Don’t wear a dress on a speed boat: Venture to Bird Island (part I)

From the moment we picked up speed, the dress began to blow in every which direction, uncovering what it should have covered and covering up where it shouldn’t (my face, for example). Luckily, I was wearing a bathing suit under it all. Still, the whole thing was an odyssey…trying to accommodate it, flatten it, and tuck it under my legs. It flew about as if I wanted to emulate Marilyn Monroe (yet without a flirty gesture).

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I can say that is just about the only gripe I had about our trip with Del Mar Charters…that, and trying to sip a drink as we sped along…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

It was a Thursday when Sami ran by for me a little before 8 a.m.  By the time we had stopped to get coffee, register, and meet up with her friends who were visiting, we were ready for departure around 8:30 a.m. After a little paperwork at the Del Mar Charters office, Oscar, the captain, was already waiting for us and invited us to stop into the FONATUR offices (across from the docks) for a bathroom check.

“There’s no bathroom on board?”, I asked, alarmed.  I was used to making the trip at a cruising speed, replete with constant drinks, a journey that could take three or four hours before getting to Isla San Jorge (Bird Island).

“Of course there’s a bathroom! It’s just a little small, so we make a stop here first. We’ve got time,” beamed Oscar.

With the reassurance, I continued to sip my coffee.

I didn’t know we were going out on a speed boat. Honestly, I had imagined myself on the catamaran with the net…at a peaceful speed. I was going to toss on a t-shirt and bounce along on the net, taking in the landscape and/or gazing off at the horizon romantically. However, as I made my way down, the captain cut off my path and steered us to the boat.

It was smaller, more intimate, and just right for the number in our group; there was space in front with sun – and the back with shade. My first thought was, “Where’s the bar and how are we going to dance here?” Don’t judge me, I was told the trip included drinks and lunch.

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We got comfortable. Oscar indicated how preferably we were to stay seated, walk carefully, and let him know if we wanted to go from front to back or vice versa, plus the location of the bathroom, and a moment for the younger girls to put on their life jackets.

As the engine started, the “entry” space onto the boat was transformed into a seat. We pulled away from the dock and unhurriedly bid adieu to navy members taking part in a rescue training course. We inched by the old dock, which often serves as a jumping spot, and after passing through the narrow strait I watched as Oscar softly and continuously pulled on a lever to the side of the rudder, with immediate effect.

Imagine the journey beginning as a Vivaldi symphony (birds sweetly singing in the background), and then suddenly the rhythm accelerates, building up to the not at all despicable crescendo of heavy metal.

Here’s the thing; you get to the destination a lot faster this way.  You do not drink, or dance, and even less so stand to gaze romantically at the horizon. You enjoy the trip as you would a carnival ride. It’s fast and, if the sea is bit choppy, there’s also some bounce.

Part I

The little girls were thrilled! With each bounce you could hear their laughter.  I tried to change spots so Sami could be next to her friend (as I was right in the middle clutching onto my bag) and my center of gravity was practically null; I rolled a little to the right, another bit to the left, battling with the dress. When I stood up, a bounce returned me right back to where I had started. I smiled, apologetically, and Sami put all the bags together.

Everyone seemed to be gliding along as if they were used to these fluctuations, and I wanted to fit in.

Oscar and his right hand (first official?) Peter were standing perfectly straight and comfortable, immune to the rattling, as if they were moving along an escalator at the mall.

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As the situation became normal (or rather, getting used to it a bit more), the trip was really quite nice. Wind, conversation. You don’t drink, or even try.

“Well,” announced the captain, turning around and putting Peter on the lever, “We left at 9 and our estimated arrival at Bird Island is in about an hour.”

Wow!  Just an hour trip! That’s interesting! How fast!

Meanwhile, Oscar told us about his various certifications. He is a Class C navy skipper, open water diver, and currently pursuing search and rescue certification (which is why he knows the navy sailors).

Straight, jumping over the waves. Oscar made an observation: the waves come in groups of three, after three groups of three this was followed by a group of four, and then a very pronounced wave, and then calm… like a brief “reset” before the count started again.

This worked for a while, until I got distracted and forgot what cycle we were in. I continued to relax and ah well, so there’s no photos of the far away shrimp boats and the horizon (it was that, or me without teeth).

The island drew nearer and nearer, and the young girls’ enthusiasm grew. Have you ever reached the point when anticipation is so heavy and there doesn’t seem to be progress, regardless of how fast you feel you’re going the destination doesn’t seem to grow bigger or closer? Well, for them, to counter that emotion they decided it was best to turn around and not look at the island so it would be a surprise when we arrived.

“We’ll be there in twenty minutes at the most,” announced the captain.

“But, we saw dolphins!” someone exclaimed.

“That’s right,” Oscar slowed down and checked his watch, “we’ve got time.”

He began to zigzag and suddenly, there they were! Two or three dolphins – we followed them as they swam next to us; they jumped and disappeared, and then swam away. They were huge! Oscar asked us all to sit and began to maneuver, stating, “There’s no dolphin who can resist playing in the waves. I’m going to give them some good ones.” Said and done – they couldn’t resist! “For them it’s like a free water slide.”

Then, as if saying “it was a pleasure,” the waves died down and Oscar redirected the boat toward the Island.

……. (to be continued) …. Part II …. Part III

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