28 December 2007

Life at Sea

Aboard the Anaconda IIIAfter leaving one suitcase at the hotel in Sydney, and nearly everything else at a hotel in Airlie Beach, Chris and I packed a beach bag with a few essentials and headed out for a 3-day sailing adventure around the Whitsunday Islands...

MeThroughout the trip, we did lots of swimming and snorkeling in some of the bluest, clearest water in the world. It was our first experience with an underwater camera, which turned out to be a lot of fun. The underwater housing protected the camera from water and sand, and it floated!

Whitehaven BeachWith the exception of soft white sandy Whitehaven Beach, where we spent most of Day 3, the majority of Coral Beachbeaches were made of coral and rock, which are beautiful and a little painful. We learned very quickly to walk (more like waddle) backwards in our snorkel fins from the beach to the water, rather than suffer the barefoot-on-coral alternative.

MeNeither Chris nor I had ever gone diving before, but after a practice dive in a protected area near the beach on Day 1, we were able to dive the Great Barrier Reef on Day 2. It was my second Wonder of the World for 2007 (remember the Great Wall of China?). We've both now been sufficiently inspired to get our dive certification.

The passengers on the ship included people from England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. The only Aussies were members of the crew. The diversity made for interesting conversations, and it wasn't uncommon to hear three or four languages in the same discussion.

Sailing in the WhitsundaysTo say we were living in close quarters on the ship would be a gross understatement. We never got around to taking a picture of our cabin, so you will just have to imagine. It was the smallest living space I have ever seen.

There was a narrow passage leading from the cabin door to the bed, with a small sink and mirror on the right and a bathroom on the left. When the cabin door was open, it blocked access to the bathroom, and when the bathroom door was open, it blocked access to the sink and the bed.

Great Barrier ReefThere was a small shelf above the sink, so in order to spit toothpaste into the sink, you had to bend down and fit your head sideways in between the sink and the shelf until your nose almost touched the back wall. Even so, it was hard not to dribble toothpaste out of the corner of your mouth onto the carpeted floor.

Me, floating off Whitehaven BeachThe bathroom consisted of a toilet and a small spray nozzle. We had been sternly warned by the crew not to use more than 1 minute of water from this nozzle each day, lest we run out of water and have to return to the marina. So at the end of each day, coated from head to toe in alternating layers of sunblock, sweat, sand, and salt, I had to decide whether I would have enough water in my daily allowance to shampoo, rinse, and repeat (no way) or use conditioner (if I didn't rinse it out all the way) or maybe even shave at least once during the trip (ha!).

The room ended in a double bed, which was essentially a piece of plywood attached on 3 sides to the wall, about 3/4 of the way between the floor & ceiling. Whoever was sleeping on the back side had to climb over the person on the front side to get to the bathroom during the night.

Sunset at SeaWe were actually lucky to have only two of us in the room. There was a little space below the bed that could have been fitted with a bottom bunk to accommodate more people, but we were able to use it for storage. Many of our shipmates were living coed with 3-4 people in a room, many of whom had never met before they came on board.

Sunrise at SeaThe living conditions were much more amusing than annoying, and a small price to pay for three days on the High Seas. The food on board was freshly prepared and not too bad, but the portions were small and there was nothing to snack on between meals. Combined with swimming, diving, and snorkeling all day, it was a great way to lose weight.

In addition to the captain, there were 3 crew members on the Anaconda III, Jellyfisheach of whom brought a girlfriend. Two of the girls doubled as cooks, but the third didn't seem to have any particular responsibilities other than to wear the crew t-shirt from time to time. To be fair, I should mention that she did lose her bikini top once while trying to escape a jellyfish, which was pretty well received by the crew and passengers.

There were a lot of interesting people on board, and everyone was friendly and understanding of each other's differences. At any time, you could choose to socialize with shipmates or find a quiet corner of the deck for yourself.
At the pub with shipmates after the tripOn the first day of the trip, we had introduced ourselves to each other and talked about where we were from. At the end of the trip, something came up in discussion about where Chris and I were from, and all around us we heard gasps of "American?? We thought you were Canadian!!" I wasn't quite sure what to think about that, but we were mistaken for Canadians at least three more times before we left Australia. I don't think they're used to seeing Americans in Oz.

Click here for more pictures of Life on the Boat

Click here for more pictures of Life off the Boat

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