Jerked out of sleep, my hand reflexes to grab the side of the bed as I tried not to fall out. What was happening? Where was I? Oh yes...on the far south sea in a boat. The foreboding of the Drake Passage had arrived along with the intense rocking. Sitting up as the boat swayed in the opposite direction, I was aware of gravity. Fighting against the force, I looked out the window. You know that feeling of quickly moving up several stories in an elevator? The pressure in this boat feels similar, except the pull is more diagonal.
The sun was already starting to make its appearance outside of my petite round porthole. The massive waves rocking our boat splashed near the window, but didn’t quite reach the base of it. “Ha!” It was in a contest against the sea, and it was losing. Waiting to see if that water could actually hit the glass, I realized how tired I was. Looking back into the room, the clock blared 3:48. What? It wasn't even 4am!!!
I need more sleep. Becoming more alert, common sense told me that despite the rocking, I wouldn’t fall out of bed. Knowing this, I began to relax, and as I did a feeling of nausea crept over me. The desk across the room was stationary (it was nailed to the floor), but my stomach wasn’t. Blah! Swallowing another pill, I quickly resumed the lateral position. I could look out the window later. Sea sickness was not something I wanted to experience.
Morning came quickly and even though I love to sleep in, I was out of bed before 8am. This was not a day to sleep away. Unlatching the dresser and changing my balance to match the pattern of the sea, I wasn’t prepared for the drawer to come sliding forward as the boat swung in the opposite direction. Grabbing my clothes, I was appreciative of the latches on the dresser, the spring attached to the chair and the nails that kept the furniture in place.
Never being on the open sea before, I wasn't expecting to feel the heaviness or load of positional changes that constantly occurred throughout the day. It’s like a roller coaster ride, only it doesn't stop. Walking has turned into an art of zigzagging down the narrow hallways, and in the dining room I have no clue how the waiters manage the food and drinks. We have special tablecloths to keep the artsy plates of food in place, but occasionally the boat rocks a bit too far and a dish or two goes flying. CRASH! Oops! I wonder how many dishes are broken in a season. I have to admit, it is entertaining to watch it all.
People...sprawled out on the couches taking an afternoon snooze...the passing of the Drake is an obstacle, but I learned we are having quite a good day. Usually this time of year, the sea is more violent. They call it “the Drake Shake”. We are only at a “level 7” which means the sea is quite calm. It doesn't feel tranquil to me, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. My stomach is no longer queasy and I have mastered walking on the open sea...well most of the time.
The birds are here...following the boat. All shapes and sizes, they fly silently in the wake. I love the Cape Petrel with his small outlined eyes and speckled black and white body. He reminds me of a cartoon. Some of the birds out here have a wing span of 3.5 meters. That's over 11 feet!!! Incredible! The scientists on board say the wild life is going to continue to amaze us.
So the day involves “orientation” to the sea’s rhythm, eating, enjoying the scenery, listening to intriguing lectures and meeting new friends from literally around the world.