5. Do not drink alcoholic beverages for several hours. Alcohol tends to
dehydrate the body. Its other symptoms are not desirable either. Alcohol
can prevent the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, the one in
which you dream and your brain rests. You may feel tired and not alert
from just a few drinks, two qualities not conducive to safe boating. If
you do plan on drinking, make every third drink a glass of water. It
will reduce dehydration and your chances for a hangover.
6. Avoid gasoline or diesel fumes. They
can put you over the edge literally and figuratively. Stay out of direct
sunlight as much as possible. Avoid becoming overheated and dehydrated.
7. Again, if possible, avoid the cabin
and other enclosed spaces. Sometimes, a breezy spot in the sun may
be preferable to a shady spot in a stuffy cabin. The open air and
ability to look out over the horizon are often more important than being
in a shady spot, which can be stuffy and enclosed, limiting your view of
the horizon and perhaps making you more prone to motion sickness.
There will be less motion towards the
center of the boat, both horizontally and vertically, and it will
increase with the height of the waves. Avoid the upper decks as the
higher you go, the more you will experience swaying back and forth.
Horizontally, you want to be amidships, towards the center, rather that
at the bow or stern. The more sensitive to motion sickness you are, the
closer you need to be towards the center, which is the calmest part of
8. If you are beginning to feel a bit
queasy, stand up and look out over the horizon. Despite what you might
think, sitting or laying down is the worst thing you can do at this
point. Don't do it. This is a critical moment. You will get much worse
even faster and may reach a point of no return if you make the wrong
choice. Soda crackers seem to help some people by calming their stomachs
and reducing nausea.
Steering the boat is an
9. When the boat is rolling with the
waves rather than moving under its own power and you are standing on
deck, possibly getting hot, your resistance to motion sickness
diminishes rapidly. Reduce that exposure time to an absolute minimum.
11. Have some water and fruit before. It
can help by rehydrating you.
12. If someone in your party is overcome
by sea sickness, get away from them at once! Unfortunately, many of us
can do fine until someone else loses it. Then we have a sympathetic
reaction and succumb as well. It could be the sound, the smell, the
sight, or a combination of them that triggers the same response in us.
You don't have to be close to your buddy at this time. There is nothing
you can do to help.
If you feel nauseous and about to
succumb, please avoid the entry and exit areas of the boat. Hang your
head over the gunwales.
Medications and Natural Preventatives
Ginger is a natural preventative. It soothes a queasy stomach and has no
side effects. You can get it in pill form, tablets or powder, as ginger
root in many herb and health food stores, or as pickled ginger slices at
Japanese food marts and even at many Japanese restaurants. Most serve it
pickled with sushi, hand rolls, and other of their dishes. It puts out
the fire that too much wasabe can start.
Some doctors recommend that you can take it 12-24 hours before, as
preventing sea sickness is easier than curing it. Somewhere from 1 gram
up to 4 grams per day of powdered ginger is recommended. Some studies
seem to indicate that ginger is more effective in the reduction of
vomiting and sweating than nausea and vertigo, although they reduce
those symptoms as well. You can try gingersnap cookies and ginger ale,
although their lower ginger content may not be as effective. They do
work for many sailors though.
Eating peppermint in conjunction with
ginger is reported by as being even more effective. Since mint does have
some of the same calming qualities as ginger, this may be true. Perhaps
it is just the belief that it works that is effective. Regardless, it is
an inexpensive and pleasant addition. An added benefit is making your
Another treatment is an accupressure
wrist band. It applies pressure to a particular point on your wrist
which can prevent the feeling of nausea.
Here's an interesting treatment that was
found. It is a treatment that works on some after they are feeling
queasy, rather than as a preventative. Immerse your feet in ice water.
Anecdotal reports indicate it helps some people.
There are other preventatives, such as
over the counter and prescription medications. Most should be taken in
advance and not on an empty stomach. Be sure to read the instructions.
Dramamine is one that has been used for years. Meclizine and bonine are
also effective. You can find them at most pharmacies and drug stores.
