Sea legs?

Are you a good sailor or are you one of the unfortunates that suffer from motion sickness? Back in the day, there wasn’t much you could do about that. Famous people who you wouldn’t imagine being seasick include none other than Horatio Nelson. Very difficult if you make your career as an Admiral in the Royal Navy. Goodness knows how he stuck it out because anyone who has ever been seasick will tell you, it’s not fun.

My father was in the Royal Navy and according to him never got seasick but others are not so lucky. So what happens if you sign up for the Navy and then find out you get insanely seasick every time you are on a ship. It is a real problem and apparently, there is a program called Blue to Green where you can transfer out of the Navy and finish your term in the Army.

A close family member (not naming any names) was in the merchant navy and had a stomach of iron …. been through lots in his time on all types of ships. While down in Durban on holiday he and his wife joined a fishing trip. Very excited they packed beers and wine and dropped into Nando’s Chicken (a famous South African takeaway) and ordered the best of the best – chicken breasts only. Off they went with no problem at all until the boat was out on the open sea and the captain cut the engine. With that lovely wallow from side to side and the odd pitch, it didn’t take long for them to abandon their fishing rods and take to hanging their heads over the side of the boat. Must have been looking for sharks?? Needless to say, they didn’t touch the delightful chicken or drink any of the beers. The crew were chuffed.

Sometimes seasickness is something that you get over quite quickly once you get your sea legs. I was on a Star Clipper yacht a couple of years back and we all had to come up on deck for the safety briefing. I was standing next to a young boy who suddenly turned away and threw up. His mom was all upset and we all felt sorry for him but by that afternoon he was charging around the ship having a ball, so clearly, he had found his sea legs.

Star Clipper

When I boarded my first yacht trip I was surprised to see that there was a little wooden ledge that could be pulled up along the base of the mattress – I guess to stop you from falling out of bed in heavy weather. I have been on larger cruise ships where rough waters were anticipated and the crew had taken the precaution of putting bins in convenient places and putting up rope handles and grips along the stairs and in the passages.

They say a full stomach is a trick to avoid being seasick – and also a healthy dose of Dramamine – which makes you sleepy. During my dad’s Naval career we moved around a lot and at one time had to do the overnight ferry from Scotland to Northern Ireland. My dad was totally prepared. As we sat in the car in the line up waiting to board he had bought chicken and chips for us to eat. He made sure our stomachs were full. By the time we boarded the ferry there was a gale-force wind blowing and my sister and I were out on the top deck watching the white caps and relishing the whole experience. We were quickly bundled below to the cabin – yes my Dad who was notoriously scrimpy had splashed out and reserved a cabin for us on the ferry. We were given our Dramamine and told to go to sleep. Of course we protested. There was a lounge upstairs full of people and they were playing the Top Twenty and everyone was having fun. “Listen” said my Dad “I know what I am talking about and these seas are going to get worse. This table is going to make you sleepy and you will wake up in the morning as fit as a fiddle. So go to bed.” Needless to say with full bellies and a good dose of Dramamine we slept like dogs. In fact, we had to be woken up as we had arrived in port and were ready to disembark. Imagine our horror when we got upstairs and those poor folks who had to sleep in the chairs – well – suffice it to say that they had not had a pleasant evening. The lounge was a mess! Truly, the poor ferry staff had a hell of a job on their hands. We looked around the mess on the seats and on the floor – it was terrible – and the few people left were pale and ragged looking. Of course, my Dad could not resist with his “I told you so!!”

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. In my younger days while hitch-hiking through Europe and beyond, a group of us hired passage on a private flat top sailboat to take us from Rhodes to Turkiye.
    As soon as we left the protection of the port area the seas were rolling and we had to hang on to anything on deck to keep from being tipped off. Most of the group were miserably hanging on to the ropes at the edge of the top deck so they could spew over the edge. I don’t recall if I had a full stomach at the time but I was so fortunate not to be one of those affected by the rolling seas. Not so sure that would still be the case for me today, but it was all part of an unforgettable travelling experience.


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