Friday, June 22, 2018

The Boom Boom boat

“Seriously?” I exclaimed upon opening the envelope left on the desk by our cabin steward.
“What?” my friend and cabin-mate Ann asked.
“They are asking for our height, weight and shoe size for snorkeling in Corsica. There were no weight restrictions in the excursion description. Even better, they want it in centimeters, kilograms and European shoe size.”
“I’m sure they just need to have the correct equipment waiting for us,” Ann replied, unusually optimistic for her.
“What did we do before smart phones?” I chirped, doing a search on pound to kilogram conversion.
The port in Corsica was packed with people. Though we were the only large cruise ship in the port, there was excursion stands set up everywhere. We took the three-block walk into the town square to have lunch before our snorkeling trip. The town was filled with the most incredible farmer’s market I’ve ever been in. Spanish olives in every shape, size and hue packed brightly colored carts. Meats, cheeses and produce rounded out the cornucopia. I purchased a half-kilogram of my favorite olives and we sat down to enjoy a crusty sandwich and people watch.
Most of the excursion stands were gone or unoccupied when we returned back to the dock. It took much asking around in broken French to figure out which small piece of fence we needed to be lined up by.
A slight, very tanned women in her late-sixties wearing a wetsuit halfway pulled down to her waist approached us with a clipboard. When she was satisfied that everyone was accounted for, we took the long walk to the other side of the port.  Once there they commenced handing out wetsuits and flippers.
I looked at the black piece of neoprene in disbelief. I wasn’t going to squeeze into that if my life depended on it.  After several attempts, I finally called the attention of our tour guide, who was busy helping everyone, including my friend into their suits.
“This is not going to fit me,” I told her. This elicited a litany of French, none of which I understood.
“Voila,” a man exited the tiny shack with what looked like Andre the Giant’s wetsuit. It was a full suit, long sleeves and pants and at least 6’5” long.
I shook my head and tears filled my eyes.
“They knew my height and weight, if I was too fat to snorkel why didn’t they tell me instead of humiliating me like this?” I asked my friend, who had just finished squeezing into her suit.
The cute athletic girl next to me tried to comfort me, although sweet, just made me feel even worse.
The tour operator was at a loss. Between my broken French and her broken English I finally figured out that the wetsuits were not for the cold, but for buoyancy.
“Can’t I just wear a life preserver?” I asked.
“Ah, oui,” she sung and disappeared into the little shack and reemerged with this giant orange half circle, which I stuck around my waist making me look like a child at the pool with a big floatie around their waist.
As we approached the dock we pass nice power boat after power boat until we came to what I now know is called a hard bottom inflatable. Just like it sounds, it’s an inflatable boat with no seats, just a floor. You sit on the sides of the boat and hang on to a rope that runs along the top.
                       (I did not take this picture, found it on google for reference)
“Anyone who get sea sick stay in the back,” our tour guide instructed. This should have been my first clue. My friend, who is prone to seasickness sat at the back of the boat next to the pilot and held on to the metal stairs. I sat on the other side of the stairs, as close as I could get to them with this big orange piece of foam around my waist.
All was fine and dandy until we left the harbor and were out in open water. The boat would hit one of the five-foot swells, go airborne and then hit the water with an incredible force, bouncing us in the air, one rope the only thing stopping us from being tossed into the sea. The boat sped up and the waves came at us faster and faster until there was only a few second break between crashes. I gripped the rope as tight as possible, even though with every crash my knuckle scraped the rubber. Boom… Boom… Boom… Boom...
“How long is the ride?” one of the passengers asked.
“40 minutes,” our guide answered.
I looked around. Some faces registered fear, some annoyance, one poor girl in her early twenties was already green, sitting on the floor, a baseball cap pulled over her head, her younger sister trying to comfort her.  I was feeling something between fear and annoyance.
“There’s something wrong with the boat,” my friend half-whispered, half-yelled over the sounds of the engine and ocean.
Our pilot, who was probably in his seventies, was pushing buttons and pulling levers while our tour guide was on her cell phone, presumably trying to figure out what was wrong with the boat and when or if they could get a replacement out there. The engine cut out and we were bobbing up and down in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. My annoyance/fear ratio suddenly shifted all the way to the fear side. What if a storm came up? What if there was a rogue wave? What if they didn’t have another ship? We were almost a half hour from shore. And what about this poor girl who I was sure was going to be heaving over the side any moment.
After bobbing around for 20 or so minutes it was a discovered that the 9-year-old boy that had been crawling around the floor of the boat, actually messed with one of the switches on the engine and that was why we stopped. With great relief they put whatever switch it was back in its correct position, turned the key and the engine came back to life.

Another 15 minutes of BoomBoom and we made it to the spot and weighed anchor. When I jumped into the salt water the knuckle that had been rubbed raw scraping on the boat, stung so bad I never noticed how cold the water was. I tooled around, my GroPro pointed towards the cool reefs, rock formations and what few fish were out there.  Soon it was time to climb in the boom boom boat and head back.
The trip back, although hard on the finger and the nerves was uneventful. I loved the actual snorkeling part. If I would have known what I’d have to go through, not to mention the humiliation for no apparent reason, I’m not sure I would have done it. But it was an experience and I’m always grateful for new experiences.