I bought this two-piece wonder back in 1996 - as it happens, for a trip to Indonesia. And, as the years went by, I've dusted it off from time to time for the odd vacation. But the wetsuit really came into its own when we moved aboard Papillon. As the more perceptive among you will have deduced from my subtle clues, we spend a lot of time in the water. We'll jump into any body of water that is clean enough and crocodile-free.
However, I have temperature issues. My Goldilocks Temperature Zone is ridiculously narrow; I'm always either boiling to death or turning into an ice cube. In the water, it's the latter. So my handy-dandy wetsuit has gotten a serious workout over the past six years. If the water is less than 30 C, I'm wearing one piece or the other, and probably both.
I've tried not to be too proud that I can still fit into a piece of skin-tight clothing I bought when I was 21. I'm more relieved than smug that I can still cram into this piece of equipment. Do you know how hard it is to replace a wetsuit in the middle of the Pacific? Harder than finding peanut butter or cheddar cheese. So I've treated my suit nicely, hoping against hope it would last.
Time takes its toll on all of us, and my wetsuit has had its share of knocks. A bit of bother crossing a reef break in Tonga totalled one knee. The top piece is more pearly grey than black. Little holes have appeared here and there. And, little by little, the seat has fallen apart. I've patched and mended and babied and fixed it as best I can. I slither into that thing as carefully as a person can when engaging into an activity that amounts to stuffing one's self into a sausage casing. And I thought I was winning the war.
Indy and I were snorkelling one bright and sunny day in Komodo. I was watching the unicorn fish and wondering if there were any turtles nearby when I felt small fingers dance across my backside. I yelped and rounded on my snorkel-buddy.
"Mom," she said happily, "did you know you have a big rip in your wetsuit?"
I'd noticed a small hole when we left the boat, but it was hardly what I'd call a "big rip". I was about to deliver a snappy retort, when I realized things were feeling a little breezy out back. Sure enough, the tiny hole was now two inches long.
As we swam, Indy gave me regular reports on how big the rip was. "It's longer than my hand now." "It just grew again." "Mom, your whole butt is going to fall out!"
"Yes, thank you. I know." (Writing that here, it looks relatively polite. I'm pretty sure it didn't come out that way at the time.)
Erik hauled out the sewing machine and gave me one last patch. And I hope it is sturdy enough to last the next few weeks. At least, may it spare my dignity until I can find a newer version of exactly the same wetsuit again.