Pity for the pukee

Of Moose and Men

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006


  A.E. Poynor

A.E. Poynor

Bouncing around in a boat, with nothing but miles of water to be seen, has never been my favorite way to pass the time. However, hosting visitors from Outside makes it impossible to avoid all contact with Cook Inlet or Resurrection Bay. Tours by boat and/or fishing charters are inevitable.

“I don’t care if we do anything else; I just want to go on one of those whale-watching tours.”

“All I want to do is catch a halibut! Will that mean a separate trip from Mildred’s whale thing?”

I don’t have a problem calling around to set up the adventures. Unfortunately, every visitor operates under the impression that they need our company on every trip. By actual count, Mrs. Poynor and I have made the Kenai Fjords tour five times (the long one every time, mind you), and I’ve lost count of the halibut charters. What is the issue? Do people think they’re going to get lost on the boat? We have never been able to convince visitors they can only wander off so far.

The problem with boat tours and charters is that every ocean trip results in at least one seasick person. It’s not always the same person — although Mrs. Poynor has an almost perfect record on the Kenai Fjords tours. The seasick slot is usually filled on a rotating basis. And although I’m not prone to motion sickness, I have done my own time chumming for krill off the side of the boat as the designated pukee.

What can I say? Seasick happens.

Having had numerous opportunities to observe seasickness — not to mention the personal experience, or two — I’ve made note of a few things to keep in mind that are common to all such events.

As a rule, seasickness is rarely a surprise. That is because prior to getting seasick, most folks hear voices. It’s a phenomenon similar to the light described by most people who have had near-death experiences. The voices advise you of what is about to occur.

“You will now violently eject everything you’ve eaten in the past month. Upon completion of that, your body will produce vile colored substances to spew forcefully. When you have heaved the last of your precious bodily fluids into the briny deep, you will attempt to hurl everything you’ve ever even thought of eating.”

Of course, there is a shorter, more succinct version of that apocalyptic message:

“You will now perform a graphic imitation of a frightened sea cucumber.”

Crews on boats, be they tour or fishing charter, monitor seasick people very closely. It’s not so much a concern about the person falling overboard, but rather a fear of them throwing themselves overboard in an attempt to stop the agony.

Anybody who has ever suffered from the problem can truly feel sympathetic toward a person in the throes of seasickness. Anytime a passenger is seen pale and wobbling by the edge of the boat, they should be approached as gingerly as one might approach a suspected bomb. The two are similar in actual fact, as either one could blow at any given moment. And it should be noted the prudent sympathetic person will not press the “I’ll distract them with conversation” technique beyond a certain shade of pale. Besides, one shouldn’t try to preoccupy a seasick person; it is an exercise in redundancy. They are as preoccupied as it is humanly possible to get.

It is also a wasted effort to make a seasick person feel better by talking about your own seasickness experiences. They do not care. You could have wretched hard enough to hack up your toenails, and it would not matter one iota to them. This is because THEY ARE DYING!

Here’s another tip: never offer a victim of seasickness food items, no matter how many times your mother may have mentioned how it would soothe a queasy stomach. Seasick people could not be described as being “queasy.” That would be tantamount to describing a rabid dog as merely having an obedience problem. Bottom line: the only thing a seasick person might want to ingest is a quad-shot hemlock espresso.

As the pukee, resist the temptation to ingest any form of anti-nausea medication or pills once Vesuvius has started up. All you will accomplish is to reload the old gullet cannon.

By the same token, for the love of all that is holy, if you are a well-meaning bystander, NEVER give a seasick person any chewable, brilliantly hued anti-nausea medication — such as pink, red or orange. The sight of technicolor vomit could well prove fatal to someone already heaving away.

One final point to remember: what happened on the water, should stay on the water. No need to discuss it. Unless, of course, the pukee is a visitor that may return and want another trip out to sea.

A.E. Poynor is a freelance writer who lives in Kenai.

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