Those of us of a certain age remember July 20, 1969 for a couple of reasons. First, because it was the day after the media announced that a car had gone off Dyke Bridge on Chappaquiddick. You don’t need to live on Martha’s Vineyard to know the rest of that unfortunate story. But the second happening became something to celebrate: July 20th was the day the first man walked on the moon. His name was Neil Armstrong.
Just before I left for vacation, the “new” Neil Armstrong—a 238-foot research vessel—docked at its prestigious home in Woods Hole. The U.S. Navy owns the ship; they selected the folks at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to operate it.
Replacing the previous ship, the Knorr (yup, that’s the one connected to the discovery of the Titanic), the Neil Armstrong no doubt has an exciting life ahead. A sister ship to this, the Sally Ride, will soon be docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. I think it’s pretty cool that ships designed to explore the depths of the oceans are named after those who explored our universe.
When I saw the article in the Vineyard Gazette, I wished I’d known about the landing of the Armstrong ahead of time. I would have loved to witness the grand celebration as the Coast Guard escorted the ship into port. But a few days later, when I boarded the ferry from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole, I was thinking about my own adventures and forgot to look for it.
My return trip was a different story. It was a bright, beautiful afternoon; I sat by the window on the right side of the ferry (I still don’t know my port from my starboard), determined to catch a glimpse of the new vessel once we pulled out into the harbor. The sun was warm and nice, but I was tired from my time away. While the ferry sat, waiting, for its scheduled departure, suffice it so say, I closed my eyes. When I awoke (remember, I am, indeed, of a “certain age”), we were halfway across Vineyard Sound. I spun my neck as far as it would spin, but I saw only a distant white-and-blue blur of the Armstrong.
Next time, I’ll see it. Unless the explorer is off on another amazing discovery. Or I’ve forgotten it’s there.