Seasickness

Getting or not getting “seasick” is a subject I have been meaning to write about for quite awhile now. I had partially addressed it in the excerpt below which I published two years ago. But I never made the follow-up post of my reflections on the subject and conclusions after the three month and 5,000-mile passage from North Africa to the Panama Canal. A video I made on our nice Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner with Micah on the Atlantic 2016

That’s 5,000 miles in strong, 18 to 36 knot winds produced by the northeasterly trade winds. While these winds are called the NE Trades, because that is their long-term direction, the actually winds on this passage were NE through SE, with three distinct swells from those directions with differing amplitudes and periods.  This produced 8 to 16-foot seas with relatively short periods of 6 to 8 seconds from the NE thru the SE. Not the most pleasant conditions, even for a boat like Dauntless that loves following seas. In fact, this was the most difficult conditions with following seas we’ve ever encountered.

Some of the worst conditions possible if one is prone to seasickness, with the boat corkscrewing its way across the Atlantic at 7 knots. I expected that as I got my sea legs, sea sickness would be just a bad memory.  But no, in fact, it was to the contrary. It got me to wondering what was really going on.

Stress builds and crossing an ocean is stressful in the best of conditions. For one, my insurance does not cover me past 200 miles off-shore. So, abandoning ship is not an option. For another, with a three-week passage, you are asking every component to work 24/7 for that time period and if something does go wrong, how to minimize the damage.  Therefore, it’s a constant weighing of risks, rewards.  E.g. Can I fix this problem with the engine running or do I increase the chances of something else going wrong by turning off the engine?

This is what I had written two years ago, just days after leaving Morocco for the Canaries at the very start of my second Atlantic Passage:

Morocco to the Canaries

Four days on the North Atlantic, 600 nm, four days, 1 hour, 35 minutes, what could go wrong?

For one, we found the weak link on this Krogen, it’s me.

In my first year of cruising, I would get sea sick maybe a quarter of the time. Now in my third year, it’s more like three-quarters of the time.

What’s changed? Who knows?  I’m older, but usually one’s body becomes more adapted. No, I think the problem is in my brain. 

When conditions are rough, I know to take a remedy or put on the Scopolamine transdermal patch. I’ve been using the patch for more than 3 years, now all of a sudden, the patch gives me a bad rash, but it’s also very effective as long as I put it on the night before departure.

With nice cruising conditions, or I should say, relatively nice, with winds and seas less than 15 knots and 3 feet (1m), respectively, I never had to worry, now, if the slightest unexpected event happens, I get seasick.

This last episode was one of the worst I’ve ever had.  But I’m not 100% sure it’s “seasickness”.  It’s more like my body gets a whole load of adrenaline and then when crisis is over, my body doesn’t know what to do. 

We were heading 240 degrees, with Southeast winds 20 to 25 knots, producing seas from the south of 4 to 8 feet. 

The paravanes work most effectively with seas on the beam, so our ride was actually not so bad with a gentle rolling of 8 degrees to the lee side and 4 degrees to the windward side.  

On the 3rd day out of Morocco, I was in the galley filling my water bottle, when I felt the boat motion change. I looked out the salon window to see the windward paravane bird being dragged on top of the water, clearly broken. 

I purposely take my time and want to remain calm. I finish filling my water bottle. I go to stop the boat, neutral, idle, then up to the fly bridge to retrieve the pole and the broken bird. 

Dauntless is quite tame when not underway, in other words, she rolls much less.  So, there was no big crisis.

The two spare birds are stored in the lazerette.  The one that broke had been repaired in Ireland, as it had previously broken crossing the North Sea. So, I wasn’t too worried as to the cause.  We had two spares in the lazzerette. The one on the starboard side was easier to reach, but as we tried to get it out, the fin of the bird became lodged under the generator exhaust hose. And the more stuck it became; the more stressed I became.  I didn’t like the idea of leaving it as it, with its metal fin pressed against the exhaust hose and the wooden bird, so close to the hydraulic rudder piston. But after 10 minutes of trying dislodge it, I gave up, unloaded the port side of the lazzerette and got the other bird that was stored on the other side of the lazerette.

It took just another minute to replace the broken one and we were underway again, finally 20 minutes later, having spent most of that time, trying to get the one bird out. 

Underway again, all was OK, but I was feeling very strange. Very strange.

I went to change my clothes, as I was very hot, sweaty and covered in anti-corrosion oil I had sprayed liberally in the lazzerette before leaving.

But after changing my clothes, I felt worse; like overheating badly, I figured a shower would help.

I shower, figuring that cooling off would make me feel better, but now, I can’t even dry myself off. It was a bizarre feeling. I wasn’t able to stand up or move. I dragged myself to bed and lay on top.

I figure I just need a little rest, but had wanted to walk around the boat, make sure all is OK before we get underway again. So, after a few minutes, getting more stressed because I knew Micah and Dauntless were waiting for me, as I go to put on my shirt, I became violently ill. First time that’s happened in years, even though, I get sea sick a lot and have that miserable nauseous feeling, I don’t throw up. This time I did.

I finally understood that I can do nothing but lay on top of my bed naked. I couldn’t even dry myself off. I use what little strength I have to tell Micah to make sure everything looks OK and to get underway.

I stayed on top of the bed and went to sleep.

Three hours later, I am up and OK. Like it never happened.

After I posted the above, my friend Dan added this comment:

“I have read of at least one person who has spent decades at sea who get sea sick every time they set to sea for three days or so. They, like so many, take a while to get their sea legs, and then they are just fine. What was interesting about this person is that they ONLY get sea sick when they are captain. If they are crewing on a boat, they don’t get sea sick at all. Their guess was that the stress of being captain was what caused the sea sickness.”

+++

By the time we arrived in the Caribbean, I’d had two more stressful incidents and very similar physical reactions. Not only that, but suddenly, my skin was very allergic to the adhesive on this particular batch of Trans-dermal patches. So, I couldn’t wear it anymore and I’m left with these two quarter sized areas behind by ears of no pigmentation. No Michael Jackson jokes please.

I had also started to see a pattern. On Christmas Day, it was one of the calmest of the trip, with seas not more than 8 feet and winds in the mid to high teens. We saw whales that day and had a couple cruise with us for about 15 minutes. They were 30 to 40 feet in length and swam underwater next to the paravane bird. 

Christmas being more important to my nephew Micah than myself, I wanted to make a special dinner, so I BBQed the last of four delicious Canary Island Tee Bone Steaks. The best ever.

As soon as I had served our dinner, I had that feeling of “seasickness” come over me. A bit of nausea and overall weakness.

Sitting in Martinique in the wonderful marina Le Marin, I had time to reflect on what was really going on. In all my cases of “seasickness”, the motion of the boat was actually less than it had been over any given period of time. Also, it was clear that I wasn’t sick before a crisis, I wasn’t sick during the crisis, but as soon as the crisis was over, I was sick.

Didn’t really sound like motion sickness to me, but more a reaction to stress.

I’s already stopped using the Transdermal patch and now I decided to not take any more seasickness medicine at all, when we left Martinique for the Panama Canal

I also decided to take a shower every morning before my watch and every night before bed. The shower in the morning seemed to calm me down. I had no idea why, but starting my day at a lower anxiety level seemed to make a significant difference.

From Martinique to San Francisco, a distance of 3,600 miles and 90+ days of cruising, in some of the worst seas I have ever encountered, I’ve taken an anti-nausea medicine only twice.

I now understand that that terrible “seasick” felling was my body adjusting to the lack of adrenaline that the stress had produced and my para-sympathetic system was now getting my body back to normal.

Clearly the shower in the morning or before my watch, makes a significant difference.

And then in the November 30, 2018 Wall Street Journal, they did a book review of the book, Never-Home-Alone

And the shower in the morning starts to make sense scientific sense.

Here is the article from the Journal (bolding and underline is mine):

BOOKSHELF

‘Never Home Alone’ Review: The Critters Chez Nous

In trying to rid our homes of insects, fungi and the like, we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Lisa Margonelli reviews “Never Home Alone” by Rob Dunn.

