The destination for history

The romance of the high seas


Of course it was the Boat Deck. Ever since ship designers invented the derrick which raised the lifeboat above the deck, they inadvertently or perhaps deliberately, increased the shadow line which pervaded the Deck, particularly at night in the half light of illumination. The scene had been set & it proved the perfect backdrop for Cupid’s endeavours whilst sailing the high seas.

Think about it on a warm tropical night, balmy waters with barely a murmur as the ship glides along, the sweet smell of the South Seas carried on the warm languid breeze, a full moon low in the heavens casting its rays across an iridescent sea – like some beckoning ladder the sea can become irresistible – yet all around you can hear the faint strains of the ship’s orchestra coming from the decks below. We lean against the ships rail in the shadow of a lifeboat protected from the invasive eyes of strangers. There is no one else, ‘just we two, me and you’. The world and the night are ours, while on the Boat Deck we are in love and in paradise!

This then is what romantic life is like on the Boat Deck, or it was until those damned designers put the lifeboats inboard several decks below. It may have had the desired effect on the ship’s centre of gravity, but it sure as hell destroyed the most romantic part of a ship in which to pursue the quest for love and romance.

Many a shipboard attachment for more decades that anyone can remember, found its blossoming on the Boat Deck and on many a night the watchman doing his rounds would note the furtive figures, give a knowing nod and pass along – his life’s story would be full of what he had observed in the shadows of the Boat Deck.

In most of today’s ships, officers are not allowed to fraternise with the passengers. Gone are the days when an important part of an officer’s duty was to mix with passengers, even in the not so long ago days when entertainment on board was what the passengers had organised themselves and this was an important scene for officers to become actively involved.

Of course the company had to be constantly on guard to ensure that nothing more than casual friendship developed between an officer and a passenger. But put a man in uniform, particularly evening dress, and let him loose on the dance floor, well then, anything can happen and many an officer has afterwards, had to explain himself to his Captain.

The Boat deck may have been consigned to maritime history, but this is no obstacle to the pursuit of love and romance on a modern day sea voyage – the sea and romance are inseparable. It has something to do with the air, it affects the senses, breaks down the natural inhibitions, re-directs the reasoning part of the brain & it’s inexplicable. So next time you are on a sea voyage, be an observer and you will see romance all around and as the voyage progresses you will see it develop further.

In the days before ships had organised entertainment, passengers would form themselves into an entertainment committee. Most of whose members were either memsahib’s or the formidable matronly Englishwomen returning to India or the East, once described by a foreign ambassador travelling on a P and O ship as ‘Britain’s secret weapon’. They were the arbiters of on board fashion and morality as they guided the young gals through the dangers of the dishonourable, they could sniff out a gold-digger or a cad before they boarded. Fortunately they were few and far between and not at all like the genuinely honourable denizens of the Boat Deck …  

By Rob Henderson 

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