CALM SEAS ONCE AGAIN
by Melanie Duchin
February 2, 2007
After two days of rough weather the seas have calmed down once more. Hallelujah! I barely slept for the two nights we were in rough seas, the movement kept tossing me around in my bunk. The bow crashing into the water when the ship pitched forward created a loud bang and made the entire ship shudder. Not fun. I spent many hours looking at my watch and trying to will myself to sleep, which was an exercise in futility. It was so lovely to get a full night’s sleep last night, I went to bed at around 10pm and slept until 7. Sweet.
I was feeling so puny during the rough weather, my grand proclamation about making it through the entire trip without getting seasick went by the wayside. Being seasick is a pretty miserable feeling, particularly when it seems like most of the folks on board are immune. I have to keep telling myself that it’s not a sign of weakness, that it’s just a physiological thing. Plus, I hear that folks who are physically fit and have good balance are more prone to seasickness, so I’ll assume it’s all of the yoga and running I’ve been doing that’s contributing to the problem. I wound up taking seasickness pills yesterday morning after being miserable for a full 24 hours, but the turning point about whether to take them or not was when I was told that Henk Haazen, a long-time Greenpeace ship person who now sails the Southern Ocean in his handmade yacht, gets horribly seasick and takes loads of pills for it. There is nothing about Henk that is weak or puny, so I figured if he can get seasick and take pills, then so can I.
We’re now officially in the Southern Ocean, having crossed the Antarctic Convergence (the line where the Pacific Ocean ends and the Southern Ocean begins). It’s pretty ironic that the seas are so calm now, I mean, I’ve heard horror stories about the Southern Ocean and so far it’s been like sailing along on a lake with a gentle swell every once in a while. I’m sure I’ll wind up eating my words in a few days’ time. Things are noticeably colder now that we’ve crossed the convergence. I’ve stowed my sandals in favor of boots, and I don’t go anywhere without at least one layer of polar fleece. I have no idea when we’ll see our first iceberg but I’m hoping it’ll be soon.
This afternoon the crew is practicing putting boats into the water, loading people into and out of the boats at the pilot door, communicating with each other and the ship, as well as some maneuvering. The practice is essential for fine-tuning equipment, finding things that need to be fixed or adjusted, and basically orienting themselves with the equipment and how it works. Many folks have been on board for previous trips to the Southern Ocean, but even more have not, so it’s an important orientation for everyone. I spent the entire training on the bridge keeping track of who goes into what boat and when, which is a tad bit boring, but I know I won’t always be on the bridge scribbling things down into a notebook. It’s pretty impressive to see the boats out in the water, it’ll be even better when they’re being used to stop the whalers.