June 12, A 36-hour sail from hell

We woke up late that morning. We knew we weren’t leaving until the afternoon when the winds picked up in our favour. We got up and barely had time to swallow a few left over pastries when Ian said ‘Let’s go!’. It was 12pm.
The boys tidied up the boat on the outside and I did the same in the cabin, making sure there will be no flying pots and pans. We switched on the engine, untied the last ropes, holding us to the fishing boats and slowly left the caleta while the fishermen waved us goodbye. Looking back at the lined up boats I thought it would have been nice to take a photo, but there was too much to do and no time for frivolities. We turned around the corner and that was probably the last we were going to see from our dearest fishermen. We had some great times together.
As soon as we left the protection of the caleta we felt the swell coming from the ocean. We saw Bob raising his main sail. He had turned the boat the other way so to make it easier. ‘We are going the other way Bob!’ I shouted. But we were too far apart and the chances are he didn’t hear us. We then raised our main sail and carried on into the open ocean.
Mario and I had taken sea-sickness pills about one hour ahead of the trip but we knew they should have been in our systems for at least four hours before the trip. Who knew we would be leaving so early? We hit the open waters and the waves.
– How are you feeling? – Ian inquired. We both nodded, indicating we were fine.
And we were but not for much longer. I could feel my face getting tighter and tighter, trying to suppress the unpleasant feelings coming up my gut. My mouth was screwed. Mario had become very quiet and was sitting in the corner of the cockpit. A sure sign he wasn’t well. I looked at him shaking my head side to side. He shook his in response. A couple of minutes later he went into the cabin to lie down. I stayed in the cockpit for a bit longer, leaning my head on a plastic fender tied in the corner of the cockpit. I was a miserable little pile of clothes.
Ian was doing something to the ropes but I had my eyes closed trying to block the shaking surroundings. I didn’t care about anything. Ian struggled with the rope nearest me, trying to also pull on the rope across the cockpit. It was too much and I decided to help him despite the horrible feeling I was experiencing. ‘Give me that rope!’ I barked (unintentionally). We released the rope and I helped him finish the maneuver. That did it for me. It just got worse, I felt the surge of something disgusting inside of me, and lay down, groaning, waiting for the attack to pass by so I could walk downstairs and lay down. ‘He-he!’ Ian chuckled. ‘You are making little noises!’ he added. ‘Little noises?! I am dying here!’ I thought. I was also very cold, my toes were frozen, and the wind was piercing my impermeable. It was raining. A miserable day.
As soon as the attack passed, I ran downstairs, quickly took my jacket off (I had already unzipped it outside in order to save time) and threw myself on the couch. I had to wait for another attack to pass by before I could take my boots and trousers off. All that I did while laying down. I threw them on the table beside me and cuddled on the couch. I didn’t get up for the next 36 hours (save for two brief toilets breaks).
Mario lay down on one couch, and I lay on the other. He managed to get up a few times and do thing, including the preparation of lunch and dinner, which I thought was a heroic effort knowing how he felt. He spent most of his time in the bedroom, while I stayed on the couch covered with a sleeping bag.
At some point Ian tacked and the boat tilted to one side. I ended up sliding down the couch with my head down. Still I remained lying. I wasn’t going anywhere until it was absolutely necessary. I lay there on the bare boards of the couch, the cushion having slid below me. I clutched to the table with one hand while trying to support myself with the other while things were flying around the cabin, with loud banging noises. There was a powerful thump and that was it. I slid down. I thought since I had to get up anyway, I might as well use the opportunity to go to the bathroom.
I had my first toilet break before it got too bad. But I postponed the second one for as long as I could. It got painful to the point of bursting but it was still preferable compared to what I had to deal with in the bathroom. Getting out of bed was horrible enough, but then I had to walk in the rocking boat, and do everything I had to do in the bathroom. Lifting my head up for toilet paper was horrible. I felt my head was going to explode. It was horrible. I didn’t even bother to close the door, knowing that Mario was in the bedroom and Ian was sitting at the desk, unable to see me. On the way out I quickly glanced at the front bedroom realizing the floor was flooded and fruit and veg was floating in the water. ‘How on earth did that happen?! I wonder what else was damaged’ I thought.