When Rob Dunn was a young ecologist he rummaged through rainforests in search of biodiversity. More recently he discovered another type of wilderness: In a study of 1,000 houses in the U.S., Mr. Dunn’s team found 80,000 kinds of bacteria and archaea hidden inside—that’s at least 10 times the number of bird and mammal species observed in all of the Americas.

He soon also unearthed in our homes some 40,000 kinds of fungi and hundreds of insects, many yet to be named by entomologists.

“I was ecstatic,” Mr. Dunn writes. “Back in the jungle again, albeit the jungle of everyday life.”

In his fascinating new book, “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live,” Mr. Dunn brings a scientist’s sensibility to our domestic jungle by exploring the paradox of the modern home: In trying to make it “clean,” we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Mr. Dunn is a fine writer, wringing poetry out of the microbial explorations of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who spent half the 17th century documenting all the tiny living things around him—in his neighbor’s mouth, in the snow, in cheese rinds and in wasps. Leeuwenhoek “was to become an astronaut of the miniature,” Mr. Dunn tells us, “all alone exploring a realm that was more diverse and elaborate than anyone but him seemed to understand.”

Mr. Dunn also gracefully explains, without getting bogged down in details, the technology that has allowed scientists during the past decade or so to sequence the DNA of millions of previously unknown microbes, making his book an excellent layperson’s guide to cutting-edge research.

Mr. Dunn’s larger purpose is to explain how the ecology of the home has gone awry. Once upon a time, we lived in leaf huts, with interiors that looked a lot like our outdoor environment.

Soon we moved to round houses, then square houses and finally to air-tight apartments in cities.

Now we close our windows, use products that claim to kill 99% of germs and have unknowingly domesticated bedbugs—so they adjust their workdays around ours.

Our homes no longer resemble the garden outside but have a weird human-centered microbial signature that is also found on the International Space Station, and that’s not a good thing.

The problem, according to Mr. Dunn, “is not what is present but instead what is absent. The problem has to do with what happens when we create homes devoid of nearly all biodiversity except that which falls from us and then, for twenty-three hours of the day, we don’t go outside.”

To understand how mundane and occasionally deadly this evolutionary project of ours is, consider the shower head. In many American homes, water is treated with chlorine and chloramine, which kill pathogens but not mycobacteria, a genus that includes the cause of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, in homes with water drawn from wells, nonharmful microbes flourish, including mycobacteria’s natural competitors.

By wiping out all the other bacteria in chlorinated water, we create environments where troublesome microbes thrive and even evolve.

This has led Mr. Dunn, together with his colleague Noah Fierer, to find that mycobacteria in shower heads can accurately predict instances of mycobacterial infections, as well as the regions where these outbreaks are likely to occur. 

And yet mycobacteria are not entirely bad. One species has been found to enhance serotonin production, which can lead to greater happiness and lower stress. Mice exposed to a species of mycobacteria are more likely to remain calm when facing a bigger, more aggressive mouse. 

Might this also explain how a morning shower helps us deal with a stressful commute and a bad day on the job? 

These twin stories—of scientific discovery right under our noses and the perilous impact of our unwitting genetic engineering—thread through Mr. Dunn’s book.

Cockroaches were once easily lured with glucose baits but have now rapidly evolved to dislike sweet things. Good strategy for the cockroaches, more troubling for us.

“Just as military specialists study the battles of the past to prepare for the future,” Mr. Dunn suggests that “we might consider our battle with the German cockroach in contemplating our own evolutionary future.”

“Never Home Alone” is a prescription for more biodiversity in the home and, more specifically, a plea for more attention to ecology. The more we understand how different creatures interact and influence our immune systems, the healthier we may be. But in the service of getting more people into ecology, Mr. Dunn believes the field needs to deliver tangible products.

He wants to systematically explore the species in our homes to determine which ones could contain useful chemistry. The camel cricket, a previously unnoticed and rarely studied thumb-size little bugger that lives—possibly by the billions—in American basements, has gut bacteria that can break down black liquor, a highly alkaline toxic waste produced by the paper industry.

The thief ant traipsing across your kitchen counter also produces an antibiotic that may eventually be useful against hard-to-fight infections. Personally, what I want to see is a home “makeunder “show dedicated to “rewilding” homes—similar to what you’d see on the Learning Channel, only more anarchic.

