Galley 101

Unlike a home where you have your supplies neatly organized – baking supplies here, soup tins there – on a boat you store your supplies wherever they fit. So you might find the bag of oatmeal occupying the space between your bowls and the tall jar of artichoke hearts nestled safely amongst your tea towels to protect it from breakage in rough seas.

On long cruises, I make an inventory list of all provisions and where they are stored.  While assembling ingredients for a meal, I scratch off each item so that I always know what I am running low on. This makes it much easier when you go ashore to provision as your shopping list is already completed.  It also helps you keep on top of supplies that might be tucked away in a far corner of a seldom-vsited locker to emerge as a rusted tin of unidentified contents months later.

It always seems that I have to move 3 things in order to make any meal. If your partner is aboard while you are doing this, it usually means that they have to move 3 times too because they are sitting on the settee above one locker, then move to the small chair above the second locker and finally are standing in front of the deep locker where the few remaining items are stowed. We call it the “Sailboat Shuffle.” After many years of living aboard, we do this dance without realizing it.

Crossing the Strait of Georgia

Cooking underway adds a whole other dimension to adventures in the galley. If the sea conditions suddenly worsen in the middle of your meal preparations, you have to literally strap yourself in. Balancing yourself with legs braced while holding a pot with one hand and a spoon with the other, conjuring up a bowl of oatmeal would impress the judges at a Cirque du Soleil audition!

Although it involves a few additional steps, a meal cooked at sea has that extra ingredient that makes it taste better than anything cooked onshore – adventure. Bon appetit!

I’ve Got That Sinking Feeling

The warm sun shining on my now dehydrated face was no consolation for my surroundings.  A picture-perfect day 10 miles off the coast of the big island in Hawaii would normally result in quiet contemplation of my many blessings.  Eight hours out with a marlin on the end of the guy-from-Wisconsin’s line – and I’m looking over the side of the boat imagining the peace that I would feel if I could just slip overboard.

Seasick. Green – and not with envy. Eight hours of seasickness with another two added on for good measure to bring the bloody marlin in. Smelly, 800 lbs of fish at my feet in the hot Hawaiian sun as we head back towards land. Tick Tock. Sheer agony as each minute of this deep-sea fishing adventure comes to a close while my charter-mates avoid eye contact for fear this is contagious. If you have never experienced this malady consider yourself fortunate and have some compassion for your crew mate who is sullen, pale, sweating and hanging over the side of the boat.

So what exactly is sea sickness and why do some people suffer and not others?  Different sensory systems, namely the eyes and inner ears constantly report back to the brain on our success in walking upright.  However, place a boat under your feet and that ordered, vertical world becomes chaotic and everything goes to pot.

Some contend that the “control freak” part of our nature makes this affliction affect some and not others. This is not to imply that people who suffer from seasickness are also control freaks. Those boaters who are able to let go of the need to have an orderly world do not seem to be susceptible to the green monster. However, throw a little fear into the blender and they will succumb too.

Common motion sickness remedies such as Gravol are not without side effects such as drowsiness and often come with a warning not to operate machinery once taken.  Probably not a great combination with operating a boat which last time I checked, has some machinery.

Newer techniques such as patches behind the ears work for some and my personal favourite, the sea band works by putting pressure on the Nei-Kuan acupressure points on each wrist thus quelling the body’s confusion with motion. Excessive consumption of fats, red meat and alcohol can contribute to seasickness so as a preventative measure it is probably best to avoid these prior to departure.

The homeopathic remedy Tabacum (Tobacco) is also very effective for some without any nasty side effects.  Ginger tea is excellent for nausea but sea sickness can sneak up on you quickly before you get a chance to put the kettle on the stove. I was also told by a veteran South Seas sailor that canned (not fresh) pamplemousse was the perfect remedy for seasickness. Now “pamplemousse” is also the French word for grapefruit, so I’ll let you experiment with that one.

The most exotic remedy recommends taping an umeboshi plum to your navel.  Apparently, other varieties of plums do not work and this reportedly is effective for all types of travel sickness as long as it is done at the onset of travelling.  don’t know what it is with plums and the sea, as I recall Joshua Slocum’s ordeal after ingesting white cheese and plums during his solo circumnavigation on Spray.  Therefore, I suggest that you don’t eat the plum, just tape it to your belly button.

