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The bucket list: Nancy Knudsen talks to skippers about pills, patches and a 'tot' of rum to ward off seasickness.

Novice crew, he says, may be anxious simply

about the coming voyage, but other factors come into play, even for him.

"If I find I am asking, for whatever reason, 'what am I doing

here?' I am liable to be seasick. He gets seasick.

Rod gets so seriously seasick that he gathers a crew around him who

can do without him. "He's a bastard," he said. If they survive that, they might make the

crew. "You cannot rely on

them to harness properly or remember their life jacket. Their judgement goes," he says. "Some sailors may never get crook, but they might not

be zofran lawsuit missouri very good sailors. Then in the morning I light up a cigar and wake'em

all up to bacon and eggs. Worst of all, he says, is that as well as feeling

the symptoms of debilitating nausea and severe vomiting he also loses

his balance. Phenergan is without doubt the favoured antihistamine, but it can

tend to put one to sleep. Here I

found some varying attitudes, among them that a proneness to seasickness

was not something to be shunned, but rather an accepted part of the

scenery and a factor to be planned for.

Sean Langman will sail his 9-metre Huon pine gaff-rigged Maluku to

Hobart this year, but is better known as a high-speed racer. The team

aspect appeals to me too. MMM also recommends

Travacalm, but their coverage is very detailed and it is highly

recommended to take the whole course by contacting the CYCA.

For the educated skipper, there are many avenues open to avoid or

temper crew seasickness, but what if it is the skipper who is the one

seriously affected? Surely someone passionate enough about sailing to

indulge in the very expensive business of boat ownership will not get

seriously seasick?

Enter Rod Skellett, well known as owner of the Class 40 Krakatoa

II, veteran of 11 Hobarts and destined for many more. Having

completed 21 Hobarts he says he willingly takes crew who tend to

seasickness. "I never

thought I would ever recommend small doses of Coca cola as a therapeutic

agent but, in the misery of 'le mal de mer', I found it did


Morgan Rogers agrees about the Coca Cola, but suggests adding a tot

of rum. As a plastic surgeon that has amused the Sydney

sailing scene for years by calling his boats such names as 'Smooth

Operator' and 'Nips n Tux' he is more than qualified to

comment, both as a sailor and a medico.

For Dr de Torres, the top preventative is the Scop Patch

(scopolamine). I'll take a good sailor for his abilities,

even if he is prone to seasickness."

Morgan Rogers, part owner of Wave Sweeper, an extensively tuned

Beneteau 40.7, has 25,000 miles of ocean racing to his credit, including

more than a dozen Coffs, Gold Coast and Rolex Sydney Hobart races.

"It's all a matter of resource management," says Rogers.

"I budget to have 30% of my crew afflicted during any race,

including the Hobarts."

He handily lists three categories of seasickness:

Serious: Sick to the point of incapacitation and dangerous


Mild: Might; throw up but can still operate as a crew member.

Occasional: Those who get seasick only by some negative external

influence, such as the smell of diesel or an anxiety.

No one in the medical profession seems to know just why some people

are prone to severe seasickness, but curiously both Rogers and Langman

agree that on anecdotal evidence the malady can be caused or aggravated

by anxiety.


Landman in particular has noticed this "anxiety factor"

over many years of sailing. The

skipper/owner was so seasick he had to be given suppositories during the

journey. I know he's skippered at least ten yachts in the

famed Sydney to Hobart Race over the years, so I am fascinated.

"How do you manage that?"

"Ha!" he growls with eyes twinkling. I would rather

they stayed below and supine if possible."

Sean Langman tells the story of his very first long sail at the age

of 17, on a boat called The Alice, from Sydney to Suva in Fiji. If not, it's Goodnight Irene."

Not all skippers are as tough as that one (who didn't want to

be named) but seasickness can make history of the ambitions of a yacht

owner in any yacht race, especially if they have to make a stop to let

the crewmember off, effectively putting them out of the race.

The day I stepped on board for my very first ocean race - to Lord

Howe - my skipper, whom I hardly knew, approached me and said gruffly

and without preamble, "Hold out your hand." As a brand new

crewmember, I obediently held out my hand. "Sure I did," replied the skipper, "You

know why my boat is called The Alice? That's because that's

where I wish I was every time I go to sea - Alice Springs!"

"Then why do you go?" "Because the good times outweigh

the bad, and I just love sailing oceans."

The self-styled king of seasick skippers, Rod Skellett, agrees.

