Restlessness, cold sweats, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting….there’s no mistaking seasickness.
Once it has set in when you’re out on a boat, you can’t do much to overcome the misery and discomfort of it. Yet for recreational sailors and yachting professionals, ‘getting one’s sea legs’ is a vital part of adapting to life at sea.
Experts say the trick is to prevent the motion sickness happening in the first place, so if you’re concerned about developing symptoms, it pays to arm yourself with preventive measures before you arrive onboard.
Remember that not doing anything to control seasickness could be dangerous. After all, if a crew member is out of action, others are left coping with a shorthanded boat.
The simplest and most effective way of controlling the onset of seasickness in a heaving sea, is to stare at the stationary horizon. The idea is that this will reset your internal equilibrium.
Another good piece of advice is to stay on deck. Don’t be tempted to go belowships, as it’s better to stay in the fresh air where you can watch the horizon. If you lie down your brain can’t reconcile the confusion your inner ear is experiencing due to the motion of the boat.
It’s also thought that you can minimize any motion the boat is feeling by holding a position amidships. Here the roll and pitch of the boat are considerably less than at the bow, stern or rails.
Bear in mind that close focus work and binoculars only add confusion to your brain and might exacerbate the motion sickness. So it’s best to keep busy on physical tasks with your head up.
Patches and medicines
A widely recommended remedy is Transderm Scop, a scopolamine patch that is applied behind the ear at least eight hours before taking to the water. This is thought to offer relief from seasickness for up to three days.
Available on prescription, the Scop is preventive, not a treatment, and can cause possible side effects such as dry mouth, blurry vision, drowsiness and dizziness.
Scopolamine patches work by secreting small amounts of medicine into your skin. They are the most popular prescription drug for seasickness and they also come in pill form.
Sailors appreciate the way they can work for long periods, but be wary that prolonged use of the patch can lead to hallucinations.
Meanwhile over-the-counter drugs used to deter seasickness include Dramamine, Meclizine (common name Bonine) or diphenhydramine (commonly name Benadryl).
Unfortunately the common side effect of Bonine and Benadryl is drowsiness, which is not ideal for those working as crew.
Many crew members prefer to take natural remedies to deter seasickness. One option is to wear a wrist band as an alternative to drugs. You can opt for either an acupressure or magnetic band and both work by applying a slight amount of pressure or magnets to a pressure point on the underside of your arm just above the wrist.
Sea-Bands are popular for their ability to curb nausea and vomiting without any side effects, and they are available without a prescription at leading pharmacies. Children and pregnant women can also use these.
Another school of thought is that wearing a single earplug can really help ease seasickness.
Other natural remedies include acupuncture, using natural oils, drinking sugary drinks such as Coke, and chewing gum or eating sweets.
Some swear that eating green apples helps alleviate nausea too, while natural ginger has long been a favourite of sailors taking to rough seas.
You can stock up on crystalized ginger to chew on a sailing trip, or make a point of drinking ginger ale or ginger tea. There are ginger capsules on the market for this purpose too.
The joke among sailors is that the best cure for seasickness is to sit in the shade of an oak tree.
Very amusing of course, but for yachting professionals with a serious and often physical job to do, we recommend finding the remedy that works for you so you can get on with life on board with the least possible discomfort.