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Seasickness prevention and alleviation

Aug 31, 2016

Everyone is different, so everyone has his or her own best ways to prevent and alleviate seasickness. Here are mine:

• Don’t blame yourself. You are not a bad person if you suffer from motion sickness, and don’t believe anyone who implies you are.
• Only go offshore with people with whom you are thoroughly comfortable, with whom you can be entirely yourself. 
• Don’t give up. You might end up enjoying offshore sailing as much as the most iron of stomachs. Don’t let it turn you off from a beautiful and rewarding experience. Certainly don’t let it turn you off from sailing altogether!
• Stay hydrated. Drink more water than you think you need. I drink over a gallon a day while offshore. Stay away from dehydrating beverages, especially alcohol.
• Eat lots and often. I know this runs contrary to the old salts’ tale of starving yourself, but that has never worked for me. I don’t wait to get really hungry before I eat because, for me, an empty stomach can quickly become a nauseated one. Bland food tastes surprisingly good in the open air, so even if you can only last in the galley long enough to make some pasta, do that.
• Get enough sleep. This is possible even on a two-handed vessel. Seth and I manage it by standing four- and six-hour watches so that we both get six hours of continuous sleep.
• Breathe fresh air. Keep the cabin as ventilated as possible.
• Stare at the horizon or lie down (with elevated feet, preferably — a common shock treatment) if you are feeling nauseated. I find this to help an enormous amount. Another old salts’ tale is that occupying your mind and body automatically cures motion sickness. Steering and the like can certainly help, but not for everyone. This points back to No. 1 and 2: If that doesn’t work for you, you are not of weak character, and if someone refuses to believe it doesn’t work for you, you shouldn’t be offshore with him/her.
• Don’t rely on drugs. Your body will adapt. The longer you spend offshore and the more often you make passages, the better it will get. That said, rough weather changes the boat’s motion, sometimes violently, which can reinstate nausea when it’s most unwanted. Seth finds meclizine pills to work well in those situations, while I just hope adrenaline can get me through.
• Everyone is different, so everyone has to figure out what’s best for him (or her, since statistically women are more prone to seasickness than are men). These methods worked for me; they may not for you. Just remember why you went out there in the first place: No matter how many miles you’ve covered, there’s always joy in setting sail again.

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