Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SEASICKNESS TEST - Humor in Uniform



I do not know whether there is a “seasickness test” now for navy aspirants – but around 40 years ago – way back in the 1970s – after you cleared the Services Selection Board (SSB) – there was a comprehensive medical examination – but I do not recall any test for “seasickness”.

The result was that you came to know of your propensity to seasickness only when you sailed out to sea – which for some terribly seasick types – was quite late in the day – and many who could not bear their “seasickness” opted out of the surface navy by “volunteering” for Submarines or Air Technical Branches.

I am sure that with advances in medical technology – there is a quantitative “seasickness test” now.

But – here is a story about how I learnt about a qualitative “seasickness test” from a hardened sailor – what they call in the navy  a tough “sea-dog”...

A Spoof

As a young Sub Lieutenant, in the latter half of the 1970’s, the first month of my “sea time” was sheer bliss.

Our ship was berthed alongside in harbour at Bombay (now called Mumbai) for a “maintenance period”.

Every evening, we would imbibe a generous amount of the best Scotch Whisky in the ship’s wardroom  and then go ashore to enjoy the delights which “maximum city” Bombay had to offer.

Suddenly  the fun time was all over  and we were off to sea.

It was monsoon time.

The sea was rough.

And as we headed out to sea  our ship, a frigate, started rolling and pitching quite furiously.

Individuals started getting sea-sick.

The doctor had hit the bunk in the sickbay in anticipation  in harbour itself  the moment special sea duty men had closed up for duty.

At Both Watches  I told my Master Chief: “This is my first sailing on this ship. In case I get sea-sick  you take charge.”

My Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO)  a grizzled old sea-dog  who was arguably the senior-most sailor in our branch  and certainly the senior-most sailor on board our ship  said to me – matter-of-factly: “Sir  you will not get sea-sick.”

“How do you know I will not get sea-sick? You have never seen me sailing. You don’t know anything about me,” I said to him.

“Sir, we know everything about you. The wardroom steward tells us that you drink almost half a bottle of whisky every evening. And Sir  at last week’s party at Sailors’ Home  you drank all of us under the table – you drank almost a full bottle of rum  and then walked back all the way to the ship as if nothing had happened,” he said with genuine admiration in his voice.

“But what has drinking got to do with seasickness?” I asked.

“I don’t know the theory, Sir  but in my long service I have observed that heavy drinkers never get seasick,” he said.

As we sailed  and the sea got rougher  I observed that what the old sea-dog had said was true.

The sea was very rough – and the ship was rolling and pitching quite violently.

Those with a propensity for seasickness – started feeling seasick.

Ours was a non-airconditioned ship in which the Officers’ Cabin Flat reeked of the awfully nauseating smell of FFO (Furnace Fuel Oil)  which made the nausea even worse  and most of the officers were terribly sea-sick.

There was a stench all over the ship as officers and sailors were retching and vomiting due to seasickness.

Only a few officers remained unaffected.

I was one of the lucky ones who did not get sea-sick.

I realized that the Sea-Dog Master Chief Petty Officer was absolutely right.

The officers who did not get sea-sick were all heavy drinkers.

A few days later the Fleet Commander – a Rear Admiral – embarked on board our ship.

The Admiral was a towering figure  over six feet tall  with an impressive beard  and had an imposing personality.

As we sailed – the sea got quite rough – and the ship started rolling and pitching quite a bit.

I was surprised to see this grand Admiral getting sea-sick.

Yes – believe it or not – the Admiral was a seasick type.

In fact  there was a bucket kept for the Admiral on the bridge.

You guessed right – the Admiral was a non-drinker, a strict teetotaller.

Moral of the Story

So now you know why the quintessential sailor is always associated with a bottle of Rum – Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle Of Rum !!!

And you know how to carry out the qualitative seasickness test (at your own risk).

I dug deep into my photo albums and pulled out this nostalgic picture taken 37 years ago of the Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO) who gave me this Navy Gyan on Seasickness. 

You can see us – me to the extreme left  and my MCPO to the extreme right – we are drinking away and enjoying ourselves at a departmental booze-up session with my sailors at Sailors Home Cooperage Mumbai.

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1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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