Sea sick: Not the Motion in the Ocean (and a Mexican boob job)

by Tawnya Calvillo

It’s now been three weeks since we arrived on land and I’ve finally found it in me to share my side of the story. I’ve never been sea sick, I love sailing, but the sail down for me was NOT pleasant. To be quite honest it sucked. I hated the movement of the boat when we sailed, hated breathing the diesel when we motored, the smell of the food these crazy South Americans cook, the pictures being taken of me, everything.

I spent 98% of my awake time in the “dog house,” the small little platform at the front of the cockpit hidden behind the bimini. When it was cold I was there with layers of clothes and blankets, when it was hot I was there in a bathing suit with a towel pinned over the bimini blocking me from the sun. The dog house happens to be right above the galley (kitchen) so you’d find this life long vegetarian with a blanket over my face half the time to block out the smells of meat and fish being prepared below.

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Thrilled (not!) photo by Ella Jade

It’s a good thing Day 1 started off great or we may have turned around right then. I woke up around 6:30 am. We were about 2 hours off shore from Marina Del Rey. I went above deck just in time to see the sunrise over the Southern California mountains. It felt soooo good to finally see the rewards of our hard work and dreams coming true. We enjoyed the day watching dolphins, painting with water colors, snacking and relaxing. I may or may not have thrown up that day, I can’t remember, if so it didn’t matter, it was my happiest day in months!!

Day 2 was the exact opposite and the next few weeks were down hill for me from there. I woke up that day to gusts of nearly 40 knots, the boat rocking forward, backward, side to side over (and sometimes under) huge waves and rough winds. Everyone threw up at least once that day (except Captain), I certainly did multiple times. Luckily, we arrived in Ensenada that evening and we could regroup on land. It was a nice port, but I didn’t feel any better and hated land too. The town was stinky. Walking around was annoying. The cruise ships were loud. The restaurant food made me ill.

Back to sea….with a few stops in between that you may have or can read about in our previous (and more positive) posts, not a day went by that I didn’t throw up. I only made it to my usual favorite spot, the bowsprit, three times during the entire 17 day trip (11 days which were at sea). Each bowsprit visit for no more than 5 minutes, then back to the dog house and straight to bed by 7 p.m. latest. All the other adult crew took shifts each night, watching the beautiful and calm night sky (but also having to wake up for their shifts which went “A shift” 9 p.m.-12, “B shift” 12-3 a.m., “C shift” 3 a.m.-6 a.m. and “A shift” again 6 a.m.-9 a.m.). I would usually rise around 8:30 a.m. with Ella. Straight to the dog house. Holding back vomit. Totally useless. Ella certainly helped hoist more sails, coil more sheets, serve more snacks and clean up than I did. I did nothing. A useless body aboard. And I hated that too. I’m not that good at sitting still. The one thing I was useful for was navigating our course by chart and I often quit, forgot what I was doing, or slept through that, which sent us off course a few times. The dog house earned a new name “The Throne” as Francisco said, “The queen of the ship ordering people around from the throne.” I never really left the spot, except to lean over the side of the boat of course…posted up there only speaking to say things like “bring me a water, remember extra lemon, I want this snack prepared just like this, can’t you see that loose line, go grab it! Tighten the traveler, take us 4 degrees starboard, don’t talk to me I feel like shit….”  And bless their hearts they (mostly) followed orders day in and day out and even cleaned up after me when I got sick. Ella was cute and would say, “Francisco! Mommy’s throw upping again,” and he’d come to help. I didn’t want him to correct her wording ’til the very last day or two because I liked how she said it wrong. “Throw upping,”  at least it gave me something to chuckle about in between.

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Luckily for all of us, I only REALLY lost it once. Out of frustration, loss of hope and the feeling that no one understood and everyone was so normal and happy sipping their cocktails and laughing the days away while I tried to ignore the overwhelming discomfort, I screamed profanities as loud as I could at everyone, threatened to throw stuff overboard and stormed below to bed.

There was a half decent day for me around day 15 as we crossed the Sea of Cortez. The water was like a pool, not even a ripple. We stopped and swam, you can read about it here. EVEN I made it all the way out of the newly named dog house and into the water. I walked around the boat a bit that day and surprisingly laid on the deck for an hour or two instead of the thrown which I would ruthlessly tell you if you sat there, “Get out of my spot.”

