When I saw the email I felt like I'd been winded and a lump formed in my throat. "Vessel in range" and another email immediately thereafter, "Departure." I had forgotten about the AIS vessel alert I had set up online and was caught off guard.
AIS, or Automatic Identification System, is a nifty tool that allows one to broadcast and receive vessel information. It is a somewhat pricey system found more often on large commercial vessels than pleasure craft, but if one can afford it, a very nice tool that provides vessel data including length, tonnage, last known port, current location, and heading, sometimes even photographs of the ship. MarineTraffic.com or the corresponding mobile app allows one to see nearby vessels, view port traffic, and search for vessels worldwide.
Back when I was very concerned to see that the floppy-haired sailor guy was making his southbound journey safely I had set up a vessel alert so I wouldn't worry unnecessarily that he'd gone down in a storm, particularly as cell phone and internet access would be spotty or nonexistent during parts of his trip and he wouldn't be able to let me know how he was. Although I now realize he never cared for or deserved me, I have been worried the past few weeks that he will return to Annapolis and ruin my local pubs for me. I dread running into him and if I had the financial wherewithal and sailing ability I would leave town as soon as I had an inkling he was returning. Unfortunately, my skills and my pocketbook keep me stranded here for the time being.
The vessel alert was an unsettling reminder of my heartbreak, but at least now I know that he left Charleston on Saturday morning. The likelihood is slim that he would turn south with hurricane season only a month away, so it is reasonable to assume he is headed this way. It took him perhaps three weeks to reach Charleston in the fall. I assume I have two or three weeks before having to avoid him around town. I was starting to think I might come back out of my shell. But when I think about the floppy-haired sailor guy I don't know how I could trust anyone with my heart again.