What it’s really like to be out at sea

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Ahoy there! This year I have been working and travelling on two different yachts from Mexico all the way up the US East Coast and am currently underway to Nova Scotia, Canada. Along the way, the seas have mostly been kind but I always seem to enter a state of limbo when ‘underway’. Many people have asked me if I get sea sick working on a yacht and it’s not a white and black answer for me. Here is a taste of what it has been like for me so far…

I think of myself as the Sleeping Beauty of the Sea as I turn into a baby a rocking in its cradle. This may be influenced at times by consuming motion sickness medicines like Dramamine or Bonine but generally I prefer to avoid taking them. Perhaps remnants of the recent hangover from time off partying in a port like Newport or Fort Lauderdale may also be contributing factors but it feels like the rocking boat melts hours into days and nights. Today, I had to think for a good 20 seconds to figure out what day it was.

Sometimes when luck is not on your side, you land up in a storm and it’s rather unpleasant. En route to Mexico in April, I was on the 11pm – 3am night-watch with Aussie deckhand, Dan. The captain left his shift with empty radar screens and calm waters. However, an hour or so later a storm came out of nowhere…well not actually, the lovely port radar was faulty…but it sure took the whole crew by storm! My lowest point of this night was hanging onto a big coffee machine that kept sliding off its shelf and was too heavy for me to lift. I prayed to all the weather gods to have mercy and calm down before I got sea sick and made an even bigger mess. Luckily, we eventually stabilized leaving a debris of ceiling panels, broken cupboards and scattered utensils across the galley floor.

Every time the sea has a bit of a tantrum like that Mexican trip, it reminds me how inferior a boat or a human being is compared to the mighty winds and giant heaving seas. You are at the mercy of the sea. Of course there are ways to predict and avoid bad weather, but sometimes it blindsides you and all you can do is ride it out.

On the same Mexican trip, my cabin mate, Roxie, and I were literally flung up out of our bunks as if we were on a trampoline. The anchor endlessly banged against the anchor locker aka our bedroom walls adding to the entertaining attempt to take a shower while being flung from side to side. Cling onto the shower curtain and aim your hair at the flying shampoo!

During the calmer, quieter times; work for stewardesses winds down to a slow pace. The combination of smells from cleaning products including Windex, Pine-sol, Leather wax, Murphy’s Oil and marble polish don’t really help the woozy feeling where you’re trying to ‘detail a cabin’ with that dim yet very present headache lurks at the front of your skull. My cure for this ‘dull skull’ is climbing the stairs to higher decks and getting some fresh air (weather permitting, of course). This afternoon my first mate, chief stewardess and I did some yoga stretches up on the sun deck. The sheltered deck, calm seas and gentle breeze cleansed our bodies and minds relieving the ‘dull skull’ and also helped to chip away at what I call ‘boat bloat’ – the inevitable condition where crew gain weight due to top chefs, snack cupboards, drinking habits and limited time on land.

So overall, I have found that being ‘underway’ or out at sea surely is Advanced Character Building 101 but the destinations and views make it all worth it. Over the past two days I have seen phenomenal sunsets and sunrises, dolphins swimming alongside us, whales spraying spouts of water as well as starry Northern skies with a giant rising orange moon. This is what makes being out at sea so surreal and special.Seriously, look at my photographs!

Here are some tips for anyone heading out to sea and are worried about getting sea sick:

1. Stare at the horizon to steady yourself

2. Take Dramamine or Bonine an hour before you depart port (beware it does make you drowsy)

3. If you can, find a comfy couch and blanket and just sleep like I do so well 😉

4. Head up to the Bridge or upper decks where the yacht is more stable

5. Don’t eat too much as it may make you feel more nauseous

6. You can also try other products like Ginger Beer, Ginger flavoured gum, wrist bands etc…I’m not convinced that these really help though

7. Take deep breaths

Go with the flow, enjoy the ride or just hang in there as you will laugh about your sea misadventures at a later stage. I’m sure I will have more stories to tell in the near future heading back down the US East Coast and on to the Caribbean. Travel safe y’all!

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6 Responses to What it’s really like to be out at sea

  1. finola says:

    Interesting read and I can relate a little to this having just down a South Pacific crossing from Galapagos to Tahiti… but it sounds as though you’re pretty much a dab hand at this sailing life… Keep enjoying the sailing and sunsets!

  2. Ian T Price says:

    >> Point 4. Head up to the Bridge or upper decks where the yacht is more stable

    Not sure that I agree with this. I would say head to the lowest deck possible in the centre of the boat where a view of the sea is visible. Either that or go down and lie down IMMEDIATELY!

    From one who has never been sea-sick but has watched many, many people suffer.

  3. katiewilter says:

    Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. Yes, I would agree with you about going to the middle of the boat where you can see the sea and horizon; however, being down in the crew mess/laundry is the worst place for people who get sea sick. You seem to have your sea legs so it would’t affect you.

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