sea legs

28 Aug


I have never been a good traveller. That goes for pretty much any form of transport to varying degrees, except probably cycling or walking.

But I have to admit, the bane of my travelling existence has always been the ferry across The Minch on my way to Harris.

Despite the very strong attractions to Harris, (Well, MJ’s home is there, after all!) I have often had serious misgivings about the whole ferry-procedure.

In the summer months even the minch can be calm enough that I could almost understand what there was to love about the sea. Nothing but pure fresh air for miles around, sun streaming down with heart-warming intensity, the temptation to just dive off the side into the inviting depths…

But those memories are rare. Far more often it has been a rather grimer ordeal where I have been longing to be back on dry ground again long before I’ve even left the comforting solidity. You can just tell – that bland normalish weather, where overall it is pretty calm and ordinary, but with the odd showers. That always translates to a mild wind-tunnel on the minch.

Such a trip is fine, really. Pretty much everyone else on the ferry will be absolutely fine! It will just be me who is not-quite-fine.

It wouldn’t be so bad feeling a little queasy if you were just “one of the crowd” but it is just so much more humiliating when it’s just you having to give apologetic smiles left, right and centre. And everyone else with their forced attempt at being non-judgemental and sympathetic.

Now, psychologically-speaking, you could say that it is just a case of mind over matter. But I’ve tried that one. Once I managed to convince myself not to be seasick on any account. Thankfully my friends were more prepared on that occasion than I was.

Then there’s been the early morning ferry from Tarbert when I felt I had no choice but to stay out there in the elements. I would stand there, clutching the cold metal rail. Rusty, pain-peeling, hard, un-pillow-like as it was, my head has rested against it for hours as the breezy sea air stole any pretence of warmth from my body.

And then, for a little while, going down on the lower deck where the spray would flash across your face every fourth or fifth wave as the movement of the boat got most out-of-sync with the phase of the waves.

So, that comes to the depressing conclusion I have reached so far: basically, there is no silver bullet to sea-sickness (or travel sickness in any form) tho’ there are definitely some key ingredients.

  1. Level of tiredness is inversely proportional to enjoyability levels.
  2. Attitude is the make-or-break factor.
    Fear fights the swaying movement, but adventure embraces it. However, this is still subject to lack of tiredness. It takes concentration to get into the right frame of mind… impossible when the mind is focused too much on subconscious habit as it drifts off to sleep.
  3. Focus is crucial for sustained enjoyment.
    It is possible to go through all the effort to get yourself “right” then in a lapse of attention-span to be suddenly caught-out by a return of the full force of depressing unsettledness. Like that tipping-over-the-edge feeling.

Ok, with all this motivational chat, you’d think I’d be talking about the Olympics, or something decently worthwhile. However, I must say those few occassions I’ve enjoyed my ferry ride, it has felt exhiliratingly self-satisfying. Not for conquering the rest of the world, but for conquering myself.


Posted by on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 in selfish



11 responses to “sea legs

  1. Melon Zest

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Ahoy shipmate Rachel!
    About time we had a nautical blog post. Didntcha know, i’ve always fancied myself a bit of a pirate.

    Surely nothing would be more exciting than a ferry to Harris, especially knowing that if the ferry sank, you’d probably survive if you grabbed on to some floating debris, as i assume there are no sharks, and plenty of fresh drinking water.

    And what with my Lemming-like tendencies to jump from high places into the sea, it’s a relief knowing the water isn’t that deep and there are no [immediate] jutting rocks at random places. My only concern is being cut up tp fish-bait by the ferry’s propellers, just like Leo Dicaprio in the Titanic…. 🙂

  2. cath

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I’ve done that frozen outdoor thing too 🙂 It’s the only way to escape the nauseating smells (from restaurant, bar, car deck) and even if you do it at peril of being turned into a soggy pillar of salt it’s still preferable to the misery of spending the whole three hours puking up in the ladies room. Which i have also done 😦

    If you can get to sleep before you hit the open sea, that’s usually a winner i’ve found. The evil sadists don’t let you lie down on the seats, so it really is a battle against all the odds, but i’ve slept through most of my recent crossings and haven’t felt half so rough at the other end …

  3. Melon Zest

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    I have just had another refreshing idea on how to avoid sea sickness. just ask the nice ferry operators to give you a pair of skis and tie a rope at the end of the ferry, and whoosh! adrenaline pumping through your veins and sea-spray in your face! nothing more refreshing 🙂
    (This is of course assuming that the ferry goes at 70mph and has no exhaust pipe like a car… I need to confirm with our resident technology advisor on this. Grant go ahead 🙂 )

  4. Grant

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Er… I’m not entirely sure where this technology advisor thing comes from but anyway…

    For the sake of argument, let’s take a Fast RoPax Ferry as an example. It can travel at over 25 knots which is 28.77 mph. That’s still a reasonable water-skiing speed, no? As for an exhaust pipe – that would be the big red funnel thingmy pointing upwards at the back of the pictured ferry, I think. The fumes should thus pass safely over the head of the skier on their way to the “greenhouse”.

    that bland normalish weather, where overall it is pretty calm and ordinary, but with the odd showers. That always translates to a mild wind-tunnel on the minch

    That sounds like what I call the “Harthill Effect”. The weather on the bit of the M8 at Harthill is always so much worse than anywhere else along the route. Janet & I were once marooned in a public phonebox after abandoning her Fiat Panda on the hard shoulder because of a blizzard in Harthill. This was despite sunny weather in Edinburgh and a bit of sleet in Glasgow.

    Luckily, I seem to be immune from sea-sickness. I am also never bitten by insects which is a source of great frustration to my wife, despite my attempts to cheer her up by telling her that she is obviously a lot “tastier” than me 🙂

  5. Angela

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    I recommend sea-bands. They’re not a complete cure but they certainly take the edge of my nautical queasiness ;o)

    Funnily enough I’m also “tastier” to insects than Dave is – maybe it’s a girl/boy thing?

  6. cath

    Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    I tried a sea band once, it seemed to work but i think i lost it and then i never used them again. I should maybe re-invest!

    The randomest cure for sea sickness is something that my granny passed on from a friend of hers – you need to take ginger apparently! Hence the only time i was with my granny on the boat we munched our way through a vast slab of very gingery gingerbread along with multiple cups of tea. And weren’t sick, but I don’t know if it’s a remedy that would suit everyone 🙂

  7. rach

    Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Mmmm ginger cake! In my current un-nauseous state that sounds amazingly appealing…

    I thought I did amazing the last time when I managed a cup of tea 😛

  8. Melon Zest

    Friday, August 31, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Well, it’s a known fact that all sea dogs chew tobacco… i wonder if that is the wonder cure ( if you ignore the bad breath and the blackened teeth of course 🙂 )

  9. Esther

    Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    well rachel I suffer the same thing!!I wonder who we get it from??I find trying to go to sleep on the ferry does help with the whole sickness thing and for me the best place to lie is in the middle deck, not on the bottom because then you get the drone of the engines!!are you not scared tho that if you go outside and then the boat suddenly tilts over that you’ll fall off??you know Isaac Newton and his apples???lol

  10. rach

    Monday, September 17, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I’ve never fallen off yet 😉


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