My previous joy was overcome by nausea and headache. For the first three days at sea, I was sick as a dog. Even though it seemed like pretty mild weather and seas, I could hardly fight my misery. One of the few exceptions, by some stroke of fate, when I was not consumed by seasickness, was when I was called to steer the ship. Otherwise, my state of being was quite fragile.
Normally, I derive great enjoyment from eating, but it took force of will not to pitch my insides while standing in line as I waited to dish up my food from the galley’s counter. I recall every meal starting like that for me. Sitting down to eat was better, but I couldn’t muster the determination to put down my fill. Those first days, I never went for seconds, even though Hunter, the cook, was cranking out some tasty meals.
During my idler’s watch, I usually found some solace by lying like a corpse on deck, as close to the centerline as possible. I think for a while, I became as much of a deck fixture as the capstan.
At first I was self‑conscious that I was looking quite foolish, especially since I felt I might be an obstruction. I didn’t want to open my eyes to find out if that was true. How I desperately needed to feel the comfort that had deserted me! My mental condition was so lamentable at times, even if someone stepped on me I probably would not have cared (thankfully, no one did!). At times I tried to force myself to get up to do something useful during my idler’s watch, but I was soon back down, flat on the deck.
Standing watch also meant spending an hour checking bilges, pumping bilge water overboard, monitoring the diesel, filling out spaces with accurate numbers on a log sheet, and crawling into tight enclosed spaces. Consequently, after going along with Dave, checking the key areas from stem to stern, I knew roving below decks doing “boat check” was going to be futile in my given state.
Hence, as there were four one‑hour rotations with four deckhands and one trainee under instruction, I actually spent more like two hours at idle, or two hours of bow watches during the four hour shifts, along with one watch at the helm.
I was assigned to the 0000 to 0400 and 1200 to 1600 watches, that meant I could never sleep straight through the night unless it was only a half night’s worth at a time. Normally, this would not be a problem; after all, it is a common practice in the Navy, but it only exacerbated my loss of sea legs.
My pain was made worse by not being able to help others and learn from them the art of sailing the ship. My general suffering and uselessness as a helping hand caused me to wonder if I had made some cruel mistake by signing on for two weeks aboard Rose. My visions and dreams of serving with the great Lord Nelson, or even the convivial Jack Aubrey, were daunted.
Little did I know, however, during those spells of defeat, stretched out like a dead man on deck, that life was to prevail.
copyright © 2002 Challen K. Yee