Seasickness – why let a bit of vomiting get in the way of enjoying a sail?
The wind in your hair, the smell of the water and the sounds of waves hitting the hull of the boat are just a few reasons as to why I love sailing. My favorite moments during our sailing journeys are the times when I can lay down in the cockpit, feel the sun on my body and listen to nature propel us forward. I also love to spend time alone at night sitting under the moon with a great expanse of water in front of me. Many times I’ve felt absolute bliss while sailing.
Unfortunately, however, I suffer terribly from seasickness
Ever since I was a child I became sick on any mode of transport. When the family went for a trip longer than an hour I’d have to clutch my sick bag and wait until the contents of my stomach unloaded.
As I’ve grown older, my ability to ward off sickness for longer has increased. I no longer get sick in a car and when we’re sailing, my seasickness only seems to hit if there’s a swell. I can handle the boat going up and down but not up and down AND rocking side to side.
If you’ve never experienced seasickness let me give you an insight to how it feels
The getting sick part is not the worst aspect – it’s the lead up to getting sick that is most uncomfortable. At first I feel unsettled. It’s as if I get a dizzy spell and can’t recover from it. Then my stomach turns sour and my mouth starts to fill up with saliva. It’s as if my mouth thinks that I have food in it and my glands start to fill it with water.
I then have to spit the saliva out which is very embarrassing if there are others watching. This feeling of being unsettled, sour stomach and an overly hydrated mouth goes on for about a ½ hour until it comes to a final head and I puke. After I vomit I feel bit of relief but often the cycle starts over again and carries on until I get onto solid land.
Fortunately, however I’ve discovered a way to stop vomiting through the use of drugs
Throughout the years I’ve tried all sorts of things from eating ginger cookies, taking pills, staring at the horizon and simply trying to live through the sickness.
My love for sailing is so strong that I’m adamant that I’ll find a way to make peace with my debilitating affliction!
Ideally, I’m on a mission to rid myself of seasickness and ultimately, I’d prefer to do it in a drug-free manor. Considering that I now live on a boat full time, I don’t want to have to drug myself every time we move to a new location.
After researching the causes of seasickness it seems to me that there’s an issue caused between the brain and our inability to reconcile the horizon. Our body just isn’t happy – it’s confused. And in the confusion, our body unfortunately things we’re unwell. Can you believe that it goes to work to fight an infection? Our unconscious gets a trigger that say’s, ‘Okay body, there’s a problem. Let’s send out the forces to fix it.’
Well, we don’t need any forces to fix a problem!
What we need is for our body to recognize what’s really going on and chill out. Unfortunately, however, our body goes to work to fight something and the result is seasickness.
My logical self wants to talk to my unconscious and set things right but as hard as I try, my seasickness fails to disappear. I must admit, however, that I definitely don’t get sick as easily as I did in the past so there’s hope for me yet!
And on a quirky side note, I have a feeling that it’s control freaks that experience seasickness. Yes – I admit I’m a recovering control freak and I still have tendencies. I think it’s our inability to go with the flow. I could be totally wrong, but hey I just thought I’d add it into the mix.
Anyway, below are the things I’ve tried thus far and my thoughts about each of them. My suggestion is to start with non-drug remedies and work yourself up to drugs if need be. Drugs can have undesirable side affects like sleepiness, dry mouth and/or vision impairment.
How to Cure Seasickness – Top 10 Solutions
1. Helming or distraction
Anyone that experiences carsickness knows that if they drive, they won’t get sick. In similar principle, it’s recommended to helm a boat if you’re feeling unwell. It allows you to anticipate the movement of the boat and focus on the horizon. This has never worked for me. By the time I feel unwell, the last thing I want to do is helm…and if I do start helming I start to worry about who is going to be the unfortunate recipient of my projectiles. Furthermore, if you’re sailing for any length of time, perhaps days, it’s not practical to helm the whole time.
If you’re starting to feel queasy and you’re okay to helm, go for it. It’s the first line of defense and who knows – it might just do the trick.
2. Ginger candy, cookies, biscuits and water or tea with fresh ginger
Ginger is a natural stomach settler so the reasoning behind consuming foods or teas with ginger is to help calm the stomach. Since I was a kid my parents forced ginger snaps down my throat. Needless to say, when I smell ginger I now want to puke so I think I had some sort of reverse conditioning going on there.
On a positive note, however, taking ginger pills have been effective for me. As long as the waters are not rough, I’ve taken them and felt fine going below decks.
If you’re new to the world of seasickness try these first. You can get ginger pills at any health food store. A word of caution, however; if you burp before the pill has broken down it’s possible for the ginger dust to fly out your nose. Not only is ginger powder in the nose unpleasant it’s a bit embarrassing if anyone see’s you expel it.
