Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’06:

The Mawlers Go Bi-polar

Yalour Islands Around-the-World Shot

Das Boot, or What Does a Land Lubber Say in the Drake?

Stuart and Lea Ann took the first of the pictures the night before getting to the Drake, with some stunning sunset shots and some snapshots of the pilot getting off the boat. (For those of you who are nautically challenged, like Lea Ann, apparently there is a pilot that comes with the port who is required to be in attendence on the ship until it gets outside a certain area, and again when it returns. Who knew?) The pilot actually leaves our ship and gets on a little (little!) boat among the waves without either ship really slowing down. Um. Yeah.

At about 3 am, Lea Ann hears something. Kerthunk? Or maybe Plop-Thud. Something like that. Then Jangle. Jingle jangle jingle jangle. Sliiiiide. Thunk. Ploop. Knock. Thud. Shebang.

Um. Yeah.

Welcome to the Drake Passage, the narrow bit of water between South America and Antarctica. This area is believed by many to be the roughest bit of water in the entire world.

Lea Ann awakens Saturday morning to find that everything in the cabin was now in a new place, and everything in her stomach was wishing it weren't. So what does a land lubber say in the Drake Passage? I don't know, but his name is ralph.

Breakfast was at 8:30 and poorly attended at best, considering how lovely the shipboard food was. Perhaps attendance has something to do with the motion of the ship, which can be described as roll, tilt, dip, shimmy, lather, rinse, repeat. The amusement park ride began during the night and continued through the whole day.

As it turns out, Stuart's view of breakfast is second-hand, as he did not make it either. His excuse was a bit different, having had so little sleep in the last several months that he arrived onboard with a sleep deficit remedy for motion sickness. Hard to get sick when you are unconscious, is what we always say. Well, we started saying it in the Drake, anyway.

Regardless of the reason, there are so few people at breakfast; they decide to postpone the first climbers' meeting until later. The guides decide to go ahead with gum boot fitting, though the excitement of the event still manages to bring out only a few takers. (Note: Gum boots are what us northern hemisphericals call rubber boots. Good, old-fashioned, mid-calf, rubber rubber rubber boots. Seems like these Aussies and Kiwis (which make up most of the passengers) have a different word for everything.) Stuart gets his boots. Lea Ann does not. Cold water in wool socks sounds favorable to venturing from horizontal.

Apparently, Lesley, the ship's doctor, made a habit of poking her head into cabins to ensure people were remaining a healthy shade of green. Does this make her a peeping Lesley? We are sure it is for medicinal purposes only. (As some-time bartender, she is doubly qualified with "medicinal" potions, though few people partake of her mixological skills on the Drake Passage. Perhaps later in the trip.)

The question came up during the day: does this count as "rough seas"? Does it live up to the moniker of the roughest water in the world? No, it is merely "vigorous" as Don, our expedition leader, euphemistically put it. However, it was a bit more vigorous than most of us land-lubbers would prefer.

One of the ships leaving Ushuaia with us helps put the vigorous seas in perspective. Of the several leaving port together, one was a bit top-heavy looking to several of us. In the hallway a couple passengers confirmed having seen that boat in the distance, rolling so far to port and starboard that the gunwales appeared to be dipping below the water. (Gunwales? What are we, boat people now?) To some degree that makes the rolling of our own boat seem tame in comparison, though this is likely small comfort to those unable to stand.

We are on a boat after all...
So, it would be useful to have an actual lifeboat drill. It was cozy, since we had about 25 passengers packed into a very small place. Hope no one had beans...

Aurora (the people who run the boat: here's the link) tries to use the down-time of the Drake Passage to get passengers in the mood with lectures on deck two, where the rolling is (theoretically) less pronounced. Unfortunately, the roll of the ship means that "down time" translates to "lying down time" for most people. Have we mentioned the roll of the boat?

Roger, our shipboard naturalist, started off the series with a talk about sea birds, which we are sure was very interesting, though we confess, we decided to do more work on our sleep deficit / sea-sickness problem. Our only regret is that we have probably given poor Roger a bit of a complex, since so few people were upright long enough to attend. Roger, you should know that it is nothing personal, but the lecture room carpet would probably have suffered somewhat with a higher attendance rate.

Later, Peter, our shipboard photography consultant, gave a chat about photography, which Stuart did manage to attend. Peter boiled down photographic problems to a simple acronym-ICE. We think this means that it will be a cold day in Hades when we land a job as good as Peter's. Regardless, Stuart enjoyed the talk and the pictures were certainly nice; looks like there was a good photographer on hand to take them.

Considering the lovely weather and the tilting of the deck, those venturing out of their rooms tended to migrate toward the bridge, for fear of being washed or pitched over the rail if they went outside. On the bridge, the crew has a device for measuring degrees of roll. While some passengers may not believe this, so far, it has not made it to horizontal.

Like many upright passengers, Stuart spent time on the bridge, watching the water spray over the bow. He spent some time at one of the doors out to the stern, watching the water wash across the back deck. He spent some time on the side, watching the water break toward the boat like we were a tiny beach. Ok, so he spent all day wandering around the ship watching large waves from one angle or another. Some of those waves were pretty big. Some people brought skis, so do you think they would have let Stuart surf, if he had brought a surf board? In fact, he did bring a camera, but somehow, he forgot to take a picture of the incredible waves!

Toward dinner, more people began to make public vertical appearances. It seems that the peeping Lesley had been sprinkling fairy dust in tablet form, allowing several to put on a pharmacological stiff upper lip. Whatever it takes, we say. Or did we just start saying that, too?

Lea Ann, despite a visit by Lesley's fairy dust, didn't manage to show up outside of the cabin for the entire day. In fact, it was mid-day the next day before she made it out. Upright is just not such a good idea. She actually wondered, during one of the five minute periods during which she was awake, if she would ever be able to stand up on the boat. There was some sense of foreboding, as she held on to everything that was nailed down, just to get to the bathroom, five feet from the bunk...

At the end of it, the first day was a pretty quiet day (except for the snoring) with people just wisely staying put and/or horizontal, trying to sleep off the Drake Passage like a bad hangover. Unfortunately, we have to cross the Drake Passage again in a few short days, in the other direction.

The previous installment:
Beagle Channel Pictures

The next installment:
At Sea, Approaching Antarctica

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All materials © 2006 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler