Zodiac cruises are common during polar expeditions, like Antarctica or the Arctic. So far we have only been to Antarctica, and until we go zodiac cruising in the Arctic this article will refer mainly to zodiac cruising in Antarctica.
You will ride a zodiac for every activity ashore, no matter if it’s a cruise, landing, or kayaking. Sometimes riding a zodiac can be a smooth trip, other times it can be bumpy and wet. Feeling good on a zodiac is 90% up to you and how well prepared you are.
What Are Zodiacs?
Zodiacs are rubber boats with an engine that can accommodate multiple people that sit on the edges of the boat. This type of boats are very well suited for polar regions, not just because of their stability, but also because they can easily push through brushed ice.
Sometimes you want to explore an area closer than you can do from the big ship. With zodiacs you can get next to the rocks and ice, even in relatively shallow water.
What to wear on a zodiac cruise
Since we are talking about Antarctica, you can imagine that it is cold. In addition, you will be sitting in one place for a long time, let’s say an hour. The zodiac will catch some speed and therefore you will feel the wind. The weather conditions might also be wet, and if you add to that waves or swells we are talking a lot of water.
As you probably already know, the best way to gear up is layering. For zodiac cruises, you just have to put an extra layer on because your body will not produce any extra heat while standing still. For more information about each layer check out our article about what to pack for Antarctica in which we describe in detail each layer:
Not all days are the same, but it is best to always be prepared for the worst, which means staying dry.
Will I get wet in a zodiac cruise?
Most of the time no, but that’s boring, isn’t it? If you dress properly, water will only stay on your outer layer, and you will remain dry inside. This is when getting wet is fun. I’ve seen so many people underestimating what getting wet on the inside means in cold weather. They only end up feeling miserable and blaming the skipper instead of their poor clothing choices.
If the ocean is not still, there will be a lot of splashing in the zodiacs. These splashes are not just light spraying. It can go all the way to feeling like somebody is throwing a bucket of water at you. In the end, you might be able to squeeze the water out of your gloves. This sounds worse than it really is if you dress properly.
Tips for staying dry on zodiacs:
- make sure your pockets are closed (no zippers open), otherwise, water will have an easy way to get in. Check all your pockets: pants and parka.
- stick your gloves under your parka’s sleeves so you don’t get water inside your gloves.
- make sure your gloves have a Gore-Tex membrane or at least have a second pair of gloves on the boat to use until the first pair dries out. My gloves only have a DWR coating and I only felt moisture inside after squeezing them. Stefan has Gore-Tex gloves and had absolutely no issue.
- always take your rubber boots even if there’s no wet landing.
- the parka hoods are adjustable, don’t hold them on your head with your hands. Tie them up with the 2 cords in the front and a third one at the back.
You can see on my park that I have a lot of water droplets. It was not raining, all of them are what’s left after some splashes. We had inflatable life vests, as you can guess they inflate in contact with water. To make an idea of how strong the splashes can be, some people’s vests inflated because of the splashes. I don’t want to scare you, just to highlight the importance of getting this right so that you can have as much fun as we had.
Long story short, for a zodiac ride in Antarctica you need to have multiple layers to keep you warm and waterproof outer layer (waterproof shoes, pants, parka, and gloves). Make sure you wrap yourself well and leave no space for water or wind to get in. Pull your waterproof pants over your boots, adjust your parka’s hood over your head, and tuck your gloves under the parka.
Remember that trying to avoid the splashes on a zodiac cruise will only mean that your skipper will have to sail slower, you will cover smaller distances and see fewer things. That means that the best zodiac cruises are those that involve splashes.
To sum it up, if you get wet under your outer layer or not in the zodiac rides is totally up to you. Please don’t let your clothes ruin a nice experience.
For more Antarctica resources check out our other articles: