Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mal de Mer

Just started to read a Huffington Post article on preventing seasickness.  "Avoid ocean crossings," the author advises.  Good grief, to my way of thinking, you'd miss the best part of sailing.

When living in California I made many pleasure trips to Catalina Island without feeling the slightest bit woozy.  My government marine archaeology position required countless trips on various work boats in rough waters, many in the violent waters around Point Conception, where the decks were relentlessly awash, making the journeys from bunk to workstation to galley hazardous indeed.  I thrived, even on those days when it was too rough to leave the bunkhouse bolted to the deck.

Years ago I interviewed Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, CBE, the first person to do a solo non-stop circumnavigation & author of A World of My Own: The First Ever Non-Stop Solo Round the World Voyage, for a sailing magazine.  He regaled me with tales of his near year-long voyage, & recounted his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II when he was knighted.  "She asked me what I did about seasickness, so I told her the best cure for seasickness I'd found was to spend a good bit of time sitting under a tree."  My understanding is that Her Majesty was amused.

I've never truly been seasick.  What I do get is cranky the first 3 days when bluewater sailing.  Except for stove duty & head calls I never leave the cockpit.  At the beginning of a passage, when I'm not expending energy on crankiness, I am totally lethargic.  Once, making passage from Panama to Colombia, my skipper informed me that we were taking on water.  I reluctantly lifted my head from the cockpit cushion for a quick look below.  Indeed water was sloshing over the floorboards in the salon.  Oh well, I thought, that's okay because I can lie down in the liferaft just as well.  Fortunately, my crewmate found the wooden plug I'd stowed for just such an occasion, & he was able to staunch the gushing seawater, & the bilge pump drained the overflow.  I'm not sure I even rolled over during the crisis.

But, oh, how glorious the fourth day & those ever after, when making passage.  I wash my hair & resume basking in the glories of life at sea.  Dolphins race alongside the boat, & I whistle & play Jimmy Buffet music to keep their company as long as possible.  Both galley & cockpit are my domains, & I bake bread & pizza on top of the stove.  I stand extra-long watches under the star-bright skies so my skipper can sleep through the night.  I delight in the phosphorescent wake of our stern, & imagine the magical seaworld beneath our passing keel.  The rising sun gives promise of another glorious day without the travails of civilization, & I revel in the rocking bosom of Mother Nature.  The sea renews, & I am reborn daily.

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