As of 0700 Eastern Standard time, 1200 GMT and 1100 ship time, the Empire State was underway from Barcelona, Spain and enroute to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. She was located at 33 degrees 02 minutes North Latitude, 037 degrees 21 minutes West Longitude, steering course 270 degrees true at 15.5 knots. That position puts her approximately 500 nautical miles from nowhere. The weather was clear with winds out of the east at 2 knots. Barometric pressure was 1032 millibars. The air temperature was 70 degrees and the sea water temperature was 56 degrees. The depth of water beneath the keel was 1675 fathoms. The ship is riding OK on small northeasterly swells.
"Sunday at sea" is a special event and the day has added significance this year, since be have been pierside for all the other Sundays. We suspend all but emergent work and watchkeeping. Some cadets use the relaxing time to catch up on study assignments but they are few and far between as all hands take advantage of a rare opportunity to do nothing. Once again, the story of this sea term is the incredible weather patterns that we have enjoyed. Today's weather is a carbon copy of the past: wind gently blowing from the southeast driving air temperatures into the 70's, seas are almost flat with small waves riding on a light northeasterly swell. The sky is nearly clear with patches of high cirrus clouds. That makes conditions perfect for those who want to catch a little sun.
The agenda for "Sunday at Sea" has become a tradition. For those so inclined, the festivities begin with church services. Father Jim Houston of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Northboro, MA presided. His presence puts a new and much improved face on everything here. I never know where he will turn up, but he knows almost intuitively where his smiling face and gentle touch is needed.
After church, the Student Government Association begins setting up for outdoor activities. The joust and pugil sticks competition will be a main stay of the show. The cadets really enjoy the harmless physical battles. The weapons are overly padded and awkward to wield but winners in the friendly confrontations are quickly determined and they are either loudly cheered or roundly booed. The contests are held on the forecastle deck and everyone gets plenty of fresh air with the price of admission. Those who are not interested in having their brains scrambled in the joust can play basketball or enter Ping-Pong, foosball, chess and cribbage tournaments. Meanwhile, the professional crew from Chartwells food service fills ten tables aft with loads of culinary delights. Bar-b-que chicken, ribs, and sweet Italian sausages squeeze next to traditional hot dogs and burgers over the hot coals. Bowls overflowing with Cole slaw, corn on the cob, potato salad, and fresh fruits and vegetables abound. Twenty 5-gallon tubs of ice cream seem to evaporate in the warm sunshine and messdeck workers are sent below for more. All the while, cadets aimlessly circle the tables, helping themselves to the bounty presented, eating with the knowledge that the food will be as constant as the motion of the ship for the entire day. The only tables that create a sharklike feeding frenzy are those heaped with the pastries of the ship's Portuguese chef Juventino. There are never enough of Jouvie's chocolate chip cookies and cream filled eclairs to go around.
The day concludes with the much heralded and long-awaited MMA Sea Term Talent Show. Starting at 1530, contestants display "talent"(which I always say is relative) that runs the gamut from very skillful musical offerings to parodies of various shipboard personalities, replaying real or imagined faux pas that have occurred on this trip. That will be followed by the Senior Cadet "Cheesy Moustache Contest", which as you might guess, has been a source of humor since day one of the cruise when the first class cadets started to grow facial hair in anticipation of this event. The day will culminate with the showing of the Superbowl game on the ship's video system. Even though we know who won, very few of us saw the game and when you are as deprived of TV sports as we are, old golf shows would have us glued to the tube.
Well, from the lap of bounty and luxury (as I said, everything is relative), good-bye from mid-ocean. I'll see you again tomorrow.