I ran back into the cabin and threw myself back onto a different couch, the one that was leaning in direction of the boat. It was wet because water from the hatch above it had dripped on the cushion all night and all day but I didn’t care. I lay, panting, fighting a vomit attack. It passed away and I managed to grab the sleeping bag that had slid down onto the floor and throw it over my cold body. Water dripped on it to the point where it got soaked but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going anywhere until the bloody boat stopped rocking. It was impossible. At some point I just Ian to hand me a towel that I threw on top of the bag, hoping it would soak the dripping water. And it did. I warmed up in no time, and even managed to get some sleep.
Night and day became one during that sail. But I remember going in and out of sleep during the night. I could see Ian coming and going, trying to also catch some sleep.
At some point the boat evened and I decided to be brave and move back onto the dry couch. The other one had become too uncomfortable even with the pillow Ian had given me. I moved but it wasn’t comfortable. My lower back was hurting from all the uncomfortable positions I had assumed for the past 24 hours. It was late afternoon of the second day and there was no more sleeping although the boat wasn’t rocking as much. I was too uncomfortable. I tried to get up a couple of times but I was still too sensitive for any action. Even the gentle rocking of the boat had a dreadful effect on my exhausted body.
I hadn’t eaten anything in the past 36 hours and I hadn’t drunk any water, hoping to avoid another bathroom trip. My mouth got really dry, my lips cracking during the first day and I managed to grab a small green apple from a nearby cupboard. That was bliss. I needed it. The second time I ate was in the late afternoon of the second day when my stomach was aching. I munched on another apple but I left it half uneaten not having the strength to carry on. Ian surprisingly was still fresh and running around, munching on things, drinking coffee, reading, in and out of the cabin. He even offered to do thing for me, asking whether I needed anything. I am amazed by that man’s stamina. How does he do it, I don’t know. He single-handedly took us through a 36-hour sail in rough seas with barely any sleep (3-4h) and even enjoyed it! ‘I live for that thing! It gives me such a buzz!’ he told me excitedly. I was so glad to hear that. I am glad he was enjoying himself instead of struggling without any help from us.
It takes at least 72h (roughly 3 days) for one to overcome and get used to the sea sickness. Since the trips we did were nowhere nearly as long there was absolutely no point in us trying to overcome it. We would just be putting ourselves through hell for no good reason. Therefore, we just tried to go through it as comfortably as possible. Unlike the last horrible sail the sea wasn’t as rough and we didn’t have as many vomit attacks (none of us threw up this time). It lasted a lot longer though taking its toll on us in a different way. We were exhausted from not having eaten, drunk, or slept properly for a really long time. It took me a while to get my head and my stomach back in order.
It was 6pm on our second day when Mario finally got out of bed upon hearing me talking to Ian. By that time we had gone back into the canals and were motoring through flat water. There was still a long way to go to our caleta though (we didn’t anchor until 12am). The boat wasn’t rocking anymore and although were still not feeling a 100% we were able to get on with our tasks. Mario cleaned the cabin and wiped the wet floor, while cooked dinner. Mario had suggested pasta so I quickly prepared a simple onion, garlic, pepper sauce and threw in a couple of packages of readymade ‘Neapolitana’ sauce that had chunks of olives in it.
We sat down for dinner at 9pm and the boys had their usual portions while I forced myself to eat half of what I normally eat. I wasn’t really hungry, but my stomach was aching and I knew I had to eat something. Dinner was followed by a fresh orange and some water. We needed to re-hydrate our sorry bodies.
Mario washed the dishes after dinner, while Ian kept an eye on our pitch-black surroundings and I read. Ian couldn’t relax even now when we were feeling fine because we had entered the narrow channels again and danger was a possibility.
We reached the caleta at roughly 11.30pm, released our anchor, realized we were way to close to the shore, pulled the anchor back up, backed the boat away from the rocks and released the anchor again. Ian tested it by moving backwards and decided it was holding us. I wasn’t convinced, thinking the only reason we are not moving is because the boat is not moving, not because the anchor is holding us but Mario thought it was holding, and Ian confirmed so who am I to dispute his decision. We went in, and got ready for bed.
To be continued…
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