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FLASHBACK to December while we were still in Marina Del Rey working hard for hours on end to prepare for the trip. It was Dec 8th, I walked down the dock ramp towards our boat slip. As I walked passed the pile of Sea Lions sun bathing on the dock the smell of these marina pets was extra strong that day. I instantly started leaning over the dock gagging. I went straight to the store that night and picked up a pregnancy test which read “best results first thing in the morning.” I woke up Dec 9th, my birthday, pee’d on the trusty stick and watched TWO lines appear. Happy birthday to me! I calculated the due date based off my last period…. Happy birthday to Francisco! Due August 9th, his birthday! That evening on this same lovely day of mine, our dear Kiran was brought into the world as well!!! Ella’s first little brother, born a month before his due date, on my birthday!

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Kiran and Ella

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The next six weeks of boat preparation leading up to our Jan 26th departure would be hell. I was sick with Ella, maybe a little more than the average morning sickness considering it lasted 24 hours a day for a couple months straight, but it was bearable and it diminished around 12 weeks. This time would be different. 24 hours of INTENSE discomfort and we had SO much to do to prepare for sea. We had originally planned to leave around my birthday, but as with most sailing journeys there’s no definite departure date between preparing the boat, ourselves and watching the weather, etc. I ended up in the hospital sometime around early January because I had become so malnourished and dehydrated from not holding anything down due to how sick I was. They kept me longer than expected and gave me more than double the fluids and medicine they had anticipated. I was diagnosed with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum), which is basically EXTREME and never ending sickness during pregnancy, a rare experience that blesses only 2% of pregnancies. I wanted to get out of the Marina already!

Great, now I had some rare acute pregnancy sickness that only this poor pirate and the Princess of England share. I was prescribed pills to take multiple times a day to help with the vomiting. I hate taking pills. They did help a little bit, though it was much more discomfort than just nausea I was suffering from, so I often day dreamt they were morphine pills. I very seriously say, I contemplated if I might need to check into a mental institute multiple times. I didn’t even want to see or talk to my best friends because it was too much effort and no one I knew truly understood the intensity, mothers or not. I tried anything and everything to feel better. I became depressed which I had never really experienced in my life. Finally, I spoke to one of my childhood best friends, Sheena who had HG with 1 out of her 3 pregnancies. Gosh I love that woman, the sweetest. It broke her heart to see me that way because she KNEW. I was directed to information and support groups online that basically said there’s nothing that helps, “All the advice people give you for morning sickness are not going to help you, this is not morning sickness.” It was suggested that the best thing was support, bed rest, and mental strength. I stopped reading the support site as I couldn’t stand to do anything at all. Portia researched many times in hopes of supporting me and finding anything that could help. She recently told me she had read many forums of women feeling the need to be institutionalized, and sedated, I wasn’t alone.  I hope some day I can put into words inspiration and advice that might calm another HG expecting mom.

On the BRIGHT SIDE, and not just talking about this hot Mexico sun…..last week at 17 weeks pregnant, I woke up a new person, feeling at least halfway myself!!!  Pretty good, not amazing, but super happy to be functional, to have an appetite and my mind not so blurred, enough to look at a computer and write this post. Enough to finally enjoy where we’ve journeyed to and walk my ass to the beach or day spa to relax. Being debilitated since the sea lion initiation and several weeks into my 2nd trimester, even having spent weeks back on land, was making me feel mentally insane again, a loss of hope that it would never ease up, and now I didn’t have the sea to blame for it still lingering! BUT low and behold….here I am! Feeling what I would say is normal pregnancy sick, which is a huge relief (although it would be really awesome if it would disappear completely), it’s really something to feel that way with out a minute of relief for that many months STRAIGHT. It’s like waking up with a horrible hangover, the kind where you want to die and say you’ll never drink again, contemplate going to the ER. The kind where you feel it all the way until falling asleep the next night, but you make it through and wake up the next day just a bit worn out, but the next day after that you drink a beer! Yep, that kind, only it never went a way for even a minute, no next day beer for me.

Because I was so sick I didn’t see anyone and chose to not tell many people that I was pregnant before departure. As far as I was concerned, their opinions on sailing while sick didn’t matter anyways and I felt, “Well f*!# it, send me to sea. I’d rather be suffering sick out there than stuck on land.” 

Did sailing make my diagnoses easier or harder? Probably a bit of both. I think it certainly eased my mental state, not having to drive around town taking care of errands or see anyone in public, etc. but it was physically harder being swished around at sea.

Would I still make the same choice? YES! (that is to this whole sailing thing)

So anyways… SURPRISE!!!  It’s a Mexican boob job! The more kids you have the longer it lasts!

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Here’s a courtesy pic for anyone who read this in hopes of a nice boob shot.

