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Yachting and Sea Therapy

How the sea adventures empower to continue navigating life with ALS

 

ALS abbreviation should be for Adventure, Love, Strength and not Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis disease.

With such spirit our family has decided to fight ALS from aboard yachts.

One year ago, my husband was diagnosed with this illness. Since than he is supervised by the best doctors in the world and enrolled in most advanced programs related to ALS treatments.

In the society where most of us rely on prescribed medications, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the best treatment comes from pure sources, such as Mother Nature. Trusting the rhythm of waves, we wanted to experiment if constant sea vibrations, waves rolling and water-related adventures can improve the quality of living with ALS or slow down the progression of the disease.

Though there are very few studies on how the sea and ocean waves can impact human body, the evidence of healing power of the sea is all around.

A yacht is a perfect platform to interact with the sea and get the best of its force.

In this article, I will explore some activities that can impact the health of body and mind during the yacht cruises.

 

*Important to mention that those experiences on board yachts are designed for ALS-patients at his early stage, when the arms mobility was already reduced and at the beginning of dropped head symptom, but ability to walk, speak, breath was still there.

 

Four yachting trips were conducted in one year,  including navigations in Greece, Italy, Oman and even Tanzania.

One of the purposes was to de-focus from bad news that collapsed our family.

To charter a yacht in completely unusual destination was a prompt decision.

It was January 2019 and no many yachting destinations, besides classic Caribbean etc., were an option.

Tanzania has appeared as the perfect choice. New undiscovered yachting destination, Indian ocean, cultural particularities and adventure – it was all there. We embarked in Dar El Salaaam, cruised to Zanzibar and than to Pemba Island. 

My husband is an experienced diver with 12 scuba diving certification levels, for him it was not easy to stay away from the diving activities, as his arms become weak. However we found that the use of a seabob was an alternative, as the hands were still strong. It permitted to see some underwater life again and even a small shipwreck, discovered by our captain in the northern part of Pemba Island.

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Lately same year in the summer we cruised in Greece. Swimming and even seabob activities already became difficult at that time. So we just were hopping islands and going into the water from onshore, not from the yacht.

 

Greek Cyclades are known for its strong winds in summer season, and we have decided to make several night crossings at Force 4 and 5, from Mykonos to Paros, from Paros to Santorini and back. 

 

Lying in bed and letting the body to feel the rhythmic rocking of big waves, that bring our vessel up and down. Focusing on each part of the body, while for seconds it stays weightlessly, when the vessel descends the wave; focusing on respiration, on each cell; trying to feel interrelationships between the agitated sea and brainwaves – this experience of rough sea cruising was indeed valuable.

 

The article published by The Independent  some years ago reveals the findings, conducted by researchers from University of Geneva, related to rocking motion. The researches indicate that swaying might improve brain-damage repair.

 

The New York Times also published an article   written by psychiatrist Dr. Friedman, where he states that the new research shows that continuous rocking entrains spontaneous neural oscillations with important benefits for sleep.

 

Sleep disruption is one of the factors that fatigue all ALS patients. Our experience shows that sleeping at sea positively affects the deepness of sleep. And resting in bed on a yacht at rough sea certainly affects the whole body, including muscles.

 

It would be interesting to led a scientific study on how the sea-waves can therapeutically affect the neurones and human body in general.

 

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Shortly after cruising in Greece we have embarked another yacht again for cruising Italian coast.

My husband used to race motobikes  and missed it so much, so when we reached Capri the temptation of using a jet ski was very high.

Again the same as with the seabob, even the arms were weak the hands were still strong enough to hold the watercraft.

The sea was calm and it was perfect condition to enjoy the ride and waves. We asked the crew to load both jet skis and run it around the yacht at moderate speed, enjoying sceneries.

The increase of adrenaline and other neurotransmitters of happiness has to be provoked intentionally and jet ski is a great, relatively safe possibility to trigger those hormones. It would be interesting to launch a controlled study on how increase of those hormones can affect the brain and body of ALS patients and if there are any measurable benefits from the intentional increase of those hormones.

After 5-10 min run, we have stopped the engines and let the waves rocking the jet ski, focusing on each movement of our bodies and breathing. This small watercraft is perfect for feeling the waves in its best.

Contrary to when aboard a yacht, sitting on a Jet Ski with switched off motor in the middle of the sea makes your body and your cells to feel every wave and to become a part of the rhythm of the sea.

Jet Ski is a perfect activity, because even possible to do in tandem, while one is driving and another just holds behind.

 

 

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Next yachting trip late of the year was cruising the yacht from Fujairah, UAE down to Masirah island, Oman.

Fishing with friends in Oman has been a tradition for many years for my husband. And ALS is not a reason to brake down the tradition. Bottom trawling and active participation of the friends and the crew in the whole process has helped to catch several tunas. Dolphins watching in the area was spectacular and brought even more positive emotions.

 

 

To  fight and face ALS with a help of one the most powerful interconnected systems of the world – the Sea body – is the way to involve nature in the lifestyle which requires complex treatments and strong hopes. 

Taking many medications affects my husband’s appetite. It also affects his weight. His body needs proteins. Fish and Seafood  as well as some seaweeds is high in protein. We believe that the Sea is a limitless source of inner balance and good vibes as well as diverse pharmaceuticals and natural products to combat illness and improve the quality of life.

Many marine-based drugs have already been discovered to treat some types of serious illnesses. Maybe it worth to explore if the sea keeps anything useful for the treatments and medications in regards to neurological diseases.

We would be glad to hear the stories of other ALS fighters and their close ones, who also included sea or water related activities and adventures, nutrition or alternative treatments in their lifestyle.

 

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Post-scriptum: Is the yacht a comfortable place and can accommodate ALS-addected guests?

We have discovered that for the comfort of ALS-affected guests* …  ( * Again to mention: my husband is an ALS-patient at his early stage and with slow progression.His arms mobility is already reduced and at the dropped head symptom has started to appear, but ability to walk, speak, breath is still there. We don t know how yachting and sea activities can be adapted to the patients in the later stages) …and for the purpose to feel the sea better, the vessel preferable should be a motor yacht between 28 – 35 m, with no undergo or 0-speed stabilisers, and with relatively easy access to the cabins and sundeck.

Bigger yachts with elevators on each deck and large aft swimming platforms are also a good option, however it will not be the same sensation of rolling the waves compare to smaller yachts.

Unfortunately, not many yachts of this size ( 28 – 35 m ) are designed for easy accesses for people with the reduced mobility. During last Cannes Yachting Festival  we have discovered an innovative project, introduced by Italian yacht designing company Fabiani Yacht . Their project is represented by possibility to access and move around the yacht and enjoy the sea in complete autonomy on board for people with reduced and limited ability from the dock of the port to any deck of the yacht without compromising on the yacht design or any additional features, just with the use of the aft platform.

by Maria Alekseenko

Contact: maria@experiential-yachting.com