Monday, November 28, 2005

Dramamine: the Segue Way Drug

By noon the first day the sea was really rolling and sea sickness was a definite. I tried to stifle it as I was the rookie and had something to prove; I didn’t want to be the first one down. But as evening came and the winds picked up we started hitting 10 to 12 foot seas, my green hue gave me away and I took a dose of Dramamine. As luck would have it, Dillon, our deckhand, was actually the first one to feed the fish, but I was soon to follow…

At sunset the crew began watchkeeping in four hour shifts and between shifts most people slept or read. As the crew awoke for each shift they helped themselves to sandwiches, some pasta that was made by a crew member sympathetic to my seasickness, and copious amounts of junk food; “chockies” as they called them – Cadbury bars, mini Hershey bars, mini Almond Joys, and chocolate covered raisins

By 1am the first night we hit the Gulf Stream which brought warmer temperatures but 20 foot seas and gale force winds. It was only a matter of time before the entire crew was seasick, and the worst was yet to come… We took a beating all night long and the entire next day; thrashed about like a rubber ducky in a washing machine, on spin cycle; pounded senseless by 20 foot waves crashing over our bow as we sailed against the Gulf Stream. So much for the Thanksgiving dinner I had planned. Pretzels and ginger-ale were the order of the day…

The winds picked up as night rolled in and we were hammered as the waves grew to 30 feet. The crew had installed new rigging only days before our departure and in the rush to depart our trusty captain never performed a test sail or had any of the equipment checked. The cotter pins were never put in place to secure the shrouds, the piece of equipment that holds the mast to the deck, and the two main shrouds began to come lose. In rough seas and bad weather, the decky and the engineer in raingear and harnesses, tethered themselves to the deck and went out for repairs.

I was half-asleep on the couch in the pilot house with Chris and Sheila, it was 1am our second night out, Tom was on watch. As we lurched from side to side, with the explosion of waves crashing over our bow, it felt as if we were on a German U-Boat coming under enemy fire, not a mega-yacht heading for the ultra-swank island of St. Barth. We were all so sick from the constant smashing about that we disregarded the cannons, bombs and gunfire going off outside and slept right through the ruckus, but we all sprang to attention at the sound of one tremendous explosion that sounded of a direct hit on our starboard side. We opened the doors of the pilot house to find that the 50 foot; 1000 lb. boom had lost its main sheet and was swinging wildly off of the mast, crashing into the boat each time we were hit by a wave. The boom swung across the lines of the stay sail and ripped a huge mechanical wench clean off of the deck. The lose sail was adding to the already erratic lurching of the boat and it was imperative that we get the boom under control as it was threatening to crash into us and take out the pilot house completely.

Aubrey, Dillon, Tom and Chris rushed to put on their harnesses and get outside. As they tried to grab the lines of the boom, Tom filleted his hand wide open and fractured his thumb. As the guys tried to gain control of the boom, Sheila and I stayed in the pilot house keeping an eye on the radar and looking out for any crew falling overboard. Against its own force, the gigantic boom bent clean in half, like a jackknife. Sheila and I jumped as Aubrey hollered, “GET AWAY FROM THE GLASS!”.

Gripped by fear and completely nauseous I darted down the steps to the main salon wondering what kind of nightmare I had just committed myself to; this certainly was not the adventure I had signed on for and if this was how things were beginning, than I was afraid of what else might be in store. Just then, the boom came crashing through the pilot house sending the crew running and glass everywhere. Waves sloshed through the broken window as the crew lassoed the boom and secured it to the broken window.

After this all unfolded, there was no amount of Dramamine that could help my seasickness. I ran to the head, clung to the toilet for dear life, emptied the nonexistent contents of my stomach, and made my peace with God. I imagined abandoning ship and a heroic rescue at sea by the Coast Guard. I wondered to myself if I’d be able to grab my laptop before I was helicoptered to safety. I questioned how I could be so stupid as to give up my business in New York and leave my friends and family behind to put my life at risk, and I thought about all those damn nice bottles of wine that would go to waste if the boat sunk. And for the umpteenth time in seven years, I thought to myself, “good god, why did I ever decide to become a chef?”. My temperature soared and I broke into an unbelievable sweat. Paralyzed by shock and seasickness, unable to move and not knowing what else to do, I curled up on the bathroom floor fully accepting that I just might die. Sleep came on like a drug-induced coma…

The Boom in the Side of the Boat

The captain/owner sent a distress signal (also known as a pan-pan) into the Bermudan authorities still a solid two days away but at least they knew we were in distress, had our coordinates and would be following us on radar expecting our arrival by late Saturday, or sending help… My hopes for a dramatic helicopter rescue were dashed, but at least my laptop and personal stash of crew wine were safe, relatively speaking.