A bunch of giggling scientists show up at the door, toss the hand sanitizer, the shower head, the Sheetrock and the fungus-laden air conditioner.

In their place, they hand the homeowner a bar of soap, throw open the windows, install a ball of spiders to fight flies in the basement and start a batch of sourdough—all in the service of re-creating the garden indoors.

No doubt there will be tension in the idea of a wild domicile. Even King Tut, Mr. Dunn notes, was buried with a fly swatter.

Ms. Margonelli is the author, most recently, of “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.” ■

 

 

Atlantic Passage 2016 Videos

I am writing a piece on getting seasick and I wanted to include some of the videos I had made just before I got sick. My point being that I’m not sure it is seasickness per se.

In looking for the videos, I realized that while I had posted a link to them in my smugmug site, https://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless/Dauntless-Atlantic-2016-Videos/

I’d never posted some of them here.

So here they are:

 Day 13, Stbd deck view, seas 8 to 15 feet. An average day.

 Day 14, View from the fly bridge looking east.

 Day 14, I’m replacing the hydraulic hose in the lazzerette.
We are dead in the water and Micah didn’t like looking aft at waves that towered over the boat and then disappeared, as we bobbed on top of the wave. (View of seas at 2:40).

 Day 14, I show the new hose.

 Day 16, On our more steady days, we’d play a board game, in which I had glued a piece of non skid rubber to the bottom of the pieces.

  Day 16, The only ship we encountered in the 3 week trip.
Thank you AIS (for he avoided us).

Day 16, Our well travelled Kadey Krogen Flag on it’s second Atlantic Crossing

 Day 16, Christmas, one of our best days.
We had great steak dinner and had a whale with us for awhile. 

 Day 16, Our Christmas whale

 Day 16, Christmas Dinner.
I got “seasick” as soon as I finished cooking.

Day 14, the Maretron data showing 8 hours of Rolling (right) and 4 days of pitch (sorry I did not make the time frames the dame). The rolling graph also clearly shows the 30 minutes or so we were stopped, while I replaced the hose (between hr 4&5). Also, please note that while it seems rolling is the same or increased while stopped in the water, the paravanes have no effect when stopped. Therefore, if underway without paravanes, the rolling would be about double under these following seas condition (when the paraveanes are least effective).

 

 

 

Catastrophizing at Sea

I’m currently visiting my friends for 40+ years in northeastern Italy, in a little town called Budoia. At the very foot of the Dolomites (a portion of the Alps), I first came here while stationed at Aviano Air Base in 1976.

The front of the house and the church
Budoia, (PN) in NE Italy.

Last night, while returning relatively late, it turned out, in spite of having all the keys to the doors, the shutters were also inadvertently locked. Now, these shutters are not the dainty kind we see on so many houses to give them that “homey” feel.

No, these shutters, like the house, were built in the 1800’s to keep the brigands out and to withstand a siege. So, the one door that I knew was kept unbolted at night and that I had the key for, was behind the brigand proof shutters. I know, I tried, not even a millimeter of give on those shutters.

I had already tried the other two doors, one in front, one in back, all bolted. I had even tried the door that is not used. Upon unlocking it, it seemed to give a millimeter or so, but is was clear that either the furniture in front of it was completing blocking it or it too was bolted. In any case, I quickly gave up and returned once more to the shutters.

The shutter when closed

Was it possible there was something I was not understanding in their opening? The matriarch of the house, knew I was coming back at this hour and had acknowledged not to lock me out, so I wondered what I was missing?

It was cold, already, 28° or -2°C. I couldn’t sleep in the car. My cell phone was dead, but I did have car charger and cable, I plugged it in and called the house. No answer.

I then tried her mobile number and minutes later after I successfully completed the “who is this? (It’s me) and why are you calling me at this hour? (the shutters are locked)” interrogation, I saw her coming down the stairs.

A half hour later, warm and cozy in my bed, was I ever so grateful to be in bed and to not have had to implement contingency plan number XYZ. But that got me to thinking, what was XYZ?

