Alaska 24X7

Last weekend we presented at the Seattle Boat Show on our 24×7 run to Alaska.  The slides are posted at Hamilton_SBS11_Alaska24x7.pdf.  A couple of questions we were asked that weren’t covered in the presentation were on seasickness and how Spitfire did on the trip.

Seasickness generally isn’t a problem for James, but I will get seasick if the conditions are rough enough. I’m still functional when I’m seasick, but I just can’t hold down any food or even liquid. Normally this isn’t a big deal, and I don’t bother taking any medication, as its generally only a problem for a few hours until we reach shelter. But on this trip, that wasn’t going to be an option. So I got a prescription for “the patch” (Transderm Scop patch) to use in case I needed it. On the first night of the trip up to Alaska, we went through the Strait of Juan de Fuca during a gale warning (trip map). The wind was on our bow against the current, and the waves were steep and tightly packed. I actually was fine that night, perhaps because I was either at the helm or sleeping most of the time. But the next day conditions were still pretty rough and, while alert and functioning, I couldn’t keep down any food. That night I applied a patch and it helped substantially. I did have some side-effects though: dilated pupils, a bad taste in my mouth and I was quite drowsy the first night I used it. But that was better than the alternatives–and I was able to eat most foods. I used the patch for the remainder of the trip up. You can see it behind my right ear in the picture below.

On the return trip, conditions were fine the first night, but we hit a gale warning the second night through Hecate Strait. The wind again was on our bow, also with steep, tightly-packed waves. I got seasick, so I wore the patch just until conditions settled down about 24 hours later. I was fine the rest of the trip down the west coast of Vancouver Island without it.

Spitfire mostly did quite well on the trip. When the water is really rough and the boat is moving a lot, he can get scared. Usually he settles down if we get a towel or blanket for him to wrap himself up in and hide (using the “If I can’t see it then it can’t see me” approach to scary situations).  He can get seasick too, so we control his food intake and only give him small amounts throughout the day. He did lose his kibbles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca that first night out, partly because he’d had a full meal earlier, but was fine after that. The boat motion was severe enough at some points that we felt safer moving around by crawling, and Spitfire adapted to that too. He’d sleep with one paw sticking out, like an outrigger, to stabilize himself. And he adopted a method of going down stairs we called “Front, front, hinds.” Normally he runs down stairs with only one paw hitting a given step. But in the rough water, he’d carefully bring one front paw down, then the next to join it, then his hind paws, and then move to the next step.  

And once conditions settled down, Spitfire had a great time. He especially liked to “work” the graveyard shift with James. In foggy conditions, we turned on a large floodlight mounted high on the stack. Our experience with fishing boats is that the spotlight is visible from much greater distances in the fog than the navigation lights. Particularly when the floodlight was on, seabirds buzzed the boat and Spitfire charged back and forth along the dash top chasing them. And he likes to sleep in unusual places sometimes, so he adapted to the ocean swell by finding spots he could wedge himself into.


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