Earning My Sea Legs

Steaming down the Houma River

As we slowly steamed along the Houma River, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty on land, the conversation turned towards home. What we each planned on doing once we got there. Some of the crew hadn’t been home in over four months. You could hear the excitement in their voices as each took their turn. Who would they see first? Where would they go out to eat? What event had they missed and was looking forward to going to? It was fun listening and sharing our stories. I couldn’t wait to see my daughter Jen, and my beautiful granddaughter Lily. She was almost five years old and we were extremely close. They had actually been living with me prior to my leaving for Houma so I was used to seeing her every day. We had spoken on the phone quite frequently these past couple of months, but it just wasn’t the same as wrapping your arms around them.

Within a few hours we were leaving the end of the river and approaching the open ocean. From the pilot house you have a 360 degree view of the ocean. I was moving from one spot to another taking it all in. There were a few seagulls that had followed us from shore. They were hovering above and squawking loudly, as if they too, were excited about the trip. Besides the beauty of the open seas, I noticed the difference in the smell of the air from the land to the sea. I loved it. From the time I was very young, the smell of the ocean had always been my favorite scent. It felt like home to me. I could close my eyes and inhale deeply and no matter what was going on in my life or the world, for a brief time it melted away. This, to me, felt like heaven

A view of the Sea Hunter’s stern and A frame in open seas

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Once we were in the open ocean and could no longer see land, I decided this would be a good time to go clean the galley from breakfast. I had left it a mess as I didn’t want to miss a thing. As I headed down the two flights of stairs to the galley, the ship was slightly rocking from side to side and I had to keep one hand on the railing to steady myself. This isn’t too bad I thought; as a matter of fact, it was kind of soothing.
Dirty dishes, a jug of orange juice and milk were all left on the table. I quickly got the dishes in the sink and the o.j. and milk put away. I didn’t want anything falling and breaking on the floor. After cleaning the counter I began washing the dishes. Within a couple minutes I felt a queasy feeling stirring in my stomach. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly as I continued with the dishes. Another minute went by and the queasy feeling came back again, this time a bit stronger. I took another couple deep breaths and slowly released it. What the heck was this? I had already given myself a pep talk and had concluded that I was not going to give in to seasickness. I would remain tough. This thought was going through my head as I finished wiping and putting the dishes away; when all of a sudden, my stomach turned completely upside down. I ran to the trash bucket as I thought I would lose my breakfast. As I hung my head over the top of the trash can, Gary came by and asked if there was anything he could do. I was embarrassed and told him I didn’t think it would affect me like this. That I was sure in an hour or so I would be fine. I just needed some time to acclimate to the back and forth motion and get my sea legs. I asked him to let Greg know that I was going to lie down for a bit and would be up in time to make lunch.

I couldn’t wait to climb onto my top bunk, shut my eyes and let this feeling slip away. As I opened the door to my room, Julia was lying on her bunk and wasn’t looking too hot herself. She explained that she also felt nauseous and was going to lie down for a bit. I’m not sure if this comforted me or not. It felt good knowing that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way, but then again, she was younger and stronger so I figured she would be able to overcome this quickly. As the ship swayed back and forth it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. When I awoke, I glanced at the clock directly across from me and was shocked to see I had been sleeping for five hours. It was mid-afternoon, and as I looked out my port hole I noticed the sun was shining bright. It looked like a million tiny diamonds dancing on the swells of each wave. I was smiling and thinking how magical it looked when once again, my stomach lurched and my head felt faint. This was not good. I felt sicker than when I first fell asleep. For anyone who has never experienced seasickness, I can truly say, it’s the worse feeling in the world! Julia awoke still feeling the same way, but managed to make it to the galley to get us some saltine crackers. I devoured a handful, sipped some water and fell back into a deep sleep. Again, I couldn’t believe it when I awoke, and it was 6 am the next morning. I desperately had to use the restroom but wasn’t sure I could make it. I climbed down from my bunk and slowly walked to the head. The ship was rocking more than the previous day, and I had to steady myself while sitting on the john. It felt like forever getting back to my room and climbing into bed. When would this feeling leave? I wanted desperately to feel normal again. What was I thinking when I decided to come aboard and be part of this crew? My mind felt groggy and it wasn’t long before I drifted back into a deep sleep.

It was mid-afternoon on the second day when I heard a knock at my door. I hollered to whomever it was to come in. Greg enters, shakes his head and looks directly at me and says, “Get your ass out of bed, get down to the galley and make some dinner.” The thought of even getting up to dress, let alone preparing dinner, was enough to make me want to die. How could he be so mean, didn’t he understand I was deathly sick? I slowly got dressed and headed for the galley where there was pork chops defrosting. I pushed myself to concentrate on the task at hand and started peeling potatoes. A couple of the guys came in to check on me. This made me feel a bit better. I was afraid they would be mad because I had been sleeping for almost two days, but they were only concerned. As I started preparing the plates, I noticed my queasiness ease and my stomach felt much calmer. I no longer felt lightheaded. This, I thought, was a good sign. By the end of the meal, as I was clearing the table and washing the dishes, I felt pretty good. I could actually say, almost back to normal. This was good news; I was going to make it after all.

Since that first voyage, I have never experienced seasickness again. I guess you could say, I got my sea legs that day. Though I hate to have to admit it, Greg probably knew what he was doing when he wouldn’t allow me to wallow in bed. He pushed me past my comfort zone and forced me to do my job. For that, I say “Thanks big brother!”

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