The Postscript: Transatlantic turnaround can reset internal compass

Published 4:25 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Carrie Classon' postscript, the orange leader

The Postscript:
By Carrie Classon

My husband, Peter, and I are returning from Spain by boat. The whole idea started when Peter read a book about the sinking of the Lusitania. 

“That sounds like fun!” Peter told me, as he read.

“Death at sea?” I asked.

“No, the part before that!” Peter clarified. 

Peter thought the idea of a cross-Atlantic ship sounded fun and romantic. He began investigating transatlantic trips and once Peter starts investigating a thing, it’s as good as done. 

Peter discovered that a number of cruise lines reposition their boats from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean in the fall and back again in the spring. Some of these trips are quite reasonably priced. As the boat has to be moved anyway, the cruise line would rather the boat was filled with paying customers. Besides, they figure they’ll make it up during the long days at sea when passengers have nothing better to do than gamble and shop. In our case, they figured wrong. 

Peter and I are generally opposed to organized activities. Peter falls asleep immediately at anything that seems intended to be educational. We both dislike gambling. We don’t participate in raffles, shop on a whim, or willingly pile into vans with strangers. Our idea of a perfect day is spent doing a lot of reading, a little exercising, and eating too much. The best part is simply watching the vast ocean as it passes. 

Peter is due for a little pampering after spending a month in our historic little house in Frigiliana. Peter has had his fill of “historic” and “little,” particularly since he discovered the two so frequently go hand-in-hand. Peter spent a month getting his head banged on historically low ceilings and climbing up steep little antique stairs to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Peter is ready for a major dose of modern convenience after all that historic charm. 

“Look!” Peter says, on our first night here, “a bathroom on the same floor as our bed!”

“Yes, dear,” I reply. 

“And doorways tall enough so I don’t need to stoop!”

The boat is nothing if not easily accessible. It stands to reason, I guess, but folks who have nothing to do but cross the ocean by sea are not a young crowd. They settle into their rooms for two weeks and don’t need to move their luggage for the duration. Some of them look as if they are staying for good. They decorate the outside of their doors with magnetic falling leaves or Christmas decorations or their name accompanied by cheerful greetings. It reminds me a bit of a retirement home—which, given the age of the clientele, is not far from the truth. 

At some point—in the middle of the Atlantic, more than 1200 miles from land in all directions, the ship will do a full 360-degree turn. They do this, the captain informed us, to check and adjust the accuracy of the ship’s compasses. This seems quaint to me in an era of computer navigation and GPS, but apparently it is still done, and I can see why it might be a good idea. 

I know there are times when a slow, 360-degree turnaround is the very thing I need to check my own internal compass. To do this slowly, deliberately, when the conditions are ideal—this strikes me as an important bit of housekeeping for both transatlantic boats and lives. 

It might not be strictly necessary. But it’s always nice to know with some degree of certainty that I am headed in the right direction. 

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” was released earlier this year. Learn more at