Thursday, January 21, 2010

Over the Bounding Main

Looking out my window on a warm January day in Miami, I can see many little sailboats scudding along the waters of Biscayne Bay. Most are sunfish or similar craft. There's a brisk breeze, perfect for catching the wind in the sails, perfect for enjoying the sun and the water, perfect for focusing the mind on the physical task of sailing.

It all sounds so idyllic, exactly the kind of activity I'd love to pursue. If only I didn't get dreadfully seasick. My tendency toward motion sickness is so severe that I only have to think about being on a sailboat to become queasy. Even the experience of motion in an IMAX film is enough to bring on waves of nausea. When driving on curvy roads, I'm prone to carsickness. And reading in a car or bus is out of the question.

Boats are the worst, though. Even cruise ships pose a threat to my equilibrium. Some people find big ships so stable that they don't have a problem. But after my son returned from a Caribbean cruise on a 2000-passenger ship during calm seas, he cautioned me not to believe people when they tell me I wouldn't notice the motion. "Those ships move, Mom," he said. His warning was enough to make me rule out cruising as a vacation option.

I have enjoyed a few experiences on boats. I loved rowing and canoeing as a teenager. During college, I spent a summer at a girls camp in Maine teaching water-skiing. The job required that I drive a little Boston Whaler motorboat. At first I was fearful, both of the responsibility of towing children behind me and of possible motion sickness, but I wound up reveling in the thrust of the outboard motor as the Whaler sliced through the glassy surface of the lake. The steady motion of the motorboat didn't cause the nausea produced by the gentle wave motion on a sailboat, and the smooth lake waters posed little problem even when I stopped the boat to help the skiers. In the ocean, however, it's a different story. Once, when I was ten, my father took me deep sea fishing. I was fine while the boat was powering its way out to sea, but once the engine was turned off, I quickly succumbed to stomach distress.

I've tried sea bands and Dramamine, to minimal effect, and even experimented at home with a scopolamine patch, but I didn't like the way it made me feel. I guess I'm a landlubber for life. If anybody has a surefire treatment for motion sickness, please let me know. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy watching the boats sail by from my vantage point on dry solid land.


  1. I share your affliction. By the way what is a "bounding main?" I've been singing that song my whole life and never knew exactly what it meant. Well, Google, here I come. Bonnie