Normally open

In my ten minutes of trying to solve the problem, trying every door a couple of times, even the windows, trying all sorts of key like objects in the lock of the shutters, all the while not thinking of the cold and me with no overcoat, (since I came from Vietnam). I realized never spent any time on “what if I can’t get in?”

What if I could not rouse the occupant? What if; then what?

No, I was totally focused on solving the problem.

While it’s impossible to cross an ocean in a small boat and not have some issues, in my two plus ocean passages, I’ve only had one problem that could have been, more than an inconvenience. That was when I burst the hydraulic line 1,000 miles from land in the middle of the Atlantic in 10 to 15-foot seas.

The hose that broke feed the hydraulic ram for the rudder. Without this hose, no steering and no autopilot. My Kadey Krogen does have an emergency tiller that attached to the top of the rudder post thru an opening in the deck, with a 6-foot lever arm. But this would mean standing, sitting, suffering on the aft deck for 7 straight days and nights.

I shudder even now just thinking about it.

As mariner’s who motor instead of sail know, a boat at constant rudder angle, will not go in a straight line. Wave action pushes the bow a little bit each time and the boat will be noticeably turning within 30 seconds in any kind of seas, thus requiring constant rudder adjustments. The primary reason an autopilot, to maintain a constant heading, is much required. More than likely Dauntless would arrive in Martinique minus any human crew, as we would have decided that swimming was better.

When this hose broke, my first thought wasn’t how we would now get to Martinique, it was how to solve the immediate problem. Just like last night, I didn’t spend any time on “what-ifs”. Oh, over the years I have some very general contingency plans, such as, engine stops, and I can’t get it going again for whatever reason, the prevailing winds will eventually blow the boat to land (as this wouldn’t happen in the Southern Ocean, that’s another reason not to go there!). Therefore, we have enough canned goods, water and peanut butter to last for months.

Many people have asked me what makes me able to cross oceans while other far more experienced sailors don’t. As I was reminded last night, one of the keys is the ability to focus on the problem at hand and not to catastrophize the problem. Don’t think of more problems when as you try to fix one.

When my helm wheel went slack in my hands in the middle of the Atlantic, I allowed myself one indulgence, I cursed at myself for being so stupid, but then it was to the task on hand. Let’s not spend any time on what-if I can’t fix it, let’s just fix it.

Another way to look at is Optimist versus Pessimist. The optimist sees possibilities, the pessimist sees barriers.

Not may pessimists cross oceans, maybe not even in planes!

You can check out my post about this here: Crisis in the Mid- Atlantic

 

 

 

 

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Q & A After the Atlantic Crossing

My Friend Alfa Mike asked the following, so I thought I would share with everyone:

Richard on Dauntless in Martinique, La Marin
Richard on Dauntless in Martinique, La Marin

>Do they speak a lot of English Language in Martinique or is it all French?

The Moon & Venus watch over us on our last nights
The Moon & Venus watch over us on our last nights
Until the very end, a story sea
Until the very end, a story sea
A little mishap while changing the oil just after arrival
A little mishap while changing the oil just after arrival
Mountain on Martinique
Mountain on Martinique
Driving thru the forest
Driving thru the forest
More Rainforest
More Rainforest
Even made it to the Kadey Krogen page
Even made it to the Kadey Krogen page
La Marin Marina
La Marin Marina
  • some English, once in a while, you need to know some basic French.

> What have you seen & experienced there?
This past weekend, we drove up north to see rain forest and volcano.  Inactive of course, so not much to see.
> What have you done in the boat while there.?  Repairs, upgrades?

at this point, there is still much to do.  Not helped that yesterday I spent all day to do a 1 hour job.  I hate working with wood, like the interior.

