Seasickness – Prevention is the only cure

This is the second in a 3 part series on how to prevent and overcome seasickness by Greg.  The first article can be found here.

The only cure for seasickness is an overwhelming amount of prevention.

1)      Sooner or later, just about everyone deals with seasickness

2)      You either take action to prevent it or suffer the consequences

I have managed to only get seasick a few times in my life (which was more than enough) and I have successfully sailed though 40 knots of wind and 18 foot seas with the rest of the crew down for the count.  Except for Tiffany of course, Tiffany was happy as a clam down in the galley cooking.  Unlike Tiffany, the secret to my success is not near-godlike fortitude – it’s planning ahead.


Yes, it takes planning to look this good.

Being proactive is crucial because once you get sick, there is little you can do except suffer though it, and working while sick sucks.  Strike that.  Horrible.  It’s horrible enough that over the past decade I’ve spent no small amount of my time testing every home remedy I could find over until I found the stuff that actually works.

It’s important to remember that the time people are most vulnerable to seasickness is during the first few hours of exposure to new movement.  After that, after sleeping especially, the majority of people adjust.  So what that means is you need to be most prepared at the very start.  Waiting until the motion starts is too late as most remedies take time to kick in.

Seasickness Prevention Trick #1: Take Motion Sickness Prevention Pills

seasickness pillsThe night before I get underway I start taking seasickness pills before bed so I can sleep off the drowsiness.  This is clutch because I get the benefit of medication into my system but am able to avoid most of the drowsiness that comes along with it so I am still functional.  Also, seasickness pills don’t do jack unless you take them hours before you step on a boat.  Even if perfect weather and calm seas are forecast I STILL take the pills.  I take another hit in the morning and continue to do so for at least the first 24-48 hours underway.  Why?  Because it’s smart and over prepared is a heck of a lot better than being incapacitated.  Taking pills doesn’t make you a nautical pansy.  It makes you smart.

Of note, there are many kinds of over-the-counter seasickness pills out there.  I haven’t found one particular brand that is better or worse than the others, though I know there are differences in the pills and what’s in them.  The links above take you to the ones West Marine sells online.  Obviously, take as prescribed.

Seasickness Prevention Trick #2: Get Enough Sleep

Speaking of sleep, get a lot and be fully rested.  It makes a huge difference in how much motion you can handle when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.  Trust me, I know this from personal A/B split testing. (Take it is as gospel that it’s a bad idea to start packing at 11pm the night before for a 7am wake up for departure ok?)

Seasickness Prevention Trick #3: Watch What Goes Down Your Hatch

Also, I ratchet back on my usually adventurous culinary adventures

Before going to sea, I only eat food I know won’t bother me.  Breads are good.  Non-spicy foods.  No acidic foods (like tomatoes).  Keep it simple.  Oh yeah, I’ve never personally had the experience simply because I am more the “glass of wine with friends” kinda guy over the “barhopping lifestyle” type but I have been told by those in the know that nothing brings on seasickness faster than a hangover. Keep your drinking to a reasonable level the night before too.   If you’re really worried, go dry for a night.  It’s worth it.


Seasickness Prevention Tricks  – Details and Devils

I wear the pressure-point wrist bands.

I carry ginger gum and I chew it until those first days are over.

Ginger gumGinger cookies (aka ginger snaps) are also helpful if eaten long beforehand.  Store bought is acceptable and keep longer but hey, if you can convince your spouse/significant other who REALLY wants you to enjoy sailing that homemade ginger snaps (or, seasonally, gingerbread men) are a critical part of your sailing kit…props to you.ginger cookies

See, cookies are in fact good for you and an essential part of your sailing kit. 

You can quote me on that.

I got a referral from one of my sailing instructors to put some special eucalyptus essential oil  behind my ears on the pressure points.  Not sure if it’s the oil, the smell, or just massaging the pressure points like with the wristbands but it works.

motion sickness oilIf I am out at sea and the weather is predicted to pick up I do everything again just like before we got underway.  Yes, some people have made fun of me but 2 hours later when I was standing their watch driving the ship looking like a badass against the fury of the sea (ref: above picture) while they laid on the deck wishing they were dead whining and crying…yeah, last laugh was on them.  Most people don’t joke twice.  They just ask where they can buy the wristbands.

By the way, which of these is the secret ingredient?  Dunno and I don’t care.  They are all simple enough and convenient enough that I just do them all.  I pop a pill, chew some gum, throw on some wristbands and rub some oil behind my ears.  Oh, and I eat cookies.  All of this stuff fits in a tiny pouch I just wear on my life jacket (except the cookies, I keep those in the pantry).

emergency bagSince I have my life vest with me when I’m sailing, I always have my seasickness stuff with me as well.  Makes it easy.

So what happens if you did all this but you still feel queasy?  And is there any such thing as “incurable seasickness?”  And how do you know if you have it?  We’ll cover this in our next “How to Crew – Preventing Seasickness” article.

“How to Crew” Main Page

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About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!

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12 Responses to Seasickness – Prevention is the only cure

  1. Abby says:

    So much to think about! I’ve never been seasick, but I’ve seen it. I always feel so bad! One friend would make us stop the boat and let her jump in the water. She swore by it. I would never have guessed that one of you two got seasick! I’ve been told that just watching me read in a car made her motion sick… Sigh.

    • Tiffany says:

      Ha ha! I read in cars too, and it makes Greg’s sister car sick…

      I think that just getting your mind off how crummy you feel must work, but I really don’t know since it’s not an issue for me!

  2. Mike B says:

    I have used the motion eze on my guests that have started to get sick, and each person has gotten better in about 20 minutes and saved the day.

    It works,

  3. Pingback: Seasickness – when all else fails | Coast Guard Couple

  4. Wow these are some ace tips. I feel like I have tried everything, but its only really the pills that work. I just hate taking them because they turn me into a zombie. Taking them the night before is a really good idea though. But well… after Fiji I think I may never step foot on a boat again

    • Greg says:

      Night before, works like a charm and that way you’re sure to get a good night’s sleep, which also helps.

    • Tiffany says:

      Thanks Jade. After reading about your trip in Fiji, I couldn’t blame you!

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