Kidding aside, seasickness can be a serious complication to deteriorating conditions at sea and can affect your physical ability to handle difficult situations. During Power Squadron’s Basic Boating course, an example was given of a sailboat that had to be rescued when the Captain became completely incapacitated with seasickness and his younger, female companion had no idea how to operate the boat.

Through years of trial and error, I have found the following to be effective when you find yourself in lumpy water: I keep the seabands in the pocket of my life jacket (which I always wear when we are underway) and put them on at the first hint of lumpiness; get behind the helm in the fresh air (some of those nice yoga breaths always feel good at this point); concentrate on what you’re doing and not on how you’re feeling; and don’t go below for anything! Of course, the first choice would be to stay put safely at anchor or in the marina if conditions are lousy, but sometimes the weather forecast is wrong and you are caught in less than favourable conditions.

If you have an overactive inner ear that insists on balance at all times, try some of these suggestions and develop your own personal remedy for seasickness. It is a miserable affliction but it need not keep you from the water.

Use Your Smelly Sense

The use of essential oils from flowers, herbs, trees and fruit can be traced back to the ancient Sumerians. However, from the proliferation of commercials on TV, you would think that aromatherapy is a recent discovery. Other than using the word “aromatherapy”, there is no similarity between a synthetically produced piece of plastic that you stick into a light socket and an essential oil extracted from living matter. None.

It is not surprising then to understand that there is also no health benefit from the synthetic scent and in fact, exposure to chemicals can create ill health in people who are sensitive to them. Commercial “aromatherapy” products often contain synthetically-made fragrances with perhaps, a trace amount of essential oil.

In comparison, each essential oil can be broken down into its naturally occurring chemical constituents. It is the chemical constituents that give essential oils their therapeutic benefits.  A trained aromatherapist blends essential oils after consulting with a client. The oils can then be applied through an aromatherapy massage or for the client to take home to apply after showering or to use in a diffuser. Never put undiluted essential oils directly on the skin without first consulting an aromatherapist.

Diffuser blend

During the craziness of H1N1, a diffuser filled with water and essential oils can be beneficial. Try this recipe at home, 3 drops each of the essential oils of:

  • lemon (citrus limonum)
  • eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) and
  • pine (pinus sylvestris).

(Please note that eucalyptus should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.  Substitute tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) for the eucalyptus.) Place the diffuser in the room where you spend the most amount of time.

Essential oils can be used effectively to treat a wide variety of health issues. For more information, consult a professionally trained aromatherapist in your community.

Exploring Feldenkrais Method

I had heard the word “Feldenkrais” before, but really didn’t know anything about it, so when the opportunity arose to take a workshop recently, I couldn’t resist. This workshop was about vision and I thought that was a good enough place to start as any.

The instructor told us a little bit about Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 – 1984), the creator of the method. He was a smart guy with varying interests from mechanical engineering to perinatal development. When a debilitating knee injury left him unable to walk, he decided to teach his body a new way to move.  By increasing awareness of habitual patterns of moving and holding muscles, one can learn to move utilizing less energy.  Athletes, dancers, singers and everyday people use the teachings of Feldenkrais to optimize function with less energy output.

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In the vision workshop, the instructor guided us through a sequence of movements that increased awareness about our eyes. Who stops to think about how many muscles they use when they blink? Through the process of paying attention and focusing on my eyes, I became aware that when I blink, I engage a muscle in my neck. This habit of activating this muscle doesn’t make me blink any better, but through the course of a day and many blinks later, it certainly tires out the muscle! The instructor guided us through repetitive movements slowly re-teaching the nervous system and the muscles to work in a more energy efficient way.

At the end of the class, I was much surprised to discover that my posture was better and I felt very calm as if I had just finished meditating. Learning to move with less effort and optimizing that magical mind-body connection is a wonderful gift that you can give yourself.

Feldenkrais is taught as weekly Awareness Through Movement (ATM) classes or in workshops which focus on certain areas of the body. Feldenkrais practitioners can also work one-on-one with clients through Functional Integration to work on specific problem areas. If you have a Feldenkrais experience that you would like to share, please feel free to post it here.