Row, row, row your boat.

It’s a giant rubber onesie. It’s incredibly difficult to put on and we are each assigned a dresser. We have come to the “dressing room” prepared as instructed, with merino wool long johns and T shirt (not my best look) worn under sweatpants and another long sleeve T. Big thick woolly socks finish the look off nicely. My dresser suggests I try an extra large in the rubber onesie. It has feet attached to the legs, rubber seals at the wrists and a giant zipper that stretches diagonally from right shoulder to left hip. The zipper is undone and I step into the onesie pulling up the rubber legs over my sweat pants until my feet find the rubber feet. Now comes the difficult part. Getting my arms and body into the top half. I am sure a contortionist would have no problem, but I do. I try my best but it stretches my tendons and joints to the limit. The zipper needs to be longer or my stomach needs to be smaller, neither of which is going to happen. I get myself caught up in excess pieces of rubber (a fetishist’s dream)  and my dresser starts to giggle. It is not helpful. There is a rubber collar that fits tightly round the neck like a priest’s collar. Only this one doesn’t undo. I have to push my head through it. It is an incredibly tight fit, pulling my ears down, squashing my nose and doing terrible things to my hairdo. It’s like putting on a giant condom.

My dresser then zips up the giant zip. I am sealed in tight and no bodily fluids will ever be able to escape. I bear a strong resemblance to a long balloon. My dresser is no longer giggling. She is laughing outright. She tells me that I have to get all the excess air out by pulling the rubber neck away from my flesh and squatting down. This will force the air up out of the neck. It will also force me to do something I don’t generally do, squat. I am now able to impart a useful piece of information to you:  squatting in an over inflated rubber condom is not easy.

The huge zipper serves two purposes. The first is that if I get too hot I can undo the zipper to let in cool air. The second is that if I need to go to the toilet I can open the zipper. Now dear reader, you may remember that the zipper goes down to my left thigh. It goes nowhere near the area I would normally unzip to relieve myself. The likelihood of the relevant body part stretching that far is, in my case anyway, absolutely zero. I mention that to my dresser and she giggles some more. She tells me that they recommend we not drink much before this adventure. Excellent advice but given way too late.

I notice that the women have a completely different arrangement. Their giant zipper is shaped like an upturned “U” going round their backside. It makes them look as if they are wearing a giant diaper, which I am beginning to think should have gone under my merino wool long johns.

At this point, you may well be asking yourself why I am putting myself through this. At this point so am I.

The answer is as shocking to me as it is to you. I am going kayaking. Part of the Antarctic Seabourn experience is to go kayaking. I was convinced it would not be part of my Seabourn experience. Neither of us has ever kayaked before and we had no intention of learning how to do so here. The water is two degrees above freezing, there are small icebergs everywhere, and it is bitterly cold. And if that isn’t bad enough, it involves some serious exercise. Why would I do that when there is champagne and caviar on board.

But we made the mistake of listening to Brandon, the kayak guide, a handsome young man full of charm and enthusiasm. Why is it that handsome young men full of charm are always my downfall? He persuades us to go to a quick class to learn how to get in and out of the kayak. He says it is easy. The expedition crew will go out before us and find a beach for us where we can board the kayaks, but if that proves impossible, we must learn how to get into the kayak from a zodiac which is much more difficult.

These kayaks are completely sealed other than a small hole in the top which we have to learn to get in and out of. It is an art, but it is so much easier than getting into the rubber suit.  You step into the hole, sit on the back of the seat, push your legs into the kayak and lower yourself into the seat. I manage easily and Brandon gives me a smile and says I’m a natural. He must be working on commission.

Other passengers struggle with the exercise. Obviously they are not as athletic as I am.  Actually it is a size thing. The hole is quite small and they are not.  A considerable amount of pushing and wiggling is required to get them into the kayak. Getting them out requires even more effort, and is accompanied by a large popping sound like pulling a cork out of a champagne bottle.

These kayaking trips had to be booked in advance and competition was fierce for a slot in the timetable. To make matters worse all the trips for the last five days have been cancelled due to bad weather. Many people are really disappointed.  We have booked New Year’s Eve for our first ever kayak experience. It seemed appropriate, but we have been quietly hoping ours would be canceled too. However the day is calm with hardly any wind which is perfect for kayaking. It is however snowing which in our minds mean it is completely inappropriate to go out. But these hardy expedition people just laugh when we suggest that.

They have found a little rocky island where we can get into the kayaks. We are taken there by zodiac. There are eight kayaks and 16 people, two to each kayak.

Once on the island we are asked to gather round. Each of us is given a paddle or maybe it’s an oar,  and Brandon gives us basic instructions on how to paddle and steer.

I can’t help but think this is too little too late. Someone asks the question we have all been too afraid to ask

“What happens if we tip over”

“Don’t worry” Brandon says “these are the best kayaks made and virtually impossible to tip over”

I am sure that is supposed to make us all feel more comfortable, but it doesn’t. “Virtually impossible” is very different from “impossible” and we have all heard the rumor that someone did tip over last year.

Brandon changes the subject.

Each couple is told to pick a kayak. One man asks if he has to be with his wife. Everyone except his wife laughs, which breaks the tension. But he is serious. His wife is furious. We are told the heavier one sits in the back. This is good news because it means Gordon will be in the front and will have no way of knowing whether I am paddling or not. This is not going to be as strenuous as I thought.

Some of you who know me well, whether it be in person or through this blog, may still be doubting that I intend to go through with this, and so for your benefit I present this irrefutable evidence

And to further confirm that we are both having a great time here is a photo of Gordon turning round to see if I am actually rowing

Gordon shouldn’t have done that. The kayak rocks dangerously. We both sit perfectly still for the rest of the trip and Gordon never turns round again.

We kayak for well over an hour. It is magical. The Fabulosity Meter should be ringing, but it is not wearing a rubber condom and is frozen. We are wearing a condom and are quite warm. We are just inches from the water which rushes past at an incredible speed as we paddle through it with great skill and agility, keeping a straight course while nimbly avoiding the many small icebergs.

OK, that may be a tiny exaggeration, but we do manage to go in the right direction, at least part of the time.

We pass a beach with penguins

and a seal on an iceberg.

But nothing prepares us for the rush of adrenaline that occurs when a humpback whale and its baby break the surface of the water just a hundred yards away.

Living in California and spending a lot of time in Mexico we have seen many whales, but we have never been this close to one when sitting in a kayak. It gives a whole new perspective as to the size of them.

And then as our final New Years Eve gift the mother slowly breaches giving us a perfect shot of the fluke

The Fabulosity Meter overheats, melts the ice and rings its approval as loudly as it can.

Our kayak adventure is over, and what an adventure it was.  The Seabourn Quest is waiting for us, hidden between some enormous icebergs

Back on board the New Year’s Eve celebrations begin. There seem to be so many reasons to drink champagne, so we do.







This entry was posted in Antarctica, kayaking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Row, row, row your boat.

  1. bob colin says:

    I’m blown away by your adventure! Truly impressive! What a way to spend new year’s eve….

  2. James says:

    What an adventure! Absolutely the best! Happy New Year!

  3. pat says:

    Ah, there’s the humorous Andrew I have come to know and love and, of course, the handsome Gordon. I am glad you bad boys made it through NYE and into 2019….see they have “condoms” for a reason, hahaha.

  4. Jack says:

    I envy you and Gordon. What a fabulous adventure. Wish I could be there.

  5. andrew, your dispatches from your travels just keep getting better and better. they ALWAYS brighten my day.

  6. andrew says:

    Thanks Susie, I really appreciate that.

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