I awoke the next morning groggy and disoriented. We were still being pummeled by 30 foot waves and water sloshed in through broken windows in the pilot house. I hesitated moving from the safety of the bathroom floor but the owner/captain requested that I make sandwiches for the crew. I gingerly changed my clothes and made my way to the galley. Garbage strewn about from a tipped trash can, coffee grinds everywhere from the coffee maker which had ripped out of the wall, the clanging of lose jars in the cupboards and the sound of water rushing past the port holes made for a sensorial overload nearly bringing me to my knees. The smell of food was thoroughly revolting; ham and cheese was almost too much to bear, condiments were out of the question…

Ham and Cheese Sandwiches:

Yield: 6 Sandwiches

Prep Time: 2 Hours


12 slices bread
6 slices ham
6 slices cheese

  1. Take bread, ham and cheese from refrigerator.
  2. Lie down on floor for 20 minutes and wait for nausea to pass.
  3. Remove bread from bag and place on the counter.
  4. Cut cheese and open ham.
  5. Lie down on floor for 20 minutes and wait for nausea to pass.
  6. Add ham and cheese and put on top bread.
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 7.

All in all, it took about an hour and a half to make five ham and cheese sandwiches, which would never be eaten…

I crawled into my bunk, but was tossed out two times and rained on by a downpour of falling cookbooks, eventually deciding that the floor was as good a place as any to sleep. I slept for nearly 24 hours, as did almost everyone else…

Bermuda Coming into Sight

The crew was beat, our nerves frazzled and spirits sagging and when we thought we could take it no more, the seas calmed. We looked out through a tangle of rigging and bent steel and Bermuda come into view. A very, very welcome site for us all…


Brouhaha said...


I don't envy you anymore... I've been in 6 foot chop in a motorboat in Hawaii and I was panicked.

30 foot waves!!! You poor thing. I'm so glad you made it safely to Bermuda. Here's to a smooth ride the rest of the way, Christina.

The Ducati Kid said...

Wow, what a story. I think I'm seasick now!

Anonymous said...

WOWOWOWOOWW, this sounds like one of those "I shouldn't have survived" shows on Discovery channel! Keep the stories coming, I love them!

I'm still jealous, although not of the puking or storm part!

Love ya!


Anonymous said...

hmm, lots of thoughts here, but glad that everyone got past that boom event, for it could have been worse.

As for the seasickness, my suggestion to you is to get up on the outer railing and get the wind in your face, keeping your eyes on the horizon, try to see the motion of the boat in the waves. It works. Being below under sail is perhaps, the worst place to be, and cooking is nearly impossible.

Sounds to me that a better weather window could have been chosen, and heading east would have put you across the gulf stream current quicker. Hindsight.

take care-

prcrstn8 said...


Someone once wrote that open ocean sailing is long periods of utter boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Let's hope that the terrifying part of your journey is over and there's nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

sha said...

I am laughing am so sorry... I have been thru worst than this.
Oh my.. here chew ginger it really helps.

The only time I ever took dramamine was our crossing between Spain to Malta in which we were covered with waves...I was 3 days in horizontal position!!!

But hey great baptism isnt it? Glad I didnt do that 4 hrs shift because they wanted me to do work all day to keep the crew mess clean, the laundry going, snacks and assisting the chef.

Good story chef still a long way to St Barts.

Am missing the yacht life now reading this story.

Anonymous said...

And you thought riding your ET4 in traffic sucked:-)

Anonymous said...

You are now officially initiated! And the toilet too.

Anonymous said...

oops. That last one was me, Carrie

sha said...

here is something worst.. last summer we hit really into bad weather.. what made me sea sick was when some of the chicken pie few off the fridge and the chef asked me to help her gather the mess when the boat was literally smashing into the waves.
i was SEASICK.... and this happened when we have guests on board.

am sure it will smoother to St Barts.

Franky said...

Your story makes my broken leg seem like an easy day in the park.


tpayne said...

jah chick kin spin a yarn er two, yar? sheesh C i am thoroughly impressed with the experience, having had a similar one myself years back. u rok!

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