(Yes I made a joke about Mexicans having lots of kids, yes I’m half Mexican, yes I love Mexico and Mexicans and all humankind) #theoceanhasnowalls

One last thing. While I’m on my rant, I hate these stickers..
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But guess what…

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Cabo to Puerto Vallarta Part II: Everyone Takes A Dive & Violeta Breaks the Wind Barrier!

By Portia Leigh

It was the first full day into the next leg of the journey and after our toilet victory (see last post), the rest of the day was all about relaxing— truth be told most days on the boat, other than a few wild curve balls thrown by the sea, have been about relaxing; regardless, we chilled harder that Friday than we had in the three weeks since we left Marina Del Rey. And it was glorious.

As we crossed the Sea of Cortez we instantly began feeling the heat of the tropics at a little over 22° N and just under 108° W. It was like night and day compared to the weeks spent in the Pacific Ocean to the west of Baja California—when, like clock work, we were layering ourselves in snow clothes from the time the sun went down until it was high up in the sky the next day.

Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing that again for many, many, many months! (Did I say many? Man is it hot here…)

By 11 a.m. that day everyone had stripped down to their bathing suits; and with mind bogglingly calm waters and little wind, the only logical thing to do was go swimming. Francisco turned off the engine, put out the swim step, and tied a few ropes to the port-side winches so we’d have something to grab onto if we started floating away.

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The five of us stood aboard looking over the edge, all primped and ready to swim, but nobody made a move… It’s a bit unnerving diving into something so vast for the first time. After some back and forth deliberation over who was going to take the plunge, I flung myself overboard before I could think about it any more. I plummeted into the still waters with surprising force. Within a minute I was back clinging to the rope threatening to scale my way up the rope if someone didn’t join me—my feelings were equal parts bliss and fright—it was eerie being alone in such a massive body of blue.

Francisco, then Tawnya, and after much coaxing, Ella jumped into the ocean. It felt cool as you entered, the force of your body pushing the cold water to the surface only to abruptly settle back down and allow the few feet of warmth that naturally rested on the surface to return. It was perfect. We splashed around in awe of the water’s silky calm beauty.

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Diego shook his head at us as if he wasn’t going to come in, and then he disappeared below deck. Right as we were crawling up the ladder, he remerged suited up with fins, snorkel and mask, and a knife strapped to his leg.

He and Ella jumped in together while the rest of us chilled aboard. They didn’t last long though, soon enough all of us were on board basking in the sun. Ella grabbed the purple wind inflatable couch my mom got me for Christmas and flung it open on deck, and Francisco put on Yo La Tengo’s “Summer Sun,” the perfect tune for the day’s vibe.

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The wind decided to bless us with a gentle breeze, so Diego and Francisco broke out the spinnaker. It was the first time she had been up on the trip (and only the second time since Francisco bought Violeta several years ago). In spite of its 80s tracksuit style print, the kind that brings to mind over exposed chest hair and a gold chain necklace, the spinnaker’s Sea of Cortez debut was a momentous event. It looked glorious the way it stretched from the bow to the front of the cockpit enveloping the wind like a kite.

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We kicked it up a notch with Jamiroquai’s “A Funk Odyssey,” and soon everyone was moving and grooving around the boat, never tiring of the warm tropical sun and smooth waters. Ella helped me wash my hair in a bowl, which felt surprisingly luxurious (probably more so considering I hadn’t showered in two days).

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We cruised slow and easy at 3 knots. Nobody felt the need to rush and motor to our destination, everyone felt happy just being, patiently going with the flow and seeing what the ocean wanted to show us; and boy did we see a lot. We saw a plethora of dolphins, a few red jellyfish, a whale’s tale and a sea turtle the size of a small tire.img_5298

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The following day was just as peaceful—calm waters all around. We put the spinnaker up again, this time with the mizzen, and that’s when we saw a bit of action, we were seriously cruising! Francisco called out, “Violeta broke the wind barrier!” It was true, we were sailing nearly two knots faster than the wind was blowing. Incredible!

I began to feel a bit of melancholia the closer we got to our destination, I just didn’t want to go back to land. The peace that comes with being surrounding by miles of ocean, with nothing solid in sight (aside from the boat), is one of the most freeing experiences I have had. The magnificent beauty of the sunsets, sunrises and star-filled nights, and their impermanence, filled me with a rare and simple joy– bringing into perspective all those that I’d missed because I was too busy doing something else with all the “luxuries” and distractions we have on land.

