“da stuff dat-a come-a out”

Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.
~Mark Twain

I am sensitive to motion and get carsick and seasick pretty easily. I also suffer a bit from air travel, although it’s not as bad as the other two. I need air when I travel—AC, open window, open space. I don’t remember always being that way, but I think I know what caused it.

When I was a kid, I played on a softball team during the summer, and there were times we would play in the backyard at home. My father would also throw balls to me so I could practice catching and throwing. One afternoon, he threw a fastball, and the next thing I knew, I was writhing in pain on the ground. I had missed the ball, but it had not missed me. It hit me on the right ear and knocked me down.

While I was in a lot of pain for a few days, I didn’t completely lose my hearing. Years later, I discovered that that hit broke the middle of the three bones in my ear, and while I could still hear, the break and the bone’s eventual disintegration caused a loss of about 50 percent. It is also, I believe, the cause of my motion sickness as the inner ear is part of the equation to maintaining equilibrium.

Boats, ferry, marina
Marina Grande on Capri ©Chris Cutler 2019

My group wanted to see Capri, so I arranged a tour from Sorrento to the island last week. We were on a small boat that held about 15 people. The seas were relatively calm, but since we were going against the current at breakneck speed, the boat was bouncing around quite a bit. Gary, Kathy, and I sat inside the cabin which, although it was open to the back of the boat, was stuffy. About half way to the island, I thought I was going to, well, you know.

“I need air,” I gasped. Luckily, Ed was sitting outside and changed places with me. I fell into the seat and put my head down. I tried chanting to take my mind off of the bouncing, but it wasn’t working too well. When we finally hit the dock, I was off before anyone had time to think.

“Are you okay?” everyone asked me, and while I was, my head felt like it was going to explode. I kept thinking about having to ride that boat both around the island and back to the mainland, and that terrified me.

two people in a small boat with waves behind them
Gary and I on the back of the boat on the way to Sorrento ©Kathy Guenther

When we boarded the boat some hours later, Gary and I sat in the back so I could have air. The ride around Capri wasn’t bad as we went slowly most of the time. (You can see that there were few waves in the photo below.) When Pino, our driver, started back to Sorrento, though, he lead-footed it, and I spent that time with my head between my knees again. Once again, I could not get off of that boat fast enough.

island coast
Coast of Capri ©Chris Cutler 2019

I fretted for two days since I had booked another boat trip for the group for Sunday. I debated going since I was afraid I’d get sick again, but in the end, I thought that since the sea looked calm, we would be on a larger boat, and we were only going along the shore, I’d be okay.

Sunday’s trip started out all right. The boat to Amalfi and Positano held about 50 people, and while we were in a cabin, the windows were open. Our captain drove slowly along the coast and took us through the Galli Islands on the way to Amalfi. I put my head in my hands a few times, and while I was dizzy, I wasn’t as sick as I had been on Friday. Score!

houses, buses, and cars. mountains. breakwater.
Amalfi from the dock as we landed ©Chris Cutler 2019

As you can see above, the waves were pretty minimal when we landed. We had about three hours in Amalfi, so we enjoyed visiting the town, stopping for coffee and pastry, and taking photos before we headed back. Since the trip down had been relatively easy, I was not too concerned as we boarded the boat for Positano.

“The seas are getting rougher,” our guide Marinello announced as we took off. “We may not be able to stop at the Emerald Grotto as it may be too dangerous to dock there.” Let me cut to the quick and tell you that we did not dock there because the waves were too high for us to connect with a smaller boat for transport to the grotto. Except for the five or six stupid people who didn’t understand that trying to do a mid-sea dock could put their lives in danger, most of us were happy to get extra time in Positano.

As you can see in the photos above, the seas weren’t too calm at that point. Shortly after I shot those two photos, which, I should add, I was trying to get squared up, I started feeling dizzy. I put my head between my knees. Bounce. Jostle. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

“Signora, are you sick?” Marinello asked me in Italian. I opened my eyes, looked up, and nodded. He asked me something I didn’t understand. He repeated, “Do you want a bag?” in Italian. In English, he added, “for da stuff dat-a come-a out,” and demonstrated by opening his mouth and motioning something coming out of it with his hand.

My view of Marinello (L) and Marcello (R) most of the afternoon

Marcello, the other guide, came over and advised me to concentrate on looking at something on the coast and not the movement of the boat. A Dutch woman behind me asked me if I wanted a pill for motion sickness, which I gladly took. “It’s too late,” Marcello said. “You should have taken it before you boarded.” I gulped it down anyway as Marinello handed me the two-gallon bag “for da stuff dat-a come-a out.”

It should come as no surprise that three hours in Positano went by much too quickly, and we were soon on the boat again. Needless to say, the waves were getting much stronger, and the boat was bouncing a lot more. I tried to concentrate on a spot on the shore as Marcello had advised, but the boat was dancing around so much that it was difficult. “How,” I asked Ed who was unlucky enough to sit next to me that time, “can I concentrate on one spot when it keeps disappearing?”

ocean waves hitting rocky coast
The sea on our way back to Sorrento ©Chris Cutler 2019

Marinello and Marcello both checked on me a few times and assured me that it would only take about 35 minutes to reach the dock. I really mean no offense by this, but 35 minutes to them is nothing. When you feel like your head is going to explode and your stomach is going to erupt, 35 minutes can be a lifetime.

When we finally were at the dock location, another boat beat us to it, so we had to wait until they disembarked everyone and moved before we could do so. We bounced around some 50 feet from the shore and watched for almost 20 minutes before we were able to finally able to pull along the dock. The waves were crashing so hard that the boat pitched, swayed, and rolled with them. Our captain fought to keep the boat close to the pier, and the crew secured it with ropes. We could not use the gangplank, however, because the movement would have made that too dangerous.

They took us off one-by-one

With Marinello grabbing one hand and Marcello the other, they lifted us from the boat to the pier as quickly as they could. At times the waves lifted the hull high and pitched them low; at other times, they caused the boat to pivot away from the pier. More crew tried to haul her in with the ropes.

Ed and I were the first ones off of the boat, followed quickly by Kathy and Gary. Rob, who had spent the ride back outside in the front of the boat, remained onboard for the most harrowing part of the disembarkation. And, while you know that we got off safely, this is far from the end of the story.

The pier from the boat to shore was a metal grating, and when a wave crashed hard against the shore and sprayed upwards, it went right through part of the grating and showered everyone in its path. Yep. To add insult to injury, we all got wet to some degree. I will admit that I saw the wave coming and jumped back in time so that I had just a few wet spots on me. The others were much more soaked. (I think the guy above decided being seasick was enough penance for the day.) Cold, tired, and wet (and dizzy), we headed to the shuttle ride from #∞!! to take us back to our Sorrento hotel.

By the way, if anyone has need of a two-gallon bag for “da stuff dat-a come-a out,” I have one I can give you.


  1. Kathy Guenther

    We felt bad for Chris, who works get buns off making sure we have a great time in Italy. I predict a nice calm boat ride someday, on Lake Como. ♥️😎


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