Worried About Sea Sickness?

Sea Sickness Remedies

By Captain David Yumori

Being in a smaller vessel, I see a lot of encounters with sea sickness.  Most of my sea sickness casualties come on twilight and lobster trips due to sloppy seas and poor visibility.  Here are some tips on how to prevent you from turning green.  Here is my disclaimer; ultimately it is up to you and your doctor to find the proper sea sickness remedy for you. 

First thing you need to do is get a good night’s sleep.  I have found that some anglers who partied too hard the night before or even worse, come on the boat hung over don’t do well.  Even my seasoned deckhand Gus claims that once a year he will get sea sick when he works long hours on little sleep. 

Avoid eating rich and spicy foods before a trip.  Heartburn on the water is just one more thing that can push you over the edge.  Another misconception is that you shouldn’t eat if you’re prone to sea sickness.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  I have been known to get sick when I have an empty stomach and the movement of the boat makes things worse.  Once you puke, a few times, you have to take in some fluids and food for two reasons.  One is that dry heaves is one of the most miserable things to have.  Secondly, you lose a lot of water when you up chuck and compound with extreme heat, you can put yourself in a dangerous situation.  Nobody dies from sea sickness, but the dehydration from it can be fatal.  That is why many life rafts, as part of their survival kits, have sea sick medication in their survival kits.    

Try fishing in the mornings instead of the afternoons.  The seas are typically their calmest in the morning hours.  Locally, at around 2 pm the wind picks up and the sea begins to roll.  Also avoid fishing at night and in the fog.  The poor visibility really messes with people's equilibrium.    

When it comes to sea sickness medications, there are over the counter kinds such as Bonine and Dramamine.  Most people like the Bonine because it makes them less drowsy.  With any oral medication, I recommend taking the pill several hours before the trip so the medication is already in your system before leaving the dock. 

There are some other medications but you need a doctor’s prescription to obtain them.  One that has been around for years is the Transderm Scop patch.  It is a round sticker that you place behind your ear.  One of the downsides is that it’s a one size fits all.  Some people like my dad have found that using a half dosage works best.  He just carefully cuts the patch in half with a pair of clean scissors.   A new medication that many are calling a miracle drug is called Scopace.  You have to tell the doctor what to prescribe since the medication is fairly new on the market.  It is an oral pill that comes in dosages based on your size. 

The last type of sea sick remedies are the homeopathic and natural varieties.  One is ginger.  For years Asian fishermen would have ginger in their lunch boxes and claimed it was a natural sea sick remedy.  The Marina Del Rey Anglers Club passes out ginger candies on the kid trips and they have found that usually it was the kids that didn’t eat the candy that turned green.  Anglers also find that ginger ale helps settle their stomach. 

Some people used the pressure point wrist bands to cure sea sickness but to be honest with you, I have not seen many of them used.  I have heard a lot of good stuff about the electric wrist band but because of its high retail price, many people get sticker shock.  With the electronic wrist band, you have to make sure you don’t get it wet.  Make sure that you purchase the one with a replaceable battery. 

The last remedy I have heard of and Dick at Purfield’s really believes in are ear plugs.  He says if you take the soft foam ear plugs and stick them as deep as you can to where they bottom out, you don’t get sea sick.  I think it’s his way of not having to listen to me during a trip. 

Some last notes: try to get fresh air, a stuffy cabin, or galley is not a fun place for people on the verge of puking.  Sometimes the stern of the boat is a bad place to be because of the engine exhaust.  The best place to catch some fresh air is on the bow or the sun deck.  Also if all else fails, when you do puke don’t do it in the head or the cabin.  Your shipmates will hate you for it.  If on a day time trip do it over the rail.  If it’s a night trip, do it in a trash can or on the back deck if nobody is around.  The deckhands can always wash the back deck with the deck hose.  You don’t want to puck over the rail at night because there may not be a deck watch and if you fall overboard, nobody may see you. 

Another view....
The first step in dealing with any ailment is understanding what is wrong so that you can mentally deal with the problem. This is very important in dealing with sea sickness. Sea sickness starts with the inner ear, your balance center.
Even though your head aches, you are sick to your stomach and basically feel the worst you have ever felt, you are not really sick, just out of balance. At times your skin is actually green. No question about it, you feel bad, but you must remember you have no disease, just a motion problem. YOU can do a lot to cure yourself, and very quickly.
A good analogy might be; you turn around in a circle until you fall down and.throw up. If you stop turning, you feel better very quickly. Your balance center was just out of whack.
Some things to remember: Fresh air is good but you want to stay low and to the stern of the boat. That is where you will encounter the least motion. The bow of the boat pounds through the waves, up and down the stern drags through the water. The ride is much smoother. The boat rocks from side to side. The higher you are the more movement you encounter.
Think of a flagpole in the wind. There is very little movement at the bottom while the top may, sway severa1 feet. So, you want to be low and to the stern. Look at the horizon and try to get your balance. Take some deep breaths. Rock your shoulders back and forth. Realize that your body is probably tight and stiff. Try and roll with the boat instead of, sub-consciously, stiffening up and fighting the motion. It's called getting your sea legs. Sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes a nap will help. Try to take your mind off how bad you feel and focus on something else. Remember, the first step to controlling seasickness is to realize what is wrong with you and deal with that, not concentrate on how sick you are.
There are several good medications on the market. The best is probably the scopolamine patch by Transderm Scop. It is still a prescription medication but usually easy to obtain with a simple call. to your doctor. Dry mouth is usually the only side effect. but that is true with most all sea sickness medications.
There are several over the counter medications but the one we like best is Bonine. Drowsiness is the side effect but less so with Bonine than with other brands. To be effective you should get this medication in your system 8 hours before you board the boat. If possible, sleep on it and take more when you board the boat and you tend to be less drowsy. That way, it's in your system and working when .you wake up.
Smooth Sailing is a ginger drink that many people say works quite well especially to settle your stomach. Combining smooth Sailing and Bonine can work well also. Wristbands can work for some people but are not generally considered the best remedy.
Severe sea sickness can be treated by using a combination of both the scopolamine-patch and Bonine and almost never fails. But you should check with your doctor. The side effect is hunger and more drowsiness. (A nice tuna on the end of your rod is a good cure for drowsiness!)