Rough Seas

A day out in rough seas and huge swells is an incredible experience. The day starts out like any other, the harbor’s water is glassy and calm, the passengers are excited and chatty. Unfortunately, the captain knows the sea conditions and although we aggressively push preventative medications several times before we embark on our journey most people fail to heed our warnings. This is not our first time and our growing resentment towards these ignorant passengers prompts us to push Dramamine in the hopes that they will be knocked out once the medication takes effect.

The sheltered harbor provides everyone with a false sense of security. People laugh and joke around as they clumsily amble around the boat, unapologetically spilling sips of their complimentary coffee on to everything, they think they are getting their sea legs and that everything is going to be okay. The passengers are giddy, smiling, laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves for the first hour.

The boat begins to pitch and heave immediately frightening the passengers as they grasp the railings more tightly. They clumsily run from railing to railing like monkeys swinging from branches, their laughter becomes more subdued, self-conscious and nervous. The slightest glimmer of terror begins to show in their eyes. The first casualties for the day begin to feel that empty, hollow sensation in their stomachs and they realize that are going to be sick. “Is it going to get worse?” “We’re just getting started,” I say, choking back a smile.

You can tell who is going to get sick from a mile away. Sometimes passengers look bewildered when we pick them out and encourage them outside as we hand them paper towels. Then there are those who refuse to listen to us, those who obstinately deny that anything is wrong and sometimes there is no degree of gentle cajoling or patient reasoning to make them admit otherwise. I secretly hope they puke all over themselves.

But above all my favorite are the passengers who, in between tortured retches, explain to me that they get seasick all the time, they just didn’t think it would be this bad out here in the wide open expanse of the Gulf of Alaska. I bite my tongue and hold open the next bag.

The people who have listened to us head for the stern of the boat and politely donate their breakfasts to the sea. Women, who tend to be less flamboyantly sick for some reason, quietly put their heads on the table. Pale, wane and pathetic, some of them will absolutely not admit that they are sick. I throw a puke bag on their table anyway because at this point I know they’ll need it.

It’s amazingly tedious to deal with these people day after day. The tedium is magnified by the fact that they believe they have been somehow violated, by the crew or by nature remains unclear, but they have an acute sense that they are currently undergoing a traumatic experience and they refuse to believe that we gave them ample warning.

Then the bad part really starts.

The boat slams in to the water with a metallic, crashing ka-thunk. “Please remain in your seats for the next 20 minutes” announces the captain. The stern is filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, in various stages of misery. The deckhands rush around armed with vomit bags, gloves, rags, Simple Green and trash bags. The fear and tension is palpable, eyes nervously dart around and lips tightly purse together into something that can only be called a grimace. Passengers can no longer lie with their heads on the table because the gravity of the boat will slam their skulls into the veneer. If you look to the bow all you will see is sky, water, sky, water in rapid succession. The horizon skews and tilts.

We round the Cape and head toward calmer waters. The all-you-can-eat buffet is served. I guess puking must really work up an appetite because the same people who were just too sick to drink the ginger ale you brought them are coming up for their third fatty slab of prime rib. The mood quickly elevates and smiles begin to sprout on people’s faces. There is an air of triumph at having overcome such an ordeal, and just as quickly as it was jolted out of them that delusive sense of security returns.

They’ve all seen our route maps, but I guess denial and willful ignorance supersede reason because they all know we go back the same way to get home. Like I said, we are just getting started.


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