Seasickness, the biggest fear of all novice sailors, is said to comprise of 2 phases. In the first, you are so sick that you think you’re going to die and in the second, you’re afraid you won’t.
There are 3 groups of people:
- Those who never get seasick
- Those who always get seasick
- And the largest group, those who sometimes do, depending entirely on the circumstances.
Unfortunately, until you actually sail, you won’t find out which group you belong to. Hopefully, you’ll be in the first group, but even if you aren’t, there are ways to prevent it or at least alleviate it. Some people swear by certain remedies, while others claim they are a mere placebo. It's up to you to try them out and see what works for you.
So why do people get seasick?
The fact that a person gets sick as soon as the boat begins to rock is the result of contrasting sensory perceptions that the brain does not know how to process. Kinetosis occurs when the brain perceives motion (for example, through the muscles that compensate for the rocking of the boat), but at the same time (especially below deck) receives visual input that it is stationary. These two perceptions contradict one other, confusing the brain which leads to the release of too much histamine and activates the vomiting centre. It takes two to three days for the brain to get used to the sea and sometimes it never does.
Below we will introduce you to some tips and tricks to prevent you suffering from seasickness, but of course there are also treatments. There are many types of tablets and chewing gums that can help against motion sickness, such as the Kinedril. Antihistamines help well against nausea, but they can cause drowsiness. Diphenhydramine and dimenhydrinate prevent the transmission of nerve impulses to the vomiting centre. Scopalmin, in turn, inhibits nausea and is available as patches. However, antiemetics often have side effects (most often drowsiness) or may interact with other medicines, so they should never be taken without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.
How to prevent seasickness?
Eat light meals, do not drink alcohol and sleep a lot. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most people expect from a yachting vacation.
Get some fresh air and look at the horizon
This age-old remedy is also a useful tip. If you are worried about getting seasick, stay above board as much as possible and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. It is also recommended that you stare at the horizon. This helps the brain combine the right image with the perceived motion.
Choose the right route
Summer or winter, the open sea or a voyage on the calm Adriatic? Both the season and the destination affect the likelihood of seasickness. It will be higher when sailing on the Atlantic, the US coast or the popular Caribbean, where storms often threaten in the autumn. Even the Mediterranean is more turbulent in winter than in summer. The more sheltered the sea, the smaller the waves and the smaller the sway.
Choose the right cabin
If you can choose a cabin and you are worried about getting seasick, prioritize cabins in the middle of the boat, which rock much less than cabins at the bow or stern. If the boat does not have a middle cabin, choose a cabin at the stern. Bow cabins are most exposed to the motion of the sea. If a cabin with a window is available, it’s better than a cabin without. If you are experiencing acute nausea or dizziness, looking out the window at the horizon can help.
What to do when seasickness has already started?
Create your own horizon
Are you feeling so terrible that you are not able to get out of the cabin and don't want to go above board at all? Try simulating the horizon with an ordinary bottle partially filled with water. Lay the bottle on its side and stare at it. The water will move according to the rocking of the boat, thus calming your disoriented senses.
If the view of the horizon does not help, simply turn off your visual senses. If darkness reigns around you, the visual sensations will disappear and the brain will only perceive the swaying. In addition, it increases the likelihood that you will fall asleep, which of course helps against nausea as well.
Ginger and other remedies
A lot of people swear by ginger when they have a cold or suffer from nausea. Even ancient sailors used ginger as a remedy for motion sickness. Cut it into small pieces and chew it or buy candied ginger. Although there are no modern studies to confirm the effects of ginger, it can’t hurt and belief is powerful. But pay attention to the maximum daily dose, which is 4 grams for fresh ginger. If you ingest too large an mount, symptoms of overdose may appear and paradoxically one of them is nausea. Inhaling peppermint oil is also a popular remedy, especially in Asian countries. You can also try mint tea.
Acupuncture and acupressure may also be prove handy. While you probably won't need to actually insert needles while sailing, acupressure tapes can be easily worn on the wrist and purchased online. They put pressure on certain pressure points to relieve nausea.
Take care of yourself. Remember to drink enough clean water (especially when vomiting to prevent dehydration), do not eat foods that are too fatty, but also do not swim on an empty stomach. Do not smoke. Consume alcohol in moderation so you won’t confuse a hangover with seasickness. Wear a hat or cap to protect you from the sun and strong winds. Also, don't forget your sunglasses. Take a deep breath and try not to worry about it before you set sail. There’s no point in being scared to death and there is such a thing as mind over matter. If you are already boarding believing you’re going to get seasick, it will almost definitely happen. Try to stay positive and remember that even if you feel a little sick, it's still worth it. After all, even great seafarers sometimes get seasick.
- Kinetosis occurs because the brain perceives movement, but this movement is not seen (especially below deck). As these two perceptions are contradictory and the brain releases too much histamine, activating the vomiting centre.
- It can take two to three days for the brain to get used to the sea, but occasionally it never does.
- Even ancient mariners used ginger as a remedy for motion sickness. However, there are no modern studies to confirm the efficacy of ginger.
- The cabins in the middle of the boat are preferable. If there is no middle cabin, choose the aft one. A cabin with a window is better than one without.