Thursday, April 07, 2005


Okay fine, there was no shooting and the sound wasn't a shot but rather my alarm telling me it time to face this day.

Monday--April 4th--the sea was angry this day my friends and thankfully we had both a good captain and a marine biologist on our ship.

The full story follows--On Saturday and Sunday the weather was not great in the tropical northern Queensland. Winds were consistently at 25 knots or better and this makes for really rough seas. Monday was my day off to go to the Reef and now I had to pick which reef exploring company to put my money, life and trust in for this adventure of, I was hoping only, once in a lifetime. Thea, the owner of the pink hotel just kept laughing at me as she refused to give me an answer on which one ship would she go on if she were me--she did however help me tremendously by taking me down to the wharf to inspect all the ships and interview the staff. All the companies that charter out to the reef seem to be very good. The determining factor became the stronger the winds the wiser it is to select a larger craft. I was, as they say in the health care industry, in serious decisional distress and was wondering if I called our nurse line regarding my dilemma would they actually have an answer of would they just refer me to my doctor in the morning. Without group support, I settled on the Poseidon, certainly not for its movie namesake or that at times I feeling a little (or rather a lot) Shelly Winter-ish, but simple because this boat is huge.

I woke up around 5 AM to the same sounds I hear every morning in this part of the country--the loud shrill of, I hope, endemic and/or indigenous tropical birds--honestly, I'm not sure if they are birds, screeching monkeys or a cold blooded murder is happening right outside my balcony door each morning--but its like clockwork, I know that much and, in this case, I will trust and not verify.

I got up and got ready for this much anticipated and overly feared day--so with my new Australian Billabong board shorts and Moontide "no sting" surfer shirt--I headed to the boat ramp. If I was going to end up being a tragic story on SKY or CNN news, I wanted to look the part.

Fifty other divers and snorkelers chose the Poseidon this day. None of them apparently had the hot tip that Thea gave me, that once on board get your tea and head right to the cushy room where the captain sits. I guess everyone else thought this was for invited guests only or maybe he could tell I was an Admirals Club Member--but no one other than staff joined in and this made me very happy. The sea was very, very rough and I would guess at least 25% of the 50 travelers were getting seriously sick. The other significant tip Thea gave me was to ask for ginger tablets as soon as I got on board, I did and they gave them to me. So for an hour and ½ that it takes to travel 50 nautical miles off shore and through huge sea swells, many people were in serious pain and sickness. Sadly for the others sitting right next to all this madness surrounding them--they were stuck at their poorly chosen seats as the people around them were losing their stomachs. Life was good in the captain's quarters.

During the trip and in-between the passengers gagging their heads off, the staff offered the option to rent full body stinger suits and wet suits. To my surprised when I looked out on the deck--everyone opted for the blue singer suit. I cannot begin to describe how ridiculous and awful everyone looked in these very tight and clingy full body lycra outfits. It was horrible and it worried me even more that no one seemed to say--oh this is SO embarrassing. There was no way I was wearing a stinger suit--I opted for the sporty looking wet suit that covered most of my body except for my legs below my knees and forearms--I was willing to risk these limps for something equivalent to a bee sting versus a full bodysuit in the vicinity of a boat filled with cameras. I felt so bad for these blue-bodied people. They would not even qualify to be understudies for the SNL parody on the BLUEMAN show, they wouldn't even qualify for the Blue Zoo Review. I couldn't even make eye contact with them for the rest of the trip. Clearly, these people have not had risk, probability training. After 8 hours at sea, only two guys ended up getting stung--and you want to guess where?...on their face, the only exposed part of their entire body and only to prove, the humiliation via smurf costumes was not worth it.

Our boat made three stops out on the reef and each one was amazing. Prior to the first stop, we were issued our equipment and given our instructions for the day. The staff handed me their best guess at my fin size which were the Carolina blue flippers. I assured them I was a size smaller and not surprisingly fit perfectly into the App. State and Demon deacon yellow color fins, thank god. The next step was the instructor asking if anyone was traveling alone so he could pair individuals for a buddy system. No way I was raising my hand and getting stuck with a blue blob. I waited until the very end and when he asked for the last time, I raised my hand. He then asks the blue people would anyone be willing to be my buddy and to my good fortune, Jamie stepped forward. Jaime is a 10-year-old going on 30 from Yorkshire, UK. For starters--Jaime could have been a blue suit model--he was the only one on the entire boat that looked perfect in his snorkeling outfit. Jaime is a smart, interesting, kind and adventurous young man. In fact, he's a fish out of water. He was a great buddy in the water and a great conversationalist between snorkeling sites.

They serve a huge lunch buffet on the boat and to my amazement the sickies on the boat must also have short term memory problems as they seem to indulge heavily, forgetting that we had to cross the sea again to get back home. HELLO PEOPLE--work with us!

The snorkeling was absolutely fantastic. Many people commented and I agree that it was the best snorkeling they had ever done. The water was very warm, the Reef almost forms a shelf so the water is like calm lagoon and the fish were everywhere. I was snorkeling in my own living color NEMO movie. Yes, there were sharks and I was hardly scared. I did get a little nervous at one point when I felt I was way to far from the boat and once I headed in, I was in the middle of a large school of large fish, on this day, I was a very fast swimmer.

The Barrier Reef is Great and worth the special natural wonder of the world experience. I encourage everyone to go if you get anywhere near this part of the world. You can now take my expert advise and not worry about being attacked or worse, like the recent movie, being left behind. In fact, we all need to be more concerned about this little known issue of falling coke machines.

We returned to the Wharf around 5 PM and I was so happy about my day and the great experience. I walked home to my pink hotel and made sure I only picked roads that did not have any obvious street front vending machines--underscoring my commitment to primary prevention whenever possible.

Cheers from here!


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