Most of us have at some point suffered the misery of being seasick; it can turn a relaxing day’s sail into a miserable experience.
Why does it happen? According to this article:

Motion sickness is thought to occur when there’s a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears, which help with balance, sense.Your brain holds details about where you are and how you’re moving. It constantly updates this with information from your eyes and vestibular system. The vestibular system is a network of nerves, channels and fluids in your inner ear, which gives your brain a sense of motion and balance.If there’s a mismatch of information between these two systems, your brain can’t update your current status and the resulting confusion will lead to symptoms of motion sickness, such as nausea and vomiting.

So why is it that some people get sick on a boat, but not in a car? It’s because movements with a low frequency and greater amplitude (longer, but less frequent rocking) are more likely to make us ill. It’s reported for instance, that people become motion sick when riding camels but never when riding horses.

Amongst sailors, there are broadly two schools of thought when it comes to dealing with seasickness; one swears by medial aid, the other on self-reliance. There are many over the counter remedies readily available, and countless articles on which ones are best (this one is pretty good) so I thought it’d be good to look into the self reliance aspect.
For some (especially newbies) seasickness can start before even stepping onboard, as the fear of illness is enough to make them ill. This kind of anticipatory fear is conditioned by a negative experience in the past. “We were on this ferry once, we felt terrible, every one was puking, it was horrible!!”. If you’re planning a trip with a group of friends, it’s important to watch out for these early warning signals, and any signs of crew anxiety.

Once they’re aboard, get them busy immediately, with a task that doesn’t involve sitting down (probably their natural reaction) as sitting is more likely to make people feel sick than standing, or lying down. With both hands busy, they’ll need to make active compensatory movements to keep balance, which makes adapting much easier. Being passively rocked when sitting, or leaning against something makes matters worse.
Once you’re under way the best prevention (and cure) is helming. Ever felt queasy as a passenger in a car, but rarely as the driver? It’s the same concept. Feeling in control of the boat’s motion, and being able to anticipate its movement (seeing waves coming for example) reduces the sick feeling.

When not on the helm, get people who are looking a bit iffy on lookout duty (which continues to get them actively anticipating and reacting to the boats movement) and helping to run the boat (keeping their mind occupied).

Lastly, it’s really important not to talk about seasickness. No gruesome stories, quickly change the subject if someone starts re-calling “the last time…” and boldly state that no-one has ever really been sick on you boat!

Things to avoid:

  • Working at the chart table or in the galley.
  • Getting cold and damp.
  • Eating rich food (stick to ginger biscuits).
  • If it’s really necessary to go down below for a period of time, lie down as fast as possible.
  • Avoid galley smells.

Seasickness glasses?!

Do take a look at these! 😂 I’m not sure if I’d be brave enough to wear them, but I wonder if they’d work?


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