing with him.

The captain is a young man. I can tell by looking at him, but just in case anyone missed it, he has told us all at least five times. For, you see, Captain Carl likes to talk about sailing and Captain Carl, and not necessarily in that order.

He is a fantastic communicator, sharing insights about the day's journey in great detail. If I could remember whether it's latitude or longitude that goes east-west, I would even be able to understand him. He has enthralled world-weary travellers by telling them how he's releasing the ropes when the ship leaves a dock. He went platinum when discussing the extra security measures in place to deal with the pirates (who forgot to show up).

But, of course, what he's communicating isn't our navigational trivia but the fact that we can all rest assured, have a pina colada for lunch and sleep in the sun because, by God, this young man knows what he's doing.

He's a bright man. That much seems obvious to me. And he is personable in the way that people who are the center of attention can be personable. That is, if you're paying attention to them.

But that's no worry for Captain Carl. The ship loves him. Every day we get a four-page newsletter with the day's activities, and there's always a paragraph and a picture on Page 2 with a little bio about the various crew members. (OK, about the various SENIOR crew members, not the people we actually deal with daily.) But the other day, the bio moved to page 1, the picture ran the length of the page, and the subject was - all together now - Captain Carl. I believe newsletter stands couldn't keep up with demand and the publishers are considering a second printing.

But that was just a foretaste of what was to come.

Several days ago the cruise director organized a morning session in the cabaret lounge. No singers, comedians, jugglers, dancers or magicians this time. Nope, this was the Captain Carl Show. For the first time on this cruise, the lounge was jammed, SRO, latecomers wait for the DVD.

The show's premise was pretty simple. The cruise director and Captain Carl sat on stools and the cruise director interviewed Captain Carl about - well, about Captain Carl. How did he get into the business? Does he love it? Is there anything he would like to tell us about himself? Does he mind it when the women over 60 start throwing their panties and room keys at him when he's on the bridge? The audience loved it.

Last night LK and I went up to the top deck. Captain Carl had turned off the deck lights so we could see the night sky, and he proceeded to use a laser beam to point out stars that are used in navigation. He then showed us a sextant, explained how to use it, explained that it wasn't necessary to use it because of an invention called GPS, explained that his apprentices were being forced to practice with it because otherwise they wouldn't remember how to use since it was no longer necessary, and explained that he was young and few his age knew how to plot a course with a sextant. Did he mention that he was young?

Anyhow, LK and I stayed until the inevitable questions. You know the kind, they happen everywhere. Not content to listen to the person everyone came to hear, at least five people need to say something so that we will notice them as well. As we were walking down the stairs, I am pretty sure the last question I heard was whether being young in any way interfered with his appreciation of older women.

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