Monday, April 09, 2012

The Adventures of Dustin & Sara - Part 3: The Harrowing Adventure at Sea

 Click Here for Part 1

Click Here for Part 2

11-12-11 - After an early night, we wake up early, refreshed and ready to take on the salty sea. I do a quick weather check, and much like it's been the entire trip, warm, but windy (15-30mph to be exact). Now, I'm not a seasoned boater, but I do know that wind + water = waves. I think it is one of Newton's lesser known laws to be honest with you. But, the sun was out and the temp was warm, so I'll follow Meatloaf's law that 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Though I now worry that our not picking up Dramamine for Sara, or even for myself, may become a crucial error in planning. But, why worry, today is to be the highlight of our trip, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, OH MY!

We give Al, the cab driver a call (he had entrusted us with his business card the day before), and he dropped us off at the proper Fury Water Adventures staging area. The sun is out, clear blue skies, but that wind is ferocious. I try to get that out of my mind, as I'm handed the packet of forms that gives away all of my rights should I be maimed or killed. Naturally, I pretend like I'm reading these forms, but then just sign and date them.  Sara hands hers in, and it's all filled out right, but when I hand mine in, I'm told I forgot a page and that I lost.....shit.

When I get excited about things, I tend to be ridiculously early. And this was the case here, because we had a lot of time to kill still.  So, we walked the marina a bit, went into a Key Lime shop, and when it looked like most people were there, went back by the catamaran. They split us up into two groups, we were group one, so we got to board first. The captain welcomed us on board as we stepped on, and I'm happy to see that he is wearing a Brewers hat. I figured that it had to be a good omen.

A Fury Catamaran
Everyone is quick to board, and we all start filling our plates with the continental breakfast that was provided. We're being told that we're going to be going snorkeling first. I'm rather relieved to hear this, because it's probably the one thing on the itinerary that makes me the most nervous. See, while I love going to the ocean, I'm not the biggest fan of being too far in them. Riptides, crashing waves, and slimy ocean life often enter my brain. That all said, I'm still excited for snorkeling! It's something I've always thought would be cool, and here I am heading to a reef. They said it's a few miles offshore though, so we have a little time to relax and take in the beautiful waters.

As we get further from land, it's quite evident that the high winds are causing some high waves. It's a rather, unsettling feeling. I've only had motion sickness one time in my life, and that was when I was on a ferry in the Seattle area. It was only a 20 minute ferry ride, but sea sickness set upon me quickly. I've been on ferries and boats since, and I've been fine, but that rough Pacific chop had me green, and I was nervous that these rough waters would do the same to me again, potentially ruining my whole day. I look to Sara, and see she's struggling herself. She's got her eyes on the horizon, a trick I once learned and taught her on our ferry ride to Alcatraz in San Francisco.  She confirms that she's not feeling good, and I immediately regret not looking harder for the Dramamine. I look down though and even with the rough waters churning things up, I can still see the ocean floor...damn this is clear water. And not just clear water, it's about 1,422 different shades of blue, absolutely beautiful.

Ok, it's time to gather around and learn about snorkeling. This girl does her spiel about being safe, and what to not touch (everything), yada yada, nothing exciting. She does however, say the water is only like 70 degrees and recommends people renting wetsuits to help stay warm. Sara and I mull it over, and at the last second rent some suits. It took them awhile to find the "giant" sized suit, but I got one, and literally, squeezed into it. Now the goggles, flippers, blow some air into a non life saving life preserver, and watch as people make the plunge.
The waves on our boat (Dramatization)

Here's the thing. They have you jump about 6 feet into the water. On any other day, I'm cool with that....but I'm sort of nervous about this whole, being in the middle of the ocean with giant waves crashing on me thing, and there were already people who jumped off, that were back on the boat complaining that their only experience was mouthfuls of salt water. Ummm, I decide to opt for the water noodle now, as a little extra floatation can't be a bad thing.

