When day sailing, seasickness goes away once land is reached or the anchor is down. However, for coastal or offshore passages longer than 24 hours, preventing or effectively treating seasickness matters as, untreated, it could result in incapacitation.
Seasickness is caused by sensory conflict and/or stress, both of which result in histamine production. Nausea results when histamine reaches the brain. Some are more susceptible than others but given the right – or should that be the wrong – conditions anyone can be seasick.
The responsibility for the safety of the vessel doesn’t go away if you’re seasick. A continual watch for hazards, other vessels, navigation and weather monitoring must be maintained. It is extremely important to maintain your full watches no matter how you feel; lying in your bunk is not an option. Helping others get over seasickness as quickly as possible must be the focus and responsibility of all on board. Frequently seasick crew will ask to be left alone, saying they don’t feel like drinking or eating anything. Leaving them alone is a mistake. Keep them awake, sipping fluids and regularly eating small amounts.
Having dealt with over 400 seasick sailors over the past 40 years, my wife Amanda and I have become very experienced at prevention and treatment. To avoid seasickness or recover quickly, follow these steps.
For 2-4 days before the passage, avoid coffee, black tea, colas and alcohol (all diuretics), fatty and histamine-producing foods including tuna, tomatoes, salami, hard cheeses and sauerkraut.
Increase your water intake to 2-3 litres per day.
Give each crew member their own one-litre water bottle labelled with their name.
Start appropriate seasickness medication at least 24 hours prior to departure, which may be 2-3 grams of Vitamin C, which inhibits histamine production, or one of the medications below.
Before departure, minimise time required below decks once underway by having meals planned and ready, bunks made up and lee cloths rigged, navigation organised and appropriate clothes laid out. watch ensuring a total of 2-3 litres per day.
As soon as seasick symptoms appear (mild headache, queasiness, sweating, drowsiness, depression) a more disciplined response is required.
Add Berocca, Emer’gen-C (available in health food shops) or a similar vitamin-mineral drink mix containing Vitamin C, potassium and electrolyte replacement minerals to your drink bottle. The electrolyte replacement helps your cells absorb fluid more quickly and completely.
Eat little and often: crackers, biscuits, crystallised ginger, tinned fruit or boiled sweets. Bananas provide potassium and are an excellent choice.
‘Given the right conditions anyone can become seasick’
Make meals, stow kit, rig lee cloths and passage plan before leaving to minimise time spent working below once on passage