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Towards South Georgia: Seasickness hits again

Posted: 2015-08-31 22:24:00, Categories: Travel, Antarctica, Sailing, South Georgia, 797 words (permalink)

Sailing on a typical cloudy day.
Sailing on a typical cloudy day.
After one week of wonderful landings in Antarctica, we started sailing towards South Georgia, a subantarctic island about 800 nautical miles north-east from the Antarctic Peninsula. The wind was against us, and Bark Europa like most old tall ships cannot sail in a very sharp angle against the wind. Therefore we headed first north-west and later turned eastwards towards our destination, catching a more favorable wind.

Some water on the deck, no need to worry.
Some water on the deck, no need to worry.
During the first day we had waves coming from several directions and the ship moved a lot, both back and forth and from side to side. It didn't take long before Sandra and I were seasick again. We were not alone — more than half of the people on board got sick, including several members of the crew.

Mariel and Adrian keeping the ship on course.
Mariel and Adrian keeping the ship on course.
Some more experienced sailors recommended not take any pills: it might be worse in the beginning but be over sooner. We followed their advice, hoping to get used to the movement in 1-3 days, as most of the people did. Unfortunately we both didn't, and struggled for the whole week until South Georgia. It was a challenge not only physically but psychologically, trying to keep the mood up and enjoy the otherwise exciting trip.

The Deckhouse on a quiet day.
The Deckhouse on a quiet day.
How is it then to be seasick? I would describe it as similar to having a stomach flu, but with a couple of differences. Firstly, seasickness doesn't take the feeling of hunger away. So you might throw up several times but still feel hungry and willing to eat. That is actually good, it's healthy to drink and try to eat something even if the food wouldn't stay inside, but it's a strange feeling. Secondly, the symptoms are very much dependent on what you do on the ship. General advice such as "go out, watch the waves, don't look down and read a book" is easy to give and to find, but eventually you have to experiment yourself to find out what you can do and which activities are better to avoid. The feedback comes quickly, it might be unpleasant but not deadly. ;-)

Sunrise at the lookout.
Sunrise at the lookout.
The program on Bark Europa doesn't let anyone become bored during the sailing days. Everyone is expected to take part in the watch system where the day is divided in three watches: 12 to 4, 4 to 8 and 8 to 12. During the Antarctica – South Georgia leg Sandra and I were in the 4 to 8 watch, which means that our daily working times were from 4 to 8 am and from 4 to 8 pm. Each four hours included usually 3 half an hour shifts of being either at the lookout (watching the sea in front of the ship and reporting any obstacles or potential dangers) or at the helm (steering the ship to a direction given by the captain). The rest of the time was being available to help on the deck — which might mean a lot of rope pulling on a busy day or night, or an opportunity to take it easy and socialize at the deckhouse when the wind is steady and there is less to do. Cleaning and cooking was taken care by the permanent crew, although we did some potato peeling and other minor tasks.

Celebrating Mark's birthday.
Celebrating Mark's birthday.
In addition to the watches and practical sailing lessons there was a very interesting educational program, consisting of lectures and documentaries about sailing, navigation, oceanography, history of polar exploration, polar ecosystems and wildlife in the polar regions. Each lecture was normally repeated at least once so that everybody got a chance to attend outside the hours of their watch. Our guides Jordi and Eduardo were both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their areas of speciality, which made the lectures a pleasure to follow. There were also a few extra lectures given by members of the voyage crew (passengers) who had something interesting to share, and more leisurely activities such as playing card games or watching a movie. And every day someone had a birthday it was celebrated together at dinner time.

Land in sight: South Georgia Right Whale Bay
Land in sight: South Georgia Right Whale Bay
We participated in the watches, lectures and activities as much as we could. The wind got more steady and our feeling a bit better towards the end of the passage, but after seven and a half days on sea we were happy to see the South Georgian coastline. Like in Antarctica, as soon as we arrived in the more protected waters, our seasickness was gone as soon as it had started. A new world of mountains, rocks, snow, ice and wildlife was waiting for us, but this time there was also a lot of green to see. We would soon land and have a chance to walk on the Tussock grass.

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Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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