Worrying Boat Travel Resume:
1967 – The ferry from Dover to Calais – threw my guts up.
1968 – The Queen Elizabeth from London to New York – only one bad night, but Oy!
Solution: Stayed off of boats for the next forty-six years.
(Additional Note: Dr. M: No specifics but her concerns were not dissimilar.)
Okay, so we packed along Dramamine, just in case. Which, for me at least, in my rich and fertile imagination meant, “There is – forgive me – (almost certainly) some serious upchucking in my future.”
Another Problem: Our swimming pool at home is set permanently at a bath-like eighty-eight degrees. Our itinerary, I have trepidatiously noticed, has scheduled swimming off the side of the boat activities every afternoon. Two questions quickly arose in my (perniciously un-disableable) rich and fertile imagination:
“Do you have to jump off the boat to get into the water?”
“Exactly what temperature is that water?”
I mean, it’s October. What does the Aegean in the fall feel like? And will the term “Cardiac Arrest” come into play, should I be foolish enough to give it a try?
(Leading to the inevitably embarrassing and transparently deceitful, “I think maybe I’ll swim tomorrow.”)
Okay. So much for the setup.
The “Official Beginning” of our tour had started two days earlier, with a whirlwind exploration of, among other touristical points of interest, the legitimately breathtaking Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace where, in the hour allotted to us, I raced through impressive exhibits of antique clocks, ancient weaponry and Sultanational jewelry, which included the prototype, emerald-encrusted dagger memorably showcased in the classic caper movie Topkapi (1964.)
The following morning, it was a van ride (including our intrepid “Group of Seven” plus our indispensible guide Serhan) to Ataturk Airport, then a puiddle-jump flight to Dalaman, where another van awaited to convey us to the port town of Marmaris (on the southwest coast of Turkey – closer to the Syrian mayhem than Istanbul but still some safe distance away. We self-hypnotically liked to believe.)
Dutifully following Serhan, we make our way along an extended seaside dock…
And there it is.
Our nautical home for the next five-plus days.
It seems pretty big. Two tall masts, numerous portholes above the waterline, a Turkish flag flapping on the flagpole…
And that’s all I know about boats. (As demonstrated by my observation that the portholes were above the waterline. Why would they have portholes below the water line? I mean they did in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea but I think that was made up.)
We proceed – some of us more trepidatiously than others – up the suspended gangplank, and we step determinedly aboard.
We are now officially “Boat People.”
The cabin we are provided, walled in lacquered dark-paneled word, is comfortable-looking, sufficiently spacious, and has its own private bathroom and shower. (WARNING: The alimentarily squeamish are encouraged to skip this parenthetical. Almost the first “Boat Rule” we were instructed about was that no paper whatsoever should be deposited into the toilets. You heard me. None. Did somebody say “Ew!”? Wait, that might have been me.)
Almost immediately we set sail (though not before I anxiously queried Serhan concerning the Turkish word for “mutiny.” You can always tell when I’m nervous. I almost immediately stop being funny.)
Every afternoon, after traveling over a thankfully unchoppy sea, we drop anchor in some secluded (except for one or two boats similar to our own) horseshoe-shaped cove, a wreath of craggy mountains rising out of the waters, the inlet’s mouth opening to Cyprus, Rhodes, Greece and fabled Mediterranean.
The cove water is almost glacially smooth. The Dramamine will remain untouched beside the Tums and the Tylenol. (Yes, we are a seafaring drugstore.)
Having anchored for the day, the next item on the agenda:
A refreshing dip in the Aegean.
And so it begins.
I slip on my overpriced French bathing suit (bought specifically for the occasion; if I were not looking forward to the experience, I could at least appear stylish in the process.) For safety (but more “Security Blanket’s” sake), I don a large, orange lifejacket. (I emphasize “large” because the lifejacket I discover in our cabin is unmistakably “child-sized”, raising instantly shaming concerns that all Turkish non-swimmers were under the age of seven.)
Trepidatiously – have I overused that word or is it simply my “Signature Adjective?” – I make my may along the boat’s wooden-planked deck to – deep breath of appreciation – a strongly fortified metal ladder leading down to the indeterminable waters below.
I am, inexplicably, the first of our party venturing into the Aegean. (What was that about? Am I secretly courageous? I am even now searching for a more credible explanation.)
Gingerly descending the ladder, I arrive at the square-shaped metal platform at the bottom, my lower extremities making their initial contact with the water.
Which it is not, by my definition but possibly anyone’s,
Okay, what do I do now? Go back up the ladder? That way lies humiliation and failure. The trouble is, the only alternative direction is
I take a number of deep – possibly final, I fear – breaths, and I flop into the awaiting coldness, a primal yelp emerging from the abrupt temperature change, and I immediately flounder around in my familiar, though hardly aquatically admirable, “Dog Paddle.”
Little did I know, to my indescribable surprise, that those daily dips in the Aegean would rank among the “Most Memorable Moments” of the entire vacation.
I mean, who’d ‘a thunk it?
A thing I had worried about the most turns out to be…
Do I actually know myself at all?