When Alex and I were sailing the Seven Seas (well, ok, just one sea) around the Croatian islands under the exotic sun, we never expected that one night we would have to fully abandon ship.
I’m not talking about an epic storm, a crazy shipwreck or psycho mermaids from the deep. I’m talking about a little thing that affects many and can floor you, freak you out and make you prepare to grab your most beloved possessions to hightail it out of your cabin. And that, my friends, is sea sickness.
In the summer, we popped along to Croatia with our fellow travelettes.net girls to go on a week long sailing trip. Alex was real nervous about getting sea sick and had packed half a pharmacy in her bag to knock herself out if the going got tough. I was incredibly blasé about it. I remembered some real crazy boat rides in Thailand and since I had managed to keep my dinner down during those pretty ridiculous times, I assumed I’d be ok on this trip. NB: to assume makes an ass out of you and me.
We had already encountered rough seas on our first day on the ocean. A storm had swept in as we cooed at the big blue surrounding us and we soon had to make an unscheduled dock at the fishing village, Stari Grad. The weather passed quickly and Stari Grad was a stunning place in the blazing sunshine; we were high in spirits and confident that we had defeated the sea – “Huzzah!” shouted the fools!
I managed to get away with a further 24 hours at sea believing all was fine and dandy. However, day 3 rolled around and so did the wild Adriatic sea. We were en route to the island of Vis and had to go around the outside of the neighbouring island which was being battered by five foot waves from the open stormy seas. Croatia has experienced an incredibly turbulent summer, so to be living on a boat during these unstable times was guarenteed to be a recipe for disaster. Arriving at Komiža on Vis was like seeing an oasis in a barren desert. I was totes ready to get to shore and stay still for a few minutes on solid ground and be able to walk without desperately clinging onto anything that was remotely nailed down. Those 5 foot waves had ripped our cabin apart: stools had come unhinged, the cabinet with the stereo had been battered off the wall (the music, O god the music had died!) and a few of us were pretty green around the gills.
On land, we celebrated with tired glasses of red wine and pizza before avoiding the parties and heading to bed to sleep off the bouncy trauma. The only problem was that there was no harbour at Komiža so everyone was bobbing in the bouncy bay with a dropped anchor. The issue with this is that as the boat rocks and gets thrown around by the current, it rocks side to side whilst simultaneously spinning around the anchored spot. It was a whirly-gig ride that I hadn’t signed up for.
The other girls hunkered down as I gingerly lay down in mine and Alex’s cabin. Cue my babbling: “O god, O Jesus, I don’t think I can do this. Alex, I can’t do this!”. It was nice to hear my big sis be very calm and try and soothe me by getting me to imagine that I was a big baby in a rocking crib. But she lasted about ten seconds lying down in bed beside me before we both exclaimed “FUCK THIS!” and quit the cabin.
Everyone else had knocked them selves out with sea sickness pills, so we were on our own. I tried sleeping on the deck so I could see the stars and not be trapped in a black bouncing coffin of a cabin, but the goddamn boom (that holds the sails) was loose and swinging wildly above our heads. These were our options:
- Stay up all night going insane
- Attempt to swim to shore/drown
- Scream blue murder until someone called the cops (as long as the jail cells were on dry land)
- Call the taxi boat that had taken us to land, sleep on the beach or try find a hotel
So we went with number 1… only joking. We went with option 4 as I still had the taxi boat phone number. The dude driving the dingy was pretty confused when he saw that we had a blanket and bags, and a wild panic in our eyes, but when good guys see crazy girls in distress, they do what they’re told.
We got to dry land just as my sleeping pills were kicking in, so most of the wandering around the island was a blur with Alex talking to me in slow motion. We had spied a grand white hotel in the bay and headed that way first. Passing by the pumping bars where happy-go-lucky souls drank and were carefree was slightly depressing. We were tired, disorientated, light headed and worried about where to sleep for the night. We first headed to the only hotel on the island. Fully booked. The beach was nearby and we were thinking of sleeping there, but a gang of lads were drinking there so that was out of the question. For now.
We loitered for a bit, but as we were unnerving some spliff-smoking backpackers in the alley, we moved on, back to the busy bars and cafes which were slowly emptying as midnight had come and gone a while ago. We found ourselves begging at a cafe for the waitresses to let us sleep on their sofas (we left our dignity at the door). But instead of treating us like lepers of the abandoned ship, they were insanely nice and offered us blankets and advice on good spots to sleep on the beach. I guess I would be pretty suspicious of travellers wanting to sleep in my house…
One waitress did however direct us to a bar that ‘looked like it was out of the twilight zone’ and ask for Colek. We searched for Corto Maltese on the waterfront and soon stumbled upon this very cool, dingy bar that was thick with cigarette smoke and locals sippin’ on whiskey. Rock posters covered the black walls and we finally got talking to our saviour, Colek. He Ummmm-ed and ahhhh-ed about sorting us out. The poor guy was tired and had to man the bar until 5 am, and his mum who had a spare room wasn’t answering the phone.
Hallelujah! Colek finally decided to walk us up into the island, weaving in and out of dark picturesque and romantic alleyways, through archways and along cobbled lanes, until finally we arrived at the house that would save us from sleeping rough or drowning ourselves at sea in misery!
The cute little house had a beast of a dog sleeping outside and a bed for Alex and I to share. A bed that wasn’t spinning around and a place to lay our heads down to end the night of homelessness. That night we had had just a taste of what it would be like to not have a home or a bed for the night, and it sure was horrible. It wasn’t as extreme as being homeless (I know I’m being dramatic) and I sure felt like a princess with the whole, “Oh the sea is too rough for poor little me on my yacht, please help me!”. I can safely say though, that Croatians are some of the most friendly and lovely people in the world. They look out for you and make you feel safe! The people to actually watch out for in Croatia, are the drunken tourists. The drunken louts actually make you feel unsafe, but the locals will bend over backwards to help you out if you ask nicely… or look like you’re about to keel over in a tired, lost stupor.
Moral of the Story: If you’re prone to sea sickness, don’t sleep on a boat. If you had no idea that you’re prone to sea sickness, be prepared to wing it when you need to abandon ship.