A day in the life of a Drake’s Passage crossing

 9th – 10th January 2013

3.12 am:

I’m sleeping fitfully anyway, as my bed is performing a circular roll due to the pitching of the ship in the churning sea.  If I lie on my side and concentrate, I can stop myself from feeling too bad though, and the drowsiness from my sea sickness medication makes sleeping much easier.  All of a sudden, the door of our cabin opens and a member of the crew walks in and starts to rouse Ash from his sleep.  We’re staying in the normal cabins of crew, some of who are on leave and others who have been temporarily moved.  Apparently this information hasn’t quite reached everyone and Ash is relieved to find out he doesn’t actually have to start his period of watch in the middle of the night!

 5.47 am:

 I’m woken again by a crackling noise.  Without opening my eyes I write it off as Ash’s watch alarm.  But the noise continues, changes in pitch.  It doesn’t sound like an alarm, so I open my eyes to investigate.  The multi-plug in our cabin is spitting and sparking.  We reach to remove the plugs, caught in a battle between needing to act and feeling sick with every motion.  Eventually we rip everything out of the wall and fall back asleep.

 7 am (precisely):

The ship’s whistle sounds over the tannoy system, officially opening another day’s business.  I know I should go and try to eat some breakfast, but my body tells me otherwise and I choose to stay in bed where I can moderate the nausea.

 7.57 am:

 This time I really should get up.  I don’t feel any better but at 8 am there’s a meeting with the ship’s captain and operations manager as well as the other group of civvies on board to discuss the plans for landings over the next few weeks – it’s really important we’re at such meetings to make our case as strongly as possible to get to Green Island.  The moment I turn vertical I feel wobbly.  Within a few minutes, I’ve gone from a comfortable temperature to sweaty.  My stomach does not feel positive.  I take my seat at the meeting table, trying to focus on the map on the projector screen.  My eyes glaze over.  The discussion is positive for our chances and also thankfully passes me by for the first ten or so minutes.  I look at my watch: 8.12.  I am not feeling good, how much longer can I sit this out?  8.15. The main briefing seems to be over; we’re now heading around the table for additional comments.  8.18. Right, that’s it; I need to move.  Before it gets to my turn, I make a rushed apology and leave.  My mind is now focussed on getting to my cabin as quickly as possible.  Out of the conference room, through a couple of doors, down a flight of stairs.  I know now that my stomach os seriously not happy.  Into the cabin, into the toilet and bam!  I will refrain from describing what happened next, but leave it to an eye/ear witness…

 [As I remained horizontal on the bottom bunk congratulating myself at how good I was feeling recently, I began to ask myself if I dared to make an attempt at standing up, a dash to the dining room one deck below to grab some breakfast before quickly heading back to bed.  Would this be possible before my body realised it was no longer in the ‘safe; position?  As I contemplated this, a grey looking man burst into the room, tiny beads of sweat forming on his brow and above his colourless lips.  A brief moment of silence and tension filled the room as I wondered what this upright and strangely composed gentleman was about to do next, however by the speed of his entry and pallor I had an idea.  He confirmed my thoughts as he flew into the bathroom, already approaching a kneeling position before he was through the bathroom door.  This act, a mixture of desperation and relief was followed by the sounds of thrashing water, whimpers and hurls and the occasional “Oh golly gosh” as my roommate continued to ‘yodel down the big white telephone’.  Out came a dishevelled looking, two thirds the size Matt who after his recent deposit sprang into bed for the next 19 hours. – Ashly Fusiarski, fellow sea sickness sufferer.]

 9.18 am:

 Life is only bearable on my side in bed.  Here I feel fine, but try anything else and my body protests.  It’s very limiting.  I listen to music and doze as the sea sickness tablets help the hours to pass by.

 11.52 am:

 The sea seems a little calmer and I feel ok having led down for a few solid hours.  I am starving having missed breakfast, so I venture bravely to lunch.  Last night I tried the same with dinner but managed all of a forkful of rice before quitting.  I manage a baguette with some salad and quickly return to bed.  I want to get horizontal before my body decides my lunch should be elsewhere.

 2.57pm:

 Still in bed.  iPod now on shuffle of all 3828 songs.  I skip the occasional Christmas carols and nursery rhymes that come my way.  Bored.

 4.04 pm:

 I risk a quick breath of fresh air on the deck.  I sit in the lowest, most stable part of the ship I can find.  It’s refreshing and the sea does seem to be calming.

 5.47 pm:

 Bored, bored, bored.  How long can someone stay in bed and remain sane?  Not too much longer I fear in my own case.  There’s all this stuff in my brain I want to do and get on with, but my body still says no.

 7 pm:

 Lunch is still with me so I have a go at dinner.  It stays with me too.  Things are on the up!  I return to bed and doze the rest of the evening away.

 The next day:

 Drake’s Passage, AKA the notorious Roaring Forties (or is that the Furious Fifties?!), where uninterrupted winds fiercely circle the globe is a millpond.  I’m sure it couldn’t be flatter if it tried.  Happy days!  With the calmness returns all normal bodily function and the world seems full of limitless opportunity!  We head up to the bridge and spot a pod of killer whales and groups of chinstrap penguins frolicking in the sea near the ship. Elephant Island is only 70 miles distant and tonight we’ll be surrounded by islands and the chance of really rough seas will be thing of the past (I hope I don’t live to regret saying that!)  To all intents and purposes I have survived Drake’s Passage!  Sure, it let me off lightly, but hey, the fact still remains.  Let’s hope it’s as friendly on the way back north in four weeks time.

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