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Fighting Illness: Being Sick on a Boat Isn’t Easy

FOUNTAIN VALLEY—The Log editor Parimal M. Rohit and DMC Sales Director Kevin Davis are back with another Nautical Banter column. Messrs. Rohit and Davis spent a few minutes talking about being sick aboard a boat. Davis, if you recall from our previous banters, is a liveaboard at Long Beach’s Shoreline Marina. He lives aboard Indy Sent Lady with his wife.

Parimal M. Rohit: It’s wintertime, and, obviously, a lot of people get sick. We also have the coronavirus going around right now, that’s a different discussion entirely. Let’s talk about being ill on a boat, and how that is different than being ill on land.

Kevin Davis: Well, I think the first thing, especially being in the wintertime, when you get sick – and even in the summertime – you’re dealing with the dampness. And, man, you get sick, you get the flu, you get cold, you get sore throat, and then you’re dealing, on top of all that, with the dampness that’s following you around. Not just that, then it’s cold, too. It’s been in the upper 30s and low 40s [recently]. It can really drag you down. Being on a boat and being sick … it adds a little bit more to feeling worse. Plus you’re in confined quarters. It’s tough to get in and out of the boat. You feel like general crap times two.


PMR: What about the boat being wobbly? Does that contribute anything? And what about being in tight quarters?

KD: All of the above. Anything you are dealing with on the boat – wakes, noises, wind – when you’re sick, it just kind of intensifies everything.


PMR: What kind of measures do you take to cancel out the added elements?

KD: We’ve learned over the years, especially during the winter months, when you get cold, you want to make sure your cabin stays warm – and you stay warm, as well. There’s nothing like getting cold when it’s damp out. That just makes your body feel much worse than it actually is. If you’re dealing with a fever, too, then, getting the chills. You want to keep your cabin warm. We use a space heater that we actually plug in, but you want to be careful, with any kind of space heater in a confined quarter. You want to make sure you get a decent space heater. You want to make sure you don’t blow your fuses, as well.

There are some other things you can do. Get yourself some flannel sheets to put on your bed.

In terms of medication, the over-the-counter stuff, get it if you like it. I will do things like Aspirin, Advil, and once in a while, if it gets bad enough, I’ll get the decongestive nasal sprays. These new Vicks tissues – they’re like a Godsend. It’s these tissues you can buy now, infused with Vicks.


PMR: Being on a boat with more than one person, in tight quarters, how is the interaction, when one person is sick? One person doesn’t want to get the other person sick. Or does the other person automatically get sick?

KD: Well, they can, yeah, and we’ve seen that happen quite a bit. You’re basically living inside a Petrie dish. You have one individual that’s sneezing and coughing, germs are being spread. It’s kind of difficult, you hope the other person doesn’t get it, but, sometimes, they do.


PMR: You also have pets. How does being ill on a boat factor in to your maintenance and care of those pets?

KD: When they are ready to go, you have to go. And when you are by yourself, because your spouse [is not present] and you’re by yourself, it makes it even worse. You get up in the morning, your dog wakes up, it’s 4 o’clock in the morning, you’re sitting here fighting a 100-plus-degree temperature, and the dog is telling you, “I gotta go,” you gotta go. At the same time, it’s the middle of the night, you try to bundle up as best as you can, and you get your butt up and go.


PMR: You just have to eat it.

KD: You do, you just have to go. The wind is blowing, and it’s whipping outside, there’s a lot of moisture in the air, it’s cold, yeah – you’re just, “get your business done, let’s go back inside.”


PMR: Is there a difference between the recovery time on a boat and recovery time on land?

KD: It’s, relatively, about the same. You’re sick anywhere between three and five days. You’re just feeling bad.


Do you have a topic you’d like Messrs. Rohit and Davis to talk about in their next Nautical Banter? If so, email your idea/suggestion to

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