Sunday, June 23, 2013

Whales, sails, and puppy seas

Listening to "Time and Tide" by Madison Violet

Day 1

I thought I would feel better than this, but I'm still battling with sea sickness.  The conditions as we left Lunenburg were lovely, but the moment we got around the protection of the harbour the rolling seas began and then got worse.  Huge swells that seemed to swallow Paragon...far enough apart that they never crashed on deck but instead rolled us from side to side.  

Wishing I felt better
20˚ to port.  25˚ to starboard.  10˚ to port.  20˚ to starboard.  15˚ to port.  Up down up down.

And sloppy.  While going from side to side, the stern is moving back and forth.  It feels as though an entire sea of golden retriever puppies is coming at us.  Floppy, unsure, and coming from every direction the waves playfully loll and pounce.  There is no malice intended, but they still trip me up.   

I'm keeping watch, but my first dinner didn't quite stay in place.  Let's just say that it wasn't as delightful the second time around.

Things are not quite as dire as they have been though.  At least I'm able to get up and keep watch.  I'm eating lying down in my bunk (sitting at the dinette does not quite work), but when I get up to go to the head or grab some gear I am no longer hit with an instant and intense wave of nausea.  My first offshore trip I was sick for eleven days.  The second I was down for four.  The last one was two and this time I've been up and about almost immediately.  Perhaps there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Day 2

It's interesting being out here with no contact.  My phone has been put on hold, there is no wifi, we do not own a satellite phone, and the VHF is really for hailing or emergencies.  I am occupied only with my thoughts and companions.  

Already a prolific dreamer, I find I lose myself in elaborate daydreams.  I remember books I have read, conversations I have had.  The wind is light, which means that we are running the engine, and the diesel fumes turn my stomach every time they are blown into the cockpit.  Don't think about it.  It's all in your head.  I snort because I know this is bullshit.  There are few things I despise more than throwing up and I cannot believe my mind would abandon my body with such blatant treachery.  Nonetheless I take deep breaths and try to think of anything but the rolling boat.  

Ever the playful optimists, a pod of dolphins surrounded the boat today and made me forget any cares I may have had.

Day 3

Whale!  There was a humpback (or perhaps fin) whale that breached the surface and then dove with its tail smacking the water.  Then, with its body underwater, the tail resurfaced and flipped up and down, smacking the waves while we watched in breathless excitement.  I am in awe.  It is ethereal, wonderous, breathtaking, and magical.  I feel that if I ever reach a point where a seal or dolphin or whale ceases to bring a sense of wonder and elation to me then I am as good as dead.  Gazing at this giant I am suddenly and fiercely protective...and thankful.  Thankful that it has shared itself with us, if only for a moment.

Photo courtesy of Eanna Ryan
The funny thing is I had just finished my watch and Eanna was settling into the cockpit.  My head had just touched the pillow when he shouted "WHALE!  THERE'S A WHALE!".  Drake and I both jumped out of the settee and were on deck so quickly that Eanna joked "In the future, if there is ever a fire aboard Paragon, I won't shout fire.  I'll just scream that there's a whale and you guys will come running."  

Day 4

There is a steady wind from the southwest that is propelling us forward at a reasonably comfortable pace and motion, but I feel a bit ragged.  I should be feeling better, but after a couple of days of vomiting my stomach feels like it's been roughed up with a cheese grater.  Even though this time has been better than any other, getting sick so often takes a toll.  When I'm moving around the boat on my way to or from a watch I still don't have that overwhelming sense of nausea and vertigo, but I've been sick enough times to build up a general sense of malaise.  

I can't shake this metallically taste in the back of my mouth...if only I could start fresh from THIS point I think I would be much better.  I've been popping antacid tablets with the hope that they will settle the fire in my belly.  To pass the time I begin to make up ads for the antacid companies in my head.

•You thought you were still young enough to pile jalapeños on your food.  You were wrong.  TUMS!
•Settle the fire in your belly.  TUMS!
•Today Ur Mucho Sick.  TUMS!

Okay, that's as far as I got.  You can clearly see that I have not, in fact, missed my calling for the advertising business...

Day 5

Last night we were hit by rough seas for a few hours.  It didn't last long, perhaps four or five hours, but it was violent enough to toss Paragon around and make sleeping almost impossible.  Every thing was strapped securely down, but the shelf holding the tea, coffee, and sugar broke and the containers flew across the cabin and sent their contents crashing down.  

At one point a huge wave crashed into the port side of Paragon with a resounding SMACK and flooded into the cockpit.  The zippers on the enclosure were partially open which ended up being a good thing. The force of the wave was so powerful that Drake thought it might have ripped that panel off if it had been entirely closed.  

My watch was to start at 2 a.m., right in the middle of the craziness, but I felt so sick that Drake took over and completed the watch for me.  I lay wedged in my berth, eyes squeezed tightly shut, and tried to think of anything but my heaving stomach.  

Morning arrives as though nothing has happened and there is a new excitement in the air.  We are close enough to St. John's that we are checking our milage to make sure that we won't arrive at the entrance to the harbour in the dark.  It is possibly the most beautiful day yet with calm seas and a mixture of sun and fog.  There has been quite a bit of fog on this leg of the trip which is a first for me.  At times it has been so thick that we can't see more than a boat length away and it almost feels as though we are not moving forward.  

