Pitch and roll

Posted on 11 March, 2012


David Foster Wallace describes when the

heavy waves come straight at a Megaship’s snout, the ship goes up and down along its long axis – this is called “pitching.” It produces the disorienting sensation that you’re walking on a very slight downhill grade and then level and then on a very slight uphill grade […] “Rolling,” on the other hand, is when waves hit the ship from the side and make it go up and down along its crosswise axis.Image

Our experience so far of pitching has been fun and then mostly unnoticeable. It gives you the sensation of being on a ship which, when you’re on a ship with the land snaking past, is fine. Rolling or a combination of the pitch and roll is something else entirely. There are three stages to rolling and pitching:

1. Violent projectile vomiting

On the first day we were sitting down to a lunch of gravy smothered rissoles with the chief engineer cheerfully describing 25 metre swells and the sea/sky/sea of the ocean rolling out the porthole. I rose, vomited in my mouth, ran, vomited in my mouth some more, made it to the second level stairwell and projectiled all over the wall. A crewmember busted me trying to clean it up with a bath towel. Within minutes the whole 21 person crew knew and were grinning, mopping and offering drugs. Only Tom, finishing up his rissoles and grape juice (which he would soon after projectile from the fifth floor deck in a red spray over the life boats) was unaware of the stench rising from the second floor.

2. Everything that is not secured flies.

Sauce, grape juice, chairs (there are dints all over the walls of the Natalie Schulte from flying chairs), lunch. While Tom was vomiting outside, I was clinging to the wall watching the CDs fly around the room like some oceanic poltergeist had taken up in our quarters.

3. Everything that is secured becomes unsecured and flies.

Keys find their way out of bags and scrape across every surface, draws leap out and break, bins creep from under chairs and fling into doors, which bang violently. Every screw, every join, every hinge is tested. We are tested. In the night, we woke time and time again almost vertical.

‘I’ve worked out that if you sleep on your back with your leg braced against the wall …’ said Tom.Image

In the morning the sailors told us that that was rough and we breathed a less queasy sigh. We have sea legs now. Shaky, stumbly, bowed sea legs.

I’m terrified that, after a night of Adelaide Fringe, we’ll leave our sea legs in the Garden of Unearthly Delights and have to go through steps one to three before we’re sailors again.

Heave away you rolling kings, we’re bound for South Australia! Visit Tom’s vimeo for action on the high seas!Image



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