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Monday, 4 April 2011

Sickening Seas

It was watching a man throw up on the back of his own head that started it. The laughing. I know I shouldn't have but you must admit, how many times does one see that in a lifetime?
He ralphed up his meal on the boat's upward roll. The relief was sweating from his pale brow as he turned to us with his salival, bearded grin. Unaware that he was fast catching up with his lunch on the downward roll.
His reaction to this when it did happen was... to be sick. Again. Only this time on his friend. Not seemingly one to break the trend here his friend was, of course, sick. On our deck. Never have I seen such a small fellah expel so much, so quickly. Two things became apparent through my teared up laughing eyes.
One. This guy is a vegetarian.
Two. I'm cleaning that up.


Okay, so it might spray back or you might get unlucky odds like the above example, but it will help if most of it goes over the side. If not the decks will need a good scrub and at worse you will be wrist deep in carrot soup trying to unblock the chunks from the bilge pump.

It is always the able bodied and non puking sailor that gets to wash down the decks when your shipmates start exploding. So here are a few things to take in to account that might, if not quash your suffering, ease it a touch.

Luckily I have never had the misfortune of suffering from sea sickness. I have endured the worst weather on extremely rocky boats in my time. This is not to say that I have never felt sick at sea. I once let a captain I was sailing with do the food shopping.

'Thom, I thought burgers would be nice for lunch."

He handed me a box containing six grey discs of what I'm sure were literally, 'the dog's bollocks'. Bollocks bound together with a grey fatty substance broken up only by pipes and more grey.
As they cooked in the oven they filled my lungs with unnatural smells. Aromas not too dissimilar, I assume, of an incinerator at a liposuction clinic. This, added with no fixed horizon and a sea on the beam* made for an unhappy Thom.
Any one found slacking at sea can be sure to be given a crap job. So I left the galley and found me a slacker to finish off whilst I got some air.

Those 'burgers' went in the oven grey, left the oven grey and mine went overboard grey.
So the lesson here is...

You will find that greasy, fatty foods can induce vomiting, especially in a rough sea. Also why would you want hot fat flying around your galley during the cooking process? Save the fat for the fry up at the calm anchorage or lazy bay.

Too much liquid in yer belly will slosh about in there. If you feel ill then this will certainly make a reappearance.
A stodgy, starchy diet is good. Fibre too! Something that will stick to your insides, that and give you a slow release of energy. Because when you are at sea you need a lot of it.
If food is the last thing you think you want after tasting the previous meals twice, try and eat a bit. Even small bits of bread or biscuit

Or Ginger tea, or a ginger biscuit, or just plain ginger. It is well known for it's power to ease motion sickness.
'But I don't like ginger!'
Believe me, you'll like it more than puking yourself inside out.

The most common reaction is for people to retire to their bunks. This may work for you, but it's a long way to run to get to the ships side should it go wrong. Finding the boats least rocky bit is best. i.e. the middle! Get some wind in your lungs, big breaths through your nose released slowly from the mouth. Concentrate on the breathing process and fix your gaze on a horizon. It'll be over soon enough. If you must, take pills before you sail. A non drowsy formula is best as you may be required to be alert.

I don't mean practice knots or your leather/ sail work. Something that allows for the distance stare on that horizon. Take the helm for a while.

I have seen grown men of fifty winters crying for their mums. Jack Tar's looking not so jolly. Wind sculpted salts reduced to belching bags of bile and hiding in the fo'c'sle asking what in God's name did they to to deserve this?!

The answer?
You did nothing to deserve this, but you also did the minimal, or nothing to help improve your sudden debilitating illness. And it is debilitating, it can strike people even when the boat is tied up. You may not see any one that is suffering from this affliction for days as the body decides it is best to just shut down and sleep for the duration.
Crews have been airlifted from boats because of it, many a shirt has been ruined too.

It is an unavoidable occupational hazard for most at sea, wether suffering from it or suffering from witnessing it. I hope that the information here is of some use and that although the seas aren't calm you can carry on.

*The side of a boat

The plus side to seasickness is that you can call the sufferer names such as; Pukey McPukington, Pukezilla, Barf Brookes, One Spew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Spewie Armstrong, Wallace and Vomit &cetera. There response to this will usually be a gurgle followed by them leaving a present for you on your waterproof boots. They will not, however, be able to chase you.

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