With our row around the Isle of Wight coming up and tales of choppy waters my mind has turned to my old friend, seasickness! So I have been digging out my seasickness patches and I dug out an old blog whilst I was at it. This blog was written whilst sailing from San Francisco to Panama on Leg 7 of the Clipper Round the World Race. If you also love to sail despite getting seasick I hope some of my tips help…
Day 17 at sea and I have not yet been sick. For many this may seem unremarkable but for me it breaks all previous records by approximately 17 days! Admittedly this race hasn’t been the greatest test of my developing sea feet with much of the time spent sailing calmly downwind on a flat boat. However we had a bit of a blow a couple of days ago, a squall which coincided with my mother duty evening meal tonight plus numerous kite woolings, log entries, emptying of bilges, mother watches and cleaning duties which gave ample opportunities for Cookie (my nickname on board) to once again go Crookie!
When telling people that I was going away sailing a very common response was, ‘so you don’t get seasick then?’ the looks of surprise, amusement, confusion and ‘you must be stupid’ that followed surprisingly did not put me off taking part in the Clipper Race. My Dad kindly offered to take my money, give me food poisoning, put me in the garden and throw buckets of water at me, thanks Dad! Instead here I am on a boat, typing a blog and not being sick!
I now consider myself something of a seasickness expert and so I give to you, dear reader, my top 5’s of seasickness. I dedicate this blog to my sister who is always interested in seasickness tales; I hope you are not so sick on your big voyage!
I have been told that seasickness is due to the brain seeing the horizon moving and assuming it’s been poisoned and therefore it attempts to get rid of the poison by being sick. Whilst not particularly useful at sea, me and other sickness inclined people can rest safe in the knowledge that should we ever be poisoned we have the greatest chance of survival as our bodies are more efficient and practised at getting rid of poison! For those who are similarly vomit challenged who want to go sailing rather than sit out of the seasickness monsters reach under a tree here are my top tips;
1. Time to bunk (TTB) is paramount. I can generally feel ok whilst on deck or whilst lying in my bunk. It’s the transition from one to the other when the seasick monster rears its ugly head! I now have TTB perfected and managed to be in my bunk the other day before some of my watch had even removed their life jackets. When the options are quick or sick; quick is the way forward. Being organised and increasing the amount of stuff you can do whilst lying down in your bunk helps greatly and reduces the time to bunk and time to deck (TTD) therefore leaving you vulnerable for less time.
2. Keep a supply of mints handy, when sucking something its harder for the sick to come out!
3. A quick lie down often helps, I have found I can ‘recalibrate’ my brain when seasickness threatens to strike by lying down. This has resulted in me spending much time ‘horizontal’, pretty much in every location on the boat; on deck having made it up for a watch, after a sail change, down below on my way to my bunk, one mother watch even found me lying on the floor of the galley in between serving out porridge for breakfast.
4. The best time to eat and keep food down is in that strange lull of ‘oh I feel ok’ just after you’ve been sick.
5. Don’t be overly ambitious. Whilst it may be desirable to brush teeth, visit the heads and get changed before heading to bed my fellow seasickness sufferers and I have come to the conclusion that only one of these will be possible or none in the most extreme circumstances.
And for those who like laughing at others misfortune here are my top 5 seasickness moments;
1. The you can’t be serious sickness – around 3 days out of Brisbane on the race to Singapore I had half a cup of squash – it promptly came straight back up and I wondered if I was ever going to feel normal again and why I had decided spending months at sea was a good idea. Luckily this moment proved to be the turning point and normal-ish eating and drinking commenced from then on in, sort of!
2. The clean up sickness – cleaning is always a challenge with the time spent down below, it’s hard to clean lying down! One day whilst cleaning the heads I started to feel sick, luckily I was ideally located by the heads to be sick into the beautifully clean bowl. Whilst re-cleaning the head I decided that cleaning was beyond me on this particular day and vowed to get the heads clean enough for someone else to take over. However just as I finished getting the head to an acceptable state I was sick once again, so the cleaning started again! This happened 3 times.
3. The tea round sickness – this wasn’t actually a moment when I was sick but it gives a good indication of my addled mind when feeling seasick. Whilst recalibrating (lying down) on deck one day I was aware of a drop of hot tea falling on my face, my first thought was ‘they are having tea’, second thought ‘was I offered tea?’ third thought ‘I don’t think I want tea so that’s ok’! Not the most normal reaction when having hot tea spilt on you.
4. The at one with nature sickness – whilst being sick over the low side phosphoresce kept washing up on the deck to keep me company and give me something else to think about, lovely!
5. The life changing moment sickness – whilst lying in my bunk seasickness hit (this is very unusual as I’m usually safe there), leaping out of my bed I quickly surveyed my options and saw that the aft head was being serviced, the forward head was occupied and I didn’t have time to get on my lifejacket to make it onto deck. Panic ensued before I took the only remaining option, steeled myself and swallowed! My only consolation is that apparently this is what experienced sailors and salty sea dogs do.
I may not have won the seasickness war but I am winning the current battle, roll on the graduation of sea feet to sea legs!