  • Working on electric in fwd bilge, adding small bilge pump.
  • Rewiring holding tank switch so that it can’t get turned on accidentally.
  • Micah patched dingy.
  • Rerigged paravane pole.
    • One pole needs to be replaced. Probably do that in Mexico or So Cal.
    • Also, rigged a preventer so windward pole will not go vertical when boat rolls heavily to lee side.
  • Finally finished 3rd 20# bottle of propane yesterday.  Those 3 bottles were filled in Tallinn in July 2015. That’s 7000 miles ago.  Luckily have two extra bottles that a sailboat boat gave me in northern France last summer as he was not going back to USA. I have not been able to get propane since Estonia last year, but am told I can in St Lucia.  But I can wait till So Cal possibly.
  • Must still replace 2 hydraulic hoses and bleed system for AP and helm steering.
  • Complete oil change, i.e. fill engine with oil.
  • We’ll fuel again in St. Lucia, only to half full about 250 gal
  • Repair bracket for wx instruments on mast, the following winds (when we were stopped for Hydraulic line) managed to wrap paravane line around it and mangled it, because I was so happy to get one problems solved, I created another one.
  • Winds also broke stern flag pole. Same happened to Sweden sailboat docked next to us.
  • All 5 fuel filters are changed (2 Racors, 2 engine mounted and fuel polish)
  • Replacing all screws in rub rail is proving to be a real PIA. As they are rusted and not coming out. These are Inox screws I bought in Ireland and again in Portugal. Big f…ing mistake.
  • General clean up, still finding flying fish on fly bridge (where else would they be 🙂
  • Spent $200 on stainless steel screws.
  • Another $200 on oil and ATF for rudder steering
  • $200 on rental car for 3 days
    Yes, everything is in increments of $200.
  • Finally took Icom VHF radio to shop, as my friend Pat in Waterford told me to do last year. It’s unfixable it seems. So, will take VHF radio from fly bridge and install in pilot house.
  • Need to still upload a billion pictures to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/

> How has the weather been?

  • Is it Humid? Hot, a bit muggy, yesterday was first day without wind, so then the boat really heats up.Did I tell you I don’t like hot weather?  Thus the 12 years in Alaska and two years with Dauntless in Northern Europe and now returning to first Southeast Alaska and then Japan & S. Korea.

>Now after all is said and done, In hindsight what would I have done differently?

  • In terms of places to go or not, it’s hard to say. Only having spent time in southern Spain and Morocco can I say that I would not have missed it.  But had I not gone, how would I know that?  It would have better financially and sailing wise to go direct from the bottom of Portugal to Las Palmas on Grand Canaria.
  • Should have spent some hard-earned money 3 years ago, to be able to use 230v, 50hz shore power to run ACs. I did try to get them to run off inverter, but the inverter produces a square sine wave and both the Splendid washer/dryer and the AC’s will not run on that.

I could have tried the transformer I use not for the water heater.  It would supply 120v, but 50hz to AC.  That swill probably work. But at this point, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.  Back in Southern Spain and Portugal when I was dying of the heat, I should have thought of that.

Yes, I could always run generator, by the 1 gal/hour at $5/gal fuel. Now, 8 hours is only $40 per day, but adding that to expensive marina at $55/day, that’s close to my desired cap of $100 per day.

  • Speaking of money. My average daily cost for all living and boat expenses is about $109 per day.  Though I still have yet to update the last month, I do not think it will change significantly.  This is also a few dollars below the previous year.  So, all in all, the expenses are about what I expect.  The proportion is also the same, 25% for each:
    • Fuel & oils
    • Marinas & docks
    • Food, groceries & eating out
    • , like cell phone, transportation, cars, trains, planes and automobiles.

> How do you like it in Martinique?

  • Love it. People, food could not be better. I am so lucky that I was told to head here when it became clear that I could m=not make the southing I needed to get to Barbados.  It was only a 20° more southerly course, but with the large seas we had, it was not worth being beaten up.
  • In hindsight, Martinique is a much nicer place to clear in, eat and drink than probably anyplace in the Caribbean. Martinique is a Department (like a State) of France.  Thus, it feels like France because it is France.  It’s not the bureaucratic mess that Portugal, southern Spain and Morocco are.
  • FYI in terms of how they treat boaters:
    • Northern Spain, Galicia is just like northern Europe and France, as are the Cana.ries.
    • Southern Spain and Portugal were totally different, and not in a positive way.
    • I was told that it’s because of the Arab penchant for bureaucracy.

> How long do you plan to stay?

  • until sometime next week. Then heading south, a bit before heading west to the ABC’s

> Any comments you would like to make about the trip you just completed now that your more rested up?

  • Very glad I don’t have to do it again for another 18 months