I love life experiences, and I wasn't going to let some nerves get in the way, in fact, I'm excited. So I finally step up to the edge, hold my goggles, and jump:

I'm not physicist, but when a 260+ pound object, falls 5 or 6 feet into a body of water, there has to be a large amount of force that's created. This isn't usually a problem for me, but it was for my water mask. I was holding it tightly, but it still was ripped off my face. I immediately try to put the goggles back on, fearing for whatever reason, that this would ruin the entire experience. I surface, and place the goggles back, and attempt to get my bearings straight. Except that I realize that I seem to be on the opposite rhythm of the waves crashing onto me. I kid you not these waves were well over my head in the water, and I'm for some reason trying to maintain breathing through the snorkel, instead of just getting to where I needed to be first before putting the snorkel in. On top of that, I felt like I was sinking. I'm clutching onto the noodle for dear life, and I feel that I need more air in my vest. One of the crew was there to give me a floaty thing while I put more air in my vest. I finally was able to catch my breath on this as well. I look up to see where Sara is at, and she's still just standing there. I release the lifeguard flotation thing and try to swim out of the way, I look up at Sara, and she's still not jumping. I give her the "A-ok" signal, trying to coax her into coming, but she's not. I later learned, she didn't think I ever once looked up at her, but the truth is, I was waiting for a brief bit for her.

Ok, so I no longer have fear rolling through me, and I try to swim forwards, but I'm going nowhere fast. My legs are tiring, I'm starting to get queasy from the copious amounts of salt water I've ingested. Then the panic sets back in, and I yell "where's the guy" "where's that guy"...then like a young David Hasselhoff, there he was, swimming his way over to me, and gives me the flotation thing again. I tell him I need back, this is going nowhere. So, in a truly embarrassing moment of my life, this fine strapping crew member helped guide back to the boat's stairs on the front side. I sit on the stairs and the waves are just forcefully moving them up and down as I try to move up them. The girl crew member just kept yelling at me for grabbing the rope, but god damn it, I kept feeling like I was falling off. I was tired, sick, I didn't listen to her. Finally I get up, and Sara was still on deck. After watching me struggle, she opted against hopping in. I yelled at her to do it, don't worry about me. But, mostly, I was embarrassed, and I felt like I ruined this for her.

Later on, after the day long adventure was over. We learned that they had cancelled all of the remaining snorkel adventures after our trip, as the seas were far too rough. ... Really, they shouldn't have let us out there either. Half the people seemed to come back aboard right away because of the waves, and Sara said she only heard one person say they saw anything...a jellyfish. In hindsight, I seemed to do about everything wrong that I was ever trained. I was so reliant on the noodle to help me float, that I thought I could just use that. This was dumb, and I wish I didn't have that noodle. I would have used my hands and my body to help lift me over the waves, and to help propel me through the water, as if I was in a wave pool. The noodle and my reliance on it, was my biggest mistake, and also me trying to breathe through the snorkel before I even got to the area to snorkeling area ... If I had to do it over again, I could. It's just one of those moments where a panic sets in, and all rational thoughts cease. It was embarrassing, like I've mentioned multiple times, but, it is also a lesson learned to just, calm the fuck down and think.

Taking off w/ nervous smiles
Back on board the catamaran, the snorkeling was over, and we headed back towards land for our other adventures. Both Sara and I are sitting sort of sick on the side. Me from 53 gallons of seawater ingested, and Sara, from motion sickness. But still, I manage to eat lunch, and it settles me down a bit. When we get to the area where we'll split off for parasailing and jet skiing, they split us into two groups, and our group is picked first for parasailing, AWESOME! This was what I have been most excited for. Our group hops onto a speed boat of sorts, we get briefed, and we're off.

I knew this adventure was going to go a lot better, because "Jukebox Hero" by Foreigner was blasting on the radio...yep, I'm ok with this. First up was a kid and his brother, the kid seemed annoying, but he was excited, I couldn't hold that against him. When they lifted off, I thought, cool. Then they kept going up, and up, and higher, and higher. Sara clutches onto me and repeats multiple times, "why are they so high, why are they so high"? Yeah, it was a bit nerve racking, knowing we were up next. The nerves got a little tighter as it was our turn to strap in and go. Sara is freaking, I'm nervous, but excited, I just have a smile on my face. Then the wind catches the sail, and we're off the boat.

