Skip No­vak

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU OR ANY OF YOUR CREW SUF­FER FROM SEASICKNESS? SKIP HAS PLENTY OF EX­PE­RI­ENCE OF IT TO SHARE…

Yachting World - - Contents -

Through­out the Antarc­tic char­ter sea­son I get asked the same ques­tion by many of our guests: “What about seasickness . . .?” We take many land­lub­bers down south who would, of course, be con­cerned but also sea­soned sailors who know what it means to be cross­ing the dreaded Drake Pas­sage. They are also cu­ri­ous to know if we have a magic bul­let to hand. We do, but it will mean miss­ing out on a large part of the Drake it­self – and I don’t mean sim­ply stay­ing at home. How­ever, this ‘cure’ might be prefer­able to try­ing to watch the great wan­der­ing al­ba­tross with your head in a bucket. Read on.

A com­bi­na­tion of the cold, the anx­i­ety of an un­known and the rep­u­ta­tion of the Drake for enor­mous seas and howl­ing storms could all add up to en­cour­age any­one who is prone to seasickness to go down, but any sci­ence be­hind those pre­sump­tions is spe­cious at best.

Years ago in my reck­less youth (or was it midlife?) I was se­verely rep­ri­manded by a reader of an Amer­i­can mag­a­zine for mak­ing light of seasickness by re­lat­ing our meth­ods of preven­tion and care, ie giv­ing our guests a bucket each and let­ting them get on with it – he de­manded that I be taken off the mast­head (I wasn’t). I do take seasickness seriously. I know what it’s like as I get sea­sick my­self, so there is an em­pa­thy – and yes, dy­ing some­times feels as if it might be prefer­able.

If you are bombproof at sea you are lucky. I have seen all the de­grees, from mildly queasy to ab­ject sub­ju­ga­tion fol­lowed by the on­set of de­hy­dra­tion. When I set sail with a head­sea and even a mild pitch­ing mo­tion, I will go down. Rolling and yaw­ing are fine, but I don’t do pitch­ing. Over the counter Stugeron is my cure, taken the night be­fore, the morn­ing of de­par­ture and one or two for the first day – and then I can stop my pill-pop­ping. From that point Force 9 on the nose can fill in and I will be fine. I am com­pletely pre­dictable and con­sider my­self one of the lucky ones.

Peo­ple come on board with all sorts of al­ter­na­tive cures, both chem­i­cal and nat­u­ral taken by mouth and also the para­pher­na­lia of pres­sure point con­trap­tions which may or may not be place­bos. I en­cour­age them all, for any­thing they do to­wards mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects. Whether you ap­ply the Scopo­derm patch or take the va­ri­ety of pills that work for you, it is vi­tal to start tak­ing them well be­fore de­par­ture. When go­ing out of the heads, it is usu­ally all too late.

The patch does seem to work for many who have medium to se­vere is­sues, al­though it can af­fect your balance – not the great­est sit­u­a­tion at sea. I had one wo­man on board whose pupil on the same side as the patch di­lated alarm­ingly, which caused mi­nor panic un­til we came to the con­clu­sion it was a nor­mal side-ef­fect.

Seasickness can strangely be con­sid­ered a rite of pas­sage for the Drake and for many other in­fa­mous parts of the briny – the Bay of Bis­cay is one ex­am­ple closer to home. It is some­thing you lived to tell about. But prepa­ra­tion is key to avoid­ing it in the first place or at least mit­i­gat­ing it if it does hap­pen. A short skip­per’s lec­ture the night be­fore de­par­ture about start­ing your med­i­ca­tion of choice early (I rec­om­mend af­ter din­ner) is the start­ing point.

Have a bucket near to hand for ev­ery bunk and one in the cock­pit. If a pa­tient/vic­tim is out­side of a safe cock­pit area and in­tends to chun­der over the side, they must be clipped on – in any weather. If they in­sist on stay­ing out­side, keep them warm, but in cold cli­mates this is im­pos­si­ble for any length of time. Sip­ping small amounts of clear wa­ter will keep them hy­drated. For­get about food – they don’t need it. Af­ter an episode, en­cour­age them to go be­low and get into their bunk. Be­ing prone and stay­ing in that po­si­tion is some­times the best cure. And check them of­ten.

We have had some se­ri­ous cases. When retch­ing comes ev­ery 15 min­utes or so and the noise be­comes in­tol­er­a­ble for the rest of us, we in­ject in­tra­mus­cu­larly with 25mg of Promet­hazine (Phen­er­gan is a trade­name), a seda­tive/ anti-an­ti­his­tamine cock­tail. It knocks them out for 12-15 hours and, in more cases than not, when they come to, they are cured for the re­main­der of the pas­sage.

In ex­tremis, they will not mind the nee­dle, and if they protest you can threaten them with re­hy­dra­tion anally, with a rub­ber tube and fun­nel.

But don’t take my ad­vice on any of this, best to first to con­sult your doc­tor.

For more on seasickness cures, see page 94

‘DY­ING SOME­TIMES FEELS PREFER­ABLE’

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