22 September 2019 | Video: Sailing Stella Australia
From time to time we amuse ourselves by imagining we're on a cruise ship, P&O, Royal Caribbean, Carnival or such like.
"I'm just going to book a massage then pop into the all-you-can-eat-breakfast-panorama-restaurant". That kind of thing.
Well, a couple of days ago we signed up for a rally optional cruise. Not a Carnival Cruise. More like a Circus. The all inclusive grand swim with the whale sharks trip. (See www.TormentBigFish.com).
It actually sounded quite good. A ride out to the whale shark base in a traditional wooden boat, swim with the sharks then an onboard breakfast before returning to the yachts. And all before breakfast.
"Before breakfast". That was the bit I didn't quite lock in.
"We'll pick you up from your boats starting at half past two". Now, when I were a lad that would have been easy. Just lay in enough booze and potato chips and have a wee party 'till the boat arrived. It's been a while since I partied 'till dawn and then went out in a boat and I'm pretty sure I could still do it but, as there weren't any takers it was early to bed.
Bbbuzzzzzz goes the iPad. 02:30 FFS.
"WHO'S DUMB IDEA WAS THIS?".
As we had a big platform, and as it earned a few minutes extra kip, we'd volunteered to act as base ship so that our mini-cruise boat could converge on Time Bandit where thirteen or fourteen of us waited in the pitch black. The now familiar sound of "putt-putt" reached across the water and after negotiating the raft of rubber duckies hanging off our transom, neatly stopped a few inches from our back step and we all clambered aboard.
Deck chairs? No. Restaurant? No. Definitely no massage but definitely a good feel for how boat loads of illegal immigrants must feel.
And, so, ear plugs in to drown out the raucous putt-putting we all found a space to lie out and it was OK, as long as you didn't mind someone's foot in your left ear and salt water spray in your right.
Nearly two hours later, during which time I'm sure the putt-putting got louder, we slowed to a halt beside a Spider Boat*. "Seen any big fish about?" says our captain. Negatory. So off we went to the next spider boat. "Seen any big fish?" "Nope".......and so it went on for another half hour.
Finally, we struck gold. Or rather, fish. Fins and masks donned, like a bunch of lemmings we jumped up from the comfort of our planks and leaped over the side of our cruise ship and swam about looking for our six hundred thousand Rupiahs worth of fish watching. Nothing.
Then, just as we were thinking we'd been diddled, swimming about mid ocean in the early dawn with nothing better to do than rub, admire and wonder what anti-foul these boats use - clean as a whistle - this leviathan of the deep appears out the murk and, ignoring twenty Muppets in wet suits and budgie smugglers, (the foreigners), brushes silently past in his quest to suck up any loose plankton or indeed, skin cells from ageing cruisers.
This wasn't my first brush with a whale shark, the last time, off the Galapagos, ( https://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/388754 ) when one was about to nibble my feet and Anne screamed at me to get out the water; which I did much like a submarine launched Trident missile. However, that one I hardly saw in my panic. This one? So close you could smell it's breath and exchange Selfies.
We all swam around with Sharky for half an hour then he disappeared as quickly as he arrived no doubt wondering why tourists ALWAYS have to pee in his pool. We in turn hauled ourselves back aboard heading for the "breakfast included" which was; One loaf of bread that made American bread taste unsweetened among fifteen or so and one small jar of peanut butter.
"Sorry. No knife" says our host miming like an orchestra conductor that his waiting diners should scoop out a serving of lightly salted smooth peanut butter with an extended index finger and spread it onto one's miserly allocation of bread. By the time this all-inclusive breakfast got to me I'm A) praying there's enough left 'cause I'm starving and B) fervently hoping none of my fellow cruisers is a nose picker.