by Annie Feyereisen  

If you have ever been, or are fearful that you may get so sick while out on the water that you would rather throw yourself overboard then continue to endure it, this is the article for you!

Motion Sickness of any kind is just terrible, but it is extra painful when interrupting your fun on a boat!
Unfortunately, the truth is if you do not take preventative measures prior to leaving the dock, the catch up is nearly impossible.

This article will give your several preventative measures as well as practical responses if you or your guests experience this little “condition” while underway.

It is important to first understand what motion sickness actually is.

Motion sickness is the result of a conflict in your brain’s interpretation of your environment.

Here’s the confusion. Your inner ear senses motion and acceleration and communicates that to your brain. Your eyes communicate the perception of the motion and acceleration that your ears are sensing. When you are on the boat and all of the cabinets, furniture and surroundings appear stable to your eyes because they are moving with you, you communicate to the brain that you are not moving but your inner ear and muscles feel the boats motion and acceleration and sends a conflicting message to your brain. We’re moving, wait, no wait…no we’re not!

Your brain then reacts to the conflict by dumping the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and vasopression into your system. Your stomach responds to the extra hormone dump by increasing it’s electrical rhythm rate from a normal three cycles per minute to as high as nine cycles per minute, resulting in the initial feelings of nausea or queasiness. 

That sequence of events results in a variety of symptoms including dizziness, nausea, headache and sweating and unfortunately will likely result in the ultimate gift that will keep on giving…..vomiting.

There really is no way to predict who or when you may get seasick. Experienced Mariners can go years without experiencing this and when the stars line up, there it is…haleys comet!`

It can be said that if you have experienced motion sickness in a car, plane, train or amusement park in the past, your propensity to experience seasickness on a boat is a reality and should be addressed prior to leaving the shore. It has also been shown that people who suffer from migraine headaches are more susceptible to experiencing seasickness.

As with other unwanted outcomes in life, the best way to address seasickness is 100% through prevention.

One way to prepare for potential seasickness is to take over the counter motion sickness medications such as Dramamine or Bonine. The active ingredient in these medications is called meclizine hydrochloride and is effective in preventing seasickness.

The original formula of Dramamine contains dimenhydrinate which is a mix of diphenhyrdamine (Benadryl)and another salt compound that I cannot enunciate, nor spell. The Diphenhyradmine (Benadryl) can definitely cause drowziness for many people and who wants to sleep through a day on the water! There is a non-drowsy option and this is highly recommended.

Bonine has artificial sweetener and both Dramimine and Bonine contain lactose and come in chewable forms.

The most effective way to pre-medicate is to start taking these meds as prescribed 1-2 days prior to leaving the shore so your body has adjusted to the medication and there is plenty in your system before you leave.

If you are highly prone to motion sickness, your doctor can prescribe the prescription strength of the oral medication Meclizine or a Scopolomine transdermal patch.The Scopolomine patch is a clear round medicated patch that is placed behind your ear and lasts up to 72 hours. The patch should be applied 4 hours prior to leaving land. The patch has some side effects, including a noticeably dry mouth and less commonly, dizziness. 

You should not use the patch if you have glaucoma or are pregnant. Your doctor will discuss this with you when writing the prescription.

This is my personal favorite treatment method due to the ease of the treatment. One and done! You don’t have to remember to take the pills, let alone find the pills! The patch lasts for three full days. Very few things in my life are predictable for three straight days so this is a huge score!

Seabands™ are an option that is all natural. Seabands are an elastic cotton wristband that contains small plastic studs that apply accupressure to the wrist. This a natural remedy and there is no contradiction to using these, there are no known side effects.

I have never used one of these but know plenty of people who swear by it. The Nei Kuan accupressure point on your wrist is the target and is located between the tendons directly under your index finger. To locate this point and ensure proper placement, place your middle three fingers on the inside of your wrist with your third finger on the crease of your wrist. The Nei Kuan point is between the two central tendons just under your index finger. The button on the band should be positioned directly on this point.

You need to wear a band on each wrist in order for it to be effective.

These are also safe for children.

Logistically, it is best to stay out of the cabin, especially stay out of the lower decks.

If you can safely stay outside on the deck or in the flybridge with your eyes fixed on the horizon you will have a better chance of aligning your eyes perception with your inner ear’s, thus minimizing the conflicting message to the brain. Avoid staring at things that your brain normally perceives as stationary such as furniture, walls, doors etc. Perception really is everything!

My apologies in advance for this next statement but there is plenty of data to support that consuming alcohol the night before you leave can increase your chances of experiencing seasickness, this is due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol and your bodies ability to resist the queasiness..I know, bummer.

Eating fatty foods, acidic foods including vinegar based salad dressings or certainly a heavy meal prior to leaving the dock can also contribute to feeling queasy, well feeling just plain gross really… (not to mention how those little morsels can feel coming back up!).

Taking frequent small sips of water will keep you hydrated without overloading your stomach.

Staying in the fresh air with your eyes on the horizon, being well hydrated, consuming a light meal prior to leaving the dock and pre medicating are the best forms of seasickness prevention.

Whatever you do….do not read, get on your phone/computer or use binoculars for very long periods if you are experiencing any of the early symptoms.

oh dear God help me” phase

In the event you end up unable to prevent seasickness and find yourself experiencing the early signs of this syndrome including flushing, cold sweats, weakness, fatigue, belching, pallor (paleness) and nausea, you are likely on your way to the grand poobah…vomiting..and then more vomiting.

I am confident that we all agree how horrible vomiting feels, just the word can make you gag. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this kind of vomiting to progress to dry heaving, which has its own special little warm fuzzies

You have now officially entered the “oh dear God help me” phase.

Once it has progressed to this desperate stage, it is very difficult to effectively treat, although you literally may be willing to try anything.

First of all, once you feel like you need to throw up, just let it rip! You should experience immediate relief but don’t be fooled as usually there is more to come. Acceptance and deep breathing are a must right now.

Don’t go inside the boat to use the head and don’t put your head in a can or bag, these two options will positively worsen your symptoms. If its safe, go outside to the mid-ship rail and please try to be downwind! Let it loose over the rail or into a designated bucket outside.

Your fellow Mariners will understand. You are the not the first, and certainly will not be the last!

Ginger in many forms including dried, capsules, powder, even cookies and biscuits can be effective for calming your stomach and can be used both preventively and in response to seasickness. You should not ingest more than 4 grams of ginger per day.

Green apples, saltine crackers, peppermint and tea can be effective for calming your stomach as well. This will also help remove that taste from your mouth

Humans have a tendency to hyperventilate at this point, increasing the feelings of lightheadedness and impending doom. As much as you can, try to take slow deep breaths to maintain good oxygenation and relieve anxiety.

At this point it is crucial to maintain a fixed line of sight on the horizon if at all possible.

The biggest risk with uncontrolled vomiting is the risk for dehydration.

As soon as you possibly can, try to consume small sips of water or ginger ale, stay outside and in the fresh air, avoiding the boats exhaust.

Try to resist the urge to lay down as this may actually make you feel worse.

Once the boat has left the dock, the Captain may or may not be able to get you back to shore and off that horrible roller coaster.

There is unfortunately, no tried and true cure for seasickness. You may feel the effects of this for a period of time even after you are back on land.

So remember these 4 preventive measures prior to your next boating trip:


Use medications


Look at the horizon