Scopolamine was used for awhile in the Transderm patches, but was taken
off the market because of quality control problems, though it is now
available again (as of fourth quarter 1997). Be sure to read this
warning about sea sickness medications. It might give you more reasons
to try other methods of prevention than medication.
Scopolamine is a prescription drug in the
family of chemicals known as belladonna alkaloids (belladonna from the
Italian for beautiful lady. Renaissance women took belladonna to get
dilated pupils, an effect of scopolamine). Scopolamine should not be
used by people with glaucoma. Its side effects can include dry mouth
(the most common side effect,) dilated pupils with blurred vision,
drowsiness, disorientation, confusion, memory disturbances, dizziness,
restlessness, hallucinations, and difficulty urinating. When you stop
using the patches you can also get disorientation, confusion, memory
disturbances, dizziness, and restlessness.
Scopolamine's side effects are not
predictable. You could have used it without problems many times before
and still develop an untoward reaction. Some of the side effects are
similar to the effects of nitrogen narcosis, and even if you're having a
mild reaction to the scopolamine (and maybe not even know it) the
reaction could be more pronounced at depth.
There is no one I know of who can't get seasick if the conditions are
right, but there are some things that can be done to reduce the
1. Don't drink liquor excessively the
night before departing. The slight morning after feeling can be many
times compounded on a boat.
2. Be careful to avoid greasy foods. The first sign of seasickness is
indigestion and it often never gets past that point.
3. Drink Coke or Pepsi. These two drinks help reduce the chances of
getting sick because they contain phosphoric acid, which is an
ingredient in Emetrol, a drug to control vomiting. That's the medical
explanation I received from a doctor when I asked why a Coke seems to
settle the stomach. Eat Saltine crackers. They absorb the excess acidity
very well. If the indigestion is really bad, take an antacid.
4. Stay up on deck where the air is fresh and you can see the horizon.
The worst thing is to focus on a near object that is moving around in
relation to the background like making an intricate repair below decks
in the forepeak of the boat. When you stay on deck you can see the
horizon and it greatly helps maintain your equilibrium and orientation.
Also, since the smell of diesel fuel can aggravate seasickness, fresh
5. If you have a choice of berths, don't choose one in the forward cabin
if sailing at night. At anchor, the forward stateroom is fine! There is
less pitching motion in the center of the boat and the quietest berth
from the point of view of movement is often the quarter-berth, if there
6. Sleep on your back. This seems to support the stomach better from
bouncing around, though, not being a doctor, I couldn't tell you why.
7. Keep busy on deck. Some say seasickness is completely psychological.
I know of people who have gone asleep feeling well, only to wake up
seasick, so I doubt that it's all psychological. However, if you sit
around worrying that you might get seasick, it's apt to happen. Seeing
and smelling others seasick doesn't seem to have an effect on me, but it
may cause others to feel sick. If you're very busy on deck steering, or
trimming and changing sails, you are less apt to feel bad, but once you
do feel sick, activity tends to make it worse. You'll feel much better
if you tickle your throat over the side and get rid of it. Obviously,
this has to be done on the leeward side of the boat and it's best to
have someone hold onto your belt in back, because you don't have much
control while vomiting.
8. Have your ears cleaned before a long race or cruise. This has helped
many people reduce their proneness to seasickness by allowing the
balance mechanism in the ears to work better. I've never had it done
myself, but I've heard it helps.
9. Be in good physical condition. It reduces your chances of becoming
seasick and also reduces its debilitating effects on you if you do.
10. Steer. This even helps the crew members that have already started to
feel queasy. Steering necessitates looking at the horizon (#4) and
keeping busy (#7), and provides anticipation of what the next movement
of the boat will be.
When you encounter very rough weather early in a distance race or long
cruise, particularly early in the season or before you have had a chance
to get much sailing in, your chances are higher you'll get sick. If you
have a couple of days to get your "sea legs", (this term applies to
maintaining your balance and insofar as balance affects your tendency
towards seasickness, it has come to apply to that also), you should have