3. Affirmations are positive statements you can tell yourself to force your conscious and subconscious to follow orders
The most famous affirmation is, ‘Every day in every way I’m feeling better and better.’ The queen of affirmations is Louise Hay, so upon looking up ‘seasickness’ in her book, ‘Heal Your Body,’ this is what it says:
PROBABLE CAUSE: Fear. Fear of death. Lack of control
NEW THOUGHT PATTERN: I am totally safe in the Universe. I am at peace everywhere. I trust life.
As a side note, I am full of fear. I’m afraid of everything but I also ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ One day, I hope I can stop being so afraid. Perhaps I’ll then rid myself of seasickness?
And on a serious note, I do believe in affirmations and I think they’re very helpful but when I get sick I usually can’t focus on saying or thinking anything other than how awful I feel.
4. Hypnosis for Vertigo & Motion Sickness by Giovanni Lordi
I found this hypnosis CD prior to leaving for our around the world sailing adventure. It’s almost an hour long so it took up quite a bit of time to listen to it. Before we left, I listened to it 8 times (on different days). Perhaps I had to listen more but I didn’t notice any change at all. Perhaps I’m just not susceptible to hypnosis? If hypnosis has worked for you in the past, it’s worth giving it a go. The audio download cost around £7/$10 and you can easily find it on Google.
5. Nevastic audio
this app I found on iTunes has been clinically proven to address the symptoms of nausea and vomiting related to motion sickness. It’s 27 minutes long and runs through a series of music tracks and noises. You must listen to it with headphones on as it works to balance out your ears or something like that. It did nothing for me; however, when my 3-year-old daughter became very seasick I forced her to listen to the music. I told her that by listening she’d feel much better and would stop puking. It worked instantly. I’m not sure if it was my positive suggestion or the music but a positive result was achieved. If you have children on board, I definitely suggest this app. I think I paid around £11 for it and downloaded it onto my iPhone.
6. Acupressure and Sea Bands
There’s a natural seasickness pressure point on your wrist. If you put three fingers lengthwise at the base of your wrist, the point to press is just below and in the middle of your arm. By massaging this area, you should feel some relief. All my life I’ve massaged that area and I feel it works but only temporarily. It doesn’t seem to stop the symptoms – perhaps it just delays them? Sea Bands are wristbands that have balls in them that put pressure on your anti-seasickness points. You can put them on and just leave them there. I gave them a go but found them to be terribly annoying. I now just massage my pressure points when I feel the need to do so. You can get the bands at a pharmacy and they’re very inexpensive. Many people swear by them so they’re worth a try.
7. Explorer Relieve Band Medical Device
The Relieve Band is similar to the acupressure bands however it sends an electrical current into your pressure point and if it’s working correctly it will make your palm or middle finger buzz a bit. The device looks like a watch and you wear it like a watch. It has 5 levels of electrical current strength – 1 through 5. The instant you feel unsettled, you need to start the electricity flowing and increase until the symptoms stop. The device costs around £80/$100 and it needs one of those small circular batteries. The battery only lasts 12 hours (at most) so there’s an on-going cost of new batteries.
I have not tried my Relieve Band yet. It’s my final option that’s drug free and I’m afraid it won’t work. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to have to keep taking drugs and I really don’t want that. My thoughts on the Relieve Band will be noted soon. I’ll have to give it a go – perhaps on my next journey in a couple days. The best place to find a Relief Band would be online or in a Chandlery.
8. Nelsons Travella (Homeopathic)
If you know about homeopathic remedies, this is a combination of: Apomorph, Staphisagria, Cocculus, Theridion, Petroleum, Tabacum & Nux vomica. I tried it after taking drugs when I was seriously desperate and nothing happened. I also gave it to my daughter but she puked it up again. I’m not sure if I can comment on the effectiveness of it or not. I often feel that many things work but only to a point. I found this remedy in a health food store. At least it’s something that is safe to give to children and it might be worth keeping in the First Aid kit for those with minor symptoms.
Okay – we’re going into the drugs now. The great thing about Cinnarizine is that it suppresses the vomiting response. A major worry with seasickness is dehydration – something to be avoided at all costs.
With Cinnarizine, you can prevent yourself from vomiting, losing all your liquids and becoming even sicker. The first time I took Stugeron I was as happy as a pig in mud however my happiness was short lived. For the first day I didn’t have any symptoms, but as the trip went on it felt as if the effects reduced day by day. Furthermore, the drug made me so lethargic and sleepy. I did my initial trial during a Force 10 storm so it’s important for me to note the severity of the weather. Overall, I was pleased that I didn’t vomit and as long as I kept my head down, I was okay.
For a one-day trip, I still use Stugeron and it’s effective. I definitely recommend it as it stops puking and if you’re really in a bad state, you can sleep until you get to port. In the UK, this drug can be purchased over the counter.
10. Scopoderm TTS/Scopolamine (hyoscine) INN Patches
Also called Transcop in Italy. I tested this out on a 7-day trip from Gibraltar to Malta. For the most part, it worked well. We hit a Force 8 storm and I had to lay down while the seas were very rough, but I didn’t puke and I felt okay.
