Where am I? Damned if I know!

January 11, 2018









Inquiring minds have asked me for more nautical detail and I have no source except Captain Knutsen’s daily noontime announcement over the PA. As of 12 noon in whatever time zone we’re in [we set our clocks back one HALF hour last night!], we were 1400 miles from the nearest land — and yet, there were birds flying by the ship. We were about 1800 miles from the Marquesas, our next stop. That’s French Polynesia to you. We were traveling at 16.6 knots, with gusts from 20 to 50 knots. Every day, the Cap’n teaches us the derivation of an originally-nautical term. Today’s was ‘chockablock.’ Yesterday we learned ‘pipe down’: at 8 pm, the boatswain piped to tell the crew it was lights out, no talking. Then he put his pipe down. 


Speaking of birds: I know two passengers who have rescued seabirds they found on their verandas — over 1000 miles from land, mind you. The birds land on the balcony, inside the glass barrier, then can’t take off again because they don’t have space to get the ‘lift’ they need. Enter two different Viking Sun passengers, Jan and Bruce. Each had spotted a bird on their veranda and each wrapped said bird in a bath towel, lifted it gently, and tossed it out over the railing as far as they could manage. Both birds flew away. Who knows if they made it… 


The Captain today mentioned a stowaway onboard. A bird has been perching at the bow, taking off and flying around then returning to perch again on the bow. Apparently it hopes to reach French Polynesia with us. 




Definition of chockablock

1: brought close together

2: very full 

  • shelves chockablock with books

Examples of chockablock in a Sentence

  1. the mantel was chockablock with knickknacks

Did You Know?

Chockablock started out as a nautical term. A block is a metal or wooden case with one or more pulleys inside. Sometimes, two or more blocks are used (as part of a rope and pulley system called a "block and tackle") to provide a mechanical advantage - as, for example, when hoisting a sail on a traditional sailing ship. When the rope is pulled as far as it will go, the blocks are tight together and are said to be "chockablock." Non-nautical types associated the "chock" in "chockablock" with "chock-full," which goes back to Middle English chokkefull, meaning "full to the limit (a figurative use of "full to choking"). We thus gave "chockablock" the additional meaning "filled up." "Chockablock" can also be an adverb meaning "as close or as completely as possible," as in "families living chockablock" or the seemingly redundant "chockablock full."

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