Friday, May 15, 2009

They never talk about the nausea

Hello all. In talking to friends about my trip, I've had to take some criticism. How, they ask, can sailing be all sunshine, swimming, snorkeling, and smiles? Surely, there's a downside. Actually, they've pretty much demanded the downside, threatening me with responsibility for their financial and social ruin when they decide to spend huge amounts of money and time sailing, based on the glowing reports and the beautiful pictures in previous posts. So, here goes.... Note: If you'd rather maintain your untarnished view of cruising the Caribbean, read this post at your own risk. ;o)

So, the downside...

There are days, beautiful warm sunny days, where the wind blows fiercely, stirring the sea up into whitecaps, peaks as stiff and white and frothy as well-beaten egg whites. The water tosses the boat and you around, crashing over the bow and sometimes over you, depending how fast you're going and from which direction the wave strikes. Water crests in all directions, waves sometimes hitting you from the front, the back, and the side all at the same time. Big waves sometimes, ones that have you holding on, averting your face from the soaking you know is coming. You can't go below, for fear of the nausea taking hold as it tends to do when you can no longer see the horizon. You can't walk around, because the boat is heeled over sideways and bouncing back and forth. And so, you hang on. Sometimes for hours, while the sun beats down on you.

Of course, the sun is beating down on you, but you have sunscreen, clothes, a hat, and sunglasses to keep you safe. And the waves sparkle more than ever, because of the movement and the many surfaces off which the sun glints, reminding you of diamonds, stars, and flashes of insight you've had along the way. And, when a wave does hit you, it's relatively warm but cool enough to be refreshing. And you find yourself laughing and enjoying the wild adrenaline ride anyway. Staying upright becomes a challenge, like riding a wild horse, and you know you can do it and the wind blows through your hair as you hang on and grin your defiance and you feel so alive....

Oh, the downside. Right.

Well I know I told you, in a previous post, about being drug-groggy and there were times - the first after 5 hours or so of riding a wild sea - that I had to resort to pharmaceuticals in order not to share more with my sailing companions than they could have appreciated. One of my companions did share this way but I was, mercifully, already drowsing on the other side of the cockpit and missed most of the action. When it happens, you feel alright at first. Sure, it's a bit of a bumpy ride, but you've had bumpy before. So, you decide to 'just say no' and not do the anti-nausea tablet that you've stowed nearby, just in case. You sip your water, gaze out at the horizon, marvel at the color of the sea - is it really such a clear, bright blue? Can you really see so far down? But slowly,it creeps up on you. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. It nudges you, deep inside your belly, gently at first. A small fluttering, a certain lightness of head. And you shift your position, have some more water, lose track of the conversation around you. You can feel your eyes becoming a bit glazed, your mouth getting drier. Your companions notice these changes,and the silence beginning to come from your corner of the boat. They ask you if you're feeling quite alright. And you say, yes, you're fine. But then the creature inside you becomes impatient, tired of being ignored. It elbows you, hard, in the gut. You cringe. At this point, you make a decision. And you put it in your mouth - the quick dissolve orange flavored tablet. It melts quickly and your mouth suddenly tastes much better than it did a moment ago. You settle in, waiting, hoping you took it in time and now it's a race between the drug and the nausea. Waiting to see who will be stronger, you hunker down, bracing yourself, hooking your arm around something to keep you stable. Eventually, you feel yourself getting drowsy and you know the drug won - this time.

And you lie there, half asleep, with the suddenly benevolent waves rocking you, like you are a child in your mother's arms. And you hear the others talking around you and it reminds you, again, of childhood. When you were older this time, lying on the grass outside while the adults drank their coffee on the porch and visited, your eyes shut but you're not quite asleep, lulled by the voices around you, the laughter and the warm comfort of the sun. And when you wake, on the boat again, stirring slowly and sitting up, the ocean is still blue, the sky is still brilliant with sun, and the nasty creature, nausea, has crawled back into its dark cave. You are free!

Writing this, I wonder if I have deterred any of you from wanting to sail, here or in the Caribbean. I know I can't wait to get out again. Perhaps I could talk about being on a 45 foot boat with 4 other people for 2 weeks, how you get in each others' way, on each others' nerves sometimes. How I accidentally, to my horror, elbowed a shipmate in the face when pulling in a sheet or was stepped on, hard, by someone stumbling by as the waves tossed the boat. But then I could also tell you about the times when, anchored in some secluded bay, we all watched a beautiful sunset with glasses of good red wine in our hands, toasting each other, laughing, telling stories, and settling down to enjoy another amazing meal, prepared with ingenuity and strokes of brilliance. Our appetites honed to a fine edge with the wind and work of getting there. Exchanging stories, we learned a bit about each others' lives, celebrated a birthday, a retirement, an anniversary. And we learned to be happy together.

No, I can't do it! If you want someone to tell you that it's not worth it, that you should save your money and stay home with your family and friends forever, you'll have to find someone else. Because I loved it. And I'm going out again, just as soon as I am able. Somehow, being adrift for all that time grounded me, made me remember what was important. And that, to use a cliche, is priceless!

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