One of the aspects of this trip that had caused me some trepidation was the feeling of seasickness. I’ve been on many boats and not had much trouble, but there was one very nasty experience in St Vincent when I was working on the coastal project there. I had tried to prepare better for this, making sure before I boarded I had something sensible in my stomach. And I also had found a tablet called Stugeron that others had recommended. I’d taken a couple in good time before I got aboard but on the first trip I did feel a little queasy as we waited in harbour for the ship to be ready to depart. I think it was because the stabilisers for the ship were not activated and the RMS was buffeted in lots of different directions at the same time. It made it very difficult for my inner ear to decide which way was horizontal. The way I had dealt with it in harbour was to grab a cup of tea in the sun lounge and head out on deck Once in the fresh air, I was able to focus on the horizon and stabilize myself.
Now we were under way, I felt no ill effects at all, the stabilizers stopped the swaying in two directions so all you had to deal with was the up and down of the waves we were crossing ahead of us. I never had another queasy moment on any trip I had with the RMS. However, on my second trip down the weather turned nasty not far out from Ascension Island and while I carried on as normal, I found I was amongst only a handful of the 70 or so passengers that were following the routine. So many were holed up in their cabins, rolling around on their beds trying not to throw up, and many not succeeding. I was in the bar in the evening and I commented on how quiet it was to one of the stewardesses. She said yes, she had been helping the doctor go round the cabins and injecting strong anti sickness shots into people to keep them calm (and hopefully let them get to sleep).
So while the sea sickness was solved, the movement of the ship still caused physical challenges. When you have never been on a ship you think of all the comedy films that show items sliding back and forth across floors, but the carpets and the fixtures make sure things stay in place. I loved the little sticky mats on the tables where you could put a plate or glass and be sure it was still there as you crossed the next wave.
You got used to walking down the corridors, timing the steps to go with the flow of the rocking. I could even work out how to get water on the right part of my skin when in the shower, although in the confined space it was rare that I would get through a bathe without banging my head on something. It was a bit of a surprise if you went over a crest of a particularly high wave as you sat on the loo – when it turned more into a bidet than a lavatory. And you just had to concentrate very hard when shaving.
The areas in which you had to take extreme care were around the outside doors. These were heavy duty watertight doors; left open in good weather to help ventilation, they were closed shut during any bad weather. If you decided to chance your luck and head out to the open deck, you had to be ready with all your force to make those doors open and ensure all limbs were well away from the gap as it could swing back with many Newtons of force on the next wave. I found all these dynamics just a series of new problems that needed to be adapted to and life on the ship settled down easily within a few hours of boarding.