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Sea Sickness

Strategy to Fight Seasickness (Practical Sailor July 2017 Issue)


Getting over seasickness as quickly as possible must be the focus and responsibility of all on board. Having dealt with 400 seasick sailors (out of 1,200 sail-training students) on ocean passages over the past 42 years, I have become very experienced at prevention and treatment. The following steps to avoid or lessen the severity of seasickness has served well over those years.


One of the more effective remedies, Stugeron (cinnazine) isn’t sold in the Australia, but you can buy it online

Prior to Sailing

Avoid coffee, black tea, colas and alcohol, fatty foods including tuna, tomatoes, salami, hard cheeses and sauerkraut at least 2–4 days before the passage.

Increase your water intake to two liters per day. Give each crewmember their own one-liter water bottle labeled with their name. Start appropriate seasickness medication at least 24 hours prior to departure: 2-3 grams of Vitamin C, Berocca, Stugeron tablets, Compazine suppositories or TransDerm Scopolamine patches.

Whether or not you feel any symptoms of seasickness, it is essential to maintain a steady fluid intake of one liter per 2- to 3-hour watch ensuring a total of 2 to 3 liters per day. As soon as seasick symptoms appear (mild headache, queasiness, sweating, drowsiness, depression) a more disciplined response is required.

Add Emergen-C, (available online) Berocca or a similar electrolyte replacement vitamin-mineral drink mix to your drink bottle. The electrolyte replacement helps your cells absorb fluid more quickly and completely. Gatorade and similar sports drinks lack Vitamin C, which counteracts histamine production that causes seasickness.

Eat small amounts of food on a regular basis: crackers, cookies, crystallized ginger, canned fruit or hard candies. Bananas provide potassium and are an excellent first choice if available.

Stand your watches no matter how you feel, as this will speed your recovery faster than lying in your bunk.

Effective Seasick Medication

Stugeron (cinnarizine) 15 mg tablets are only available by mail order from in the U.S., but are readily available in many countries including the United Kingdom. Stugeron, an over-the-counter antihistamine has consistently proven to be one the most effective anti-seasick medication causing less drowsiness than other antihistamines. Avoid Stugeron Forte 75 mg tablets, which are unnecessarily strong.

Compazine (prochlorperazine) 5, 10 or 25 mg. suppositories (not oral) have, from my experience proven to be the most effective prescription anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medication that causes the least drowsiness. As anxiety can cause nausea and since Compazine treats both it is an important drug to carry aboard. Suppositories are far more effective than tablets once vomiting has started.

Transderm Scopolamine 1.5 mg. patches may work when no other drug does, but one MUST first test this drug out on land as documented side effects can be severe. Avoid using for more than three days. Scopalamine is also available in tablet form (Scopace 0.4 mg.) but this is much less effective once vomiting has started.

CAUTION! With any drug, prescription or over the counter, there are published side effects. For more on prescription and homeopathic remedies see “Cures for Seasickness,” January 2009, and “Drug-free Seasickness Solutions,” December 2009.

Feeling Queasy?

Take the helm and steer the boat, focusing on the horizon. If the boat is overpowered, reduce sail. If you are sailing close-hauled, ease sheets and fall off.

Minimize time working below if possible. When going below, take your foulies off in the cockpit rather than below decks. The faster you either get back on deck or lie down, the better you’ll feel. Avoid lying down in your foulies for an extended period of time to lessen the chance of hyperthermia.

Maintain medications and review whether additional or different medications are required. If you feel like vomiting do not lean over the lifelines to vomit; use a 2-liter plastic container with tight-fitting lid that you can use on deck and below.

Most people feel considerably better after vomiting, but it is essential to maintain a steady fluid-electrolyte intake. Take small sips, stay hydrated, and keep your blood sugar level up.

Prolonged vomiting causes dehydration surprisingly quickly, hypothermia (even in the tropics) anxiety, confusion, depression, and shock. Once in shock, an enema or intravenous is the next step to rehydration and your survival.

After departure, coastal wave refraction and associated choppiness are frequently followed by more regular ocean swells, so do not be initially discouraged by seasickness. In almost all cases sailors recover from seasickness within 1 to 4 days if they follow the above advice.

John and his wife Amanda Swan Neal, a former Whitbread racer and author of The Galley Companion, have more than half a million miles at sea combined. Through their company Mahina Expeditions they conduct sail-training expeditions aboard their Hallberg-Rassy 46, Mahina Tiare III in oceans around the world.

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