Radar is our friend at this point.  I watch the radar and AIS and marvel that a massive tanker is slipping past just a couple of miles away, yet there is no indication other than the blip on the screen.  How do you sail these waters without radar?  We couldn't possibly avoid such a fast moving ship with this kind of visibility, and I cross my fingers that we will never have to try.  

Day 6

We're here because we're here because we're here!!!  Yesterday was the first day I didn't sleep most of the time I was off of watch so I'm a bit tired, but land is near and we're almost there!  Eanna was taking photographs and didn't want to stop, so he let me sleep an extra half an hour which was marvelous.  I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to discover we only had a little over an hour to sail before making the final turn towards the harbour in St. John's.  

It's been a lovely trip, but I think we are all ready to do some exploring on land.  This is also the first port of call that is completely new for Drake.  From here on out it is new territory for everyone!

Water spouts from the whales
We woke Drake up and everyone sat in the cockpit eagerly looking at the land that rose off of our port side.  Just in case we weren't excited enough, three whales starting surfacing near the boat...spouting water in huge puffs before diving back down.  Behind them another pod of dolphins popped up and I had to pinch myself to see if I was still dreaming.  There was a part of me that almost wanted to sail Paragon in a lazy circle all day to watch the whales and dolphins playing in the water.  Almost.  But not quite.  

Our first glimpse of St. John's

The lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour
We called the harbourmaster on the VHF, got information on where to dock, and slowly motored into the harbour and into our next adventure…

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  1. Very well written.. amazing how the seas offer us mere humans such humility and grace ..nausea and pure wonder of whales! Keep enjoying it as i sit anchored in Onset planning our route to Cuttyhunk tomorrow.. what an adventure you are on!
    Beth Duncan

    1. Thank you Beth. I hope you had a lovely sail of your own!

  2. I hope you are feeling better Monique. My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting Drake and Aena earlier this afternoon and we immensely enjoyed our short time visiting St. John's Harbor. Your story is very well written.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. Isn't the harbour here lovely? It blows my mind how those immense ships just sidle up to the dock…seemingly with little effort. We had a chance to go to the other side of the harbour today and Paragon, compared with those other ships, looks like a teeny little speck. *grin*

  3. enjoyed the blog entry Monique. Wish I had some advice for the vomiting, but glad to read the intense nausea is not as bad. You do seem to be tolerating conditions better. Can't a doctor prescribe some meds for you? I'm thinking something to eliminate the nausea and something for sleeping when you feel badly?
    Just a thought.

  4. HI BioBiker,

    Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the latest update.

    I do have some medication that seems to be working a bit, but I'm really trying to acclimate without the use of medication…if possible. The pills seem to increase my lethargy which inhibits my ability to function.

    As time passes I continue to improve, and I hope by the time we reach Ireland this level of sea sickness will be a distant memory. *fingers crossed*

  5. Monique:

    For preventing sea sickness, many off shore racers use Stugeron 15 when the weather comes up. It works great and has no side effects. It is available in British Commonwealth countries over the counter. This is very worth while trying. Racers and off shore cruisers will often take it before leaving port to get them through the first few days of getting their sea legs.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion…I'll have to try this again. I had tried Stugeron once before, with little success, but it was given to me by another cruiser and I'm not sure that the dosage was correct. I'll pop by the chemist while I'm here in St. John's and pick some up for a second go.

      Hopefull *finger's crossed* it will work!

  6. Bummer about the seasickness, still jealous of your adventure! Enjoy!!

    1. It was slightly less than fun to be sick, but I'm looking forward to the day when it's a faint memory…

      Seeing the whales and dolphins made my day though!

  7. Hey this is great stuff Mo! Well captured and presented. (wow, that sounds so spammy!)

    1. Not *ahem* spammy at all…mmhmmmm.

      *grin* Thanks Ben!

  8. Oh, i wanted to add, that some people have suggested ear plugs. An old fisherman trick supposedly... cheap to try at least.

    1. Gosh, I should put together a list of all the seasickness remedies everyone has been giving me. Many haven't personally worked for me, but they may work for someone.

      Thanks for the suggestion…I'll try that. Now, do I use regular ear plugs or the pressure reducing ear plugs?

  9. Jesse and I are admiring your tenacity in dealing with the seasickness. You are tougher than I could imagine being. We are excited about your trip and looking forward to your updates. As for the seasickness remedies, they never worked for me, however, I think whatever you choose it is important to use it for a few days before you leave port, otherwise it is too little too late. Cyndie/Jesse Edwards

  10. Just came back from a trip where the lady onboard used an Ear Plug (singular), just in one ear. Regular ear plug. It seemed to work for her.

    In a past life (23 years Irish Navy) I was a major consumer of Stugeron and it worked for me. Take one low dose 4hrs before sailing and then one every 4hrs or so. Eventually increase the time interval as you are able to cope.

    The best cure for seasickness I found was to sit under a tree, but then you miss all the fun.

    Fair Winds


  11. Hey there, Sounds like you have had one hell of an adventure so far! Glad to hear that the seasickness is subsiding a little. Looking forward to reading more soon. We are enjoying the blueberries in Acadia. Enjoy your shore time! Kim & Scott

  12. Monique/Drake, your living the dream of all us who sail, well most. Your videos are fabulous! Too bad your route didn't take you around the North coast of Newfoundland, as it is most spectacular in itself.
    You are a most courageous "person" note I didn't say the W word, sailing all those miles suffering such sea sickness. Stay safe!
    Terry White