We go up a little bit, and the they purposely splash us in the water. This happened three times, then it was up, up, up we went. The further up we got, the more peaceful everything was, then we sailed for some time at the top, over looking the water, seeing the individual currents and the colors of the waters.  At one point a large Air Force Fortress looking plane flew overhead. We could see the island, the many boats out to sea, basically, it was a cool experience, and I want to do it again. We get lowered back to earth, and watch as everyone else on our boat goes up, and comes back with a smile.

Next up was the jet skis. We hop on, Sara yells at me for not balancing, so I just go slow a few times in a circle. We park it, that was jet skiing. It was hard to keep a good balance with the waves, and Sara didn't even get to drive. I'd rather have a flat lake to speed on where you can take turns driving. Not overly impressed here, my eyes weren't either with the salt spray they received.

Floating Fun Stations
So, after all of that fun, we were able to swim out to an adventure area, where there was some water floating things. Some you could climb, or jump on a trampoline. Sara and I climbed to the top of one, and sat up there for awhile talking. Then the same kid from parasailing came up, then a couple of more people. When we all decided we should go back down, the kid spotted a jellyfish.  Ummm, shit. Then more people saw some...then I saw some. Fuck it, I'm staying up here. The jellyfish keep hanging around, so finally Sara says she's bee-lining towards the catamaran. She gets off and swims, people yell at her to change direction as she's about to hit a jellyfish, she hears them and avoids the stings.

My turn! I hop off and swim fast and straight towards the boat. Apparently people were telling me to change direction, but I wasn't listening, I was focused. I hopped on the boat, thankful to no get stung, Sara is laughing at me not listening to people trying to help. But, we were unscathed, but some other were not so lucky. A couple of people got stung. What a bummer.

I'm on a boat!
Well, the adventure was over. But, they did have some beer for us to drink, so I got out of the wet suit, and had a couple brews in the sun. Was a nice, relaxing end to what was a rough start. Oh, I did ask the captain about his hat. he said his girlfriend is from Milwaukee and he found the hat for cheap when he went to a game last summer.  Good story right?

After our day at sea, we decide it's best to eat some seafood. We walk over the Half Shell Raw Bar (recommended by Al the cabbie), get some delicious oysters on the half shell, some oyster shooters, and some delicious plates of food. I highly recommend the place. The birds were a bit much, but there were nets to keep them away for the most part.

Oyster Shooters
We decide we're tired, and we've been in the sun all day. We should relax by the pool/hot tub tonight. After Sara chases some chickens, we find a cab and hotel it up. We walk to the nearby liquor store, grab some beer, then go to the hot tub, it was occupied, and the people using it never relinquished it for others to use, so we swim for a bit then just basically crash out for the night.

11-13-11 - We wake up, and it's a sad feeling. Back to Ft. Lauderdale today. We pack up the car, stop at Waffle House, and make the terrible terrible drive. I have no interesting stories to share.  We get to the Holiday Inn near the airport, and drink some beer by the beautiful pool area. Eventually, we get ready and go grab some steak at Longhorn Steakhouse down the road, stop at Publix for some wine, then we just took over the hot tub. It was a relaxing last night. Some drinks, some water, some old ladies talking about some weird dancing convention. I guess it's like a cajun style dance? I don't remember the name. This was a fairly chill night as well. I did eat Checkers for the first time though....I can't complain.

 11-14-11 - We flew home, wahhhh. But, on our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa, the Southwest flight attendant, who had everyone in stitches from his announcements, gets on the intercom immediately after we take off and says "due to the short flight, we'll be passing out the peanuts right now, please grab some as they roll by". I opened my eyes in confusion, as we were literally just off the ground, and then I saw what he was doing. He released all of the bags of peanuts on the ground to have gravity push them towards the back as we ascended. People were picking them up off the ground and distributing to their fellow passengers that were sitting towards the windows Now, Sara and I were in the very last row, and a lot of peanuts came into my possession, as I was the last stop between passengers and the back of the plane. This was rather fun, funny, amusing, and I can not ever say a bad thing about Southwest employees. I really do enjoy flying that airline. After that good service, we were charged $23 for a 3 mile cab ride....welcome back to Milwaukee, vacation is over.