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  Age on Sunday   17 Sep 2017  Out at sea, in the driver’s seat!

Out at sea, in the driver’s seat!

THE ASIAN AGE. | SATHYA SARAN
Published : Sep 17, 2017, 6:05 am IST
Updated : Sep 17, 2017, 6:22 am IST

Under the bright yellow sun and the clear blue skies, the waves of Mauritius offer more than just a picturesque background.

A view of the sea from the island
 A view of the sea from the island

Not knowing to swim also brings with it a fear of water. Anything deeper than a bath tub has me worrying, spluttering and all the other inelegant things that people do when water overpowers them. It is never a selfie moment. So someone tell me why I have put my hand up when the girl at reception asks, “Who among you wants to drive the boat?” But to begin at the beginning. I am in Mauritius in June, and though the sun shines bright, it is balmy, and pleasant. Among the many delights on offer, besides the beach is the Seakart Ride. 

On the boat ride.On the boat ride.

The Seakart is not on view where I stand. But I am assured it is fully safe. A quick briefing by the staff tells us that we will not make acquaintance with the waters. The boat, the speaker adds is one of a kind, and spill proof. And the life jacket will ensure, even if the unthinkable happens and the boat gets punctured by a jagged rock I choose to drive it into, that I will float unharmed on the ocean, and not disappear without a trace. Bouyed by the pep talk, I can’t wait to check out this wonderbeast. And before I know it, I put my hand up, volunteering to steer one of the boats. 

There are two of us in each boat. And my partner and I decide to take turns. One look at the wide and unending expanse of the Indian Ocean stretching all the way to infinity and... “You go first,” I tell Fareeda, my partner in danger. Fareeda can’t swim either, but I don’t want to be the one responsible for us gasping like fish should the invincible qualities of the boat prove a vain boast.

We have been tutoured well. The five boats  will be led by a security boat. To begin, we will follow in a straight line, then at a point, in a formation: two alongside, two at a 45-degree angle behind, and ride till we reach the island. There after a brief halt, partners can change seats, and start back. And yes, the guy in the security boat will also ensure he gets photos of everyone.

So, off we go. Fareeda and I mumble the instructions to each other. “Press the red panel on steering to go, don’t panic when nose goes up. Crossed hands mean cut the engine. Keep distance. Do not lag behind”... And we are off. We start with a jerk, then as Fareeda eases her pull on the accelerator, we slow down, and stop. Boat five is yet to start, and we have a crossed arms sign to cut the engine, as we wait for boat five.

It does, but by then, to our dismay we realise our boat has decided  to go back and is resolutely facing the shore. Never knew boats were afraid of open seas! “The engine, start it, or we can’t steer”, I murmur, and we manage to get back on course. Every touch of the wheel makes for sharp angular turns, but  we master its moods. Boats three and five are way behind. So we wait, bobbing along the waves in what, without engine power, is but an inflatable tube! 

Then we are off again. Smooth going as we keep our place along the security boat. The others play tag, catching up, falling behind. The guys on the security boat are edgy. The ride is tailored to take half an hour each way, and we are definitely out of time. We see a camera aimed at us, and wave. The ocean’s our friend! Then it is time to cut across the current. The boat starts bucking like a rodeo horse. Waves splash us and we hit the highs and dips with sharp slapping sounds. Mid sea, with unexpected bravado, as our craft rocks violently, Fareeda and I change places. “It is very choppy,” Fareeda says. “Can you handle it?” I’ll be damned if I don’t try! When the signal comes, I press the switch, and accelerate. Years of driving cars come to the rescue. The boat bucks, but purrs along like a tamed cat on a leash. By a series of deaccelerations I hold my position alongside the leading boat; getting a Thumbs up reward. We take a curve to head back in a straight line. Boat number five has turned too sharply, wayoff course.

Using the remote safety button, the security boat cuts the engine;  stalling it. Once we are safely on shore again, the security boat goes out to tow boat number five in. It is a lesson in discipline and team work. 

As we dry our wet behinds, Fareeda and I, as if on cue, say what each of us is thinking, out loud. “I want to go back”.

Fact file
The Seakart is a boat with a 110 horse power, 4-stroke engine (no wonder the rodeo).
It has a turbine propeller, which means zero danger.
It has a telescopic ladder, for those who wish to swim while out at sea, and climb back. The boat, which only flats when the engine is off, waits nearby, like a faithful steed.

Packages come in three options:
One hour, which includes a cold drink on return.
Half day, which includes lunch, and 2 hours of navigation.
Full day, which includes 3 ½ hours in the boat, lunch at Benitier’s island.
Booking in advance is a must. Email id: contact@fun-adventure.mu

Tags: mauritius, seakart ride