Helping people avoid seasickness while sailing is something I have definitely done since I started working onboard a sailboat. While I personally don’t get seasick, I have definitely seen how horrible it can make you feel. Whether you are on a long sailing trip, or just hopping aboard an excursion for a few hours, getting seasick can make break your entire experience. While not everyone is prone to seasickness, or handles it the same way, here are some ways to beat seasickness that I have either used to help people feel better, or other common uses for dealing with seasickness!
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What is Seasickness?
Seasickness is a form of motion sickness caused by the motion of a vessel on the water that can cause a variety of symptoms. Your inner ear and vision aren’t seeing and feeling the same thing, so the disconnect can cause feelings of dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and even vomiting.
Before You Sail, Stay Hydrated
It may sound silly, but staying hydrated can help avoid feelings of seasickness while sailing. Dehydration is one of the causes of seasickness, especially if you’re out in the heat and sun of the tropics. Make sure to drink lots of water before heading out, and continue to stay hydrated while underway. The salt air, heat, and sun can cause dehydration pretty quickly, but it is also possible to get dehydrated if you’re sailing in colder conditions.
Take Bonine or Dramamine if You are Prone to Motion Sickness
Another pre-sailing measure you can take to help avoid seasickness (especially if you is taking an oral medication available over the counter from most pharmacies that is designed to prevent motion sickness. Of course, consult with your doctor before taking any medications, and discuss the best option for you.
Dramamine is probably the most recognizable option, but I have personally found it can make you pretty drowsy. I tend to prefer Bonine over the original Dramamine for sailing since it doesn’t cause as much drowsiness. Dramamine does have a few non-drowsy options available, but I have not personally used any. I’ve heard it’s comparable to the Bonine formulation though!
Both options are typically taken a few hours prior to departure, so be sure to follow the directions so they are properly effective.
Stay on Deck While Sailing
Once you’re underway, the best way to avoid seasickness is by staying on deck. Staying out in the breeze, the cooler air, and being able to see the movement of the boat can help your body realize that you’re actually moving, and avoid feelings of nausea or dizziness. Down below in the cabin, the air tends to be much warmer, with no breeze, and you can’t see the movement of the boat. Most of the time, this can exacerbate the feelings of seasickness while sailing.
Some boats have a dodger or covered “windshield” type enclosure to protect you from the elements if the weather or conditions aren’t so nice. If you’re prone to sea sickness, try to stay outside of the enclosure so that you can feel the cooler air and breeze on your face.
It may sound silly, but facing forwards while you’re sailing helps your inner ear connect with your eyes to see the movement that your body is feeling. Facing backwards, your body is feeling the opposite movement than what your eyes are seeing, which can further disorient you or cause more nauseous feelings.
Sit on the Low Side
Now if you’ve never been sailing, you may have NO idea what I’m referring to when I say the “low side.” When you are sailing, the boat leans, or “heels” over Sitting on the low side of the heel can help reduce the feelings of motion sickness since you’re closer to the water, and the low side usually moves slightly less than the higher side. If the boat is pretty large, sitting in the middle of the boat can help reduce the side-to-side motion that can occur.
Try Using Seabands
Seabands are something that look pretty harmless from a visual standpoint, but these little bracelets are supposed to make a huge impact on dealing with seasickness. The little cloth bands utilize pressure points within the inner wrist that is supposed to help avoid nauseated feelings. These Seabands are even used with people who experience motion sickness from cars, pregnancy, or any kind of motion sickness! They’re definitely something to keep onboard any time you are unsure if you are going to feel motion sick, and you can find your own set here!
Watch the Horizon
Probably the most common knowledge remedy for seasickness is watching the horizon. While it may not seem like it would work, there is some truth to this seasickness remedy. Similarly to sitting facing forwards while sailing, watching the horizon helps your eyes to see the movement that is happening. If you are facing forwards but watching something on the boat, it appears that the world is topsy-turvy. Facing forwards and watching the horizon will signal to your brain (through your eyes) that the boat is the object moving, not the entire world.
If you’re already feeling nauseated from seasickness, try this natural remedy. Eating or drinking root ginger, whether in tea form, ginger chews, raw ginger, or ginger chews, any form of ginger can help alleviate nauseous feelings. If you’re not crazy about super strong ginger flavors, try a ginger ale or ginger beer (don’t worry, it’s non-alcoholic)! The bubbles can help with an upset stomach, as well as the natural ginger!
Try an Old Sailor’s Tale
Now you might call me crazy with this seasickness cure, or really, prevention. But there’s an old sailor’s tale that taking 1/2 a shot of rum can help prevent seasickness. Whether that is because it will distract you or not is unknown, but the sailors of times past may suggest that it is the best remedy out there. Now, whether or not this “remedy” actually works is unknown. If it were me, I’d opt out of this one.
Take the Helm
Sometimes the best thing you can do for seasickness is keep yourself busy. If you know you’re prone to seasickness or are worried about starting to feel seasick, see if it’s a good time to take the helm or help out with the sailing!
Taking the helm not only puts you at a pretty centerline, stable spot on the boat, but it forces you to keep your eyes forward and on the horizon. If you are feeling slightly unwell and feel like you can take the helm with someone around, definitely give it a chance. If you (or your captain) don’t think it’s the best idea, try to sit near the helm facing forwards, as the helm is often the pivot point for movement on the boat and will therefore have less movement while sailing.
Use a High Tech ReliefBand
If you’re in need of more intense relief, these special electrical wristbands deliver impulses to your wrist to help disrupt your nervous system’s nausea response. For some people that get super seasick, I’ve heard that they can be a total game changer. My stepdad is one of those people that gets seasick even in calm waters, but with the wristband on can actually deal with being on the water for short periods of time in calm conditions! One of the more popular and well known bands is called ReliefBand, and after reading the reviews, seems like it’s one of the best things to use for motion sickness, both on the sea, on land, and in the air!
Get the Ear Patches Prescription
Another popular option for those prone to motion sickness are the little circular patches you see some people wearing behind your ears. These patches are called Scopolamine patches, and may be an option for you if you’re going to be on the water for an extended trip. These little patches stick right behind your ear, and are said to last around 3 days per patch. They do require a prescription, so consult with your doctor to see if this would be a good fit for you.
What to do once you’re already seasick?
Unfortunately, there is no real “cure” for seasickness once you’ve started feeling the effects except for finding land.
Sometimes, you can help mitigate the symptoms by jumping in the water, but it may not be a feasible option if you’re underway. The cool water and reduced apparent motion may help your seasick feelings, but it’s no gurantee.
Finding stable land is your best bet if you start feeling really sick, but trying some of these options could help you alleviate the symptoms of feeling seasick while sailing.
Do you get seasick? Have any other remedies that work for you? I’d love to hear them!