My Sea Coffin

Water_ShotNow, since I ascribe to Living Mini precepts, I’m totally in down with living in small, well-defined spaces. I’m also OK with tiny spaces that are a little less well defined. What I’m not OK with is sleeping in a coffin for 4 nights.

Overall, I was psyched about my Parama boat tour of Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara islands. It was 5 days / 4 nights of sailing to 8-9 islands. My fellow travelers and the crew were super friendly and the activities – jungle walks, amazing snorkeling, village visits – were all fabulous.

So it was just bad luck that it was the “wet” season and our small boat encountered several significant storms during the first half of our voyage.

You may be asking yourself, “How bad could the stormy weather have been?” This bad:

Deck vs. Cabin: Me and about half my fellow travelers paid an extra $100 for a cabin room. The rest slept on the deck. The two options for the deck-dwellers were to sleep out in the elements or under the cover of the common room (where smoking was permitted). Tough choice for them, especially when the waves started breaking over the deck rail the second night.

My Cabin Coffin: So you’d think “deck class” would be the worst of it. But no. Worse than sleeping in the rain and wind was sleeping inside the smallest cabin with a berth –no joke – about the size of a coffin.

My cabin mate and I talked about leaving the cabin door open for some air and though we tried for hours to prop it open with shoes, back packs, water bottles, the rocking of the boat was too heavy and kept slamming the door shut with each swell. There was no choice – the door would have to be not only shut, but locked to keep it from slamming.

Life_on_Parama_BoatMy Escape Plan: So we locked ourselves in. I rehearsed in my head my exact movements in case I thought the boat was going down. I would lung at the lock and whip the door open, before throwing myself on deck – hopefully to be washed overboard where I could try to swim in the dark to safety. This was my action plan.

But really, what’s the likelihood of a fully loaded Indonesian wooden boat going down in a storm in the Indian Ocean? Precisely. I didn’t sleep a wink for 2 nights.

The Bucket: So all 26 of us passengers were a “little concerned” about the sea-worthiness of our Perama Boat. But I had a little something extra to worry about. My cabin mate (a 63-year-old woman from the Netherlands) fell in the bathroom on the first day.

Her mishap was regrettable, but really no surprise. The 3 bathrooms were a combo toilet / shower, so you were standing in at least several inches of water each time you entered the stall. And the rocking of the boat was fierce and it was really really dark with very few lights to guide your way down the exposed steps and narrow galley way.

(In fact, the rocking was so drastic, several women tied themselves to their beds with sarongs to keep from falling out during the night. They were in the inside berths and I didn’t want to scare them with my Escape Plan ideas, especially if their plans would have the extra step of untying a wet knot while under water. Gulp!)

Deck_SleeperSo because my cabin mate fell (her name is withheld for reasons that will soon become apparent), she didn’t want to venture to the downstairs toilet at night. Let’s just say she had to go a lot, so we’re talking at least 4-5 nocturnal commode outings.

Her solution was my nightmare. She asked the cabin boy to station a bucket outside our cabin so she could simply use it as a chamber pot at night instead of risking her neck on the wet stairs. So at least 5 times during each night she would slam the coffin door open, step outside, and sit on the bucket. Naked.

That’s right, while I was rehearsing my Escape Plan, I’d look over and see her there squatting, boobs resting on knees, in the moonlight. This was not what I wanted my last image on earth to be.

An “Upgrade”: Luckily, I made good friends with our Cruise Director Nardin (I think my knowledge of John Denver lyrics helped) and when more than 2/3 of the boat jumped ship after 2 nights, I requested an upgrade to a cabin of my own. My wish was granted.

I actually think the crew felt a little sorry for me since everyone on the boat was well aware of the bare-assed bucket situation. I mean they were the ones who had to empty it in the morning. Or at least half of it. The other half of the urine / throw-up mix had sloshed onto the deck outside our cabin door by morning. So supremely disgusting.

So an upgrade! I was thrilled with my new luxurious cabin that allowed me an extra 2 feet of space and no hazardous waste. I was so pleased I didn’t even care about the bed bugs biting my neck from the filthy pillows.

My Evolving Standards: The thing that freaks me out the most? I actually thought this Perama Cruise was one of the best times of my trip so far! Oy vey! Can’t wait to see where my standards will be a year from now…

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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