After seven months of fruity slumber, Steadfast awakens among the wine vineyards of Napa. Sunday morning I drove the 110 miles north from Santa Cruz to Napa Valley Marina to check on our Spindrift 43 dry. Steadfast has been out of the water since September and probably won't go back in til May.
The other day I was checking up on the Volvo Ocean around the world sailboat race and read the top story on their website,
“Sickness and Slamming Take Their Toll.” The fleet sailed into heavy weather inside the South China Sea and the
bumpy conditions were taking a toll on the stomachs of several crew members aboard the Open 70 sailboats.
Reading quotes like “Down below looks like a war zone. Several people have been sick already, and the rest just keep swallowing” and “Today I had a hint of seasickness for the first time ever” prompted me to examine that time honored tradition of avoiding the Binnacle List (traditionally, the sick list posted near the binnacle for the use of the officer of the deck containing the names of men unable to report for duty).
Ninety percent of all people suffer from some type of motion sickness during their lifetimes. Sea-sickness is truly an
international debility. You might hear mal de mer or nauseeux aboard a French frigate. If you were consigned to a Spanish Galleon on the high seas, the word mareado might apply if you were “under the weather on the leeward rail”. And my personal favorite, seekrank, the German word for seasick, says it all. However you say it, “gastrointestinal distress”, “nauseogenisis”, “travel travail”, “feeling green” and its potential follow-up act “feeding the fish”, “gastric emptying”, “donating your breakfast to Neptune” or “losing your lunch”, being seasick is no fun. But there is hope. Dozens of prescribed, over-the-counter, and natural remedies are available in the US. The trick is to find your panacea before you are in a pickle. Therefore early research and self-testing are vital days or weeks before one can confidently embrace the briny deep. Some preventatives will work for
some people and not others and with varying degrees of effectiveness. Medications should be explored in advance either by ingestion or research and side-effects should be noted. For example, last summer one of my sailing students downed an antiemetic (drugs effective against vomiting and nausea) the morning of her lesson without previously “testing” it. By 9 a.m. she was experiencing a rare side-effect from the medication; moderate to severe dizziness. She was “seasick” even before
stepping on the dock and was relegated to her car to sleep off the effect while her husband enjoyed a beautiful day sailing on the bay. Motion sickness (a.k.a. kinetosis) is a conflict between your senses. The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, contributes to balance and the sense of spatial orientation. Kinetosis occurs when the vestibular system doesn’t agree with what is visually sensed, fouling-up the central nervous system (CNS) and nausea, fatigue and dizziness ensues. If the
symptoms aren’t relieved the body may think, in theory, it has been poisoned and jettisons its contents. It reminds me of an ol’ truism, “If your systems are out of whack, your meals may come back.” Below (see Quick Reference Table) is a table of the most common state-side treatments for seasickness. Note that most of the antiemetics in the table contain an antihistamine which frequently causes drowsiness and dry mouth. Dry mouth is usually mild and tolerable. An extreme few find it quite severe and require an alternative form of treatment. For most, sucking on a hard candy will counteract that parched palate
feeling. Again, the degree of drowsiness should be measured before departure. Feeling sleepy or useless under way is
frustrating for all parties aboard. Over the years, the military has studied the threat of throwing up among their young, healthy but seasick recruits. In general, the research proved the medications listed in the table were the most effective with the least
side-effects. The Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus (Latin for "Always Ready" or "Always Prepared") So it isn’t surprising that they concocted the“Coast Guard Cocktail”, a mixture of promethazine, a strong sedative that quells nausea, and ephedrine, a stimulant, taken to counteract the sedation caused by the promethazine…whatever it takes to keep your sea-legs for 20 hours in 20 foot seas on a 44 foot cutter.
