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Saturday, May 8, 2004

JAPAN LITE

Stomach lining jumps ship in a typhoon


At 1 p.m. I received a message on my cell phone from my husband: "I hope you're not sailing today. A typhoon is coming." Too bad I didn't see this message before we left Awajishima at 1:30 headed for Shodoshima. As a matter of fact, at 1 p.m., we were still sitting in an "onsen" overlooking the Seto Inland Sea practicing our math by counting the cars crossing the Naruto Bridge for 7,000 yen per shot -- one way. Besides, the sea had looked perfectly calm from the bath way up on that hill.

An hour later, however, the main sail was reefed to the No. 3 reef and the head sail to the No. 4. If you don't know what that means, consider yourself lucky to be a sofa sailor. Oncoming winds were blowing at 25 to 30 knots (45 to 55 kph) -- yikes -- with gusts of up to 38 knots (70 kph) -- double yikes -- and the boat was heeling to 45 degrees. For sofa sailers, 45 degrees would be enough knock you out of your sofa and onto the floor if someone came up from behind and tipped it. But at least you wouldn't have water running onto your sofa like we did into the boat. While waves crashed over the deck, the boat continued heeling -- and heeling, now 60 degrees. My stomach heeled too -- I was seasick.

Seasickness is a condition that requires all your mates to sail the boat for you while you attempt to calm down your insides, which are about to jump ship. And I'm not just talking about food. If my stomach lining decided to jump ship too, I would have to sail the rest of the trip without any stomach.

So I did what the skipper told me to do and concentrated on a stationary object, in this case an island ahead of us. But with seasickness, a phenomenon occurs where even though the boat may be blowing along quickly, the stationary object you're focusing on never gets any closer no matter how fast you sail. In this case, I'm quite sure the island even retreated! This would explain why on some days you can see the islands in the sea less clearly than others -- the islands actually change position. So the next time you look out at the sea and can't see the islands clearly, you'll know the islands are retreating because someone out there is seasick.

The other cure to seasickness is, believe it or not, eating! This seems a waste of food to me, like being offered a pizza when you have the flu. I was thinking a cocktail might rather balance me out.

Luckily, the two male crew members, with years more sailing experience than me, easily got us through the storm and into a darling little harbor at Shodoshima where the mountains cradled the port. I had a new appreciation for the other crew members, and as soon as we had sat down to a pasta dinner and a glass of red wine, I had already forgotten about the heeling, heaving and holding on to my stomach lining.

The next day we would explore Shodoshima, the second-biggest island in the Inland Sea, before sailing on to Honjima, part of the city of Marugame off Shikoku. This part of the Inland Sea, full of small islands huddled together in groups, is called the Aegean Sea of Japan and is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the Inland Sea. On our way, we would pass under another one of Japan's great bridges -- the Seto Ohashi, a 9.4-km bridge connecting Shikoku to Honshu. Luckily they charge the toll bridge fee only to those crossing over the bridge, not under it.

Little did I realize that in Marugame, I would get to know my crew even better, but in a very different way: we would get naked together!

This is part of a series on Amy's voyage through the Seto Inland Sea. Have you mooed yet today? www.mooooshop.com


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