Folks, I have no photographic proof, but trust me, I was not meant to ride a jet ski, and perhaps after reading today’s post you’ll be inclined to agree with me.
Friday morning Studly Doright and I checked in at H2O Jet Ski Rentals in Clearwater Beach at 10 a.m. for our scheduled 120 minute tour. After filling out the required paperwork I was raring to go.
Had I been a smarter woman I would’ve elected to ride on the back of Studly’s machine, but noooo, I had to have my own mount. After all, I know how to ride a motorcycle, how different could this be? Heh.
After a brief instruction period in which we were told that we’d ultimately be cruising at a speed of 25 to 35 m.p.h., our group left the dock single file in this order: a guide, a couple riding double, me, Studly, another couple riding double, a single male rider, and a second guide. We were told to refrain from using any throttle as we made our way out of the marina area. The jet skis’ idle speed is a pleasantly boring 2 to 3 m.p.h.
Not to brag or anything, but I was the queen of idling. Puttering through the slow zone I waved in parade royalty fashion to folks on passing boats and along the marina, smiling in my sublime ignorance of the rigors ahead.
Once past the “go slow” area, the lead guide gave us the speed up signal and off we went. Or I should say off they went. I held down on the throttle and instantly went perpendicular to the rest of the group, narrowly missing being broadsided by Studly as I caromed off into the intercoastal like a wayward cue ball.
I let off the throttle and remembered the guide’s warning that no throttle meant no control. I now had no control of my ski. So, I pulled back on the throttle control, turned the handlebars and whipped off in another random direction while watching my group slalom off into the distance.
Fortunately the rear guide was close at hand to get me back on course, and soon I was following him like a pro. Then I made the mistake of looking down at my speedometer. Fifty-one m.p.h., it read. Holy crap that was fast. My brain pictured in gory detail what my body would look like after hitting the water going that speed.
I slowed down a bit and tried to relax, and soon we’d caught up to the rest of the group. Deftly I fell into position at the rear of the procession and followed fairly well for a time. But this was a very fast group, and soon they ran off and left me again. Hadn’t the guide told us we’d try to maintain a speed of 30 m.p.h.? So why was I flying along at 45?
Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico the lead guide pulled us into a loose circle. Of course my jet ski ended up facing out instead of in, so I had to throw a leg over the seat in order to see what was going on. Here we were given the opportunity to free ride or cool off in the water. I chose to catch my breath for a couple of seconds.
Our guides both told me not to worry about lagging. One said this was the fastest group he’d taken out in ages, and that most days I’d be right in the midst of things. That made me feel slightly better, so I decided to take a dip in the Gulf. It was lovely. I swam with a couple of riders for a bit as the guides watched over us.
Then it was time to mount up again. If only that had been as easy to do as it was to type. Here’s a jet ski:
At the rear there’s a small deck area to pull up on and the seat features a handle. That’s all well and good if one has the strength to hoist oneself up on the deck and grab the handle. Unfortunately I have all of the upper body strength of a piece of soggy buttered toast.
I managed to get half of my left boob on the aft deck and both hands on the handle, but reached a stalemate at that point. To my ever lasting mortification one of the guides had to jump into the water and push my fat ass up onto the jet ski. And even then it wasn’t a done deal! With his help I had to scootch and inch along until I safely made contact with the seat.
Now, do you have any idea how hot a jet ski seat becomes when left uncovered under the tropical Florida summer sun for any length of time? I’m just guessing here, but I reckon it was between 3,000 and 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Only the very recent and vivid memory of having been bodily shoved onto the machine by a young man who weighed considerably less than I prevented me from jumping back into the water to cool off my scorched thighs which were now as bright red as my embarrassed face. I’d suffer the fiery pits of hell before submitting to that again.
We started up our mounts and went barreling over the smooth gulf water with the admonition to avoid heading to Cuba which started my brain wondering if it could be done. I was pleased to note that I was keeping up quite nicely when I realized I was gaining too rapidly on the riders in front of me, and that they were idling in a loose circle. Oops, I let off the throttle and tried to gracefully rotate into a proper position, only to find myself once again facing outward. Shoot.
But I was soon overcome with joy as I realized why we’d stopped. A pod of dolphins was frolicking in the area. They swam all around us, one surfaced several times right next to my jet ski. Another dove under Studly’s machine, and I felt tears roll down my face. Surely I was meant to be right there at that moment in time.
We watched the dolphins for many wonderful minutes. Honestly I could’ve stayed all day, but our guide indicated it was time to head back into the intercoastal. I rode in the guide’s wake for awhile, but he and the faster riders in our group soon pulled away from me, and I again found myself lagging behind.
Studly and the rear guide stayed behind with me and I encountered some bone jarring waves generated by the Little Toot sight seeing boat as we headed to dock. I caught some serious air. In my mind I looked like this:
In reality much more like this:
But trust me, when I hit the wake from that tour boat I flew straight up and came abruptly straight down feeling my spine compress like a cheap spring on a tin wind up toy when the jet ski bottomed out.
My arms felt like two pieces of spaghetti at this point, and I struggled to hold onto the handlebars. Somehow I maintained my grip and caught up with the other riders as they slowed down to enter the marina.
Again we idled in single file, and I tried valiantly to perform my queenly wave. Unfortunately my spaghetti arms could barely approximate such a grand gesture, and I ended up bobbing my head at passerby. In retrospect this move probably appeared slightly demented as I recall the odd looks I got from those we met.
“What’s wrong with that lady, Mommy?”
“Shh, sweetie, it’s rude to stare.”
“Come along, sweetie.”
Finally I left my trusty jet ski in the care of the good folks at H2O only to discover that my legs no longer worked. Lurching hither and yon, I followed Studly to our car. One of the couples from our group caught up to us before we got in, and the woman told me how one of the dolphins had played in the wake of my jet ski for quite a while. That made me forget all of my exhaustion and I left smiling like a million dollar lottery winner.
What an experience! Three days after I’m still nursing sore muscles, but I’ll never forget being in the midst of dolphins, literally close enough to touch. Thanks to H2O for taking great care of us, and for the boost back onto my jet ski. I’d be pretty wrinkled by now if not for the help.