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March 23, 2007

Old Man and the Sea(weed)

For the good of the blog, the author tests the seaweed wrap

Had another massage today. I know what you're thinking. But if I don't have at least one massage a week, I could get fired.

This one involved a seaweed wrap. I was going for a terroir thing. You know, I'm on the ocean right now, I should be wrapped in seaweed. The seaweed itself was no longer in weed form. It had been dried, powdered and mixed with clay and something minty. With a little water, it turned into a soft paste that the masseuse spread all over my body, then wrapped me in tin foil. Unfortunately, it wasn't Pacific seaweed. It was from France, and thus the massage was not ocean-appropriate.

Marinating in minty seaweed is a fine experience. At first, it's like someone added toothpaste to mud and wiped it all over you, and you think, Big deal. But soon, a gentle body tingle sets in, and the mind starts merrily drifting. As I lay detoxifying, I couldn't help but wonder something: How could it have possibly occurred to someone to cover themselves in seaweed? Keep in mind that seaweed in its raw form smells like a dead fish, and would no doubt smell even worse after it's been worn for an hour. How would a Frenchman ever get it into his head to wrap himself in this stuff? 

Seaweed gook

Maybe the initial seaweed exposure was accidental. Let's imagine that one day a coastal-dwelling Frenchman somehow got himself wrapped head-to-toe in seaweed, but instead of taking it off, he decided to lie down for an hour first and listen to relaxing music. (He probably belonged to a union.)  Then, when he got up and peeled the seaweed off, he thought to himself, "I feel completely formidable right now."

The bigger question is, How did it go from the pastime of a single eccentric enthusiast to a bona fide treatment? How was he able to convince his friends to try it? And how were they able to convince others? When did it occur to someone that there was a solid business here?

Another matter that occupied my thoughts was the spa music, always soothing, that was being piped in. Where does this music come from? Who records it? During recording sessions, how do the musicians keep from falling asleep? Is there a composer who is considered the undisputed master of the spa genre? If there is, this person should be on profiled on 60 Minutes.

After the wrap, I went for a spell in the sauna and started talking to a Hawaiian man. His opening words: "The sea is so calm right now."

"You consider this calm?"

"Like a lake."

"So you,ve seen it worse than this?"

"Oh yes."

The man said he likes to go deep-sea fishing near Honolulu, and that on the north side of Oahu the water can gets rough. His favorite fish to catch and eat is yellowfin tuna. Naturally, my next question was whether or not there were any fish out here, way in the open. He said there were, but that you would have to go down deep--maybe 600 feet--to get them. I found myself hoping that one would die and float to the surface so that then I could see it.

Later, I bumped into the captain again and picked up our earlier conversation..

ME: So if this isn't rough, what is?

CAPTAIN: I've seen waves 60 to 70 feet.

ME: Could this ship survive waves that big?

CAPTAIN: Oh yes.

ME: How tall are these waves?

CAPTAIN: Six feet.

A question for Pterbd: You mention that you would frequently find flying fish on the deck of your cruiser back when you were in the navy. Did you ever eat them? (Assuming they hadn't been dead too long, of course.) I recall that the old man in The Old Man and the Sea ate flying fish to stay alive while he was adrift. And this made the old man happy. Do you by any chance know what they taste like? Whereabouts was this?

I haven't looked for phosphorescence yet, but plan on doing so tonight. No dolphins to report. We passed a pod leaving Los Angeles, but I missed it due to taking a nap.

Toga Party Update
So I missed the toga party. I thought it was tonight, but it happened last night. Apparently it kicked off around 11 p.m. and raged until 2. Here's what else I found out: it was being hosted by one of the guests. That means I could host a party. But I think I just blew the last of my budget on that massage.


The French have tried many things that are weirder (to me) than wrapping your body in seaweed. Can you imagine the first person who tried foie gras, tripe, or escargot and decided it was good enough to serve as a DELICACY?


It sounds like you are having an amazing voyage. I found a link to your blog on the main page of and have spent the past few hours reading your blogs, but now I am officially caught up. I really enjoy it. I am lucky enough to be doing something similiar. Next semester, I will be participating in Semester at Sea, which is a study abroad program that sails around the world and has classes on the ship. I am really looking forward to it and your blogs only increase my anticipation! Take care.

Although we caught, and ate, many interesting fish while out there I cannot claim to have eaten a flying fish. It was in the warmer waters of the South Pacific and the Indian Oceam that they seemed most likely to be on deck.

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