It wasn't all cocktails and sunshine on the tropical island. The night was dark...
|Only 3 other people on the boat. A little surprised at the size of the vessel. We had anticipated some great big thingy (due to my status as a nautical ignoramus I am able to use impressive terms like that). It has a roof, but open to the elements on all sides. Rough bench seats to sit on either side of the boat (starboard and ???whatever, the other side) The idea being that you sat facing inward, basically forced to look directly at the people opposite you or look down at the glass bottom.. Not a very big glass bottom, about the size of a small dining table. So we begin to putt-putt out of the harbour, eagerly anticipating colourful sea creatures and amazing reef. The captain assured us that the water conditions were perfect for great viewing, crystal clear. Could barely keep my bottom on the seat I was so excited! Eyes glued expectantly on the glass bottom, not much to see but water and bubbles, until….oooohhh look, there's something! And more something! Like giant cabbages and other things resembling what I imagine vegetables would look like if they were exposed to radiation and mutated. No colour though. It was like looking at the world through sepia glasses. It was just getting interesting when the first massive wave hit and we all nearly pitched into the sea. A 'squall’ I believe the boaties call it. Lots of icy wind, rain and big scary waves tyring to turn out little tiny, tinny boat over. This is not fun.
We were out on the ocean for less than 5 minutes before we had to turn back. We arrived on the shore soaked and freezing. As soon as the captain had tied the boat up the wind died and the rain stopped. The waves seemed to shrink back to a gentle lapping. Spooky! Obviously some higher power had sent us back to the shore for our own safety! We soon found out another cruise would be running that evening, weather permitting. This one was called the ‘sunset cruise’ complete with champagne and nibblies. Turning to Brett, I nodded knowingly, “see that’s why this one didn’t work out, because the next one will be better!" Gazing into the distance I was eagerly picturing a sunset glowing in magical pinks, reds and purples over a glassy sea. Sipping champagne and watching incredible sea life float blissfully beneath the boa.OR........what really happened.
So we rocked back up around 5pm for the next trip out. Not looking good folks, there are two other parties debating whether to go or not. Enter stage right Miss Scallywag who could sell ice to Eskimos. It was a piece of cake to talk them into it. This was the chance of a lifetime! Any objections about the weather were quickly stifled. What’s a little bit of rain after all? That’s what raincoats are for! We’d been assured that visibility wouldn’t be affected in the water, in fact surely the weather could enhance the conditions if anything! Once we were all raincoated up, I began subtly steering people down the steps to the bobbing boat.
The captain who had taken us out during the day was no doubt tucked up somewhere before a roaring log fire, warming his hands around a mug of home made minestrone soup, while listening to the wind picking up and the rain hammer against his safely closed windowpanes. Our captain for the ‘sunset’ cruise was called Dave. Unlikely to have an IQ with double figures. Daft Dave could talk, but only to recite a pre-learnt spiel. No answering of questions regarding the reef or the islands. Just blank looks and lots of ‘ummmm, dunno that one.” In fact, he started to look downright angry, and defensive. So, I shut up. On the bright side he had plenty of champagne.
The other occupants of the boat included two Asian grandparents, and their son and his two children, aged about 6 and 8. There were two honeymooners on board. Wow, what a fun couple they were! NOT! Must have been one really exciting honeymoon. I suspect one week into it and they were still virgins. Or maybe they had discovered they didn’t really like each other? Or anybody else for that matter. They stared morosely into the water and refused champagne. They gave monosyllabic answers to any question directed their way. Maybe they just hated me for talking them into going out? Whatever! Build a bridge p-lease! More champagne for us. Cheers!
It got worse. A lot worse. Arms started to ache from leaning onto the rail to look into the water. Sore neck. Too overcast for a sunset. Very cold, very wet and dark. Rain dripping down neck off the pathetic plastic ‘raincoats.’ You know the type that fit in something the size of a wallet and you can buy for 50c at the supermarket? False economy, let me tell you. Those things are shite.
Lights illuminated the bottom of the ocean……lots of sand and boring stuff like rocks and sea urchins. Daft Dave got so excited when we saw sea urchins. It was a gauge of his intelligence I think that each time we saw one he would exclaim excitedly “there’s a sea urchin!” like it was the first one we’d seen. He didn’t stop despite us all turning wet, cold faces toward him and giving him the death stare after 15 of the same. Yep. We bobbed. In the dark. It rained. It was cold. We got wet. We saw a total of 3 fish over almost 2 hours. They were boring fish. Colourless, and so fast you could almost believe they were imagined anyway. Boring, boring sea. The reef is browny beige, not colourful like the pictures. Talk about ripped off! Seen one you’ve seen them all, but wait, “there’s a sea urchin!” Grrr....
As the other occupants of the boat were party poopers, it was left to Brett and I to bravely attend to the champagne supply. We had brief hope in the idea that it would keep us warm, but alas that wasn’t so. We stayed miserably cold. The Asian children didn’t cry or whine. Very suspicious and anti-childlike behaviour. Suspect they were beaten regularly for speaking out of turn. Very respectful little tykes. Enduring and stoic. After more than an hour and a half one little boy turned his miniature, almost frost-bitten face to his Dad and said in a soft whisper “Is it nearly over dad?” Dad merely shook his head. In other words, “Did I say you could speak?” Dutiful son bowed his head and stared at the square of glass we’d all come to hate. It was constantly getting covered with rain that obscured the view anyway. The ‘sunset cruise’ was for an hour and a half, and yet it was almost 2 hours before we docked. Daft Dave turned out to be a sadistic bastard. Or perhaps he hadn’t learned to tell the time?
Had a wonderful meal somewhere that night to make up for the pain. We listened to the talented piano man serenade us and tipped the bar staff well so they wouldn’t be tempted to start measuring cocktails. All in all it was a brief period of pain, and soon forgotten. It seemed almost funny from our warm, dry spot by the bar. Almost.
The only other bit of holiday that stands out from the general mood of relaxation and indulgence was, ironically, the ‘indulgence pack.’ Designed to offer ‘serenity,’ with promises of ‘pure relaxation and peace’, it instead offered the opposite.
Read part 4 to find out more about the ‘anti-serenity’ pack....