I told Ella about the magical moonlight and the way the clouds had turned into faces as I sat on my shift the night before, and she was so intrigued by this that she convinced Tawnya to let her stay up with me that night. We set up to cushions on the bow, watched the clouds and listened to a Norse mythology audio book— and she told me a story of creation, and how whales, dolphins and elephants are sacred animals because they made the earth. Needless to say, the last night sailing across the ocean aboard our lady Violeta couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Moon Rise over Sea of Cortez
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Mast in the Moon Light

The following morning we nearly stumbled into a perilous disaster, one that easily could have put the whole trip to an end! But we’ll tell you about that in Cabo to Puerto Vallarta Part III, coming soon! 

 

Cabo to Puerto Vallarta (Part I): Gas Station Rip Off, Sunset Magic & Hair Clips in the Head

By Portia Leigh

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We left our slip at Marina Cabo San Lucas around 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, moving all of 20 ft. across the water to the marina gas station parallel to us. Despite being in Mexico, we knew we weren’t going to be getting any price breaks by refueling in Cabo; and as we expected, the diesel prices were equivalent to those in Marina Del Rey, CA. But what we didn’t expect was to be charged a $50 (USD) fee just to dock the boat at the gas station on top of paying for the actual gas—So what you’re saying is we have to pay you just so we can pay you? I don’t get it… One might assume that the $125 per night slip rental fee we paid would buy us the right to just pay for the gas and bypass that asinine additional fee (one which we weren’t informed of until we were already filling up), but it was not so. If you’re crossing by Cabo I strongly suggest not filling up your tanks at Marina Cabo San Lucas, the whole situation was disgustingly rude.

Just as quickly as we said a not so fond farewell to the tourist-saturated circus, we found ourselves peacefully enjoying an epic sunset over the famous Cabo San Lucas arch; and from then on, the evening was pure magic.

Ella and Tawnya whipped up a lovely stir-fry for dinner (one of their ultimate favorites) and everyone made their way to bed shortly after. It had been a long day packed with a monumental grocery store excursion, the refilling of ice, water and fuel, as well as the handling of multiple other odds and ends necessary for making the next leg of the trip as smooth as possible.

I’m on the 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift (and the 6 a.m. until someone else wakes up shift) so I sat up watching the moon shine down on the water, reveling in the unbelievable beauty of it all. I felt a noticeable difference between the Pacific Ocean to the west of Baja and the Sea of Cortez— which probably has more to do with the wind (or lack of) at the time, rather than any real difference between the waters. That night, as we headed southeast from the lowest point of Baja across the Sea of Cortez towards Puerto Vallarta, the waves rolled in parallel to the hull causing Violeta to rock dramatically from side to side.

The night was rather uneventful, until I went to the head and tried to pump the toilet… it wouldn’t flush. Ughhh, it was too late to ask Francisco what to do, so after my shift was done and Diego took over, I went to bed. Still, as Violeta rocked side to side, my mind ran wild with images of the toilet bowl overturning into a filthy catastrophe– I was sure a pee-soaked floor would inevitably be waiting for me when I woke up. To my astonishment though, not a drop spilled!

I went above board for the 6 a.m. shift, which has become my favorite part of day. Watching the moon’s final descent to the west as the rising sun paints the sky with color from the east is tragically underrated.

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This morning was particularly special though; the ocean was calm, quiet, and virtually without a ripple. It looked as smooth as velvet, appearing if a plaid-like pattern was superimposed upon the magical blue water — it’s hard to describe exactly how I felt gazing into it at dawn. My body felt physically different, as though the subtle current was moving into me and slowing things down with every breath… I felt like Jello, haha, calm, tingly, Jello.

I found a baby calamari deceased on deck and I hooked it to Diego’s fishing line, maybe this will help us score another fish! (It didn’t..) Soon Ella was up, and she joined me for a bit of yoga, pranayama and meditation.

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It was a lovely morning… and then I remembered the toilet situation. After pulling a pair of snug rubber gloves on up to my elbows and cleaning out the toilet with a red solo cup and a turkey baster, Francisco went to town. He got the Phillips and flat head screw drivers and some paper towels together, singing a song that went something like Get yourself a red solo cup we’re gonna have shit party, (something, something) Hey Mr. Hanky!

As he entered the bowhead he requested I put on Beethoven’s 9th to set the mood, it seemed most appropriate for the job. After having removed the hand pump, connecting plastic box housing and hoses—he found the culprit—a miniature and wildly unruly hair clip had gone astray and found its way into the toilet, the creator of all our subsequent woes. Lesson learned: No loose objects in the bathroom!

 **Stay tuned for part II of the journey to Puerto Vallarta and find out how Violeta broke the wind barrier!