I returned home about three hours ago from a cruise to the Yucatan Peninsula with my family. It seemed like a good time to get away from computers and e-mails, cellphones, news reports and just plain ol' bad news for a while.
We discovered the first day there was access to CNN onboard the ship. Not being able to go cold turkey from news reports, we caught portions of it each morning while waiting for room service to arrive with coffee. It was a huge shock to wake up mid-week and see video clips and photos of oil on our beautiful beach on CNN. Not just little oil balls and small tar patties like before, but sheets of the ugly stuff everywhere. It was just heartbreaking, especially video of a young dolphin being carried ashore and learning it later died. I wanted to be home even though there was nothing I could do.
The sea was rather choppy one day and we realized we were sailing not so far ahead of a tropical depression which seemed to blossom into a storm almost overnight. It was tracing our path back across the western Caribbean. The thought of what a tropical storm could do to our area if it turned our way and mixed with the oil was just too much to consider. We might be heading home to prepare for a hurricane.
Yesterday we pulled ahead of the storm and sailed into calmer water, but the evening turned solomn as we exited the main dining room. We crossed the promenade level back to our room and even though we were hours away from the entrance of the Mississippi River, the smell of oil was heavy - even inside the mid-level of the ship. We continued to our room and stood on the balcony for some time, despite the smell. It was surreal to us all.
Glancing over the balcony - above, below, and to each side - you could see the hands, arms and heads of scores of people who stood silently at the rails watching tendrils of oil sheen stretching miles and miles toward the horizon where a blazing red sun slowly sank into the Gulf of Mexico.
It was about 6:00 a.m. this morning before I could use my Droid (a Smartphone) and I scrolled through dozens of e-mails and comments from my blog readers, friends and family who did not know I was away. Some were confused because they heard about the oil, yet the photos on my blog (which were taken during last Sunday's patrol and had automatically posted during my absence this week) didn't correspond at all with the news of the oil and I sincerely apologize.
I will be doing my patrol at Ft. Pickens in the morning, so photos afterwards will be a true depiction of the beach. I pray it isn't as bad as I fear.