I can totally appreciate the beauty and splendor that you experience spending time on the sea. That open expanse of water, the fresh air and ideas of life undiscovered. But despite the metaphors about the ocean and the lessons it can teach us, I can confidently say I am not a human of the sea. At least not when I'm traveling on it.
As I sit white knuckled on a ferry going, in my opinion, way too fucking fast for the conditions, I am experiencing a new appreciation for the humans who can do this daily. This is officially not for me. At least not yet.
I never would've imagined being this uncomfortable on a boat, but looking back, had I ever really been on a boat in the middle of an ocean? On the sea? No. Lake Erie and the Niagara River don't have waves and swells quite like this. At least not while I've been on them.
I've been humbled watching the dips and rises of the sea around me. Seeing the water move in huge mass to create ever-changing hills and valleys. The heavy, slow rhythm broken only by flags bobbing in a dip here and there indicating fishing nets. Have I never noticed this hugeness before? This isn't my first time on a boat! No, I swear this is different.
We took a traditional long tail boat out on a half day tour around The Phi Phi Islands this week and I felt the same anxiety I feel when my airplane hits turbulence. Knowing the chances of disaster are slim, but that something doesn't feel quite right when your body lurches and jumps while in a floating tube that is not on land.
In a funny coincidence, our travel companion Ryan owns the Miss Buffalo cruise boat back home. I admitted to him that having him on the boats with us makes me feel better, but that I fully acknowledge that fact won't save me should the worst happen. He chuckled and showed me how the wooden boat was built with a strong skeleton; a set of ribs protecting us from the hard hits from the choppy water.
I've also had the great privilege of taking the island ferry twice in poor weather. On the way to the island, we plowed through a storm and managed to beat it just 30 minutes before we made it to the island. At that time, I at least had some motivation for pushing through as we had just traveled over 24 hours to get to the island and relax. The ferry was the last obstacle between me and a beer with my feet in the sand. Trying hard not to focus on the cruel irony that, after all that traveling with heavy packs and empty stomachs, we wouldn't make it to the island. I know, I was over thinking this.
Now, as we leave, I'm fairly certain they're driving this thing double the speed as the first time around. As we arrived at the pier, it began to downpour (there's no sprinkling rain on Koh Phi Phi) and got on the boat as it dipped and rose at the dock, being soaked by the rain.
Now we're flying through grey, choppy waters in a cramped and old ferry. We occasionally hit a wake from a passing ferry and the resulting sway in our path is incredibly powerful. I have decided looking out the window is too stressful. You can feel the bumps from the rogue waves scattered throughout this corner of the Andaman Sea.
The life jackets look like they were probably last replaced in the 80's. A twenty something French guy in the typical "same same" tourist tank top is asleep with his mouth open next to me. I'm trying to envision how fast we're going. If I had to guess, I'd say between 45-55 mph. On the water. Who came up with this shit?
Spotify has, in some cruel, comedic irony shuffled to "I'm on a Boat" by Lonely Island. Not kidding. How's that for timing... "Straight floating on a boat on the deep blue sea...." Okay universe, I'll try and lighten up here.
As if my prayers were answered, the water smoothed for our arrival back to the mainland. We glided in with little resistance and I watched with wide eyes and a much less fearful mind.
Even though my nerves are frayed and I feel a little nauseous. I'm determined to kick my fear (or at least deal with it). I'll keep getting on these boats the same way I begrudgingly step on to an airplane: knowing its just a step, a right of passage, between me and my next adventure.
P.S. In hindsight, this all seems so over the top. But I guess that's the beauty of conquering fears; that when it's all over, you're stronger, you're better, and you're more willing to continue tackling whatever comes your way!