It's not easy being green

Feature story - 7 March, 2003
This is my first time sailing on the Rainbow Warrior and in fact my first time at sea. We are on a mission of peace opposing the march of the war machine to the Gulf. The highlight so far has been seeing dolphins in the surf not far from the ship. One small dolphin surfed down the crest of a wave just metres from the starboard side of the ship. The low point has been seeing my lunch in reverse.

Rainbow Warrior web editor Tracy trying out a lobster-like survival suit for an abandon ship safety drill. All this talk of abandon ship did not make the rough seas any easier.

Before I even came on board I had heard about tricks that have been played on land lubbers encountering seasickness for the first time. One story involved telling visitors that if they wore a raw potato on a string around their necks it would ease the seasickness. Some people believed them and did it, one man who wasn't even sea sick yet wore his potato as a preventative measure.

It was on this ship, and I believe with much of the same crew that the potato gag happened. Still some people on board claim that it works, but I'm unconvinced. When I came on board I was determined not to fall for any silly tricks. I have a strong stomach, I figured I was going to take it standing up, keep busy, not give into the grumbling of my belly and tough this thing out.

Then we left the English Channel, and as the waves grew so did the rumbling in my gut. It's been two days, I've slept little and the only places on board I feel comfortable are in my bunk in the lower level accommodations or on the bridge. But I have not been alone, to the contrary. It seems to me there is really only one person on board who has not been in some way incapacitated by the rough sea and he also had trouble sleeping last night.

Forget about trying to watch a movie or catch up on some work on the computer, that is what sent me scurrying to the toilet to re-examine my lunch. In fact the mess, where everybody eats, is probably the worst place on the ship. It is at the back, or stern, of the ship where the motion has the most effect on me. I can last about long enough to eat a meal and then I have to head for the bridge and a bit of fresh air to make sure I keep it.

But the bridge is a good place to be. You can see what is going on rather than just feel it and that does help. It is also the only place to go for some human interaction since most other people are also hiding out in their bunks. And it is actually a beautiful sight.

The waves crash over the bow creating a wall of white water and foam. The waves crash into each other peaking in a spray of water at eye level along side the ship. It's somewhat hypnotic. Sitting at the back of the bridge on a high bench, as the ship rolls and pitches at one moment all I can see through the bridge windows is sea, the next minute all I see is sky. It would be fantastic if not for the queasy feeling in my stomach.

Last night was particularly bad, even by the other crew's standards. I went to bed early hoping I could sleep but was woken around midnight as I was being flung around my bunk, while other things were being flung around my room. I got up several times as I heard crashes and bangs and investigated what was moving then tried to secure everything.

I wasn't so successful at securing myself in my bunk. I tried to sleep, and I did find one position that prevented me from being thrown about, but it wasn't so comfortable: one knee at a 90 degree angle with my knee against the side board, my back against the wall and my leg stretched out with my foot braced against the wall at the end of my bed.

I wouldn't even say that the rolling about was as bad as the noise.

I am used to the noise in my apartment which I wouldn't say is quiet, but they are familiar and consistent noises. But on the ship last night there were unpredictable, loud bumps and bangs throughout the night. The crashing of the waves are the obvious ones, but then what was that dull thud, and what about that hollow thump. I couldn't even hear the regular drone of the engines or generator underneath the noise of the storm.

At about 3:30am I gave up, I headed for higher ground. I wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep, several crew had just been up tying things down, cleaning up messes created by the violent rolling. Some plants flew right out of their pots. How do you lash down soil?

I found a few more things that needed cleaning up and securing, grabbed myself some toast (still hungry since I never had the chance to digest lunch) and headed for the bridge.

The bridge is quite a different scene at night, all dark except for the lights of the radar and navigation instruments. All I could see of the storm around us was the white crest of the waves as they fell on top of us.

The few of us on the bridge shared tricks for sleeping in such bad weather. Most people were putting their mattresses on the floor perpendicular to their bunks since the rolling of the ship was the problem. Serkan and Colin, the two tallest guys on board slept on the tiny benches in their cabins. But it was Erik's suggestion that got me a few hours of sleep last night.

By putting some clothes underneath one side of my mattress, the bed was on an angle and I was held up against the wall of my bunk without the strange contortions and I managed to get to sleep eventually.

The situation wasn't much better this morning, but the wind has changed and being out on deck helping to raise the sails has improved my mood and the butterflies in my stomach. I overheard someone say this is going to last for a few days - oh please no! I hope that we find a ship with supplies for the war soon, and I hope it is in a quiet, calm harbour so we can stop them with the determination in our hearts, not the forward motion of our stomachs.

You don't have to go to sea to help stop the war, you can take action showing your opposition to the war by writing to members of the UN Security Council and ask them to say no to war.


A web editor who now has no problem being called a land lubber.