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Full Circle

Day 104: Zamboanga to Sandakan

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Michael Palin - Full CircleMeanwhile the first officer is explaining why the Danica Joy is not an adequate ship to be on. It was built to ferry people across the Inland Sea in Japan and has a flat bottom and only a three-metre draught.

'These are not meant for high seas.'

I think I've heard enough and would rather talk to Bert about cockerel sperm.

Night falls and the ship is beginning to roll about laboriously. The lavatories are not for the squeamish. Even if you could stay sitting on them, there is no paper. Unsecurable doors swing crazily on their hinges and the flush is no more use than a bead of sweat. Some people opt for a short cut and pee in the showers.

I don't know when it is I wake, or if I've slept, but I am conscious of extreme, unpredictable movement. First I am pitched one way, then, after what seems like a very long pause, I'm pitched to the other. The blood rushes to my head just in time for my body to be corkscrewed around, as if the ship is being spun in the trough of a wave. Then I'm on the way up again and hard down as the hull belly-flops down, spinning and reverberating like a boxer bouncing off the ropes. To start with it's physically quite exciting, like being on a never-ending fair-ground ride, but the more I wake up and the more I remember of the first-mate's warnings and the look of the ship and the owner's shifty anxiety as we loaded at Zamboanga, the more I become convinced that this is it. The luck's run out, and I have only myself to blame. The storm roars and, as the Danica Joy ricochets off another wave, I raise myself desperately from my bed to see how many other people are praying. But all I see, in the bottom bunk, across the gangway from me, is a woman in an immaculate deep blue sari, gold chain on her wrist, sleeping with such total and complete serenity that I suddenly feel rather foolish. And strangely safer.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 104
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: Sulu Sea
  • Book page no: 147

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