I’m On A Boat!
Those Lonely Island chaps, purveyors of witty, but oh-so-good, and generally filthy tunes, summed it up with their legendary song ‘I’m On A Boat’. Which is by law required to be played/sung at least once during every boat mission. Its message is simple: being on a boat is a rather good thing.
“I’m ridin’ on a dolphin,
doin’ flips and shit
The dolphins splashin’,
gettin’ everybody all wet
But this ain’t Seaworld,
this is real as it gets
I’m on a boat motherf@cker,
don’t you ever forget…”
Whilst a not-so-subtle dig at the hip-hop world’s ostentatious, loads-a-money bragging it does cut to the core. Being on a boat is something which people not on a boat envy. Boats are cool. The Monaco GP is the coolest one on the calendar because it’s held next to some pimp boats.
Boat trips are awesome, even if it is a Indo skiff with nowt but packet noodles to eat, no bog and a leaky tarp for a roof. There’s an unending romance with stories from the sea.
As Brits our ocean heritage runs deep. We’re an island nation after all. Seafaring is kinda what we do. Being on a boat is in our genes.
You haven’t got to go that many generations back to find a salty seaman in your family tree.
The fact that boats, assuming you haven’t got the wheelbarrows full of cash needed to foot the bill for a helicopter or sea plane, are the ultimate surf vehicle is undisputed.
Get yourself on a decent deep-ocean going, desalinator equipped tub, as opposed to a coastal cruiser that needs frequent water/fuel/supply stops, then you can disappear into the big blue for a couple of weeks and really go off the charts. Islands were invented by geography to be explored by inquisitive surfers after all. And a decent boat will do a few thou’ miles before needing to pop into BP for a top up.
In the name of journalistic integrity and a thoroughly researched story I agreed to do a boat trip. Just to make sure it’s something you should consider. Taking one for the team, etc. I’ve done a bunch before but my memory isn’t what it was and never look a gift boat in the mouth or something.
This trip came about in a very random way. Full six degrees of Bacon stuff. So, the tortuous path is thus: Jem is a thoroughly nice chap that’s done good for himself in the world of business. So much so he and a bunch of mates have pitched in to buy a boat. A catamaran called the Ocean Adventurer III. A boat for which they have bold plans. There were a version one and two but people kept insisting on buying them for over the market value so being sensible biz folks they sold em’ on and reinvested.
Now Jem knows Al, a lawyer that splits his time between Bristol and Kernow, they met at the gates doing the school run with their groms in Brizzle and eventually became surf buddies. So when Jem asked Al if he knew any surfers that might want to come play on the OA3 Al asked Gibb. An acquaintance from Aggie. Who then asked fellow Aggie sorts Markie Lascelles and Josh Ward. Markie then asked me and I asked Gwen Spurlock. Her off of used to be British champ and that. So a total random path of contacts that could’ve ended up anywhere. Whatever. We all obviously said, ‘Yes please!’ when the trip was pitched and nuked whatever was in the diary that week.
It was, let’s be honest, all a bit last minute. But come early June we were airborne, not all on the same flight, as it was that last minute. But we all arrived in the Maldive capital, Male, at pretty much the same time.
Now if you’ve ever been to the Maldives, popular as it is with surfers and honeymoonistas, you’ll know the airport is pretty mad. Planes swoop so low you can see fish scattering out the window before you suddenly land on a runway which is all of a metre above the rising sea level.
Things might have changed since you last went, the runway island is now a city island. A huge Chinese project is reclaiming a vast area of land on top of the reef to build a whole new city complete with parks and stadia and a controversial surf spot ending bridge to connect the two islands.
The ‘Youth City’ is set take the pressure off the sci-fi nightmare that is Male and eventually be a destination for budget travellers that can’t afford the eye-watering prices of the dreamy island hotel resorts. It is, however, a work in progress.
As we had a night to kill before another local flight south to meet the boat we stayed in your classic ‘hotel surrounded by building sites’ gaff. Pine Lodge was very nice and the staff well helpful, we recommend it. And we had an all-time Indian meal as we were starving and all the local joints weren’t open until sundown due to Ramadan.
Next morn it was back to the airport for a flight on one of those twin-prop planes that doesn’t inspire confidence. But at least this time (I ventured to the southern atolls 15-years ago originally) we didn’t have to suffer the ignominy of standing on the baggage scales to be personally weighed. So tight is the planes tolerance for lard asses.
