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Porridge, Pills and XC Weather

A success story in the quest to beat seasickness

Written by Bruce Dickinson 

Some of the most miserable days of my life have been spent fishing.

Some of the most miserable days of my life have been spent fishing

I am a chronic sea- sickness sufferer which not ideal when you own a boat and love sea fishing.

This saga all started on a dingy floating around off Filey Brig when I was 12. One of my Dad’s friends had kindly taken my brother and I out for codling off North Yorkshire’s famous rocky headland. Cod stocks being what they were in the 70’s (much better!) we soon had a few 3lber’s on our hand lines baited with mussel.  But something wasn’t right. I dimly became aware that I just wasn’t enjoying myself as I should, and even the urgent ‘tug tug’ of a codling on the line didn’t seem to summon up the usual jubilation. Then a more troubling aspect developed - I realised I couldn’t join in conversation, or even think of anything to say. The jolly banter of the boat seemed oppressive and I wished they would shut up. I was getting a dizzy and, trying to concentrate on the land, I tried to get a grip. My last mistake was to look down in the boat trying to bait up.  I suddenly spun out, and puked till my guts were empty and then dry heaved acidic bile until I was back on land.

This was a pattern that was to be repeated though out my life. Not every time I went out, but maybe 50% of the time. But the good trips afloat were magic, and I wanted to keep coming back for more. How I envied those who could tie knots properly, sort out proper bait presentation and look at the GPS without going green.  The end came when I was so ill I became disassociated to the point where I truly lost the will to live. Apparently there was some debate about bringing out the air ambulance, before the crew decided to cut short their own fishing and bring me in. That was the last straw. Fishing etiquette dictates that if you are the one gipping up, you suffer it so the crew can continue fishing. Something had to be done.

I decided to buy my own boat, so I could come in if need be, and also gain some sea legs though repeated exposure to the motion of the waves.  Well that (the gaining of the sea legs) never happened as even now, a few years on, I am quite capable of Olympic standard projectile vomiting on a flat calm sea if I don’t take preventative action.

The good news is that I have however, developed a routine that is 100% effective in preventing seasickness and, in the interests of home made science, I shall present the results of my studies to you. It works for me- but no promises that it will for all.

The first thing in discovered on my journey was that not all sea sick pills are created equally.  I went thought them all and I found out quickly that the commonly offered and non -drowsy pills had a bit of an effect- but not enough to make any real difference. Stugeron and Quells (the most common options) were particularly useless for me. During these dark days I had to endure some grim fishing outings. I would generally get badly ill after an hour or so and suffer a continuing decline as long as I remained at sea.  One Yorkshire skipper advised  ‘stop when you feel somat  ‘airy in t’mouth- it’ll be yer arsehole’. Nice.  Worse than that was the well-meaning folks who repeatedly offered the smug opinion that ‘its all in the mind’.  They should be buried at sea.

Look there are two types of sea sickness- the first one is where the angler isn’t used to being on a moving surface. They tense up their stomach muscles in an attempt to get some balance- chew up their guts, feel queasy and chuck up. Those guys are the ones who tend to feel better afterwards and recover.

The second group, which includes me, suffers from the fluid in the inner ear sloshing about. This sends messages to the brain that conflict with visual signals from the eyes, causing difficulty with orientation.  I have no idea why the overriding symptom of that should be sickness. We tend to get worse and worse… and worse. Many people have actually died of sea sickness- admittedly on long journeys and from dehydration caused by not being able to keep anything down.   When it’s that bad death would be a bloody relief all round.

So the pills that do work are called ‘Avomine’.

Avomine work for me

You have to hunt around for them and no question they do the job. But, and it’s a big but, there are side effects. Unpleasant side effects.  These include: extreme doziness, craving for sugar, lack of ability to speak, a reduced desire to fish properly (bait presentation goes out the window) and you don’t actually remember going fishing. You vaguely recall having a good time, as if you’d had a few pints and several doobies, maybe some valium and a mixture chasers.  Imagine if Carlos Santana cut short his legendary set at Woodstock in ‘69 and went fishing, kind of like that.   Probably not a good idea to drive home – but at least you got to wet a line and didn’t yak up.

Over the years though I have refined my practice to minimise the side effects like so:

1.    Reduce the dosage to suit sea conditions. I can get away with 1/8 of a pill on a calm sea, ½ a pill up to a force 3 or so and a 4 plus necessitates a whole pill- so check XC weather and the Met office – but you do that anyway right?
2.    I precede taking the dose with a bowl of porridge- this makes a lot of difference as it means absorption is slow and steady.
3.    I take this 2 hours before departure.
4.    I take a flask of strong filter coffee and this offsets the sedative effect even more.

Doing this I am now never sick and can tie knots, look at the GPS as much as I like and it’s 100% effective. I can even join in the ‘jolly banter’ on the boat and give as good as I get. Still crash out when I get home though - once the fishing adrenalin has worn off its like a general anesthetic…  You need an understanding wife/ husband/ partner.

I still crash out when the fishing adrenalin wears off

Other things that are less fundamental but certainly help are: breathing in a deep relaxed way (was you might during yoga or, I imagine, childbirth), and moving with the motion of the boat without fighting it. If you feel tension in legs or torso- relax and go with it – it really helps the ears and eyes figure out what is going on and co-ordinate the signals to the brain.  To assist in this the French navy has developed some glasses that have built in spirit levels in the frames. This gives the eyes a visual marker that corresponds to the sloshing of the inner ear fluid. They look pretty funky- but I sure you that this is not an April fool, its not a joke and they do work. I made a home- made pair out of bubble floats stuck on the frame of an old pair of sunglasses. These were christened the ‘pouting glasses’ as they resembled a bloater pop eye pouting that had been dragged of a wreck mid channel. pouting glasses - don't leave home without them

If you have given up all hope of every getting to sea again. I would say ‘You can do this’- you can beat the sea sickness, or at least manage it, and get out after them fish. They won't catch themselves.

The author with a fine turbot


Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed

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