These patches are great for people that have started to vomit. Giving pills won’t work as they usually won’t stay in the stomach long enough. While sailing from Malta to Sicily, I started puking 20 minutes out of port. I think it was nerves more than anything else – it was the first time my husband and I took the boat out without a skipper. Anyway, the puke cycle started and after the 2nd incident, I had my husband put the patch behind my ear and I laid down. The puking stopped and I felt better but not great. I managed to lay down for the bulk of the 6 hour trip but it wasn’t too bad.
A down side of these patches is that they last for 3-days but will come off if you shower. They also irritated my skin and left a red patch once removed. Further, when I put the patch on and laid down, it really messed up my vision. One of my pupils (black part of the eye) grew massive and the other eye pupil went very small. My vision was very impaired.
In the UK you need a prescription from a doctor to get the patches but I’m told that in Italy, you can purchase them over the counter. Further, I’ve been informed that in Australia you can’t purchase any anti-sickness drugs at all. I think a box of 5 costs around £10/$15.
In conclusion to 10 ways to cure seasickness
In conclusion, sailing is absolutely amazing and although seasickness can be an issue, it doesn’t have to prevent you from getting out there and enjoying the seas. Over 75% of the time I have very little effects and I only get super sick when the seas are very rough. There are several ways to combat the sickness, so if you’re going out for a sail, arm yourself with the appropriate solutions and give it a go.
What to read next?!
28 Seasickness Remedies to Easily Buy from Amazon.com
Ian Jones says
Have you ever thought about just sailing, living through the sickness, until it goes away.
An old boy, who was in the navy during the war, told me that he and many of his companions were seasick at first, but after about two weeks it passed, never to return………..
Of course they were powerless to affect the voyage duration or destination. Maybe knowing that, helped them to adapt.
Kim Brown says
Hey Ian – thank you for this post. Since writing the article I’ve stopped taking all seasickness drugs and I’m happy to announce that I am managing very well. I did get a bit of sickness the other day when it was blowing 30 knots but the swell was very bad. When it’s calm I’m able to go down below and when it’s rough I’m fine in the cockpit. So…I’m happy to report that it is going away! Yippie! I can’t tell you how happy I am. The whole idea of going across the Atlantic isn’t looking as bad as I thought it was going to me. Thanks again for the comment 🙂
Tom Scott says
Seasick cure- I have heard an eye patch helps. Two eye means two focal point for the brain to compute. I don’t know if it works but heck it can’t hurt. Have fun.
Kim Brown says
That makes sense Tom… My daughter recently made a pirate hat and eye patch. The next time we’re out and I’m feeling rough, I’ll give the eye patch a go!
Rick Newton Newton says
My father while in the world war did many beach landings on those flat bottom boat skids a couple miles off shore he said they passed out eye patches cover one eye he said it worked for him!
Kim Brown says
Yes Rick – I’ve heard that too. It’s worth a try! Smiles, Kim
A combination homeopathic is not very effective as you found out. Nux Vomica alone is the proper remedy. Suck on one pellet when you know you are going to puke and you will not. My friend took it with him deep sea fishing. On his last trip he and most of the fisherman puked during the entire trip. I told him about this remedy and he grabbed it at the health food store before he boarded. He shared it with the others and nobody got sick.
Kim Brown says
Carmen! I’m going to a health food store in Ragusa next Wednesday and I’m going to get the Nux Vomica! Thank you for the reminder 🙂
Three things I’ve found helpful.- Don’t drink ANY alcohol the night before. Sip water frequently throughout the voyage. Chew gum constantly. I’m not a fan of chewing gum, but I have packets of the stuff on board ship!!
Kim Brown says
Those are all great tips! I’ll have to go get some chewing gum and give that a go! Thank you Pam 🙂
I read about this and have since tried it myself with success. Put one ear plug (the foam ones used to reduce sound) in one ear. Doesn’t seem to matter which.
We’re going to need to figure out what works for seasickness for us too. I get a little seasick, and the kids get REALLY seasick. But we’re headed for the South Pacific next season.
Kim Brown says
Hey Regina…In my Checklist for Sailors book I have a list of every known seasickness remedy that I’ve come across. If you want that list email me and I’ll send it to you. Kim
Lenora Curtis says
I am a hypnotherapist and I also had terrible seasickness. The problem with listening to an audio that is general is they don’t know how your brain processes information.
I would love to practice my skills with you and see if we can’t help you defeat that old nagging seasickness once and for all. If you think you would like to give it a try, we can do zoom and discuss it more. OH and for helping me improve my skills I am not trying to sell my services but rather give them as an exchange for the experience. Lenora@ljchypnotherapy.com
Kim Brown says
That’s very kind of you Lenora. I’m happy to say that I finally got rid of my seasickness! It’s a long story but I thought I was going to die, realized that dying wasn’t that bad, and then when I lived I wasn’t so fearful anymore. For some reason, my seasickness disappeared after that. Have you ever thought of doing a seasickness or motion sickness hypnotherapy product? So many people suffer… Thank you for commenting. Kim