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I love sailing, and my wife loves the ocean, but she gets sea-sick often.
Any advice on how to avoid sea-sickness in people prone to it?

I'm looking for advice in terms of foods that are less of an issue to digest, where to sit in the boat, boat types that rock less, etc... Drugs are not an option in this case since my wife is breastfeeding.

Please leave the answers currently posted, as they may be helpful to others.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm a seasoned traveler, former deckhand, and a budding reference librarian, all qualities that uniquely situate me to answer your question. When I was working as a deckhand in Alaska I battled seasickness everyday. I found these things helpful:

  • sit or stand near the rear (stern) of the vessel
  • sit near a source of fresh air
  • face forward
  • rest your head against the seat back while focusing on the horizon
  • avoid greasy, rich foods for 24 hours before the boat ride

The Mayo Clinic also recommends abstaining from smoking cigarettes and cigarette smoke. Here's a link to their page on motion sickness:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-motion-sickness/HQ01099

Also, in my experience, riding on a multihulled vessel, like a catamaran, greatly reduces the likelihood of seasickness as multihulled vessels do not roll side-to-side in the water as much as monohulled vessels.

If your wife begins to feel sick, she might try some breathing exercises, such as regulating her breath by slowly counting while remaining still and continuing to face forward. I have also found ginger to be a very effective homeopathic remedy for motion sickness. Visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine(NCCAM )website for more information on the use of ginger to prevent/treat motion-related sickness. Here's the link:

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginger

If your wife must resort to medication I'd recommend Bonine brand. I took it several times on days when the sea was extra choppy and it did the trick. However, she must be sure to take the medication at least an hour prior to boarding the vessel. I switched to Bonine from Dramamine because it doesn't cause as much drowsiness. Per the travel website Lonelyplanet, Bonine is available in Israel.

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The bit about resting you head is probably controversal: for me it works better to sit with head and shoulders not touching the seat back, which reduces head motion. But tested in cars, not sea vessels. –  Steed Mar 6 '13 at 8:46
    
I'd say that even more important than avoiding rich foods is to avoid large amounts of food. Eat a small meal in the hours before boarding, and then don't eat onboard if it's only a few hours. –  Karen Aug 1 at 14:35

My mother suffers from every form of travel sickness, and the only solutions she has found that help to ameliorate the symptoms (if not actually remove them entirely) are:

If I feel at all queasy in really heavy seas (ie the middle of the South Atlantic in a storm) I find that being on deck with good visibility of the sea surface (and possibly the horizon) helps me feel better almost immediately. The reasoning behind this solution is that it removes the confusion between your inner ear and eyes.

Update in terms of position on deck, being seated as close as possible to the centre of mass of the boat helps, as you will move least.

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Thanks, but she has tried bracelets and being on deck and it did not help enough. Stugeron is hard to come by in Israel and has too many side effects. –  David Kohen Dec 30 '12 at 12:38
1  
Well, there is the option the military use- a month long training course where you get spun in all directions to try and inure you to motion sickness completely. Not fun, apparently. –  Rory Alsop Dec 30 '12 at 13:08

Dimenhydrinate (popularly known as Gravol in Canada and as Dramamine, Driminate, Gravamin, Vomex, and Vertirosan in the USA) is an over-the-counter drug used to prevent nausea and motion sickness that's considered highly effective.

Anecdotally, I was constantly throwing up on boats in South East Asia until I started taking gravol.

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+1 This works for me as well. –  theJollySin Jan 3 '13 at 5:36

I'm a sailboat skipper with 25 years experience, so perhaps my tips could help a bit.

Since the skipper is responsible for the safety and well-being of his/her crew, he or she also has a responsibility to avoid when possible situations which will make members of his crew seasick.

For the crew:

  • If you are susceptible to seasickness, consider starting to take Stugeron at the morning of the first travel day. Take it, and if you don't get sick after 2 days, you can stop. Works very well.

  • Take time to get used to the motions of the boat, if possible sleep on the boat one night before putting to sea.

  • Avoid heavy eating or drinking the day before departure, especially histamine rich food like red meat, wine, garlic etc.

  • Listen to your body and react at the first signs! Get on deck, watch the horizon, breathe deeply, if possible steer, keep yourself warm with a jacket and a hat, eat salty crackers and coke in small portions, if available take a travell chewing gum or similar. Avoid going below decks for longer time, so make sure that you find stuff like camera, sunglasses, gloves, clothes etc. quickly. Tell your skipper that you're not feeling not perfectly well, so that he can keep an eye on you and exclude you from work below decks. Signs of a beginning seasickness are:

    • head starts to feel a bit quizzy ('electric' or like a migraine/headache incoming)

    • strange taste in your mouth

    • feeling cold and/or dizzy

For the skipper:

  • If at all possible, start the journey in light conditions, with wind of 3-4 Bft and seastate light to moderate.

  • Make sure that your crew is comfortable, i.e. adequately clothed and equipped, has eaten but not too much, has enough liquids (water and coke) and snacks (biscuits, crackers, salt sticks) available without going below. When a crew member has to go below shortly after getting out of the harbour to get f.e. a sweater and and a jacket or to use the heads, this may already be enough to trigger sea sickness.

  • Look out for signs of seasickness: crew members feeling cold, yawning, paleness, absent minded, falling silent.

  • If a crew member is heavily seasick, insist that he wears his lifeline when on deck. Also, sending seasick crew below to sleep (with a bucket if needed) helps in a lot of cases.

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Close your eyes and stay in a prone position with as few bounces as possible. This works very well for me on boats, and when there is an extra seat available, on an air plane. It maintains a stable head position. It also minimizes the conflict between inner ear and visual information.

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Good advice, and welcome to The Great Outdoors S.E.! though I laugh to myself a bit thinking of his wife trying to enjoy the trip with her nose in the floor. But if it works, it works. –  MaskedPlant Mar 5 '13 at 21:51
    
This is the opposite of what I advise. It is the natural instinct. I belief it may minimise short term pain, but it won't help get over seasickness. –  Oxinabox Jul 29 at 14:01

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