In the third video covering our voyage from Thailand to Krakatoa, we hit some churning Indian Ocean swell. And it got us thinking about the perennial problem of seasickness.
Neither of us is prone to this scourge, but in some situations we can begin to feel a bit “off”, so what do we do? And what do others do?
Being followtheboat, the only response was to make a video about this topic. And just for our blog subscribers, we have added the notes Liz made as she researched and talked to people about their experiences.
Massive shout out to the Women Who Sail Facebook Page (women only group) for sharing some of their stories and cures…
What is seasickness?
- It’s the same as motion sickness. Any of us, at any time, might…
- chuck up in a car,
- barf on a bus,
- chunder on a train,
- puke on a plain,
- and pray to the porcelain god as we hurtle along the track at an amusement park.
It’s all the same. It’s all what’s medically known as kinetosis.
When we have nervous crew or guests on board, they can talk themselves into being seasick. We tell them to eat lots of wine gums or gummy bears. When asked if this works we say “no, but it makes your puke more fun for us to see as it looks like a lava lamp!”Women Who Sail Facebook Group
What causes it?
- When we focus on something stationary like a phone, screen or book (on a boat it might be the guard rail, heads door, chart plotter) our eyes tell our brain we’re not moving.
- At the same time our balancing mechanism (the inner ear), along with our muscles, tell our brains that we are most definitely moving.
- As our brain struggles to understand these conflicting messages it responds with a raft of stress-related hormones that can lead to nausea, headaches, dizziness, shivering, sweating etc
Why do some people get it and not others?
- No-one really knows. But it is reckoned that around 90% of people suffer from it at some point…although 50% of people will tell you they’re never sick. (Someone’s lying!)
- Some of us are more prone to it than others. And some of us get it worse than others. Hardened fishermen, professional mariners, as well as racers, cruisers and weekend sailors are all susceptible to this scourge.
- One of the best-known sufferers was Admiral Nelson!
I haven’t tried it yet but I recently read that wearing an eye patch over one eye helps because without depth perception your mind stops trying to keep things in focus. An old pirate cure?Women Who Sail Facebook Group
Is there any good news?
- It won’t kill you!
- It does go away
- There are lots of ways to tackle the problem.
One of the following ways might work for you…
I used to always be seasick with rolling waves except for once when the other person on board was sick. It was as if someone had to be able to get the work done, and the brain decided unconsciously it was not the time to be sick.Women Who Sail Facebook Group
1. The pharmaceutical way
- Medicines for nausea are called antiemetics. Seasickness drugs like Dramamine and Stugeron can be bought over the shelf. There are plenty of others, so chat to a pharmacist to find the right one for you.
- They work by counteracting the effect of chemicals released by the brain during seasickness.
- Patches are an alternative to capsules and tablets.
- The DRAWBACK with these kinds of cures is that they contain antihistamines, so cause drowsiness, not always useful if you plan to do some serious sailing.
When we are on top of a swell, I stretch my body up; when rolling, I sort of hula dance sideways! After about an hour or so, I’m fine!WWS Facebook Group
2. The home-made way
- All things ginger – We use Liz’s home-made ginger tea all day (slice up about a thumb’s worth of fresh ginger and pour boiling water over it, we use a litre vacuum flask). Many swear by ginger biscuits, cake or anything ginger!
- Mint generally is good for settling the stomach, so try sucking a mint – or chewing gum!
- Take deep breaths in through your nose and blow out through your mouth – a technique for reducing anxiety.
My seasickness is subconsciously rooted in anxiety, so I use the ‘tapping’ method, where I gently tap my face. It’s an anxiety tool that brings you to the present moment.Women Who Sail Facebook Group
3. The alternative way
- Homeopathy “Homeopathic remedy cocculus 30c. Take 30 min before getting on the boat, nothing in your mouth for 20 min before or after the remedy.” WWS Facebook Group
- Essential oil of peppermint – just a drop rubbed into the skin
- Lavender oil might work too.
- Acupuncture – acupressure wristbands can be found in a pharmacy.
- Weed – some say it works a treat. Neither of us has tried it as a cure, but Jamie thinks it might work – Liz thinks it’ll just make her sick!
4. The practical way
- Look at the horizon and face forward – this helps your brain to reconcile your motion and vision, and staves off symptoms of motion sickness.
- Keep busy/occupied and try to forget about feeling sick.
- Get on the helm! It’s never the car driver who is sick, it’s always the passenger…
- Stay on deck, going down below will make things much worse.
Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth.
- FOOD AND DRINK are obviously important in trying to combat seasickness. But what, how much and how often?
If you have any suspicion that you might become seasick, eat something you’d like to develop less of a taste for. I’ve only ever been seasick once in my life. But I have not been able to eat oatmeal since losing mine over the side of the boat.”Women Who Sail Facebook Group
- Some say you should line the stomach before stepping on board – but not with anything too stodgy or too spicy. And don’t fill your tummy.
- Eating small amounts of slow burning foods like crackers and oatcakes.
- Oranges and extra vitamin C are reckoned to keep the histamines away and we know a number of people who swear by green apples. On the other hand, Jamie finds anything too lemony will make him slightly queasy.
- Coffee is not good, and that probably goes for tea too. Stick with water, soda or infusions (particularly ginger).
Make light meals ahead of time so it’s just grab and go, so you’re not down below for too long!Sandra Renwick SV Secondwind
- RELAX! One of the biggest problems is anxiety – worrying about being sick, worrying about being on a boat, worrying if you’ll be sick. That’s why having something to do or concentrate on is good.
- Stay upright and try not to put your head horizontal until your inner ear has adjusted…
- Lie down and close your eyes!”
After cruising full time for two years, I’ve found I get sea sick on rough upwind passages, but downwind (even in rough or rolly conditions) I’m fine. So our solution is to only ever sail downwind.Women Who Sail Facebook Group
5. The magical way
Put one ear-plug in one ear. Some say it should be the opposite side to the hand you write with, so left ear if you’re right-handed. Loads of people have told us this and swear by it. We’ve never seen it in practise, but it’s gotta be worth a try?
BONUS WAY: The ONE method which always works…
- There are many ways to treat seasickness, and some conflicting advice.
- It’s all about finding out what works for YOU. There is no right or wrong way.
- Anxiety can play a big part in delaying recovery: remain calm, breathe, and remember that it won’t kill you.
- By the time you’ve tried all these remedies, your seasickness will probably have disappeared!
If we’ve missed out your favourite method please share it in the comments below. And do share your seasick stories too!
Peace and fair winds!
Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx
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