Sunday, 9 September 2012

Phantom Seasickness and The Night Ferry (Ways to Cope With Nausea at Sea)

view of mountains from ferry (Corsica)






A Seasickness Phobic's Ferry Journey to Corsica

I wake up from a shallow sleep. It's pitch black and I have no idea what the time is. I don't feel drowsy at all, in fact I can't believe I'd even been asleep. The ferry's been swaying for a while and it's gotten worse. I knew I shouldn't have eaten those chips - God, how long ago was that? I have no idea. It can't be more than 8 hours - that's the length of this crossing to Savona from Corsica. It will surely be over soon. I lie on my side and close my eyes, trying to will myself to remember I'm safe, upright, and just in a lovely little ensuite cabin on night time mediterranean seas, rocking gently with the calm waves. There's nothing at all to worry about. I'll feel more sick if I keep thinking about it, so I'd better suck it up. For goodness sake I just need to go back to sleep.

I roll over angrily. I hold the edge of the pillowcase I brought along for comfort and will myself back to sleep. It's no good, the swaying is getting worse and I'm wide awake now. My heart hammers in my chest, I just want to get off.

I sit up feeling my stomach rumble. There's a lump in my throat and I'm wishing we had just flown to Corsica. What was I thinking going on a ferry journey this long! No, don't be stupid. Tomorrow when we're driving to Turin I'll feel totally different. I wouldn't change the route we've taken for the world, it's been fantastic. But oh God how I want to get off this boat... My stomach lurches as the ferry seems to sway more violently. I call Richard's name through the darkness.

"I need to find a window, I'm sorry, I can't do this."
"Oh no worries, give me a second and I'll come."
"No! Stay there, I'll be fine, you need the sleep, you have so much driving to do tomorrow."

I leave the cabin before Richard can argue, fumbling for the keys and my pillowcase. A long well-lit corridor. I turn off to the left, more doors. I turn back and go right. More doors. I carry on, staircase. I climb up, closed door, private. I go back down and carry on. I climb more stairs, reception. No windows anywhere. I just need to see the water and I have no idea why. The more I can't find a window the more I need one...

I hear people - young lads. Oh God I look a mess, and I have a blankie! How pathetic but I just don't care, I need to see the water. I'm so dizzy and I'm so scared. I can feel my face crumpling and all I can see are corridors and stairs. The further I get from our cabin the more likely I am to get lost, so I turn back the way I came, panicking at the sight of the sheer amount of alarmingly similar corridors. The doors are green but I thought they were blue. God, I'm delirious with fear. No - wrong floor. I go down. Blue doors. I look at the cabin numbers. Way off. I turn left and the swaying gets worse. Finally, 115. I stick the key in the lock and with relief I see Richard in his bed.

"I can't find a window" I hear myself whine.
"Ok, ok, I'm up."
"I'm sorry!"
"It's ok, don't worry" Richard sounds so kind.

He shoves on some jeans and comes with me back to the reception area and we climb some stairs that I didn't try. Up to some glass doors and at last, black windows splashed with salty seawater. We open the doors and head out onto the outside deck. There's still lots of people in the little pool, and milling around by the bar. All smiling, all having a good time. What's wrong with me? Although I feel better almost instantly, the minute I hold on to the edge and stare down into the frothing water. The dark horizon is tilting, but so much less than the one in my imagination.

After a little time outside we head back inside and sit down. I accept the rhythm of the swaying and see that it hasn't gotten any worse, so I agree to go back to bed. With heavy eyes we traipse back along the corridors and climb back into the covers. I can do this. I can do this. The beds are so narrow but Richard comes in with me. I fall asleep almost straight away.
I sleep right through until the piano music wakes us up in the morning on arrival at the port. I did it!

Cabin on ferry to Corsica


Ways to Cope With Nausea at Sea

'Mind over matter', 'psychological', 'all in your head'... Whatever you hear people say about your seasickness, they are probably not far wrong if they are coming out with annoyingly understated comments like this!

When you feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous at sea, it is because your inner ear's ability to sense balance is being thrown into a whirlpool of confusion:

The cochlear fluid is swimming around and the inner ear expects a visual scene to match the swishing, topsy-turvy-ness. This is why it often helps, or even aleviates the symptoms, if you see the horizon. This reminds your senses where (and how much) the boat is swaying, and therefore your sense of balance and sight match up with the same expectations which can stop the nauseous, dizzy feeling.

When you're concentrating on the dizzyness or swaying you can make yourself care about it too much:

Find something that distracts you. This has to be something you really care about though. Take a book you just can't put down, or take some sort of addictive game. Or even read the travel/holiday guide of the place you're travelling to. On a ferry when I'm not trying to sleep I'm usually reading a gripping book I can't put down. (Examples of these below, with links! Highly reccommended!


I'm sure you know all about Fifty Shades of Grey and it's almost irritating addictiveness.

Room is a fantastic story all about a young boy of five years old who is born in the captivity of a shed and all he knows is his captive mother and their meagre belongings. It is written from the boy's perspective and the storyline is consistently addictive, alarming and gripping.


When the ferry's swaying badly it can help to stand in the centre of the boat:

This is the part which sways the least, and also the lower down you are on the boat, the less movement/swaying you feel - avoid the top deck if it feels worse up there.   

Ways to cope with nausea at sea and seasickness on a ferry. Night ferry to Corsica. Ways to cope with fear of boats

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