Many people will experience some sort of nausea, and some will be so sick they throw up a lot and feel drained for all the energy in their bodies. Because it is normally a long time since last time the ship experienced really bad weather, since we always try to operate in areas where the prevailing weather is good for cruising. So bad weather will naturally affect the level of service the crew can provide for the passengers since less crew members will be on duty, and the ones who are on duty will be less effective.
Luckily, the vast majority (if not all) of the passengers will have an understanding of why service slows down, as well as the efficiency among the crew. But nevertheless, the show must go on and the crew know this. And many crew members do their tasks despite not feeling too well, since they do not want to be an extra burden for their colleagues who might have to do extra work in order to fill in for you if you are sick. We all have experienced how it is when some of our colleagues are sick and the rest of us must cover their duties. And when this happens, we older and more experienced crew members will offer advice to our newest colleagues in regards to how to reduce the risk of getting sea-sick, and how to get over it.
This could be a nightmarish exercise for the staff, since many of the passengers never leave their cabins during bad weather, or at least wait as long as possible hoping for improvement in the weather. So the brave crew stood there waiting and waiting, sometimes for hours, like loyal soldiers, some of them ash grey in their faces. Impressive stuff boys and girls. My hat off for you brilliant colleagues.
Sometimes we can experience such brutal weather, we just have to ride it out by heading up against the waves with as little speed as possible, just enough to steer the ship until the weather starts to improve, or we have passed the area affected. This can take hours and and in some cases days, and is an extremely tiring period for all on-board the ship. Especially the watch keeping personnel, because they normally have shorter periods of sleep than rest of the crew, and need to be on duty again at set times. So if they struggle to sleep when off duty, they will sooner or later start to experience some fatigue.
We had finished the summer season in Europe, and the so called re-positioning cruise started out from London, and would end in Boston. We would call one of the British channel cities, then on to Ireland (Cork or Cobh), then up to the Orkney’s, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland (Canada), and towards Boston. In other words, we would do a North Atlantic crossing during the autumn. And we always hated this crossing, because it would be rough. We knew that.
The the door to the Bridge was opened, and in came the Captain (Captain Leif Rodahl), he had given up sleeping. He went over to the table were we kept the weather faxes received the last hours. No internet those days, so the weather information came on special weather fax machines which monitored certain frequencies. The Captain stood there reading the faxes and calculated how long before we had passed this storm center, before he moved over to where I stood in front of the second radar on the Bridge. No words except for a “Good morning” were exchanged. And we stood there both looking at our radar screens in silence and sometimes making ready to get down when the sea spray hit the bridge windows. This went on for another hour or so.
We finally started to have some daylight, which meant we soon would be able to see out the windows again. So we started to see the waves more clearly now, and we could observe these huge heavy waves building up and towering in front of the ship, before they would break over the ship’s bow. We all just stared out the windows now almost as hypnotized, just watching the brutal side of nature treating us as we were onboard a paper-boat. Still, nothing was said, we all just watched it in silence.
And then suddenly someone broke the silence, it was the Captain, and he said exactly what we all had been thinking……”I kind of wish it was still dark outside“. And my reaction? I started to laugh almost hysterical. We all laughed out loud on the Bridge, including the Captain as he just realized how funny it actually was. It was like we all needed this outburst, a release of tension.
A few more hours and we had finally passed the storm, and the crew (still sick) could start the clean up procedure throughout the ship. And one lessons learned was of course……. (look at the pictures), make ready for sea next time.