We catch up with bipolar bar maestro Ian Peck, 38, aboard One Ocean’s expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe, in the Arctic to find out what it’s like sailing the high seas to some of the most remote places on earth while rustling up beverages for thirsty passengers…
How did you get the job as a bipolar bartender with One Ocean Expeditions?
It was a chance meeting with the company CEO at a restaurant I was working at in Vancouver. He offered me a job tending the bar in Antarctica for a season and I asked if he could give me 24 hours to think about it. I called him back shortly after and said ‘yes’ – it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
How long have you been on the ship now?
My first season was in 2010, it was crazy and I loved it. I came back and did some more seasons and for the past two years I’ve been full time. This expedition marks my 41st voyage on the ship.
What’s it like being a bipolar barman?
It’s a whole lifestyle thing. After coming on full time I went back to Vancouver and sold everything I had. I don’t have a home, I don’t have a wife, I don’t even have a watch! I have no idea what day it is, I don’t care about the news and I couldn’t care less about the Internet. The only thing on my mind is my schedule. Although the job takes me to some pretty remote areas, it also takes me home as one of the trips passes via Halifax, Nova Scotia, where my mom is.
What are the skills needed to do your job?
It’s not so much about bartending, it’s about hosting people on the ship and feeling comfortable around them. We encounter a real mix of people from all over the world.
Describe yourself in three words.
Fun, loud and caring.
What was the most perilous time you’ve had behind the ship’s bar?
On the second night crossing the Drake Passage, sailing down to Antarctica, a big wave hit the ship and I was thrown across the room. I busted my head open on the corner of the wall and there was blood everywhere!
Does stormy weather cause trouble in the ship bar?
People tend to spill their drinks. But we put non-slip mats on the tables to try and reduce accidents. One lady once got red wine all over her trousers on a particularly rough day.
What’s the favourite tipple on board?
There’s not a particular thing that people like. We go through lots of beer, wine and scotch. Gin and Tonics are definitely the favourite cocktail onboard, especially with the Brits.
What’s your top tip for boozing passengers?
If it’s going to be rough, you really don’t want to be hungover and seasick.
Do you prefer Antarctica or the Arctic?
For ice and whales, Antarctica but for polar bears and good weather, the Arctic. They’re as equally as incredible in different ways.
Are the Polar Regions a good source of ice for you?
Yes, our onboard ice machine is pretty small and uses lots of energy. We pick up blocks of glacier ice from the sea all the time to smash up in drinks and passengers love it.
What are the downsides to living on the high seas?
You don’t get days off and sometimes I can work up to 16 hours a day. You have to be on it all the time and there’s no privacy at all.
I hear you’ve got a good party trick involving oysters?
Yeah, I once won first place in the Canadian oyster shucking championships and I’m ranked fourth in the world. I go down and compete in the contest every year.
What’s the last thing that made you stop and stare?
I was in Wilhelmina Bay down in Antarctica driving a zodiac – sometimes I do guiding when I’m not bartending to mix it up a bit – and this humpback whale breached right out of the water. It was about 60 meters away from us. I switched the engine off so we could hear it and it popped right up behind me. It made me yell out loud! It was an amazing experience and definitely one of the coolest days I’ve had to date in Antarctica.
To meet Ian Peck onboard, investigate some of One Ocean’s epic adventures www.oneoceanexpeditions.com