If you don’t want to go “military style” there is always the “natural” way. Both ginger root and acupressure are becoming popular substitutes to preventing or easing seasick stomachs. In the past I have downed a ginger ale or two prior to sailing into heavy weather just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, many ginger ales on the market today do not contain "real" ginger. Smooth
Sailing, a beverage advertised to“sooth and settle the stomach naturally” contains ginger. Most people take ginger in capsules form, many reporting fewer symptoms of nausea and vertigo. Research has shown that certain compounds found in ginger may influence gastrointestinal function and noted ginger to be more effective than placebo for treating nausea caused by
seasickness. It doesn’t hurt to keep some type of ginger product aboard just in case. Ginger snaps and soda don’t go to waste on our boat weather it is sailing or not. Another “natural” cure for nausea that has been gaining in popularity over the last decade is the acupressure wrist-bands. With the help of an elastic or adjustable wrist band a plastic button applies slight
pressure on a point just on the inside of the wrist, called the Nei-Kuan point. Here the signals to the brain that cause seasickness are blocked. One band must be worn on each wrist to be effective and can be put on before departure or during the trip. The acupressure wrist bands have no side-effects and are appropriate for adults and children. In our ASA/Charter office in Santa Cruz there is usually someone talking about how the wrist-bands saved them or their crew from another “gastric-disaster.” Like wrist-bands, homeopathic remedies are big on the market and affect everyone differently. Trial and error, trial and error. Developing sea-legs, aka “vestibular rehabilitation,” may take some time. Don’t make things worse from the get-go. There are many factors that contribute or accelerate the onset of seasickness or seekrank, if you will. Avoiding or eliminating these factors before or during your voyage can greatly decrease or prevent the storm in your stomach: get plenty of rest, don’t eat greasy or acidic foods but don’t sail on an empty stomach either, drink plenty of water before and during your voyage, avoid
alcoholic beverages, avoid diesel fumes, stay busy but avoid going below, avoid looking through binoculars, and don’t read. Following these tips, conducting a little research and experimenting with natural or traditional medication before
setting sail should help you stay off the “Binnacle List” for good.
It was a beautiful breezy day trailer-sailing in my... drive-way! The new owner of my Snipe arrived today so I showed him the "ropes." The wind was beam-to and quite gusty so the main wasn't up for long. I set the Snipe up last night and everything was there, no missing pieces. I threw on a brand new tire on the trailer I've been meaning to do since last fall. The owner drove it away with his Ford ten-ton "dualy". A little overkill, to say the least, but hey....we are in Colorado man!
Looks like our sailig club has nailed down the date to rally across to Catalina Island. The members from the Boulder Valley Sailing Club established August 13-17 as the best time for most of the members to participate. After some research, Marina Sailing and Blue Pacific out of Marina del Rey are the two likely candidates to charter from. They seem to have the largest fleets so everyone has a few boats to choose from. And, conveniently, MDR is only 10-15 minutes from LAX. Those who are driving, both charter companies have free parking for the duration of the trip. It is a good time for the memebers that haven't officially documented their sea time do so ASAP so they can reserve a boat and schedule a "check-out" time prior to departure, be it the morning of, or the day/ week before setting sail. Members holding a ASA 104 certification and a "sufficient" sailing resume shouldn't have a problem reserving a boat and completing a quick 30 minute checkout (included in the charter package) the morning of the charter. Those who are relying on their sailing resume alone may have to complete a one, two or three hour check-out/ test sail and will have to schedule that time separate from the charter time with an additional fee (usually $75/hour). Steadfast is planning to sail down to the northern channel islands in early August and, possibly, rendezvousing with the club boats prior to crossing San Pedro channel. If the latter plan doesn't work we might meet the fleet in Avalon or Two Harbors. It is still a little early to tell. Either way we plan on cruising the Channel Islands in August and September. So, book your spot on Steadfast quickly, before all the "seats" are taken ;)
I hosted "cat chat" yesterday. "Cat chat" is a group of BVSPS members interested in bareboat sailing to Catalina Island this summer.
Jack London Square, Oakland, California, April 12-15, 2012. Where will YOU be?
Selling my Snipe will make it the third sailboat I have sold in Colorado. The first was "BlueSky", a light blue-hulled Daysailor. The Daysailor was purchased in Santa Cruz but originated from Massachusets and now comfortably resides in San Luis Obispo with my worthy brother-in-law, Todd. Wow, counting Boulder, CO, that boat and trailer saw over 5,600 miles of pure American asphalt (math courtesy of Google Maps). It didn't take long to fill the Daysailor's shoes. I was soon in Long Beach, CA hitching up a Catalina Capri 22 and trailer to the tail of a suburban and driving it back to Boulder. Not two years later I was hauling "Rollercoaster", the Capri 22, up I-70 towards Dillion lake and the new owner. The Snipe was and still is a great boat. After finding out my Grandad owned one when he was a young lad made sailing the boat twice as cool. My piano tuner has had his eye on the Snipe for the last two or three visits. It was music to his ears last week when I offered to sell it to him. I will miss it as I have missed the Daysailor and the Capri but it is tough to see these boats not being used all summer. The sailng season in Colorado begins and ends much like California's, May 1st thru November 1st and I don't trailer the boats out west. We have enough boats out there as it is ;)
[Excerpts from "One Hand for the Lifeline", Keith's safety article in the February issue of the BVSPS newsletter]
As I pulled myself up by the aluminum toe-rail of the Santa Cruz 27, dripping of saltwater, I knew I had just escaped a worse fate. My crew, noting the broken lifeline dangling in the water, agreed. That was six months ago when I fell overboard while day-sailing on the Monterey Bay. It is a graceless but valuable tale I will awkwardly recount because it reiterates the extreme importance of safe hardware aboard sailing vessels. I was reminded the hard way.
