Seasick in a Mexican Kayak

Cliff Williams
Department of Philosophy
Wheaton College
Wheaton, Illinois 60187


I decided to take a week’s trip to Arizona and Mexico in January, 2008. I found a place that rents kayaks on a beach in San Carlos, Mexico, on the Gulf of California about 250 miles south of the border. Ann, who graduated from Trinity College in 2004, arranged for her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and two friends, Jonathan and Emi, along with Ann herself, to go with me. I reserved kayaks for six. We drove from Tucson, Arizona, to Guaymas, Mexico, found rooms at a cheap hostel, and drove to the beach at nearby San Carlos the next morning.

Four of us had single kayaks, while Ann’s sister and her boyfriend took a double kayak. We set out in the middle of the morning and landed forty-five minutes later on an island inhabited by seagulls. We spent ten minutes there, then set off toward another island. We could not land there, so we headed for a small beach on the far side of an enormous rock that protruded from the sea.

After a bit the wind kicked up some, not hugely, but enough for small waves to begin to form. My kayak swayed, and my stomach began to get queasy. I could not paddle well, and I began to wonder whether I could make it to the beach. All of the others were far ahead of me, way out of shouting distance. If they landed without me, they might not have been able to find me, as kayaks are not visible from a distance on the open sea.

Soon, however, Ann noticed that I was lagging behind and paddled back. I told her I was seasick and felt weak. In another minute I told her I might throw up. It happened. Fortunately, I had picked up a large paper cup on the sea half an hour earlier, which I used to catch my breakfast. If I had leaned over to let the sea catch it, I would have fallen into the cold water, as kayaks have high centers of gravity.

Having my stomach empty helped some, but it wasn’t enough, and I had to use the paper cup a second time. I was still weak, though, and could not paddle well, so I suggested to Ann that maybe she could pull me with a shoelace. She tied one of her shoelaces to her kayak, then to mine, and tried paddling. It didn’t work. The shoelace was too short and my kayak kept hitting hers.

I was, fortunately, able to paddle a little, and eventually made it to shore, accompanied by Ann, where the others had landed some time before. There I lay on the rocks behind a windbreak for about fifteen minutes. I had felt so bad while on the sea that once, for just a moment, when it felt as if my kayak would tip me into the ocean, I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I just wanted the awful feeling to go away.

When it was time to go back, the others decided that I should go in the double kayak in case I got seasick again. Ann would go in it, too. She took the front and I took the rear.

The water near the shore was fairly calm, but further out the waves were bigger than before. From trough to crest, they were one to one and a half feet high, with an occasional whitecap. That got me debilitated again, and I had to land. I would walk back to the beach from which we had set out while Ann would paddle back near the shore.

We found a small beach and landed. I lay on the sand for ten minutes, then Ann pushed herself into the sea. She and the kayak were promptly covered with a splashing wave, but she was able to keep going. I set off walking along the cliffs beside the sea.

I made it back okay, and so did Ann, though I was struck with panic several times when I lost sight of her among the choppy waves. We met at a shallow pool near our destination and took turns dragging the kayak along the water at the beach, barefoot, wet and happy to be alive.