Calling for Huey, driving the porcelain bus...my stab at the world offshore spewing title
Doing the technicolour yawn, calling Huey, delivering a sea pizza, driving the porcelain bus – I’m an expert at them all. Aren’t you?
So here’s the thing I didn’t mention in my last post about sailing to see the puffins on Skomer: that as soon as we got past St Anne’s Head at the entrance to Milford Haven my lovely full Welsh breakfast was jettisoned over the leeward rail.
It’s all horribly routine. I grew up being struck low by the choppy seas of estuary entrances, losing numerous meals on the bars of Strangford or Carlingford Loughs when the ebb tide was kicking hard against a strong onshore wind.
This time I’d already confessed to being a world champion spewer (if ever there is an Olympic offshore spewing category I’m a good bet to medal). I don’t want anyone thinking I don’t know what I’m doing and am liable to splash their boots.
I was still heaving a bit when we reached Skomer, courtesy of a pathetically slight scend creeping round the bay. Some curious puffins came over to investigate.
I had a wonderful close up view of the birds as they eyed up the breakfast remains. Had the puffin chicks hatched, I suppose their parents could have treated them to a nutritious, twice-regurgigated meal.
But back to the affliction itself. Seasickness is a weird and helpless pre-disposition. Those who don’t suffer don’t really get how hideous it is, and people who do only occasionally often believe it’s a symptom of inexperience.
I can’t count the number of times people have expressed amazement that I get seasick even though I’m out on boats so often. People don’t think a nurse couldn’t get a cold or a cardiologist will never get a heart attack.
It’s impossible to know what to do to remedy seasickness. Normally I get my sealegs after about three days at sea, so long as I don’t stop. So an overnight or two-day passage is the worst. But then again, I was once unable to keep anything down for 12 continuous days while battling into relentless head sea and gales in the Red Sea.
Some well-known yachtsmen who you think mightn’t succumb aren’t immune. I remember Pete Goss telling me a story from the days when he was a training skipper for the British Steel Challenge. He was ill, as was most of his crew, in a bit of a blow in the Western Approaches and threw up over the side during a headsail change.
The sick was momentarily illuminated by the starboard sidelight. Seeing it from back aft, the novice crew were alarmed. The skipper was clearly very poorly indeed: he had vomited up a bright-green, radio-active looking substance.
Some years ago I was on a long passage across the Indian Ocean with a crew that included photographer Rick Tomlinson. A few days out of Sri Lanka we hit some rough weather.
Rick is a fellow sufferer and we sat together silently, looking miserable. He asked for a piece of dry bread, usually a good option. But when it arrived he looked at it with resignation and threw it straight over the stern. “I think I’ll just cut out the middleman,” he said.
As for remedies, well I’ve never found anything that worked. Stugeron? Fine if you want to turn into a zombie and doze all the time. Pressure bands? Useless – you might as well put on a copper bracelet.
Hyoscine patches? Horrible. They give you a nasty dry throat, can make you go totally mental if you stick on the whole patch and should you touch the drug on the patch and then accidentally get it in your eyes your sight goes funny. No thanks.
As for eating ginger, help yourself. It stings like hell on the way back up.
So, no, for me the best treatment is the tried and tested combinations of avoiding alcohol beforehand (and probably a Welsh full breakfast), taking the helm, sipping a fizzy drink like Coke, keeping a pocketful of barley sugar sweets and dry Cream Crackers to nibble and as soon as your watch is over dashing below to lie down, shut your eyes and preserve your nibbling work.
After a few days of that, it usually starts to look a whole lot better.
But like every other sufferer, I’m always hoping some untried remedy will cure me. Have you got any recommendations?