My husband and I have developed a formula over the years. When one of us plans a family outing, it is the responsibility of the non-planning partner to promote enthusiasm for the adventure, even when the adventure involves a boat trip – correction, is a boat trip – and the non-planning partner struggles with motion sickness.
One of the things that has happened to my body since giving birth is that I am incapable of sitting on a swing at a playground without my center of gravity moving from my stomach to the back of my knees, to my chest, and eventually to the ground in the form of vomit. One reason I love swimming in the ocean is that if I remain still in wobbly water, I feel sick. Boats are the worst.
Carnac Island is a few miles off the coast of Fremantle. Dave learned about a company that would take us out to this tiny island to snorkel and swim with sea lions.
My one close encounter with a sea lion was three years ago when I was swimming with my brother in the San Francisco Bay. It popped its head up directly in front of me, growled, and immediately sunk back under the murky water. I yelled at my brother, “What the fuck was that?” knowing exactly what it was but hoping for the response, “Ice cream. That was ice cream.”
Between the boat ride and the sea lions, you’d think I might have stayed home, but if my children were going to be eaten by sea lions, I wasn’t going to be the mom who stayed home to catch up on Scandal while her children were being eaten by sea lions. Plus, I’m in love. I got up early, ate some bircher muesli, and took two Dramamine.
The sky was overcast and the sea was bouncy. Two kayaks labeled Perception and Emotion were strapped to the deck. Seven thirty-somethings were ready for the best day ever and had coolers of beer and salami. When I see people eating on a boat, I feel like they are brushing their teeth at a cemetery. The captain offered us a platter of brownies and tiny muffins and I wanted to grab the tray and chuck it into the sea. We are on a boat! I wanted to scream. This is no place for muffins!
My husband and younger daughter stood at the railing and laughed hysterically as the wind turned their cheeks to Jell-O. The older one inherited my inner ear so she sat next to me, clutching my hand, staring at the horizon. That morning, she had taken one Dramamine. It tastes gross, she had said. So does barf, sweetheart. Drink some water.
Upon anchoring, the captain pointed at a dozen sea lions that were napping on the beach. They had obviously not been told about the tourists who were promised a romp. The captain suggested we dive in to see if we could “tempt the lions.” He then advised against walking on the beach because Carnac Island is home to hundreds of venomous tiger snakes. This is Australia and I live here.
My older daughter and I peeled out of our clothes and stood shivering at the back of the boat. “We’ll feel better if we get in the water,” I promised her as the waves crashed and the wind whipped through our hair. We jumped in.
It turns out the sea lions were not interested in frolicking with humans. A few passengers, including my husband, swam to Medusa’s Lair to get up close to the sea lions. “We’ve got those at home!” I wanted to call out to Dave. “I’ll take you to Pier 39!” My daughter and I swam back to the boat to join her sister who was on her second brownie.
We made it back to the mainland without vomiting, and almost immediately, I felt famished. We walked to Little Creatures Brewing Company and ordered as if it were our last meal. The four of us consumed half a dozen oysters, one margarita pizza, one plate of nachos, one beet salad, one stack of sticky lamb ribs, two glasses of wine and one beer. When we got home that afternoon, I slept for three hours. I awoke to my daughters bouncing on my bed.