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Darwin to Cairns by boat: First Night Nerves, or, the second time I’ve ever been seasick

This post was written on board the boat, pretty much the day after and I had almost forgotten it was sitting in my draft folder until today. It pretty much displays how I was feeling on the trip at first, and I’m happy to report that the sickness was due to intense anxiety and I didn’t feel the same level of terror again on watch. As to why I felt like this, I’ve no real idea. I’d been on boats in the dark before and been fine. Anyway, here’s a window in to my ridiculous mind.


Hi, my name’s Francesca. I love the ocean and never get seasick.

These are the words I repeat to myself I sit on watch on the first night of our trip, stomach clenching with fear and nausea.

Where before we were surrounded by a expanse of constant blues there is only variations on inky dark. The occasional punctuations of light are not welcome, a staccato of potential hazards on my horizon.

So far Mikey has fallen overboard eight times, at least in my mind. Every time he leans out to check in the sails I see him tumble again, cracking his head on the fiberglass and rolling out into the dark where only the resident crocs will find him.

A lack of horizon is making me feel sea sick. This is the second time it’s ever happened and the first was, I imagine, largely down to the two bottles of wine I’d had the night before.

Every time a wave hits the hull it sounds as though the catamaran is going to split open like an egg. It sounds and feels as though someone is underneath us, trying desperately to punch their way through. Someone very, very angry.

I cannot see the difference between sea and sky. There are not fifty shades of black.

An hour before our watch is due to end I confess to Mikey how nauseated I feel. He sends me to bed where the relief is almost instant after I lie down. Unable to ignore my pessimistic drama queen imagination though every five minutes I sit up, swallow down bile and check that he is still there. Safe.

I am tired. I am scared. I am sick.

I’ve always wanted to live on a boat. Cross the Pacific Ocean. See the world from a floating home. Ha! Fat chance of that. I feel like a failure and a fraud. Sick as much with embarrassment as I am from the movement of the boat.

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My alarm goes off just before six. I feel better; my mind has calmed with the ocean. Where once there was no change between the darkness of sea and sky there is a chink of light shining through.

I feel stupid now. Why my partner who has worked on boats for years would suddenly manage to fall overboard I do not know. It may be hard to believe*, but I have a tendency to overdramamtise things especially when those things are inside my head.

The sky turns into a candy shop, fluffy marshmallows and sweet oranges. My camera temporarily malfunctions and I am content to sit and watch for a while.

Deciding to make the most of the calm sea state and beautiful view I sit on a trampet and start my morning yoga routine. Halfway through my gaze point falls on something grey in the water between my toes…

“THERE’S A FUCKING SHARK THERE MIKEY!”

I am not zen, but I do feel better.

And, in hindsight, it was probably a dolphin.

*Cough cough

This post is one of many about my experience of sailing from Darwin to Cairns. Click here for the rest of them!

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