Companion to Day Eight: Seasickness

About 60% of new sailors get seasick (more women than men). It usually lasts only two or three days, and then you’re fine (unless the weather changes significantly and rapidly – which, at sea, it does). Captain Sol, Ulandin and Oldy are just lucky they don’t get sick.

It’s horrible. If you go below decks, it usually gets worse (plus you’re farther from the railing, which is where your spew is. . . disposed of). But if you’re on deck, all you can see in any direction is the sea. . . the lurching, heaving, tossing sea, which is making you sicker with every swell. It’s a little like realising the seafood is off, but being unable to stop shovelling it in your mouth.

When you throw up, though, it feels fantastic (unless you’ve been doing it a bit, in which case it feels. . . less good). One of my proudest moments at sea was on a rainy day at the beginning of our voyage.

I hadn’t thrown up for about twelve hours, and I was feeling pretty good. The square sails needed to be taken in, so I and my team leader climbed the mast to the very top and began fiddling with ropes. We had to go slow, because we were waiting for another newbie, who was taking her time. I grew sicker and sicker as she hesitated, made conversation, and whined about the cold wind.

The newbie piked completely when it began to rain. She went away. I and the staff guy stayed aloft, clinging on to the slippery sails and tugging on stiff ropes as the wind blew the whole ship from side to side.

I felt very very cold, then very hot, then very very cold. Also wet. The ropes burned my hands. The sails (hard as plywood) burned my hands. The thread on the sails (like wire) scraped my skin.

And I knew I was going to vomit.

With seconds left, I called out, “Watch under!” and let fly. My vomit spread across my sail and the yardarm directly below me – but the wind is so intense at the top of the mast that the rest blew away.

Then I finished tying up the sail, and THEN I climbed down.

PS For several days, all I ate was crackers. I hate crackers, but the dry saltiness was the most wonderful food to me during that time.

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