Sep 18

Anyone seen my sea legs?

Tag: failures,tripsjonny5waldman @ 2:05 am

It’s the nature of adventures for things not to go as planned, but that’s not much consolation when seasickness renders you as useless and immobile as a jellyfish and you’re out in the middle of the ocean and you’ve got miles to sail before reaching the comfort of terra firma. Only in hindsight, and only reluctantly — once you’ve got your wits about you again — can you call such an experience an adventure. Really, it’s much easier to call it what it was: a miserable, queasy, painful, wretched, torturous journey.

Matt, Karen, and I had decided it was finally time to take Syzygy out in the ocean, so we decided to sail from San Francisco 20 miles south to Half Moon Bay. It’s worth noting, now, that the Coast Guard had issued a small-craft advisory for the weekend, and that the forecast, which included an official “gale warning,” predicted 30 knot winds and 18-foot seas on Sunday, and 25 knot winds and 9-foot seas on Monday.

It being a holiday weekend, we figured it was as good a time as any to test her — and our — mettle. After all, Syzygy is a burly old sailboat, built for seas and winds far rougher than these. And since we’d rebuilt so much of her — rigging, plumbing, electrical system, etc. — we had unflagging faith in our vessel. Now, it turns out, I have far more faith in our vessel than I do in my stomach.

So on Sunday morning, we untied from the dock, hoisted our sails, and headed west, under the Golden Gate Bridge and out of San Francisco Bay. Not long afterward, the wind shifted to the north, and the waves began rolling in from the northwest. Not long after that, we clipped ourselves to the boat with 6-foot tethers, lest we get thrown overboard. Not long after that, we reefed the mainsail, and not long after that, when a few waves broke over the deck, we reefed it again. Not long after that, I leaned over the side, and puked for the first time.

For about 15 minutes, I was proud of my ability to rally: a little puking, and I was right back at the wheel, steering ‘er up and over the waves. Then Karen leaned over the side, and puked, and the queasiness hit me again, and back to the rails I went. This time, I wasn’t so keen on returning to the wheel. Actually, I wasn’t so keen on keeping my eyes open, or doing anything. I curled up in the stern, put my hat over my face, and lay there, not doing much besides moaning every once in a while. My brain couldn’t handle the motion, and not knowing what else to do, sent the alarm to my stomach, which only made things worse. Stupid brain. Only Matt, who apparently has a stomach of iron, was unphased, riding the bow up and over the waves like a rollercoaster.

I puked 8 more times en route to Half Moon Bay, and can’t really describe what the passage looked like. I do remember, though, hearing the VHF radio crackle with calls of vessels in distress, and how calm and reassuring the voice of the Coast Guard sounded. When we finally motored in to the harbor at Half Moon Bay, and rowed our dinghy to shore, and walked over to a restaurant, Matt said, “I’m starving – my stomach is empty!” “Me too,” I said. “Literally.”

With all of my effort I could only put down 4 spoonfuls of soup. That’s one of the problems with seasickness — it doesn’t go away immediately. Seeing the look on my face, our waitress asked if I wanted any bitters. Other people have since told me to try ginger gum, or ginger tea. That’s one of the other problems of seasickness — it doesn’t really have a cure.

I slept like a baby that night, and surprisingly, felt like gangbusters the next morning. As luck would have it, though, that’s when we discovered we’d run out of water (I knew we should have checked the tanks before leaving), so it looked to be two dehydrating days stacked on top of each other. I recall thinking then, that some people call such treatments “cleansing,” or “fasting,” but it’s different when that’s your goal.

On the way back, once we started bobbing around in the swells, I puked again — but I only puked 5 times on the return trip. I reminded myself that every sailor gets seasick — from the guys who race around the world to those badass Alaskan fishermen. Since then, I’ve been nursing liquids like it’s my job, and reassuring myself that I just haven’t got my sea legs… yet.

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