A few hours later we were wheeling boardbags and camera gear to the other side of another, this time tiny, palm-lined airport island to meet the boat.
Now if you’ve ever done a boat trip the first sight of your vessel is a big moment. It’s either a ‘Yes!’ mini-fist-pump episode or you wonder where the hell the boat in the photos you were looking at is and hope not to end up on the news in a sinking incident. We were in the former camp. The OA3 is a classy boat. As you can see from the shots it’s a pimp, spacious catamaran totally perfect for surf missions.
We were welcomed aboard by Captain Norm and his South African crew and Jem the owner who’d been aboard for a week prior with some friends, including Portuguese ripper Leonor Fragoso, who was also staying on for our week.
The Aggie crew and Gwendol got settled in and we sailed around the corner for a quick surf before heading south.
Cabins allocated yours truly decided pretty swiftly to sleep outside. The southern atolls aren’t that far from the equator and it’s flipping hot. 36C in the shade mid-morning hot. Suncream needed by 7:30 am hot.
Sleeping outside under the stars for a week is a boat trip bonus. Can’t do that at home too much. Not without sleeping with one eye open or freezing to death. And delightful as it sounds spooning a solid six-foot, snoring, warm human like Gibb in a sweaty cabin isn’t on my bucket list.
I awoke with the 6am nuclear inferno to the eyes alarm, otherwise known as sunrise, on the ‘trampoline’ at the front of the boat. We’d moored behind a deserted little palm-fronded (advance warning dreamy palm trees feature heavily in this tale) island, with water so blue it made your brain question your eyes saturation settings. A blue so blue it really did seem like someone had snuck minty blue gel contact lenses on to our eyes overnight. Mind blowing. Not a bad place to wake up.
One of the joys of surf boat trips is there’s no faff about where you’re surfing, parking a motor or getting there. Your spot will generally be within a few minutes tender ride or a short paddle. If it ain’t on then you up anchor and pootle on to the next spot. Our spot was on so after brekkie the guys and gals were out there. It was a roping right breaking into the channel around the little island, the light onshore not messing it up too much, if it had been offshore it would’ve been quite something. But for a first dig not to bad at all. The first full day is the day to explore the boat. Snorkel a lot and generally regret drinking so much on the first night. But first nights or last nights on boats tend to be messy. And in the tropics involve pretty much everyone ending up in the ocean. There isn’t any escaping this. So practice your front and back flop variations to impress your friends. But there is the caveat: this on a stationary boat parked for the night. Don’t ever get pissed on a moving boat, especially in the dark, if you go off the side while having a slash you’re done for. Happens far too frequently in the Ments.
The Southern and Central atolls of the Maldives are way quieter and less developed than the Northern one nearer to Male. Last time I was down this way there were no hotels and the airport island had a staff of two very bored guys and goats mowing the grass. In between times the, let’s be honest, not exactly groovy government has opened up the south to development. It’s not out of hand like the north and there’s still loads of empty atolls and islands and it’s rare to see other boats or people. But it was telling that in our week we caught one fish. Last time the fishing would only have been easier if the fish had formed an orderly queue to jump onboard. 15-minutes with a couple of hand lines and we’d have a few beauties to feed us for the day. We even caught a six-foot sailfish on the last day. Whether the same Chinese factory boats have cleared the area out like they have in Indonesia remains to be seen. It was definitely worrying. Other sea life like dolphins and turtles were plentiful, and there are loads of little fish, so maybe the bigger fish just know to steer clear of ostentatious catamarans.
The southern atolls are trickier to score than the classic northern spots like Sultans, Lohis etc. The wind is more variable but the place is more beautiful. Beacons is regarded as arguably one of the best waves in the nation. We got it big and ugly, Blue Bowls lived up to its name but as the only spot that was clean for a couple of days was a bit busy. Not something I ever thought I’d write about the southern ‘Dives but that’s progress for you. We tootled north as the OA3 was following the retreating monsoon weather northwards and scored Mikados, possibly the most beautiful spot I’ve ever been too. We also scored another unnamed right which was super fun. Every day had waves, beers, laughs and plenty of carbs to sate hungry surfers.
