Overcoming Seasickness

The one sure fire way to avoid seasickness is to stay away from boats.

This form of motion sickness can affect anyone, even the most hardened sailors.

While ‘Mal de Mer’ may not be life threatening, the nausea can be so extreme that the victim often wishes it were.

Fortunately, the worst effects can be avoided with a few precautions, by understanding the causes and if necessary taking some medications.



Seasickness Cartoon

Motion sickness can affect anyone who has normal inner ear balance function.

Even those of us who, like me, seem to have been born with their sea legs, can be affected while out on the water.

Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way that I know of to totally avoid seasickness, but there are some precautions that you can take to minimize the effects.

First thing is to recognise the symptoms for what they are.

Even though you feel extremely nauseous you are not really ‘sick’, you are just out of balance.

Sea-sickness like any motion sickness is caused by the balance centre in your inner ear recording the unfamiliar motion, while your eyes are telling your brain that the world is stable.

The nausea is the result of this confusion.

One of the first signs is feeling drowsy.

This won’t necessarily develop into full scale nausea, in fact many people do actually suffer from mild seasickness without realizing it.

The next stage after the sleepiness is mild the nausea.

This can be kept in check by following the precautions I have listed below.

However, for those unfortunate enough, the symptoms will escalate, nausea can become extreme, followed by dizziness, headaches, cold perspiration and the dreaded vomiting.

And it certainly doesn’t help you feel any better if everyone else on board is perfectly comfortable and happily enjoying the ride.

If you have a seasickness remedy that works for you please share it in the comments box below.


We have all read the stories and advice about seasickness clearing up after three or four days at sea.

While they may be true they are not very reassuring for those who just want to enjoy a day on the water, or I suspect for the long voyager on the first day of sickness.

The few times when I have felt nauseous on board it has mainly been due to the combination of the motion plus over indulging the evening before.

So, for anyone but especially those who are prone to motion sickness, precautions should start well before going aboard.

Avoid eating anything that is inclined to cause a stomach upset such as fried or spicy foods and allow plenty of time for it to be digested before sailing.

Get plenty of rest and avoid partying too hard the night before, a hangover is bad enough without exacerbating it with motion sickness.

While you should avoid drinking too much alcohol do drink plenty of the other stuff.

And stay hydrated while on board.

Just as ballerinas have a trick to stop them becoming dizzy so we boaters can help reduce the chances of seasickness.

Once on board you will be less likely to feel the worst effects of seasickness if your eyes are seeing what your ears are feeling.

This is why going below is not such a good idea.

Laid on a bunk, the interior of the cabin will appear to your eyes be steady when your ear is saying that you are anything but.

The same goes for reading a book, spending more than a few moments looking at the charts, the compass or through binoculars.

Try to keep your eyes, working to interpreting the motion of the boat and the waves, at the same time keeping your peripheral vision out on the horizon  and not staring at objects that your eye will interpret as being stable.

Find the position on the boat where there is least motion but at the same time allows you to see the horizon, this will normally be low down in the cockpit.

While being out there in the fresh air is good, it is vitally important to keep warm.

Try to loosen up and allow your body to roll with the boat.

Take some deep breaths.

And try to keep busy, anything you feel up to doing will help distract you from your discomfort.

If you feel drowsy a nap might help but don’t lie down or go below, find somewhere in a corner of the cockpit where you can sit, wedge your self and keep well wrapped up.

affiliate links

Seasickness Remedies

There is a plethora of ‘remedies’ on the market, but as I have never had to take any I’m not in a position to recommend any.

On the other hand, anyone who is inclined to suffer may find that one of these remedies is the answer to enjoying time on the water.

Some of the medications can be bought other over the counter others require a prescription from your doctor.

Stick-on scopolamine patches usually require a doctor's prescription.

The majority of these medications cause drowsiness and a dry mouth.

As with any medication the instructions for their use should be read carefully and they should be taken with care.

Usually they should be taken well before you leave land so that they have enough time to take effect.

There are also some herbal remedies containing ginger which are reported to have a beneficial effect.

And then there are the wrist bands which use acupuncture pressure points and are claimed to help some people.

Fortunately the symptoms soon disappear when your system learns to compensate for the swaying and pitching of the boat, though that my take a day or two.

On the other hand when you do go ashore you my have to regain your ‘land legs’ before you can adjust to being on terra firma again.

“She found out that having something to do prevented you from feeling seasick, and that even a job like scrubbing a deck could be satisfying, if it was done in a seamanlike way.

She was very taken with this notion, and later on she folded the blankets on her bunk in a seamanlike way, and put her possessions in the closet in a seamanlike way, and used 'stow' instead of 'tidy' for the process of doing so.

After two days at sea, Lyra decided that this was the life for her.”
(Philip Pullman)

You might like these

  • Your Boating Yarns.

    Your Boating Yarns share your boating tales, embarrassing moments or romantic interludes and read the confessions of others.

  • Anchor Types

    Anchor types, how to choose the type, size and style of ground tackle, chain and rode to anchor your boat safely.

  • Passage Planning for Small Boat Cruising

    Passage Planning, a concise and easily understood cruise plan, for any of voyage from a dinghy trip around the bay to, cruising boat navigating an ocean.

Recent Articles

  1. We absolutely need this brand-new 1930s wooden speedboat from Fitzke Boatworks

    This mahogany and oak wonder looks like it came straight out of the 1930s, but it was built in 2019. Fitzke Boatworks

    The boat is called Bugbite, is based on plans from a 1930s boating magazine and is staggeringly pretty.

    Read more by Kyle Hyatt at Cnet.com

    Read More


    Reedville hosts the best little boat show in September. Photos by Eric Eichenmuller

    Reedville hosts the best little boat show in September.

    Read more by Ann Eichenmuller at Chesapeake Bay Magazine

    Read More

  3. Margin/Cover Boards, How to, Tips, Please.

    Hi there, I am about to work on my Margin boards on my 12'runabout. I am wondering what the best way to scribe the shape is? And what's the best/easiest

    Read More


Comment Form is loading comments...

Previous posts

See What Others Have Posted

Directions for sea band ginger gum 
There are no directions on the sea band gum saying how often it can be taken. Back to "Overcoming Seasickness"