We were wrapping up our day on the bay. The wind was shifting from the strong north-westerlies to the lighter easterlies. Anxious to get our borrowed boat back to the marina I decided to change sails, grabbing the 150% genoa from below and scrambled up the windward deck towards the bow. At that moment, an undetected right-angled wave slapped the starboard side of our hull knocking me slightly to port. I quickly countered, shifting my weight to the right using the starboard’s vinyl-coated lifeline to brace my leg. But the lifeline, rated with an average breaking strength of 3700 pounds, instantly snapped in half. A split second later I found myself hanging on the toe-rail wetting my pants in more ways than one.
The wire or wires that encircle sailing vessels is known, appropriately, as lifelines. They are held up by poles referred to as stanchions. Many lifelines are made of vinyl coated stainless steel wire. Over the years sailors have been swapping the plastic coated lifelines with bare wire. In fact the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and the Offshore Racing Committee (ORC) prohibits the use of coated wire. Why? Hidden moisture trapped within hairline cracks or around the terminus of the vinyl coating quickly corrodes the stainless steel wire beneath. It isn’t long before the lifeline’s breaking strength is severely compromised, creating a great risk to anyone using it. Replacing your old vinyl-coated wire every couple years is an option . On the other hand, air can circulate thru bare stainless steel wire, drying out the moisture before corrosion occurs. In addition, bare wire can be inspected over its entire length and if corrosion is found the problem can be addressed immediately. What about the comfort level of bare SS wire? Over the last decade I have replaced all my lifelines with oversized, non-coated 1X19 stainless steel wire and I’ve never had any complaints. What about potential “meat-hooks”…those pesky wire strands that have failed and are sticking up, waiting to tear a hole in your hand? One broken little wire is the first sign of certain failure. Immediately wrap sail tape around the “meat-hook” and plan to replace that section of wire ASAP. If you want to spare the cost of a professional rigger look into Suncor's Quick Attach Lifeline Kits. Fittings are precision machined from 316 stainless steel and are certified with a breaking strength greater than the wire itself. You can enjoy a safe lifeline in minutes. The kit is available in white vinyl-coated or polished 1x19 uncoated SS wire. I highly recommend the later. Once you have swapped out your old, coated wire, go sailing in comfort knowing you can safely have one hand for the lifeline and one for yourself. My advice regarding worn, chafed, cracked or corroded lifelines on charter boats…don’t use them.
This Thursday I'm presenting "Capt. Keith's Sailing Guide to Santa Catalina Island" to the Boulder Valley Sailing Club. The 45 minute program will feature an overview of the Southern California climate, common sailing routes, appropriate charts, local commercial traffic, mooring tips, recreational activities and natural life found on the island.
As Steadfast rests over the winter season I contemplate the growing list of "to-do's"! Steadfast will see some wet winter days in the North Bay so I'm crossing my fingers she'll be dry inside come Spring. If not, my "to-do" list might get depressingly longer. My plan is to take advantage of her high and dry disposition and focus on projects "below the water line" such as replacing/repairing thru-hulls I found to be less than confident last summer. An added coat of bottom paint never hurts...if you don't count purchasing the 150 dollar gallon of paint. Replacing the handfull of zincs found on the hull, shaft and rudder also made the "to-do's" short list. Among the possible "can-o-worm" projects include the speed transducer and the wind speed/direction electronics. Neither were operable over the summer and I don't know why. Among the bigger "to-do's" and possibly the grandaddy of unwanted surprises is replacing one or both of the fuel tanks. Both tanks have corroded, mostly on the top surface where moisture had settled over the years. I don't have a good idea of the damage nor the extent of work required to remove them. I suspect hanging upside down in a dark and cramped bilge hole will only enlighten me. A most common, self-endowed practise among sailors young and old. The list goes on. Top sides, I'm looking to replace a questionable backstay and repair a section of the port cap rail. The cap rail was the victim of numerous shock loads by a preventer and full main while motorsailing in a light following breeze and a wallowing sea. The later didn't do my brother-in-law's stomach any good either. I tried not to end on a "sour" note.... ;)
A UCSC graduate in Marine Biology, Keith holds a 100 ton USCG Capt. License and is an ASA certified sailing instructor.