Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Queasy Kids Follow-up

Well, the last blog post generated some comments and questions from our readers about how we rehydrate and medicate Eric for seasickness. I intentionally left these out of the last blog because I am not qualified to give advice about such matters. But then, as more of you asked questions on Facebook, I realized that I could speak from my own experience and just talk about the rehydration and nausea meds that worked for Eric.

So, careful what you wish for...this might be a bit dull for some.  
The nitty-gritty often is.

Here's Eric wearing his seasick bands and
diapers drying in the breeze behind him.
The photo above shows Eric, preparing to cross the equator for the first time.  He had his sea legs at that point and we were well on our way to the Marqueses - it was May 2011.  I just want to tell new readers that it was our second crossing with a baby as crew. The boat was new to us, but Eric's older brother crossed the equator for the first time when he was a little older than 1 and he was now 4 and good at holding on and being at sea.  

Sailing the new boat to Australia felt like an amazing be able to sail the Pacific milk run twice in one lifetime! Too good to be true, really.  And we were glad to have the knowledge we'd gained from our first crossing.

Then once we started sailing our new boat, we were thrown a curve ball.  It was pretty clear that Eric was prone to serious mal de mar.  He was 11 months old and we were coastal sailing from San Franscisco to San Diego.  Any time the wind was forward of the beam - regardless of wind strength - it was time for Eric to vomit.  Even with Eric's massive size for his age, he was still too small to medicate.  I expressed concern to every pharmacist along the coast. We tried special acupuncture wrist bands that were sized for Eric, we tried lavender drops behind the ears, we tried ginger tea with honey (at room temperature).  Nothing worked.  And so, we departed CA with liters of oral rehydration drink from the pharmacy and a detailed chart about the signs of dehydration in babies and what to expect in terms of number of wet diapers per 3-4 hours.  We felt that Eric would get his sea legs after a day or two.  We also decided that instead of sailing the rhumb line to the Marqueses, we would sail a bit closer to the coast of Baja in case I had to fly with him from Cabo.  So we had our backup plan in place.

As I said in the last post, the first 3 days of that passage were hard. Eric threw up a lot. Thankfully I was able to breast feed him while he was sleeping. This is after he vomited the first round of milk and fell asleep. Regular nursing while he slept was enough to keep him wetting his diaper every 3 hours or so.

Rehydration now-a-days is as follows:

After vomiting, no food for at least an hour.  About 20 min after vomiting we give 1 teaspoon of water every 5 minutes. So set your timers and do this for about an hour.  You must push the fluids, small amounts at a time, even if the child is asleep - they must be roused enough to drink.  Once things have mellowed out, a small sip from the kiddy water bottle replaces the 5mL tsp and is easier to drink while laying down.  After 1-2 hours of this routine the child will hopefully need to pee.

If there are multiple episodes of throwing up, you may need to use proper rehydration formula instead of water.  You can make oral rehydration by mixing 1/2 tsp salt, 6 tsp sugar and one L water.   We carry Zofran as a treatment for multiple episodes of vomiting due to sea sickness.  We have not needed it for the last two years, but it works great. If we need to use Zofran, we just give it 10 min after vomiting and then wait another 20 min to begin the rehydration steps listed above.  

I won't bore you with a list of all the medications that did not work. But I will say that we really tried them all - at least all ones that are suitable for children age-2 and older.  Our golden day was when Eric was little older than 2 and an Australian chemist in Bundaberg suggested Phenergan (Promethazine hydrochloride 5mg/5mL). It is sold over the counter in Oz, but you need a prescription in the States. It has been our stand-by every since.  Now, it is not a perfect treatment.  There is the rare occasion where Eric will throw up anyway. But we just rehydrate him and then give him another dose of Phenergan later that day.  Dosage is on the bottle.  I give Eric one dose the night before, 3 doses per day for the first 2-3 days depending on weather conditions, then 1 dose each morning thereafter.  If we encounter rough weather mid-passage then I may increase to 3 doses a day as per the bottle instructions.  Eric always rests for about 20 min after taking Phenergan, then I get him up to begin his day. 

And yes, I let him eat breakfast....but only if he eats it in the cockpit!
Eric (age 2) enjoying food while crossing the Tasman Sea.  Happy boy!   

Monday, July 25, 2016

Queasy Kids

Eric (1) and Elias (4), leaving California.
Go back in time with me for a few paragraphs.  The year is 2006.  I am pregnant with Elias and reading every speck of information I can find about sailing with infants.  Unfortunately there is hardly anything written on the subject, and yet I am certain others have gone before us because I have read articles by the Martins and the Poncets.  But their stories are about travel and adventure and they don't address the daily grind of sailing with babies.  But this was exactly what I was looking for:  I wanted to know how to wash cloth diapers at sea and I needed an answer to the question that everyone seemed to be asking us, "But what if your baby gets sea sick?".

And then I found a small paragraph in the sidelines of an old sailing magazine in which a very salty mother said that children younger than age 2 don't get seasick.  At least that is my memory - very possible that I am a bit fuzzy on it, as I was in my third trimester.  So, right or not, I held on to that 'fact' during the nights that worry kept me awake.  Again and again, I returned to the idea that babies under age 2 cannot and do not get seasick.  I loved that idea - it fit with our life plan to sell the house, quit the jobs, and start sailing.  And Elias, bless him, lived up to that ideal in every storm and rough weather passage all the way from Alaska to Australia - turning two in Tonga and still not being sea sick.  He earned the name, 'Little Salty', and to this day he has stronger sea legs than any of the Galactic crew. Lucky boy.