A week seems like an eternity after the first day but before we knew it we were doing a 14-hour overnighter back to the north. Thankfully Neptune was kind and made it a reasonable ride. This is the one downside of boat trips. If you catch rough weather and high seas then you’ll know the very definition of despair. There’s no escape. You just have to deal. It’s character building if nothing else.
As for the OA3 the Maldives is just the beginning. The crew have a five-year plan which will see the boat traverse the globe. It’ll be Indo next season, the Andaman Islands, Borneo and Timor then Fiji and French Polynesia, before finishing off year five in the Atlantic islands, Madagascar and returning to the Maldives.
One hell of a plan and the rad thing is you can be part of it. The OA3 is an adventure boat — become a member and join the team on one of their adventures on the round the world mission. Be it surfing, diving, kiting or just swaggering about in billowing pastel suits like you’re in a Duran Duran video or something. We’re already making plans for return trips…
Huge thanks to: Jem, Fiona, Captain Norm, Terri and Lazy Bones Stu.
MALDIVES WILDLIFE SPOTTERS GUIDE
Fruit bats: Small flying bears that live inside coconuts. Totally smug about their wifi enabled built-in sonar.
Dolphins: hipster sharks, if they could they’d grow beards and get tats … but boy can they swim quick. Will always do back flips the second you put your camera down like the prize arseholes they are.
Storks: Often masquerading as a distant random white stick poking up from the reef which is then gone the next day. Storks, also, are dicks. The whole baby bringing thing is a lie.
Tropical fish: garish idiots that are pretty useless at finding each other.
Yellow fin tuna: a noble, wild, yet very tasty container of tuna steaks. Actually harder to catch and open than a tin.
Black tip sharks: toy non-bitey sharks. But you can still say you saw a shark or surfed with sharks. So pretty handy.
Turtles: Tortoises with swimming certificates.
BOATING TERMS EXPLAINED*
Aft: Towards the boats arse.
Batten down: what you do to hatches.
Belay: going to sleep.
Bilge: When someone talks nautical nonsense.
Boat hook: used for grabbing ropes, fending off or highly frowned upon and slightly illegal boat jousting.
Boat: Small enough to go on a ship.
Boom: What you say when you are particularly pleased with yourself. Mic drops are ill advised on a boat as they’re prone to rolling off the deck into the brine.
Bow: The area for formal greetings.
Bulwarks: A nautical way of saying bollocks.
Capsize: your millinery dimensions.
Chafing gear: What happens to your tackle in the tropics.
Cockpit: Just above the chafing gear.
Dodger: Spray shield for bridge. Or the author of this article.
Fender: Not a space hopper. Captains will shout at you if you use them as such.
Gash fanny: dustbin (honest … Google it if you don’t believe me).
Gudgeon: A hole where the pintle fits. Apparently. Not smut.
Gunwhale: A maverick bad ass whale you really don’t want to encounter.
Jib: What people like the cut of.
Keelhaul: cleaning barnacles off using humans as scrubbers.
Knot: a creative rope arrangement, a wind speed measure or a Wayne’s World response.
Massive anchor: best said quickly. This is the main anchor as opposed to a sand anchor or reef anchor, that’s the tetanus central, rusty hook one that’s ‘kinder to the reef’.
Manrope: Not slang for the last chicken in the shop. Actually a rope handrail.
Poop: A deck. Not to be confused with an ‘aquaturd’ which is a snapping off ‘King Kong’s finger’ in the sea.
Port: the left side of the boat, where the drinks cabinet is, hence ‘port side’. If ever needing to remember which side is which just ask yourself if there’s any port left?
Porthole: A window on the left.
Ship: Big enough to have a boat onboard. But you’ll drive yourself insane trying to figure out the line between boat and ship. Some say the business of a boat happens on deck, on ships it’s below deck, others say it’s in how the vessel turns. In the navy a submarine is always a boat. The captain of the OA3’s response was, ‘f@ck knows’.
Starboard: the side of the boat celebrities must board from.
Starboardhole: A window on the right.
Stern: the area of a boat for telling people off.
Yard Arm: Once the sun is over it you can booze. Generally regarded as 10:30 am. The only acceptable pre-sun/yardarm drinks are Bloody Marys or a Guinness with a fry up.
- Possibly not factually accurate.