Words and photography by Dalene Heck
She packed her bags carefully this time, not in the usual haphazard stuffing of items into every corner. She wrapped cords in perfect coils and tried to remember every instruction that accompanied them. This is for the camera, this is for the tablet, this is for the GoPro. She’s used to having a doting husband who manages her messy electronics so that they don’t end in a tangled mess.
But this time, she was traveling alone.
She arrived in Rhode Island safely and with all items intact. She didn’t leave her phone on the plane (she’s done that before) or her tablet (yeah, that’s happened too). She checked and double checked to ensure everything was tucked away where it should be.
The lady left the plane and boarded a small cruise ship, her home for the next 16 days, and unpacked just as carefully. The space would naturally turn into a mess throughout the trip, but she kept most mindful of where the vitals were. She charged batteries nightly, backed up her photos not quite nightly, but more frequently than she ever would have.
She was nervous.
She was nervous for embarking on the longest solo trip she’d ever taken. For being lonely. For losing something. And most certainly, for not being able to keep up to a standard of photography set by her talented husband.
Yet she would soon discover that she had nothing to be nervous for. The remarkable itinerary for this trip would offer the opportunity for her to take some of the most beautiful photos she ever snapped.
Behind this solo lady photographer were two men to support her. One, the onboard photographer to help chase down good spots for sunset and encourage her newfound enthusiasm. The other, her patient husband who edited her photos for Instagram and this blog post.
Oh, and to answer desperate texts as speedily as possible.
I’m on the pier and want to get softer water, what setting do I use?
Balance your exposure, use a small aperture.
Did that, still not working.
Then lower your shutter speed.
Oh screw it, she said, packing up her gear. She could hear her husband’s laughter on the other end of a text, mocking her familiar impatience, which infuriated her even more. She stayed to try again, but with no notable result. In guileless defeat, she blamed the old wobbly tripod (who was only wobbly, she discovered later, because she had failed to tighten an integral dial. But her husband would not know that).
On the last day in Chicago she was stopped by a man just a few meters away from the ship, curious about where it had come from. This was not an unusual question – the crew often fielded such queries any time the ship was docked.
She explained the route, from Rhode Island to New York, up the Hudson River and into the Erie Canal. From the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal, north to Lake Ontario. Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan.
It was then that she felt an odd sense of accomplishment. Which was ludicrous, really. She did nothing but sit on a ship for 16 days; she expended no effort in getting everyone from start to end. In fact, she was instead pampered by the gracious crew. But it was the kind of journey that no matter how you did id, it felt like a feat. An accomplishment that comes from completing a not-so-normal route that so very few do in modern times.
Oh, and she didn’t lose any equipment or break anything and only cried once for missing her husband. She also didn’t tank the Instagram account as she kinda expected to.
She will be happy to relinquish the duty of photographer, to not have to worry about backing up and sorting and ISO and changing batteries nightly and always carrying a cleaning cloth. She’ll switch her camera back to AV mode and live out her days not worrying so much about her own photos, knowing that her husband has got that covered.
The lady may not have tanked this blog’s Instagram account, but a photographer, she is not.
And she is quite okay with that.
how to do it
Blount Small Ship Adventures tagline is to “go where the big ships cannot”, and that is the exact truth. The ship used for this excursion, the Grande Caribe, was built exactly so that it could traverse the Erie Canal. The pilot house detracts so that the shortest bridge is cleared by just 6 inches. They are the only company who provides this itinerary, and with the small intimate setting (only 82 passengers maximum!), it’s like traveling on a friend’s yacht. The Captain was cautious and considerate, the crew were all fantastically attentive and friendly. And the itinerary simply cannot be beat.
This post was produced by us, brought to you by Blount Small Ship Adventures.