Our host on board was an older Indian gentleman whom we affectionately referred to as "Mr. Gomes". Whether this was his name or not, I had no idea, but I heard Tom call him that once, and it caught on. He was a thin, wiry man with a thick Indian accent whose serious expression was easily broken by his infectious and genuine cackling laughter. He woke us up in the mornings, cleaned our rooms, and served us our meals. It was at meal times that the four of us—Thom, Tom, Karl, and I—were together as a group.
Whether it was Gomes' accent, Tom's accent, a combination of the two, or some amusing quirk resulting from something entirely unknown, I don't know, but conversations between the two of them were thoroughly entertaining. They had an unprecedented ability to talk to each other without ever connecting, and Tom would frequently leave such interactions with a look of perplexity far greater than the one he wore when he started to make an inquiry.
On the first day, at breakfast, Tom joined us a little later, and Gomes offered him some cereal. A man who knew his priorities, Tom made a request for coffee.
"Ah, no, sir."
"Oh, okay," Tom said, clearly taken aback by the fact that a boat catering to only a few dozen people for a week had no coffee available on its first day. "No coffee?" he asked, confused. He'd forked over $1,500 dollars for a boat trip that included a gymnasium, TV room, and decent three-course meals, and apparently they didn't stock coffee. "What drinks do you have?"
"Okay, can I get a cup of tea then, please."
"Yes sir, tea or coffee?"
"Tea or coffee??" came Tom's reply, with a look of excruciating confusion.
"Er, okay... can I get a coffee?"
This was the way things went onboard the Canmar Pride. Tom would get one answer—usually the one he didn't want—and then, after a drawn out and largely pointless verbal goose chase, he would receive the actual answer (usually the one he wanted).
Seeing Thom and I tucking into cereal before our fried eggs arrived, Karl's eyes widened as he said, "You guys eat cereal as well as eggs!?" He was like an overexcited kid. After helping himself to some 'Mueslix', he made his usual scan of the room, put his arms onto the table, and brought himself in closer to us. "Okay, now I tell you vhat I couldn't say yesterday." Customs had apparently been and gone during our sleep, and it was now safe to talk. He had apparently outstayed his Canadian visa by three months—"I used a few tricks."
"If they vant to fight terrorism, zey need to get their act together," he continued, "Ze different departments, zey don't talk to each other, you see. If zey did, I wouldn't be here! Ze first thing I would do is get rid of those robes zey vear," he says, gesturing to a Muslim headscarf. "You can't tell if it's a man or a voman!"
Outside the window, the LCD screen showed -16.4C. The bodies were warming.
In the stairwell on the way back to our room, Karl emerged through the fourth deck door, shouting enthusiastically, "Thom! Tim! Come look!" He opened a series of doors for us, and we found ourselves on deck. Karl took the sister ship over to Montreal, so he was a relative veteran and frequently acted as our guide. He informed us that we would be passing Quebec City at 10am, and sure enough, there it was, in the distance.
Standing outside as we sailed along the river, passing by all the waterfront houses, the forests, boats, people, and the castles of Quebec, was quite a powerful experience. I still didn't really have a picture of exactly what the boat looked like, as I only saw it briefly when we boarded, and it was hard to get any idea from inside it, but what I did know was that it was big. Standing by the railings, with the breeze blustering around me, I began to have an appreciation for how Leonardo DiCaprio could deliver such a cheesy line with a straight face—I did feel like the king of the world.