The Geek Icon
In which I get completely and utterly sea sick, but not as sea sick as some.
Hoist the Mainsail - Part 2
Continued from Part 1
The water got choppier and choppier, and Adam and I settled in on the high side of the deck once we awkwardly helped raise the sails. We were lucky to have a crew that largely knew what it was doing. Our skipper had plenty of experience, and three of the crew had passed crew competency courses. One other passenger had once made his living on a craypot boat and his (adult) son was the only one of us who really seemed nervous.
But even as we settled in after changing into warmer clothes and huddling together on the deck, the waves got larger and larger. Finally, shivering in the wind and wet from the spray, I decided I needed to change into full wet weather gear. I was already feeling slightly queasy— an unusual sensation for me, but one I thought I could handle. But as soon as I went down into the stuffy cabin and lost sight of the horizon, the heaving motion of the ship got to me. I barely made it back on deck when the contents of my stomach (primarily a lunch of wedges with sour cream and sweet chili) made their grand exit. I hadn't quite made it to the railing and spent a lot of time later apologising to my fellow crewmates.
Although I wasn't the first one to end up heaving, I was probably the most embarrassed, this being only the second time in my entire life I could remember being entirely seasick. I managed to hold it in at that point long enough to strip off my sopping wet clothes, grab a plastic garbage bag, and rug up on a bunk until, worn out from the dry heaves, and despite still being very cold, I fell asleep.
Adam suffered slightly less severely than me, even though he was seasick as well, but he managed to keep going through his watches during the night until we got up the next morning.
We were still sailing along the Tasmanian coast, and the water was much calmer. I got up feeling like my old self after finally warming up and falling into a deep, sound sleep. As I saw my first albatross wheeling through the cool morning air, I felt like I was on the true sailing adventure I had envisioned. I spent breakfast eating a mini-box of cereal with some slightly-too-warm UHT milk, listening to stories about the wild weather the night before. Even the seasoned crew members were a bit shaken, and I was shocked to find them claiming the waves were around 40 feet high! Easily the biggest seas I remembered being in.
As we continued northward, Adam and I gradually fell into the routine of watches and chores. We continued with a good wind; unfortunately the seas were still big enough that we were having trouble finding a harbour deep enough for our boat's keel. When waves hit the shallow entrance to a harbour, the trough after the wave is much shallower than the average depth of the water. The keel on our boat was long to help keep the boat upright and stable in high winds; we didn't have a chance of making it into any of the smaller harbours we had reached so far. Finally we stopped at St Helens, but only to let out one passenger who wasn't going to be able to continue with us for the rest of his trip. After two days of severe seasickness, he was too dehydrated & undernourished so we handed him over to a rescue boat and continued on into the night.
I was up for my watch around two in the morning when the skipper came up and let us know we were finally going to anchor for the night. It was a very dark night with no moon and heavy clouds blocking the stars, and I had little sense of where we were or where we were going. I settled in next to the compass and read out our bearing as the skipper guided us in by instruments and chart only. We had to be careful as there were rocks all around the entrance to our anchorage. Somehow, with everyone carefully watching the water and the help of GPS, charts, and me shouting out our bearing every few seconds, we managed to pull in and anchor right next to another boat. Exhausted, I stumbled below and into a bunk while Adam stayed up on deck for anchor watch. It was about four am.
In the morning I woke up to one of the most amazing sights that I had experienced on my trip. Clarke Island was a low, rocky, wild looking place, crowned by the remnants of storm clouds and the bright blue morning. We were now the only people in this lonely place, and it was quiet and sheltered after the rough weather and hard night's work we had just been through. Little did I know that, in a few days when the wind changed, I would be facing my biggest challenge yet: the infamous Bass Strait.
To be continued in Part 3...