Sunday, October 16, 2011

Remembering Childbirth

We're in Futuna, this French bit of Samoa in the hinterlands of the central South Pacific.

The sail from American Samoa was only four hundred and thirty miles long or so, which we expected to do in three days, and nearly did, in spite of light wind. Beforehand we had looked at the trip as a gimme, a little doddle to go between the two one-week passages behind us and the two-weeker that we have coming up.


First of all, Eric got sick sick sick the day after we left Pago Pago - vomit all over the starboard settee, then a repeat performance in the cockpit, and a seriously unhappy one-year-old throughout. We dosed him with benadryl and Alisa's milk and let him sleep it off in his carseat under the dodger. He was fine after that, but we were loath to take him below for fear of setting off another bout of seasickness, and there's nowhere in the cockpit that's safe for a little person as agile and devoid of rational thought as he is. So we were stuck holding a squirmy toddler on our laps for much of the rest of the trip.

Or, Alisa was stuck holding him, as the second thing that happened was that I got sick sick sick.

Really sick.

It wasn't seasickness, or wasn't ALL seasickness.

It was a little lumpy on our first night out, and I felt fine. But then somehow I just spiraled down and down the next day, so that I spent the afternoon catatonic in the cockpit, stirring only to be violently sick over the rail. (And I do mean violently. We had eaten gouda and crackers and papaya for lunch. Vomiting that through your nose involves sensations not easily forgotten.) After being useless for a few hours I made one final stab to contribute to the group effort when the main needed a reef. I got halfway through the job and then had to sprint to the rail to bring up, painfully, the very last luminous green liquid from my stomach. Alisa finished the reef on her own.

From that point on Alisa or Elias woke me up every five minutes to have a sip of water, and otherwise I was oblivious to anything that was happening around me.

I managed to stand two watches that night, although I'm not sure how. And the next day I was slowly better. The whole thing is mysterious to me, though I wonder if it was somehow triggered by being overtired and dehydrated through the push to get ready and get to sea. (And we started so well - we got 250 feet of chain and the 40 kilo anchor back from the dread depths of Pago Pago harbor in just an hour, even though we were pulling it by hand. No dragging anchor in our week there, and no junk on the anchor when we got it back. I'd rather be lucky than good.)

After I got better, there was still a day and a half left in the trip for Eric to officially, at the age of one year and five months, hit the Terrible Twos. It seems he no longer wanted to be in the childproofed area of the cabin where he has spent the last five months or so. And because he didn't want to be there, he just stood behind the baby gate and screamed and screamed. When that got boring, he switched gears and screamed while crying hysterically. I won't bore you with the details of how unpleasant it can be to share a small space with an overheated, cross one year old. I will tell you that it was bad enough that I got to the point of emphatically telling Alisa, several times, that I was going to have my eardrums prophylactically punctured once we got to Oz. Just so the screaming wouldn't hurt any more. Poor Elias didn't see me at my best for a day or two there.

All in all, it didn't stack up as our all-time greatest trip. And I haven't even gotten to the part where Eric climbed out of his crib and fell to the sole.

I measured - it's a four and a half foot fall.


So that's a sound that Alisa and I will each remember for quite a while - the thud/splat that can only be your youngest child, who you thought was safely tucked in for his night's sleep, hitting the floor. Followed by a long long silence that blessedly turned out to be him drawing breath for an almighty scream.

He's fine.

But that's the second time he has gotten loose on the boat at the wrong time, the first being when he went walkabout in the cockpit while the other three of us were on the bow, picking up a mooring in Tahaa. Alisa and I are horrified that that sort of thing has happened twice, and determined not to push our luck for number three. As I write, she is constructing a new, maximum-security sleeping cage for his bunk...

So there have been any number of wonderful things that have come out of this year of travelling outrageously with our two young 'uns in tow. But lately it's been a little tough. The 'funny' part of course is that we've done it all before. I was struck, reading through the proofs for the book, at just how plain BAD were a lot of moments from our last Pacific crossing, when Elias was the toddler involved. I honestly had forgotten most of them until I re-read the book. For better or worse, we seem to treat sailing with little kids as I hear a person is meant to treat childbirth - by forgetting all about how bad it really was.

So on this last trip, we got to remember childbirth, in all its glory.

And I'm happy to report that after a couple days in the ridiculous little harbor at Futuna, we've pretty much forgotten again, and everyone is more-or-less happy.

<<The End>>


  1. You guys are unbelievable. How you can still spin a story out of this stuff is beyond me. Much love and a giant spirit lift to the crew. Diana xx

  2. Ugh. I know that sound, the sound of a head on the hard floor, just a horror.

    Sounds like you may need a few more pairs of those industrial ear muffs? We've been using
    that very technique in our own little house
    to great effect! Nya used them to do her homework in peace. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Hi there friends!

    alisa, I got your letter in our mailbox today. What a wonderful thing! I don't think i've received a regular old letter in my mailbox in months. so great to hear from you. The funny thing was that I tried emailing you just yesterday, with a slideshow of pictures from our 6 week camping trip down the Alaska highway. but it bounced back at me. Do you have a new email address? Please email me at with your new address and I'll send you the photo link + our news. Miss you tons too. Just caught up on your blog - love it. and congrats on the book! Looking forward to hopefully seeing Mike in January! Kodiak Heather