Always check with your own physician before taking any over the counter or prescribed medication for a pelagic. You know we have to say that, but you should always do it any way, just to be on the safe side!
A Warning About the Conditions Pelagic trips take place on a moving boat cruising on an unpredictable sea. As a result, there is always some danger involved. Loss of balance by you or another participant, shifting objects, and a pitching boat are just some of the situations you must be aware of. You assume these risks when participating on one of these trips.
Pelagic trips are generally not appropriate for young children under 12 years of age. If you are unsteady or have a medical condition, you should consult with your physician and See Life Paulagics before signing up.
Equipment and Clothing
Of course, bring your binoculars. Due to the motion of the ocean, most people prefer 7x or 8x binoculars, though there are others that still swear by their 10x. If you have both, it doesn’t hurt to bring a spare pair. Do NOT bring scopes unless they are on a gunstock. They are worthless at sea.
Feel free to bring cameras and video cameras, but be warned that salt water is highly corrosive, so be careful of getting your equipment wet. Even if you don’t have a long lens, you might want to bring a small camera to capture that incredibly embarrassing photo of your friend asleep with his mouth wide open. After all, what good are friends if you can’t embarrass them?
Be sure to bring sunscreen, lip balm and we highly recommend having sunglasses along.
In most seasons, wear warm clothes in layers. Bring rain jackets and rain pants to not only protect against rain, but to also protect against spray and wind. Please do not bring ponchos as they do not work well in the inevitable breeze aboard a boat. Wear waterproof footwear, like Goretexhiking boots, sneakers in summer, with a good grippy tread, (Paul prefers knee-high rubber boots). In winter, being cold and damp is miserable, and can be dangerous. In summer, wear light clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun. Some people prefer sandals to rubber boots at this time of year. Your feet will probably get wet, but they usually dry out quickly.
Overnight Trip Preparation (Anita’s additions)
Here is a handy list of items you may wish to have when joining us on an overnight adventure (in addition to items listed above and below):
Sleeping bag, or warm throw. Even on summer trips it can get quite nippy at night on the water.
Pillow or something to serve as a pillow – using a daypack filled with your rain gear, and layers works great.
A neck pillow (airplane style) if you are low on the list for boarding. You may have to sleep on the floor or sleep sitting up.
Ear plugs – it can be very loud near the engines, and also people that don’t sleep sometimes TALK LOUDLY!
Sleeping mask – often the lights remain on in the cabin so if your like me, you will want a sleep mask
Anti-bacterial wipes – just because I’m a germaphobe. 🙂 It also is nice to wipe your hands after touching the salty railings over and over again.
Pain reliever of your choice, just in case you get a tension headache from holding your binoculars looking at birds from dawn to dusk.
Short-half life sleeping pill – We’ve heard that ambien works well as a quick acting sleeping pill. You don’t want to be groggy when you awake, so make sure you take it very soon after boarding. Check with your physician on the half-life and any possible interactions with seasickness medications etc.
Remember – if you are well rested, you will be less likely to get seasick. Fatigue is a known reason that people get seasick.
Food and Beverages
You must supply all of your own food and drinks. If you are at all worried about seasickness, please see our Handling Seasickness section. In general, bland foods (sandwiches with no peppers, onions, mayo, etc.) and dry snacks (crackers, pretzels, etc.) are recommended. We recommend water and soda for beverages, but suggest avoiding acidic fruit juices.
Beer and wine may be consumed in moderation, but hard liquor is not allowed by any of the boats that we use.
Cabin space is limited and we like to reserve as much of it as possible for the participants. Please share coolers when possible, and leave drink coolers outside under the benches.
Finally, THERE ARE TO BE NO BANANAS ON BOARD! We have been told by informed sources that bananas are bad luck, and that they should not be brought aboard. (Note: We have received a ruling that dried banana chips are acceptable.)
On virtually all pelagics trips from our region, there are long periods with few, if any, birds. Try to arrive at the dock well rested, and bring along a good attitude. We ask that you please help us locate the good birds. Remember that there are a lot more participants than leaders. Even when you are not scanning with your binoculars, look out at the ocean. The more eyes we have actively looking, the less likely we are to miss something.
