Sick of the Sea — Dealing with Seasickness

Seasick. That was me, last Monday. Not fun.

Taking advantage of the last day in Florida on Spring Break, my little family of four booked passage on a dive boat out of Palm Harbor. The plan was to do a two-tank dive with Tanked Up Dive Shop. We were the only people crazy brave enough to face 63 degree water temp, so it was just us and the crew.

We planned to dive The Sheridan, a 180-ft ocean tugboat sunk as an artificial reef. The site is about a 2-hr boat ride from the marina, but the air was mild and the seas were far from rough, so we considered the ride a fun part of the day. It would have been too, if it weren’t for the wind.

The wind was blowing in such a way that the fumes from the diesel engine engulfed us the entire way out to the wreck.

By the time we arrived, I was feeling sick. I think it was a combination of the increasing pitch and roll of the boat the farther from shore we got and the noxious fumes. Luckily, I was able to make the first dive. The Sheridan is an absolutely fantastic site, complete with resident Goliath groupers and schools of barracuda. But the minute I pulled myself back up on the boat for the surface interval, I was hanging over the edge, sick again. By then I was cold, surely dehydrated, and unable to make the second dive.

BonineWhat could I have done to prevent seasickness? Maybe nothing. But there are measures I could have taken to stack the deck in my favor. First, I could have taken motion sickness medication. The guys at Tanked Up suggest taking a dose of Bonine the night before the dive and a second dose at least 30 minutes prior to boarding the boat.

Available HERE

Preventing seasickness is best, but I could have also been better prepared in case it happened. I plan to put together a “seasick kit” every time we dive. The kit will contain items such as: Wrist bands for motion sickness such as Sea Band, ginger ale, crystalized ginger, ginger flavored lozenges/hard candies, Saltines or pretzels, and peppermint hard candies or peppermint flavored gum.

Those are the things I could have done to be better prepared, but here’s what I did to combat my seasickness:

1. I kept drinking water.  A person who is vomiting will dehydrate a quickly, especially when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. I took little sips often, until we were off the boat.

2. I sat on the boat in the middle of the deck. The motion of the waves is felt the least at the center of the boat.

3. I rested my head against the back of the bench and fixed my vision on a point on the horizon. Motion sickness happens when the brain becomes confused by conflicting messages from the eyes, inner ear and sensory nerves as they perceive motion. It can be caused by motion that is seen but not felt, motion that is felt but not seen, or motion that is seen and felt but the two don’t correspond. Making sure you don’t move your head abruptly and watching the horizon minimizes sensory confusion and eases seasickness.

4. I put on warm clothing. After the 30 minute dive in 63 degree water, I was very cold. The vomiting further lowered my core body temperature. Slowly, I got out of my wet bathing suit and put on yoga pants, a hooded sweatshirt and a blanket-lined boat coat. As I warmed up and the trembling subsided, so did the nausea.

Nothing spoils a fun day of diving like seasickness. I’ve talked to crew members who spend months at a time out at sea working on yachts, and everyone tells me the same thing: Everyone succumbs to seasickness at some time. The best way to ensure your dive day will be the best it can be is to monitor how you’re feeling, watch the horizon if necessary, and be prepared with motion sickness medication or a seasick kit.

What’s your favorite cure for motion sickness?


Here’s a look at The Sheridan Wreck!

Drift Dive at The Hot Hole, SC

Seeking a unique dive location you can enjoy year round? Look no further than The Hot Hole in Lake Keowee, SC. Just an hour-and-a-half drive from Athens and nestled in a cove on the shores of Duke Power’s Oconee Nuclear Generating Station, this location  is perfect for winter diving because hot water used to cool the reactor rushes into the lake, raising the mid-winter water temperature to 80 degrees. And let me assure you right now; you won’t glow in the dark after this dive.

Dolphin Dive center GAI dove The Hot Hole last week with my husband and with our dive shop owner Tim. The dive was chartered by Bill Routh from the Lake Jocassee Dive Shop. I was a little nervous I’d be cold, since the air temperature that morning was a chilly 28ᵒF. Really didn’t know what to expect. Playing it safe, I packed a thermos of hot chocolate for the surface interval.

The boat ramp is conveniently located just a five minute cruise away from the dive site. Within minutes, Bill dropped the anchor. I took the photo below from the deck of the boat before gearing up.

Dolphin Dive Center GA

Looking over the site, it was hard to believe this is considered a drift dive, although we could see the eddy currents breaking the water’s surface. Bill explained during the dive briefing that the cement building (in the photo above) is the water outflow station. Most of the structure is emerged, extending 30 feet down to the bottom.  The structure houses four enormous  underwater pipes that conduct the warm water from the power plant, projecting it in high pressure streams into the lake. The current created by the water outflow make the drift dive possible.

I braced myself when I entered the water, but the temperature was a mild 72ᵒF. We descended and headed in the direction of the building. A wing wall extends out, along the lake bottom, from the front left corner of the structure, so once we located that we followed it in to the building.