Eric. Well, Eric kind of broke the mold. If Elias had reacted to sailing the way Eric did, then I am fairly certain we'd have stopped sailing.  Eric vomited every time the wind was forward of the beam, regardless of wind strength. It was a huge worry when we were sailing along the CA coast south to San Diego with our newly acquired Galactic.  What would happen when we sailed to the Marqueses and Eric was too young to medicate?  That passage was stressful because poor Eric vomited profusely for the first 3 days. Thankfully on day 4 he found his sea legs.  But on almost every passage since then, Eric has vomited multiple times.  It is common for him to say things like, "Mommy do I get to eat dinner tonight since I didn't throw up once today?" to which I reply, "Yes, but only if you eat it in the cockpit".

So what to feed queasy kids?  How to keep them hydrated?
1) Juice becomes part of our daily routine.  Normally our kids just drink water or milk, but on passages they get lots of juice, homemade lemon/limeade or Milo.
2) Applesauce
3) Fruit: fresh or tinned
4) Plain pasta with oil and salt (Eric's fav...see photo below)
5) Warmed tortillas, hold the cheese.
6) Crackers: saltines / pilot bread/ plain crackers
7) Ginger: candied ginger or gingersnap cookies
8) Jello - the kind that wiggles and jiggles (not the Australian jello, which is jam or jelly)
Eric with his favorite sea meal: plain noodles!

Other families have told me they like to have rice cakes around, but ours always end up going stale before we open them.   So when the French sailor who was about to begin ocean passages with his little girls asked me for advice on what food to buy, I gave him the above list.  It is sadly bland and void of olives and brie cheese, but really the idea is for them to drink a lot of fluids and then eat foods that will let them keep the fluids down.  If/when Eric starts to throw up, it's a big routine to rehydrate him for the next few hours. Best avoided.

And I want to end this post in the Here and Now.  Eric has become a good sailor, despite his battle with mal de mar. He's tried everything under the moon medication-wise, and he's always so resilient when he does get sick. After throwing up, he says "That's all right, I don't care, Mommy" but I know that everyone hates that feeling and I know he is just being super tough. During our most recent passage from South Georgia to Cape Town we had the kind of conditions you'd expect: we hove-to for 3 gales and there was a steady 4 m swell running all the time as background music to the wind waves and chop. And on this particular passage Eric did not get sick once! Of course, he was taking medication, but often the medicine does not work.  He felt nauseous at times and so our routine was for him to sleep alongside me on the cabin sole each night, and to spend ALL day in the cockpit drawing pictures.  We went through a lot of paper on that passage!
A happy Eric, sailing somewhere between South Georgia and Cape Town.

Eric gives South Georgia a thumbs up!
Eric recently turned 6 and his ability to think problems out is improving all the time. He has not quite reached the 'age of reason' but he is already talking to me about the upcoming passage. He quietly mentions that he doesn't like passages because he doesn't like to be sick.  I can't blame him one bit.  But as morale officer, I don't miss a chance to remind Eric that he's doing better and better each time. I tell him that he's already sailed our hardest passage  - that steady gales and ice bergs are behind us.   When I talk to Eric about the upcoming wind and swell conditions that await us, he gets excited for the tradewind sailing that is on our horizon.

We all are.

If I have missed any foods that work for another queasy kid, please let me know and I'll make sure I buy it before we sail for St. Helena later this month!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Praise of the Off Season

Elias, steering a local boat on a daysail
Another traveling crew, who had left their boat at the False Bay Yacht Club while they were out of the country, returned last week. They're Australian, with kids, and inevitably in this small world of traveling boats we share mutual friends with them. Together we had a braai at the club and fell into the easy chatting of strangers who have a lot in common.

Alisa and I have been missing the company of other traveling boats - since we returned from our safari we've been the only traveling crew here. At this point in our sailing lives, we start to miss the company of the also-saltstained if we're away from it too long.

But! It has also struck us that there has been a tremendous upside to being in South Africa during the off season. If we were here during the peak season, when as many as 16 foreign boats might pull into Simon's Town on the same day, it would be very hard to break out of the yachtie bubble. All those fellow-travelers on the other foreign yachts would have so much in common with us, and if experience is any guide would be a generally excellent sample of humanity, that it would be tremendously easy to just hang out with them. And it would have been correspondingly difficult to break out of the bubble and get to know some locals.

And so, it has been our great good luck to be starved of the company of fellow travelers this season, and thereby to get the chance to find friendship among the locals.

It's true - there really are good people everywhere. And meeting some of them in a place where we've never been before, and getting a bit of the unique perspective on the human experiment that they each provide, is one of the things that keeps us traveling after all these years...

So now we'll leave South Africa (soon!) having added to my thumbnail description of what we've earned for ourselves over these nine years of travel. 

We know fantastic people around the world, I sometimes say to Alisa. And almost all of them we'll never see again.

Finally, after nine years of sailing, we were invited to tour a candy factory. 
Now we can safely retire from travel, knowing that the crew's fondest wish has been granted.

Here, and below - getting down with the locals

More soon...