“Captain Jack Will Get You High Tonight”

May 6, 2009

Traveling alone is not a first for me; neither is going to Goa, swimming in the sea, or parasailing. But water scootering? That’s a first – and also a second.

You know what a water scooter is, right? Those wonderful vehicles that they go shooting across the water in, in all those thrilling, old-fashioned action movies (the ones without space ships and fire shooting machines and people who vaporize when shot at, I mean). It looks just like a motorcycle without wheels. I can’t understand how I haven’t learnt to ride one yet, this appears to be a serious gap in my education.

I still haven’t learnt to ride the beast, mind you. At best, I’ve learnt not to be afraid that I’ll fall off. Not that the consequences of falling off would have been catastrophic, I was wearing a life jacket, and it was only the sea I’d fall into, how bad could that be? It was more a matter of how stupid I’d feel for falling off. So, the first time round, all my energies were concentrated on not falling off. This was not so easy, all I had to hold on to was a scrap of nylon tied to the handlebar, the handlebar itself being under the control of the driver, who sat, or stood behind me. So, hanging on to this flimsy bit of rope, I just tried to stay upright and waited for it to end, thinking all along that this should have been fun.

Of course, that just wouldn’t do. But, I’d just done parasailing, which I’ve done before and enjoyed, and that had cost 600 bucks. The jet stream, as they called the water scooter ride, cost 700. I had carried only Rs 1000 in my pocket to the beach, because I hadn’t known about the jet stream part of things, the parasailing being quite evident and visible from afar. So anyway, I was already 300 bucks short, and I had explained this to Captain Jack, the organizer (the gig was called Jack’s Cruises or somesuch, so I assumed the chap who runs it is called Captain Jack; anyway, I decided to call him that, after Billy Joel’s song), who was agreeable to providing me service in the expectation that I would return with the cash in the evening. The current shortfall of Rs 300, was probably not too much of a risk for him, he had already made a neat profit; and besides, he had my room number and I’m sure that if I didn’t cough up, he’d certainly come knocking. So what with all that, I didn’t want to extend my credit limit to cover another joy ride. It would have to wait till evening.

By evening, I had almost changed my mind. I had gotten myself cleaned up, and in this season in Goa, getting oneself cleaned up takes a heck of a lot of effort. It’s not easy, getting all that sand off your body. It sneaks into the most unlikely, inaccessible of places, and stays persistently and irritatingly there. It specially likes to lurk in folds and crevices, such as inside and behind the… ears! (What were you thinking?) So, as I said, having got most of the sand off my body, I wasn’t terribly keen to get into the sea again. But this water scooter ride practically guaranteed that you’d be wet and, inevitably, sandy. If you didn’t fall in, you certainly would get sprayed. And, getting on and off the scooter was also liable to get you waist deep in water. It sounded like too much work, trying to get clean again after all that.

So, I paid Captain Jack the dues from my morning session and started to walk away, when he called me back and offered me a ‘discount’ on another ride. Two hundred rupees off the jet-ski, he said. Hmmmm…..

Well, I had come prepared, actually, with money in my pocket and a swimsuit under my clothes, and before you could say Jack Spratt, I had stripped off my T-shirt, my shorts, my glasses, and my watch, and climbed into a safety jacket. A moment later, I was on the water scooter (which had been dragged up on to the beach, so I hardly got my ankles wet) and we were off!

And it was really fun! The chap standing behind me drove, while I sat in front and grinned. I got around the problem of the likelihood of falling off by holding firmly on to the handlebar on the left. The backseat driver used the right side of the handlebar, which had the accelerator. I don’t think the machine has brakes, you just stop accelerating and the sea does the rest.

We went shooting over the breakers, plunging down the other side, then we did a wide circuit of the open sea. It was pretty rough (or so it seemed to me), and my heroic driver appeared to aim for the biggest swells and troughs that he could spot, but I had the hang of it now. It was like riding an exceptionally unpredictable horse. Without reins. All you had to do was balance on your feet and hang on by your arms. It was easy. It was fun! If I had been the screaming sort, I would have screamed in exhilaration. But I’m the grinning sort, so I grinned instead. Captain Jack must have thought me slightly crazy, because I was still grinning when I paid up, several minutes after unmounting… I mean, disembarking.

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