fresh air of the cockpit, wearing a life
jacket (and life harness if you’re offshore).
The benefit of this is that you can keep
an eye on the sick crew and still be aware
of what’s happening around you. Never
let the victim heave over the side of the
boat! If he or she were to fall overboard,
that would turn a bad situation into a
If possible, get the person to stand
at the helm and steer. The action of
being up and staring at the horizon, and
having your brain and your eyes experience the same movement, helps alleviate
Don’t be fooled. Even though most people suddenly feel better after being sick,
many will become sick again within the
hour if they don’t take precautions. Over
the years that we’ve lived aboard our boat
with our children, we’ve come to better understand what causes seasickness
and developed a wide range of options
to fight it. Some options are simple and
don’t require any type of medication;
others require a prescription from your
physician and come with side effects. The
key is to find the right combination for
you and remember simple things you can
do while on the water.
■ Avoid going below. Especially avoid
the forepeak, which has the most
■ Do not read.
■ Stand at the helm and steer.
■ Keep plenty of air blowing in your
face as you stare at the horizon.
■ Keep easy-to-eat snacks (like pretzels
or ginger snaps) at close reach, and
avoid alcohol and greasy food.
■ Where possible, take breaks to swim.
■ Avoid engine fumes, which means sitting outside.
■ Drink lots of cool water. Once someone is sick, sports drinks can help
■ Make sure your passengers relax.
Anxiety can lead to seasickness.
■ Avoid being around others who
■ Put a plug in your ear, generally your
■ Watch weather and sea state. Avoid
a course with too much rolling or a
stern breeze that puts diesel fumes
into the cockpit. Beam seas (waves
that come from the side) are worst.
■ Peppermint. One of our favorites,
especially for kids. Peppermint naturally calms the stomach. We keep
candy canes on board. An extra benefit is that the action of sucking on
the candy seems to take the victim’s
mind off the motion.
■ Ginger. Often considered one of the
best ways to avoid being sick or to
calm a stomach, ginger can be purchased in large-milligram quantities
at many nutrition/drug stores. Or
make ginger cookies. The carbonation
of ginger ale can help, but we haven’t
found it to contain enough ginger to
■ Bonine/Dramamine. These may
make you sleepy.
■ Wristbands for motion sickness.
Some people swear by them. They’re
worth a try.
It’s very important to try medications on
land first to see how your body will react.
While this won’t
tell you whether
the drug will stop
at least you’ll
know whether you
are allergic to it,
what side effects
to expect, and
how the drug will
affect your ability
to operate the vessel. The only thing
worse than getting seasick is getting
seasick and suddenly finding out you’re
allergic to the drug you just swallowed.
Be sure to check with your doctor before
taking any of these drugs.
■ Ondansetron (Zofran). May make
you sleepy or dizzy. Purchase it in
orally disintegrating form, as a solid
tablet might just be thrown back up.
■ Promethazine (Phenergan).
We’ve carried this in tablets and
suppositories and could get it in a
child dosage. (Other meds are not
tested/recommended for children.)
May make you sleepy. Suppositories
■ Scopolamine (Transderm Scop,
often called “the patch”). This
product worked well for our family, with several cautions: It will
likely make you drowsy and dizzy. It
must be applied several hours before
leaving, and its effects will linger
long after it’s removed. It’s difficult
to read or understand small print
(such as a chart) after taking this
drug. Be sure to know its effects on
you before depending on it or using
it at sea.
Don’t let seasickness ruin your day.
Prepare ahead, and you’ll make boating
both safer and more fun. In fact, you
may find after a long day on the water
that you don’t feel any motion sickness
until you step back on dry land. We call
this land-sickness, and there is only one
simple fix for that: Spend as much time
as you can on the water!
Brian and Christine Mistrot have been
cruising Florida, Puget Sound, and the
Gulf Coast since their children, ages 16
and 12, were born.
46 | BoatU.S. Magazine OCTOBER | NOVEMBER 2017
SAFE, SMART, & CLEAN
Signs of seasickness
Look for these giveaway signs, so
you can help prepare or even prevent
someone from becoming sick:
Lack of hunger or thirst
Going quiet or becoming lethargic
(easy to spot with children)