Seasickness is, unfortunately, a possible side effect for some people when traveling on the ocean. The following are some tips for helping you to avoid seasickness.
Triggers: The following act as seasickness triggers for some individuals:
* Being cold and damp
* Being too hot
* Being overly tired
* Other people’s cigarette smoke
* Stuffiness of the cabin
* Excessive movement of the boat (big news!)
Food & Drink: What you do and do not eat and drink can make all of the difference in the world. It is important that you do both, even if you don’t feel well. Eat and drink small amounts on a constant basis. The following is a list of generally “safe” items:
* Plain Crackers
* Rice Cakes
* Plain Sandwiches
* Bagels (easy on the butter or cream cheese)
* Peppermints (Mary swears they settle her stomach)
* Cola (some people swear by it, others swear at it)
Similarly, there are certain foods to avoid. First, if you don’t like something on land, don’t bring it to sea, and that includes the items above! Avoid fatty, greasy, and spicy foods. Avoid acidic drinks like orange juice.
* Sandwiches with Salami, Oil, Mayo, Onions, or Peppers
* Potato Chips
* Corn Chips
* Pork Rinds (you should avoid them on land, too)
I once watched a well-known birder who used to be infamous for his ability to get seasick. We were out on a rough day, and I watched him eat rice cakes, crackers, plain white bread, etc. all day long. I use the term “eat” because the food went into his mouth and down to his digestive system, but at the rate he worked his way through each snack perhaps “erode” would be a more accurate term. He nibbled constantly, but he didn’t get sick.
Finally, be sure to eat a good breakfast before we leave. Pancakes, toast, and bagels all make good ballast.
Over the Counter Meds: There are a number of over the counter medications available for motion sickness. Different active ingredients seem to work better for different people. A number of people I know have had good luck with Bonine. It seems to work fairly well and does not make most people drowsy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We have had doctors advise us that to be fully effective, you should start taking motion sickness drugs 24-36 hours in advance! They are much more effective when they have a chance to build up in your system.
Prescription Meds: The most well-known prescription motion sickness drug on pelagics is probably the scopolamine patch, known simply as “the patch” by birders. It is placed behind the ear and the drug is absorbed through the skin. If you decide to try it, be sure to thoroughly discuss it with your doctor. You may only need a 1/2 patch if you are small in stature. Ask your doctor about proper dosing so you don’t sleep through the whole trip.
I have traded E-mail with a person on the West Coast who swears by a combination of the the patch and an oral prescription motion sickness medication. Apparently his doctor said that it was safe, but speak to your own doctor before mixing any medications.
Wrist Bands: There are elastic wrist bands available that have a plastic ball mounted in them. The ball is placed over a specific pressure point on the wrist that is supposed to reduce nausea. While we can attest to the fact that the pressure point works, I do not know if the wrist bands are effective, but at least they look silly … er, I mean cool.
Behavior On Board: What you do and don’t do on the boat can mean the difference between a good day and a bad one. First, avoid the stuffy cabin as much as you can. Sit near the center of the boat since both the front and back ends move much more. Also, you are much more likely to smell diesel fumes if you are at the back. Look out at something fixed like the horizon. This has an added bonus of keeping you looking for birds. Study gulls and gannets, or socialize with somebody to keep your mind occupied. Avoid break-dancing.
Succumbin’ to Chummin’: So you’ve tried everything but you still get seasick. It happens sometimes. There are a few simple rules of etiquette when you have to make your offering to the sea gods. First, go to the back of the boat. The head (that’s “bathroom” for you landlubbers) is the WORST place to lose it. In a moving boat, you’re not going to hit your target. The place for your technicolor yawn is over the side and down wind.
Afterwards, it is important that you drink water so that you do not dehydrate. Although you may not feel like it, it’s helpful to nibble dry snacks. If you bow to the stern again, you don’t want to have an empty stomach.