"There's no sport that can compare with ocean racing. These last are now withdrawn from sale in Australia

but are available in New Zealand and other countries. "Take these." He

dropped two pills into my palm, one blue and one white. We're sitting in the fresh air of Sydney's Royal

Prince Alfred Yacht Club, known to members affectionately as 'The

Alfreds'. They're probably illegal too.

Joe won't stand for seasickness, so the pills are compulsory. Golf is about me, and so are tennis and many

others. All suggest that one should start taking it 36

to 48 hours before the voyage. "What are

they?" "Never mind, just take them," and he walked away.

Another crewmember, a huge - framed disaffected American called

Jim, filled me in. "You hold them in your mouth and they

dissolve there, so if you are so seasick that you can't keep

anything down, these are good because they are absorbed through your


Finally, the last resort, apart from stopping somewhere to let the

crew member off (not possible in the middle of an ocean), is the

Stemetil suppository, effective and appropriate when taking medication

orally has ceased to be an option.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) regularly operates a

course called Medical Management for Mariners (MMM), an excellent

undertaking for anyone who intends to be more than half a day at sea.

Part of that course covers seasickness, and I asked the coordinator Dr

Virginia Furner for comments on the various treatments of seasickness

covered here. "Did you know you were going to be seasick?" Langman

asked him later. "This tends to relieve the anxiety," he says,

"whether because of something about the voyage or because of

stresses on land, the small tot of rum can do wonders."

If none of these mild therapies work, there are always the more

serious ones.

Professor Kamian confirms what most know - that you'll feel

better by lying supine and keeping your head still. The other is what

the truckes take to keep them awake. No matter how seasick I get for a few days, it will never stop

me ocean racing. If there is unhappiness among the

crew, or anxiety about my business or family on shore I am vulnerable.

If the crew is working well together and I have no other anxieties, I

can almost guarantee I won't be sick."

So, if seasickness is unexplainable and cannot be avoided, what are

the effective treatments? Here I found a minefield of disagreement among

those with practical experience, and sometimes even among some of the

medical experts.

For mild and occasional seasickness, there was broad agreement

about the kind of treatment that was most effective before you go to

sea. "One

is the strongest seasick pill around, probably illegal, and it'll

send you to sleep before you've got time to spit. Apart from not putting you to sleep, he reasons, they are

long lasting. The obvious

advantage of a patch is that there is no drowsiness factor.

Howard de Torres is a Sydney sailor who has skippered his boat to

Hobart nine times. Some users have reported that there are side effects,

however, including being ill after they stop wearing the patches, while

the body re-adjusts.

So if you have done everything possible to prepare before the

journey, what can you do once you feel the typical symptoms - yawning,

nausea, and dizziness?

If the attack is mild there are many suggestions - chew more

ginger, watch the horizon, eat dry bread, stay in the fresh air.

Professor Kamian, who for many years acted as ship's doctor on

cruises round Gape Horn, also recommends Coca Cola. If we

don't take them he'll throw us off the boat."

If these stories give you the impression that skippers take

seasickness seriously, you'd be right, especially in a race as

prestigious as the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race, now in its 67th year.

According to Emeritus Professor Max Kamian of the University of WA,

no less than 70% of people will become seasick in rough conditions.

Amazingly, famous explorers like Charles Darwin, Douglas Mawson and

Jacques Cousteau were severely afflicted by seasickness.

To find out just how Sydney to Hobart skippers cope with the idea

of seasickness among crewmembers I spoke to several skippers. Dr de Torres

recommends Zofran wafers. And that about says it all, really.

COPYRIGHT 2012 OCEAN Media Pty Ltd.

No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning.

"Seasickness? Never on my boat!" He leans back, balancing

on the two back legs of the chair, exposing his tanned and crinkled face

to the sun. All rights reserved.

. So rather than taking the advice commonly given, like

staying up on deck and looking at the horizon or taking over the helm,

he slays below.

"I am dangerous on deck." he says, but once he has lost

everything in his stomach, he can function to do some tasks below.

"I can get up and give our position. The age-old remedy for the drowsiness is

Ephedrine, the 'upper' that will keep you awake.

Disagreement, however, surrounds the effectiveness of ginger and

scopolamine patches. While their course does not recommend Ephedrine, she

agreed that Phenergan is a very effective medication, and, if there is a

qualified person present, can be given by injection. "I take'

em for a night sail to test them out in the ocean when there's a

bit of a blow. I can do a little navigating,

even put the kettle on to keep myself somewhat useful." Even after

being focused on preparing as well as he can, for him, nothing works!

Morgan Rogers also thinks that a seasick person on deck is a

liability. Pitting yourself against Mother Nature on the high seas

with your fellow crewmembers is the ultimate for me and I love it!"


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