The Weekend Leader - When having an albatross around proved to be a delight

Anjna Rawat Pratap


Vol 0 | Issue 1

I never get tired of watching the view from my cabin. It is a good thing because I spend months on end sailing with my husband on his Gas Carrier ships – he used to be the chief engineer of the ship - which are among the largest in the world.

All those clouds stuck on the horizon. Feathers, streaks, clumps, cauliflowers. Now still. Now rushing away to the unknown, their capes swirling… The massive blue living waters stretching beyond the horizon. A few tiny and seemingly stationary ships dotted on it.

Wind playing with my hair, whispering snatches of old forgotten songs of the seas.

 A few birds circling the masts. Probably looking for a hideout under the spare propeller on the starboard deck of the ship. One evening as I stood near it watching the setting sun turn blue skies gold, I saw two of them hiding there. Cozily sharing a fish, they showed no nervousness at the sight of my peeping head.

Sometimes a bird comes to sit on the porthole-spraying pipe (similar to the spray nozzle at the base of the windshield of your car), running across the entire face of the accommodation, the structure which houses the bridge and the living quarters of the crew and officers. Maybe the bird shares my love for the sweeping views of the seas and the islands passing by. We meet such hitchhikers in every voyage.

A strappingly handsome albatross (with wingspan of nearly three and a half meters) once chose to patronize the Monkey Island. Situated on the roof of the Bridge on a modern merchant vessel it is one of the highest vantage points on any ship. An albatross is a magnificent bird. One has to see it up close to understand why Coleridge decided to include it in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Everyone found time to admire the new arrival. But all our attempts, both collective and individual, in trying to befriend the bird (how does one talk to an albatross?) were met with an imperious disdain or a long withering stare.

The only person who finally managed to thaw the big bird’s heart was the Chief Cook. They just hit it off from the start! While we lauded his efforts in public, all believed in their hearts that the albatross merely succumbed to the blatant bribery of choicest bits of frozen fish to which its human friend had an easy access.

Some deckhands later claimed to have seen the Chief Cook with his arm around the bird, sharing with it his secret recipe of the Sunday special “Chicken Biriyani”, his unhappiness with the attitude of a certain steward and even the car loan that he had to repay by the year end…

I have no way of knowing if these reports were indeed true but everyone agreed his cooking improved many notches and that his Sunday Biriyani was fit for the kings!

Anjna Rawat Pratap is a Singapore based technical writer 

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