Not a lot of people talk about it, in fact I think most sailors who suffer from it are a bit embarrassed. But, I think talking about issues like this is important, and I hope that by sharing my story I can help other sailors out there who is suffering in silence.
What I am talking about is landsickness.
Landsickness affects different sailors in different ways; some people have difficulty believing that their coffee cup will stay on counter top without non-skid, some people crave salt and others feel nauseous when simply sitting still. The trick is to recognize how your body reacts to living on land and learning how you can cope with it.
For me the first sign of landsickness is always living by the clock; getting up hours after sunrise and staying up way past dark. Then I start referring to the room with the toilet as the “bath room” and I don’t think twice about flushing the toilet without even having to pump it. I plug my laptop in any time I want, turn the lights LONG before it is too dark to see the person I am speaking to only a few feet away and I enjoy unlimited hot water showers, sometimes twice a day.
I can go for days without symptoms then, suddenly, I am caught off guard. The other day at a friend’s house I noticed the eve was leaking and I immediately looked for a bucket to put under the drip to collect water. Last week doing yoga I prided myself on how easy it was to hold a one-legged balance pose for several minutes, something I haven’t been able to do in a while. Then I noticed that the floor beneath my feet wasn’t moving.
Like most sufferers I don’t exhibit symptoms right away. For the first few weeks I am excited about being a “dirt dweller”, then a funny feeling settles over me, an anxiousness. I try and resolve my feelings with movement, keeping busy and active, never staying in one spot for too long. I visit friends, research plane fares and think about booking hotels; anything to feel like I am going somewhere ‘different’, experiencing something ‘new.’ But that is just distracting me from the real problem; I am a sailor who is landlocked.
There is no magic cure for landsickness, no pill to take. But, there are things that you can do to help ease the symptoms. Befriend a boat owner and get them to take you out, even if it is a motorboat it can help. If you can’t find a friend with a boat try a ride on a public ferry. Sometimes just sitting next to the ocean can help, particularly if you can find a floating dock. If you’re truely landlocked and can’t even find a puddle to commune with I might suggest taking a bath and adding an extra big scoopful of Epsom salts. Not only will this calm you down, the Epsom salts will give you that briny ocean toss feeling that your body is craving.
Of course, I do suggest a ration or two of rum daily, for medicinal purposes. Rum can be especially helpful as it replicates the sensation of being underway; unsteady on your feet, a slight feeling of sickness. However, the side effects can be that you begin to speak like a pirate, so consider yourself warned.
I hope that in sharing my story other sailors out there who, like me, are temporary ashore and suffering from landsickness can find some relief. I would love to hear your stories of landsickness…if you’re brave enough to share.