We swam up and enter the structure through the left side window (pictured at the left edge of the photo above). Inside was dark and there was no current, as a cement floor divides the cubical where we were and the pipes underneath. We made our way along the floor to the third ‘window.’ We let out all the air in our BCs, per Bill’s instructions. Lying on our bellies, we could lower our hands down and into the current blasting out from beneath us. The force was the same as holding your hand out the car window on the highway. One at a time, we pushed off the floor and dropped down into the current.

Visibility was zero, and I was flying through the water. Did you ever see Finding Nemo? Remember the turtles hurtling through the East Australian Current? That was me. Righteous! 

 

Out of the gloom, the bottom came up at me. I put my hands down, pushing off from the bottom and gliding with the current 10 or 15 feet before I had to put my hands down again. I eventually caught sight of Tim’s fins and grabbed him before the current carried me past.

It was a rush!

During the two-tank dive, we rode the current three times, getting a different experience out of each go. In between ‘rides,’ we explored the boulder-strewn bottom and grassy areas bustling with large bass, crappies and catfish. And I wasn’t cold during the surface interval, thanks to Bill Routh’s plastic drapes enclosing the dive boat and on-board space heater. That and the thermos of hot chocolate!

Scuba Athens GA

 

We recommend diving The Hot Hole with Bill Routh and the Lake Jocassee Dive Shop/Off the Wall Dive Charters. It’s an adventure!

We did not shoot the following footage, but I found the video on YouTube and it will give you an idea of what this dive site is like. Enjoy!

Have you dove The Hot Hole? What’s your favorite drift dive been?

Diving Cousteau’s Favorite Site: The Chimney

Don’t ask me to tell you which was my favorite dive site in the British Virgin Islands; I couldn’t choose. But Jacques Cousteau reportedly touted The Chimney as his favorite dive site, anywhere. So over the Thanksgiving holiday, we dropped down to see why the father of scuba loved diving this place so much.

The site is located in the north BVI, off the west shore of Great Dog island. The Dogs are a group of rocky islands to the west of Virgin Gorda. The moorings are within a protected cove and the site is shallow, only 45 feet at its deepest, making it an excellent site for all levels of dive experience. The north swells were up a bit the day we were there, introducing us to the joys and challenges of surge.

Dive BVI

Our guides for The Chimney dive were Jeff Nichols and a lovely Turkish woman, whose name escapes me. They were with Dive BVI, an SSI (and PADI) partner with a top-notch operation.

Pre-dive Paperwork

Before boarding Dive BVI’s boat, there were the prerequisite waivers and proof of certification papers to sign. Necessary, but hard to sit through when all you want to do is go diving!

On our way!

Finally, we were on our way from our location in the Bitter End Yacht Club Marina at Virgin Gorda. It was a short 20-minute ride to the Dog Islands.

Great Dog Island, BVI

Here’s The Chimney dive site, from the boat. The sea was pretty calm, but there was some surface current.

Dive Briefing

Jeff gave us a comprehensive dive and safety briefing, complete with diagrams  on a drop-down dry erase board hidden in the ceiling. Impressive 🙂

The Chimney is named for its resemblance to the technical rock climbing slot of the same  name. We used the mooring line for a controlled descent 40 feet down to The Fishbowl, an open area with several massive coral heads rising from a sand and rock strewn bottom. The fish here are spectacular, and we saw blue tangs, sergeant majors, yellow tail snapper, parrotfishes, angel fishes, and so many more.

We headed north, exploring the canyons and ridges that run parallel with the shore. At a depth of 45 feet, we worked our way around the point to a beautiful archway encrusted with cup corals and brightly colored coral polyps. Jeff was leading the way, and suddenly he spun to face us with a stiff hand against his forehead. “Shark!”

Resting on the bottom, right at the arch entrance, was a 5-foot long nurse shark. Cool! After gawking at it for a minute or two, we glided several feet above it and under the arch.

Once through the archway, we were inside a narrow, steep-walled corridor where the colorful corals and sponges blew us away. It was other-worldly. We didn’t need flashlights to see the bright oranges, purples, reds and yellows of the animal life that cling to the canyon walls. Breathtaking!

The walls grew ever closer together as we swam until we arrived at two enormous boulders that form a slot, which is the canyon exit. This is The Chimney. It looked too narrow to swim through, but we all glided through with no problem.

We continued on, exploring the base of the cliff where small boulders cover the sea floor. They look like giant river rocks, their surfaces rubbed smooth from years of rushing surge. Eventually we circled back around and explored the Fishbowl until our air supplies ran low.

I understand now why Cousteau favored this site. The colorful sea life that populates The Chimney is spectacular, even for non-marine biologists! And if you haven’t had the chance to experience this dive firsthand, here’s footage I found on YouTube. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMHwZXFc20g]

What’s your favorite dive site in the BVI? In the world?

 
Post Author: Nicole Ducleroir, Advanced Open Water diver and Dolphin Dive Club member.
Note: If you are a diver and would like to share a dive experience, email Nicole at nicoleducleroir(at)gmail(dot)com!