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!


  1. The medicine our family uses is called mechlazine 26 mg (USA) or mechlozine (Greece). I give our 6 year old 1/2 tablet. It has been our saving grace.

    1. Hi Sherrie. Thanks for the reminder about Bonine (Meclizine 25 mg). I used this for many years during my first days at sea. I don't think it would be appropriate for an infant or toddler, but now that Eric is age-6 it is a good consideration in case his perscription runs out. Wonderful to know that it is working for your queasy kid!

  2. As a former cruising kid that also got seasick (and as an adult who STILL gets seasick!), I feel for the poor little guy. Turns out my two kids inherited this from me. :-( They've also been known to get carsick, so I guess it's no surprise. Lollipops seem to help with this. Also, salty chips and ginger ale. Basically, things they don't get at any other time, lol! Other things, that aren't quite so lacking in nutrition: peanuts, bars (bought or homemade). Hope that helps! I admire that he can still draw while being seasick. I found that I had to keep my head perfectly immobile to control the nausea. No reading, and definitely no school work. I hope you enjoy your next landfall. We loved St. Helena!

    1. You are so correct about lollipops! I was not sure if that was a real helper or if it was just Eric, sensing my abandon of nutrition, getting the maximum sugar he could muster out of The Cook. Have you just left St Helena? Are we going to cross paths w you in French Guiana? I remember your comment while we were in Patagonia and it would be great to share an anchorage sometime. Cheers, A

    2. Aww, I'd love to meet up with the Galactics, but alas we are land-bound in San Diego. I was referring to when we visited St. Helena when I was a cruising kid - a mere 25-odd years ago, lol!

  3. Another good post Alisa (you should do a hostile takeover and make the blog yours!), do you use talking books while on passage? We use them when driving long distances, it seems to help our kids pass the time. The Tripp Diaries kept us all amused (9&5 year old) on our last 2000km drive.

    1. I just googled the Tripp Diaries and they would have been good for our recent safari when the kiddos were stuck in the car for hours. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Hi! I am just wondering how you're still able to work/make an income. I'll soon be a grad student in oceanography and am inspired by what you two have done and are doing and would ideally like to follow in your footsteps! Any advice would be appreciated. (: