Skip to content

Once upon a time, when I was underway

September 18, 2019

Recently, I was asked if I had ever been seasick, given that my military career was split between the US Coast Guard and the US Navy. It is said that therein lies a tale…if only because I said it.

I spent a number of my growing up years near the sea (southeastern North Carolina, right on or near the coast). It was great. When I first went to college, I wanted to be an oceanographer. Actually, I wanted three degrees: one in oceanography, one in marine biology and one in oceanographic engineering. Surely, Jacques Cousteau would hire me then, yes? (Not necessarily, as it turns out, and I got to see the RV Calypso anyway, but that’s its own story) I spent a lot of time on boats during college, and before when I was a kid. I even had a stint as a commercial fisherman. In all that time, I never got sick. I’ve been on big Navy ships and small Coast Guard cutters. I’ve been on research vessels (the RV Eastward, for instance). ‘Nary a twinge from my stomach, regardless of the weather. I had, I decided, a cast iron gut.

As it happens, both the sea and her evil minions know as “naval architects” are intolerant of hubris. And so, long ago in their foresight, they conspired to construct a heavy weather rescue boat, for to torment Mrs. Rabon’s little boy. The Coast Guard 44’ Motor Life Boat (MLB) was that torment. (I have it on good authority that “MLB” is the English abbreviation of an ancient Etruscan phrase which means “round-bottomed pig boat from hell”) Did it roll a wee bit, you ask? Oh, my dear God did it roll. Like a roller coaster. Like a horse that was always trying to sun its belly. Like a pig in cool mud, it rolled. And I began to feel…not well.

I am told that when I am in the midst of a bout of seasickness, a few things happen. My face turns red, the veins of my neck and forehead stand out and I make a noise that sounds, I’m told, like the mighty Kraken of old come to the surface to destroy the poor sailors it finds thereon. Not to fear, though, the Kraken sought only me and the sacrifice of my most recent meal to appease his mighty wrath.

Those of gentle digestion should proceed no farther.

I’ve heard people complain of being seasick and feeling weak. Some speak of emptying their stomachs and being left with only the occasional dry heave and a rather unpleasant yellow fluid. Some refer to going beyond that, and having dry heaves with the occasional production of bile. Amateurs and posers, all of them. One has not been really seasick, well and truly, disgustingly and disturbingly seasick until one’s dry heaving (every 15 minutes, on the money) produces a revolting brown substance (don’t ask). For hours on end. Shoot me, dear God, shoot me now. I swear, by the time I got out of the Coast Guard, I could step on dear old CG 44366 at the dock and begin to feel queasy. It was like having my own, personal and highly revolting Pavlov.

Even writing this has produced a hint, a twinge, of that distinctly unpleasant feeling.

Yes, I have been seasick. So now, I acknowledge the power of the sea to hurt me. She and her minions are mightier than I.

And I still miss being underway.


From → Uncategorized

  1. Good story, or should I say a bad story, well told.

  2. Stan Gorecki permalink

    I spent the early part of my USMC service on several Navy ships in the Pacific and the South China Sea, including troop transports, an LSD, LSTs and an LPH. Aside from some mild queasiness after getting underway on the initial crossing, I had no further seasickness episodes then, or on several smaller sailing and powered civilian vessels after my discharge.

    Except for once: about 10 years after I was discharged, my wife and I took a ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to tour that peninsula by motorcycle. We left Portland in a heavy rain and windstorm that really churned up the seas. Being soaked from riding to the ferry landing I opted to upgrade to a stateroom so we could shower and get into dry clothes comfortably. The torrential downpour continued, and by the time we were out in the open sea, the boat was pitching and rolling, tables and chairs were sliding across the decks, and I was suddenly affected with my first case of real seasickness. I spent most of the remaining voyage on the bunk in our stateroom while my wife made periodic trips topside to bring me back Saltines to help quell my malaise. I recovered sufficiently by the time we reached Yarmouth and the storm had subsided. I never had any further seasickness episodes during many more boating voyages.

    Go figure.

    • The first time I became seasick, my initial response was “What is this? This is not right.” It is my fervent belief that everyone should experience a true bout of “sacrificing to Neptune” seasickness…once. Not because I want others to suffer (much), but because the act of daring to leave sight of land is a way of telling the sea “Hurt me, if you think you can. C’mon, let’s see what you got!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: