Migraines on a sailing boat

I am lucky to be blessed with a body that likes migraines. Yes, it is a strange blessing, but hey I do get to lie about all day when I have one! Seriously though, as any sufferer of migraines knows, they are not fun. My post this week is late because I had a migraine, so I thought I would write about my experience of having migraines on a sailing boat.

Given how much migraines influence my life, it was appropriate that they influence what layout Skipper and I were looking for in a sailing boat. Each person who suffers from migraines has different triggers and symptoms. The list of what can trigger one of my migraines is long and but so complicated (poor diet, lack of sleep, stress etc). I try to avoid the things that trigger them but I still get them now and again. I know I am going to get a migraine when I have a really strong craving for chocolate. Once I have a migraine in full force, I struggle to cope with bright lights and loud noises and they can last from one to three days.

Medina's hatches aft (or back from) the cockpit)

Medina’s hatches aft (or back from) the cockpit), the hatches in the back of Medina (the transom) are just above our bed

So when we were looking for a boat to live on, the need to have some separation from noise and light was essential, and part of the reason why we preferred a centre cockpit. A centre cockpit design allows for a aft/back cabin. From there it was finding a boat with a centre cockpit and one with a bed that was inline with the boat (not across it). This means the Skipper and I can get in and out of bed without creating too much disturbance on one another.

So aft cabin – check. Inline bed – check, next was the ventilation. I like to have as much natural ventilation as possible, it helps to prevent my migraines. Medina has hatches on all four sides of the aft cabin. I put my foot down on having hatches in the transom (i.e. hatches to the back of the boat). The Skipper would have preferred a lazaret (a storage area at the back of the boat, which prevents hatches), but I guess, “happy wife, happy life” won the argument. We also have a hatch to the deck which allows for any hot air to leave the cabin – particularly important in Queensland summers.

As much as hatches equate to ventilation, they also mean light and light is not my friend when I have a migraine. We were blessed that the previous owners had specially made blackout cards and ‘cushions’ that fit in all the hatches (most of the hatches are recessed) and covers for the deck hatches, so if I have a migraine I can lie in pretty much darkness if I have too. I have also been blessed with a Skipper who can install pretty much anything on a boat, and I nearly broke into tears when he bought home and installed fans in our cabin. I tend to cry a lot when I have a migraine – my mum says it eases the tension and I believe her.

Orbit getting some tummy time in the back cabin when he was 6 months old, you can see the back hatches

Orbit getting some tummy time in the aft cabin when he was 6 months old, you can see the back hatches

I also preferred to have a head (or toilet) in the aft cabin and preferably two heads (or toilets) on the boat. This is so I don’t have to walk too far to throw up (sorry for the detail). But having two heads means there isn’t the traffic of people coming into the aft cabin to use the head – they have an alternative. Luckily Medina has two heads and one of these is in the aft cabin.

When planning for an adventure, we always take into consideration fatigue and diet, making sure we are organised, so reducing the level of stress on the Skipper and I. With only two adults on board we can’t afford for one of us to be down for too long. I also make sure I have my pain medication (even if it’s for an over night trip). I have a variety of strength pain killers, because there are times, where I can’t ‘knock myself out’, I need to have my wits about me. Any medication has been prescribed by a doctor and I have discussed with them what impact it will/could have on me.

Orbit doing some planning in the aft cabin

Orbit doing some planning in the aft cabin

One of the best things I have found for a migraine, especially when I get that strong craving for chocolate is to go for a swim in salt water (lucky we live on a boat!). Off the beach with the Skipper and Orbit is okay but it can mean a few hours on the beach in the sun. What is better is to jump in when we are at anchor (and it is safe to do so). The Skipper and I don’t ‘jump off’ Medina at the moment when Orbit is on deck. We don’t want him getting the idea that he can do the same thing as he is only 3. So I have to wait for him to be asleep before I can jump in.

When I have a migraine, the Skipper and Orbit are fantastic, they try to do things as quietly as possible, bring me drinks of water and give me lots of hugs. So although migraines on a boat are not fun, they are manageable. The best bit about a migraine isn’t the opportunity to lie around all day, its how good you feel when it is finally gone!

Please note – I am not offering any type of medical advice in this post, it is just sharing my experience. 

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