Have I mentioned that Brian likes to surprise me? Every once in a while he’ll take one of my offhand comments and run with it. In this case he latched on to “I’d like to see puffins in the wild”.
We were already planning to head up to Scotland for the weekend to celebrate a good friend’s birthday, and to spend some time with his dad and brother, so he made a couple of phone calls and arranged a special outing for me while we were in the area.
I’ve told you that Brian is a scuba diver, right? The majority of his dives have been off the coast of Scotland where the average water temperature is about negative sixty two. (I made that number up, but it feels about right.) He has a very nice dry suit for diving in the cold water. It’s fully water proof, so you can wear your street clothes under it and stay nice and warm while you’re swimming in the frigid waters of the north like a crazy person.
By the time we arrived at Friday night’s birthday party I knew he had a surprise planned for me. I was pretty sure it involved a boat. I started to get worried when there was talk about whether or not I’d fit into one of Tam’s dry suits.
What do I need a dry suit for? Dry suits are for scuba diving. It is February and we’re in Scotland. Who in their right mind goes scuba diving in Scotland in February? Oh, that’s right. My insane husband and his crazy friends.
Holy crap! They’re taking me F****ng scuba diving?
(Edited to add, Brian and Tam are certified scuba instructors and rescue divers, and are qualified to take me, a novice diver, in the water)
You have to understand that this is TOTALLY something Brian would do. I was getting nervous.
In the morning (bright and early, all of us hungover and running on three hours sleep), we loaded the dry suits in the car and drove to the harbor at Anstruther. All three of them still not telling me what we were doing, but letting me run with the idea that we were actually going to strap on tanks and get in the water.
I was very nervous.
I would have done it, but I was very nervous.
Have you ever put on a dry suit? It’s not easy. First you tuck your pants into your socks so they don’t ride up to your thighs while you’re shoving your feet down into the boots. Then you try to shove your feet down in to the boots. The neoprene will fight you every step of the way.
Feet firmly in the boots? Good. Now wiggle your legs and ass all the way down into the suit as far as you can go. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re stuffing yourself into a sausage casing, because that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Now pull your underwear back out of your butt, because that’s where they’ll end up in this process.
If you’re a man, this is where you shove your arms through the sleeves, but if you’re a woman… Well. Grab hold of your girls and shimmy them inside that sausage casing!
Don’t be afraid to ask for a little help. I’m sure your partner will be more than happy to give you a hand for this step.
Once your torso is safely tucked inside you’ll need to get your arms in, but remember what I said about the dry suit being water tight? This means that any potential opening where water might leak in is very, very tight, and did you know that neoprene is not at all slippery? It’s quite the opposite of slippery and will stick to your skin like tree sap.
Talc is your friend.
Now you’re safely inside your suit, your clothing, arms, face, and hair are completely full of talc and you only have two steps left.
Next up? Get your head in.
SO much easier said than done.
First, eyeball all of that talc that is about to be shoved up your nose and contemplate what you’ll do if you actually get stuck.
Grab the back of the zipper opening and pull it over your head.
And shove. Shove again. Wiggle your arms a bit and shove some more.
Try not to panic when you get half way in and can’t breathe because your face is encased in rubber.
Try to shout, “Help Me” to your partner while flailing your arms above your head.
Realize all he heard was “MMPHHH UMPPPHHH” and that he’s too busy laughing and taking pictures to actually rescue you, and then give one final yank which will remove about 5% of your hair while you rescue yourself.
Now all that’s left is the zipper which closes across the back of your shoulders. In Brian’s case, that’s a zipper that hasn’t been used in ten years and needs a bit more talc and about five minutes of serious yanking to close it. This is called “The Zipper Dance”.
And you’re in! Try not to think about how you’re going to get back out.
Try really hard not to think about how you’re going to get back out when it’s all wet.
So we’ve done it. We’ve gotten our suits on and it’s time to walk over to the boat. I still didn’t know exactly what we were doing, and still was totally convinced that we’d be getting in the water. The circus act of putting the suit on was a nice distraction, but now it was time to get down to business.
So when we walked down the pier and came to this little orange boat, and there were no scuba tanks on it, I started to relax a bit.
We jumped in the boat, put on our hats and settled into the seats before they finally told me where I was going.
We were off to see May Island, which lies right at the point where the Firth of Forth meets the North Sea. You can see it here on our Google Map.
So what you see below is a kiss of relief and happiness from me because we weren’t going to actually get IN the water, and a kiss of good sportsmanship from Brian because I was going to do it if that was the plan, and also a smug kiss of “I got ya”.
Then he tried to throw me in.
Oh, hell no. Now that I knew we weren’t diving I had myself completely SET on staying dry.
Special thanks to these two for helping Brian pull it off, and for spending one of our best weekends in a long time with us.
Take a look at them here. Are you surprised that I believed their story of diving in the frigid waters of the Firth in February? Those are the faces of people who are crazy enough to do it. Those are the faces of people who have actually done it before!
So, you may ask why we were wearing the suits, right?
Most of the time, during this time of year especially, the waters of the Firth and the North sea are quite rough. When Brian booked this trip he fully expected that we’d be battling big waves and wind all the way out to the island. When you combine big waves, wind, frozen temperatures and a tiny boat you end up with wet popsicle passengers. The dry suits were for protection during what we thought would be a very soggy and frozen day.
Somehow though, we got amazingly lucky. The water was perfectly calm and without even a small breeze. We had a smooth crossing with minimal splashing.
This disappointed Brian and Tam to no end. They spent most of the crossing sitting on the edge of the rib like this in hopes that they would “accidentally” fall in.
And when that didn’t happen, they took matters into their own hands.
Nutters both of them!
More to come tomorrow when I show you all the beautiful scenery and wildlife we were lucky enough to see. In the mean time, stay dry and warm!