SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 08, 2015
Mal de Mer
41° 51.8’ S ; 174° 24.5’ E
~13nm SSE of Cape Campbell, South Island
Weather / Wind
Wind SxW F4, Seas S’ly, 4-6 feet
After a marvelous and much extended visit to Windy Wellington, the crew of S-257 headed back out to sea early this afternoon, equal parts excited to be getting underway and nervous about the challenges of the upcoming leg.
While everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves immensely in Wellington-exploring the city, running and hiking on the extensive local trails, getting fabulous tours of both Te Papa and Kaitoke park, and accomplishing an impressive amount of academic-project and ship's work-the return to sea offers a retreat from the particular demands of the land. On shore, there is always another thing one could be doing, another amazing site to see, another bit of logistics back home that needs attention while one has internet access, or another postcard to be sent. Our attentions stretch out around the city of Wellington and the globe.
But back here aboard Mama Seamans, every to-do list item (with the notable exception of this blog) focuses in on our 131' world, every energy is directed toward tending ship and shipmates. Our needs within these rails become straightforward and structured again; it is precious privilege to be able to simultaneously let go and dial in like this, and one of my favorite transitions in all of sailing.
This particular transition has trained a good deal of that care and energy on shipmates, as the combination of the Cook Strait's wily ways and the sea state built up by the weather that kept us in Wellington a few extra days has conspired to bring the seasickness on in full force. As the ship's medical officer, I'd like to take this opportunity to address the subject of seasickness for all of you back home and try to give you some of the saltines-and-Gatorade flavor of our experience out here.
Seasickness is a most undignified malady, inspiring all kinds of postures: sufferers sprawling across deckboxes, curling around winches, or clutching the rail and staring at the horizon with a kind of determined grimness. In my experience as a card-carrying member of the feed-the-fish club, the worst of seasickness is the feeling of powerlessness, the worry that this nausea might never, ever go away. Unlike with a stomach bug, there is no sense of the body and immune system rallying to battle on one's behalf-a sense you don't seem to notice until it's absent. There is merely the unending motion, the waves of nausea, and the brief and glorious respites in the immediate aftermath of throwing up.
But there is also the shipmate at your shoulder, and he's ready with a glass of water and a napkin. There is always someone to go grab your deck harness for you when she sees you making a hasty scramble up the ladder, always someone willing to tag you out of the engine room portion of the boatcheck. The opportunities we have to take care of each other out here and to rise above our own discomfort to take care of Mama Seamans are unique and special. I have been immensely impressed with this crew's support of each other in all circumstances, but we have come back to sea this time in fine form as a community, even if some of our coping postures are less than dignified.
Lest you all worry overmuch that we are in agony out here, please accept my assurances that this too shall pass. Seasickness is merely the brain and the balance centers in the inner ear dealing with a world of confusion over a motion the human body never evolved to experience. Most get over the feeling in a day or two, and for those that don't quite feel all the way well, we have some excellent pharmacological options. And we have each other, taking care, looking out, and helping in any way we can.
P.S. Much love and a very Happy Birthday to my mom (with apologies that your birthday blog ended up being largely about the mal de mer), and a Happy International Women's Day to the world!