I hate boats. All that salt-spray stickiness and constant motion. It’s just a pity that I feel the need to head off into the ocean searching for albatross and the like.
Often on these regular pelagic (seabird) journeys, many species of petrels and shearwaters are seen. When fish remains are thrown over the side of the boat, the birds arrive in their dozens. Several albatross species can be present: black-browed, yellow-nosed, Buller’s, and the largest of them all: the wandering albatross.
But I rarely find it fun. Within minutes of leaving Sydney on my first seabird sortie I was horribly ill: the ordeal was to last eight dreadful hours.
On the second occasion I took advice. I got a good night’s sleep, ate a hearty breakfast and avoided eggs and milk. I took the seasickness tablet at the appropriate time and positioned myself on the breezy side of the boat.
Did it work? No. Moreover, a squall hit us. When the boat lurched, water raced off the cabin roof, down my neck, through my shirt and trousers and into my shoes. Once again I crumpled: cold, sick and wet.
It took me two years to return: the thought of the many seabirds I’d still to see drove me back. Somehow, on that occasion I survived. I then began to ride the waves regularly. The fear of illness was always lurking but I began to think I was becoming a seasoned sailor.
Until the 20th trip when seasickness struck again. I spent most of the day prostrate on the floor of the storm-tossed craft. Occasionally I’d heave myself up to goggle at some of the day’s birds before collapsing once more.
You might think, that because I’ve seen most of the species to be found in the Southern Ocean, I’d now be content. But no, a few still elude me. And that’s why I have to keep returning to sea.
I still hate boats.