Combating Seasickness

Seven years ago, sailing on the Atlantic side from Norman Island to Cooper Island in the British Virgin Islands, I got seasick for the very first time. Never having a hint of seasickness or even motion sickness before that day, I honestly thought I might die by the time we got to Cooper Island.

Seasickness - copyrightSince that day, I unfortunately have been stricken with the same awful, nauseating, debilitating feeling while snorkeling and sailing. Not every, time, but often enough that I get concerned every time I am preparing for a sail and – this is NOT ALL RIGHT! I know I am not alone and I know I refuse to let this get in between me and my incredible love for being on and in the water, so, after a bit of research on seasickness, what it is and how to prevent it, this is what I’ve found.

Anyone can experience seasickness. Even those that have logged quite a bit of time on the sea are not immune to it – although most people acclimate to the motion of the ocean in 2-3 days and are less likely to experience the most severe symptoms of seasickness by then.

Symptoms of seasickness appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the body, inner ear and eyes. Some say you can will it away – I say that’s said by someone who has never experienced it! So what can you do if you are going on a cruise or a sail and don’t want to spend the first several days of your vacation bent over the railing?

These are some of the recommendations I’ve received from doctors and others who love to sail who also struggle with it. Some work for me and some don’t, and some I have yet to try. Be sure to check with your doctor before using any type of medication.

  1. Take deep breaths and drink lots of water.
  2. Don’t go below deck, stay where you can see the horizon.
  3. Refrain from drinking alcohol or eating heavy foods prior to sailing.
  4. Over the Counter Medications. Take an over the counter medication for motion sickness prior to sailing or snorkeling, such as Dramamine, Bonine or Meclizine.
  5. Presciption Medications. If the over the counter medications don’t work for you, there are several prescription medications such as Promethazine and Ephedrine, but be aware of potential side effects.
  6. The patch. I know many people who find a patch with a drug called Scopolamine placed behind an ear very effective, but I am a bit leery of it based on a reaction one of our boat mates had to it on a sail to the Grenadines.
  7. Herbal remedies. Ginger is purported to work quite well in thwarting the effects of seasickness. This one I haven’t tried yet, but believe I will bring some ginger capsules (and maybe ginger candy!) on my next sail. Check with your doctor first, but apparently the recommended dosage for seasickness is one gram of powdered ginger (1/2 tsp) or its equivalent, every four hours as needed (not to exceed four doses daily), or two ginger capsules (1 gram), three times daily. You should not ingest more than four grams of ginger daily. If pills and powder are not your thing, chew on a piece of fresh ginger, a piece of ginger candy or sip on ginger ale.
  8. Acupressure or Motion Sickness Wrist Band. According to Chinese medicine, acupressure can be helpful in relieving nausea associated with seasickness. With your thumb, use pressure on your inner arm about two inches down from your wrist. Or – by a motion sickness wristband that will keep pressure on the same area.
  9. Acupuncture. I have a friend who has recently tried acupuncture to alleviate the nausea felt during a bout of seasickness. She receives an acupuncture treatment prior to her sail and swears that it has kept her from getting sick on both of her recent sails. I have a bit of an aversion to needles, but think I may just have to give this one a try too.

    Do you have other methods that have helped you combat seasickness? If so, we’d love to hear them!


  1. I don’t have any to add to the list, other than to say that not going below deck is excellent advice. The only time I ever got seasick was on a glass bottom boat ride in Key West. The seas were pretty rough that day and all of the looking downward just was not a good idea.

    Stay above deck in the fresh air. The day after that, we took another boat trip (snorkeling) in fairly rough seas. This time however, we took Dramamine ahead of time and had no problems. And I will mention that that little bottle of Dramamine made me the most popular person on that boat. At least two others asked to “borrow” some. :-) And that was one of the most memorable boat trips we’ve ever taken.