Friday, September 26, 2014

Seasickness gone, but not forgotten

After more than two weeks aboard the S/V Grasshopper, I discovered that I still get seasick. I had been hoping that all my time on boats in the last month had cured me of that affliction, but no such luck.

As we motored our way upwind towards Maninita Island, we encountered the roughest seas in Tonga thus far. That's not to say they were "heavy" in sailing terms. Jeff was inclined to call them "moderate" seas at best. But they did sport a 4-5 foot swell and rocked the boat from side to side, and front to back as we plowed along at 5.5 knots.

Within a half hour or so, I was feeling off. Then the nausea set in and I watched the horizon, donned my acupressure seabands, chewed up an anti-nausea pill and chomped away on ginger gum, hoping those four strategies would do the trick. They didn't. In fact, it got worse before it got better.

From the back of the boat, I sat with the wind whipping my face and watched the slate blue water rise and fall in big swells. White foam danced across waves that bombarded us from all directions and the light gray sky bounced up and down. I clutched a big blue bucket in my lap and gripped the railing, praying that I wouldn't need it.

My blue buddy

Meanwhile Jeff and Josh surveyed our surroundings and reread the description of Maninita's anchorage. "Untenable in moderate to rough seas," it said. Time for a change of plans. Normally, I would lead the charge in finding a new destination, but I sat this round out while the boys scurried to find an alternative.

Success! With a new heading in place, we set sail for Fonua'One'One Island to the west of our original destination. I continued to uurp along, eyes to the horizon, bucket in my lap. As we neared the island, the seas calmed and we were greeted by turquoise and light green waters which marked a sandy bottom, surrounded by brown coral reefs and breakers. We set an anchorage in the sand and snapped some pictures of the lovely view. My stomach finally settled down, just in time for lunch and a snorkel.

Fonoa'One'One, our day stop before leaving the Vava'u group.

I wish this was the place where I could write, "the end" and happily wrap up this story, but that would be a lie. In the late afternoon, we pulled up anchor and set sail for the next group of Tongan islands, the Ha'apai group. More than 50 nautical miles to the south, this would be our longest sail yet. An all-night endeavor. In rough seas.

As we headed south, the ocean produced swells 10 feet tall and my stomach grew angry again. I watched the horizon and assumed a new position, recommended by Captain Jeff--standing on the bench in the cockpit looking forward across the top of the dodger with the breeze blowing in my face. From this vantage point, my seasickness receded and I started to feel better.

The anti-nausea pills had made me sleepy so I headed down below to take a nap. Within an hour, the salvia in my mouth grew warm and I knew I was going to puke soon. I ran towards the cockpit while the boat swayed haphazardly from side to side, hollering for the blue bucket. I burst into the fresh air, flung myself towards the rail and grabbed the bucket from Josh, puking into it in great heaves.

Afterward, Jeff emptied and rinsed my bucket in the wake behind the boat and handed it back to me for the next go. I swapped seats, this time taking up position on the leeward side of the boat and wrapping myself around the bucket like it was a life preserver. The ocean continue to churn and my tummy grumbled along. That evening, in the dark, I would vomit two more times and, after each time, Jeff -- the self-appointed chief bucketeer -- would rinse away my foulness in the deep rollicking sea.

Eventually I grew so tired, I could barely hold myself upright so I climbed down to our cabin and felt into a fitful sleep while the rest of the crew took turns as the night watch.

In the morning I awoke to calm waters as we motored into a new anchorage at Ha'ano Island in the Ha'apai group. I heaved a sigh of relief and crossed my fingers that I would be done with seasickness for the rest of our trip.*

*As I get ready to post this a couple weeks later, now that we have internet again, I'm sorry to say that was not the last of my seasickness. I am officially a person who gets seasick, regardless of medication.



  1. Beautifully written sad tale. Praise the Lord for terra firma.

    1. Kim, it was a delight to be on terra firma at your farm in Fiji!