Maybe there's a cure!
After reading dozens of e-mails on seasickness cures, it seems the toughest mariners aren't the yo-ho-ho types who've sailed around Cape Horn in a force 10 gale. No, the toughest of the tough are the weekend boaters who routinely cast off the lines knowing that at any moment they're liable to become deathly ill. That's tough! Why do they persist? Renee DeMar from San Francisco was typical; despite being the most seasickness-prone person she knows, Renee has been sailing for the past 30 years simply because she likes being on the water. Jon Triplett from Texas says seasickness "has ruined more trips for me than I can recall, yet I love to go offshore."
Whether they got deathly ill or slightly ill, one thing almost every reader who responded made clear: There is no single cure for seasickness that works miraculously for everybody. For every person who insisted, for example, that wristbands were the answer, another would preface his or her comments by saying they tried wristbands (or ginger, Bonine, Scopolamine, etc.) and they didn't work. Others noted that some of the various medications have side effects that are worse than being seasick.
By a wide margin, most readers' comments were directed at four cures: wristbands, ginger, Meclizine (Bonine, Dramamine) and Scopolamine. We've included comments supporting these cures as well as the negative comments, helpful advice and warnings about possible side effects. We've also included a few of the other cures, some of which were offbeat (understatement).
The idea behind wristbands is similar to acupuncture: Block signals to the brain that cause seasickness. There are two types: wristbands that use pressure on the wrist to block signals and a high-tech version that does the same thing using electronic stimulation.
C Bands are an elastic band with a small bead that is placed on the wrist providing a Acupressure point. It works to prevent Seasickness. It also is prescribed by doctors to pregnant females to prevent morning sickness.
Our vessel is an Island Packet 31 and had given us my miles of cruising pleasure. My wife has used C bands for 20 years and finds it very effective. A short story involves two of our Grandchildren on a trip from Dunkirk to Buffalo Ohio on Lake Erie in five foot waves. Both children were getting sick and C Bands were placed on their wrists. In Thirty minutes they were down below playing board games on the floor.
"I can vouch for the wristbands with the pressure point 'buttons', as in the mid-1980s, my wife and I joined an Audubon Society expedition to look at penguins and albatrosses and things in Antartica — not as died-in-the wool bird watchers, but as the most practical way to "sail" around Cape Horn in fulfillment of a life-long ambition. Ninety-five percent of the passengers (and many of the crew) responded to force 10 and 11 conditions by being violently green and avoiding all meals. We never took these contraptions off our wrists for fourteen days; never missed a dinner; and enjoyed a nice shower every day.
This was altogether a much more civilized way to deal with the situation, than that which I experienced in the late 1960s delivering a racing yacht up the Pacific Coast from Newport Beach to San Francisco. Seven of us — all experienced blue-water sailors — took some terrific punishment for two days in 50 knot head winds and huge seas. Five of our merry little band would not stir out of their bunks which left me and Dick Bernstein (of "Bernstein's Fish Grotto" in San Francisco) to sail the boat.
I chose not to leave the cockpit, grimly fixing my sight on some imaginary horizon, while Dick was happily consuming open face sandwiches of peanut butter and Bermuda onion on dark rye, while smoking a filthy cheap cigar. I tried one of the sandwiches and immediately felt better, but could not bring myself to complement this with the cigar. It was pointed out by others of the crew in defense of their mutiny, the cigar might have been a contributory factor to their condition.
Take your pick. Personally, I would opt for the wristbands, but if you have the guts to try it (no pun intended), the peanut butter and Bermuda onion on rye really works. I cannot recommend the cigar."
Blahhhh ... what an awful feeling to be seasick! My first experience with seasickness came when I went to scuba dive in the Fathom Five Provincial Park in Ontario; in between dives, while waiting for the other divers to come on board, the boat was rockin' and rollin' and I didn't feel very well. I was told to go to the local pharmacy where I could buy Gravol, an over the counter Canadian version of Dramamine. I took Gravol before my next day of diving and sure enough it did the trick with no side effects. At some later date my husband and I were taking a large, "stable" catamaran from Cancun to Cozumel; an hour before boarding I took Dramamine. We ordered something to drink once on board, I got up to go to the restroom and I never came back to my seat ... I was sick the whole ride and ready to kiss the ground once we got off the boat. I vowed I would not go back that same way and we took a small airplane on the return trip instead.
My husband and I both love to go on cruises but I was nervous after my previous seasickness experiences. I was told about Bonine, which is over the counter and I could take one every 24 hours; I bought it, I used it and it worked like a charm. The only negative is that I took the pill each morning and by 9:30 p.m. each evening I could barely stay awake to go see any of the shows. I didn't mind much because I was so thrilled to have no ill feelings during the entire cruise... and many more to come! At some point my husband saw an ad for the Relief Band Explorer, that wonderful little watch-like device with intensity settings 1–5 that sends an electrical impulse into the palm of your hand. I was leery to give this a try and skip the daily Bonine but I truly wanted to be able to cruise with taking daily drugs. The Relief Band claimed that you could put it on when you weren't feeling well and then remove it once feeling better (versus wearing and keeping it on continually). Lo and behold, on our next cruise I went drug free and Relief Band free all but 15 minutes of one day and the Relief Band, when I did need it, worked like a charm! I am sold and have told so many other people about it for whom it has worked as well. I am so certain of its effectiveness that I don't go on an airplane without it! I never get sick on airplanes but I'm no fan of turbulence (often feeling green during it) and as soon as the turbulence begins I put the Relief Band on my wrist and it works like a charm.
I now have a home based cruise business and have bought an extra Relief Band Explorer because I lend mine out to clients and I also recommend it to all who raise the concern of seasickness! Conquered!!
We were racing down the Coast of California. The winds were 25 kts, gusting to 35 kts all evening. There was no moon, no horizon, and the helmsmen steered strictly by the sound of the waves coming up behind us. During his watch, Johnny sat in the cockpit with little to do except wait for a headsail change. In the dark we couldn't see his queaziness.
Suddenly Johnny leaned to the rail and fed the fish a midnight snack. His Dad turned over the helm, went below and came back up with a ReliefBand. "Here, Son, put this on."
Half an hour later his Dad asked, "Johnny, you want to drive for a while?"
"Sure Dad", he replied, "I feel fine now."
I was one of those lucky people who did not get seasick until 2 years ago. We own a 22ft Grady and usually fish the bay and slightly off shore of the Jersey Coast, weather permitting. One beautiful calm day we headed out to the ocean, 5 minutes into our first drift it hit me, what a horrible feeling, at that time I vowed never to laugh or make fun of other people plagued with this illness. I swallowed my pride, plus, and made it thru the trip. We made the same trip the next day. I refused to take the pills because I wanted to be awake but I did arm myself with, peach juice, ginger, ginger ale and a couple other home remedies, needless to say nothing worked. It took me 1 month to find the perfect solution, stupid little arm bands "Queaz-away" costing around $5.00. Our local boating stores cannot keep them in stock. I purchase them 3 and 4 at a time. I strongly recommend them to anyone who gets seasick or carsick. They even take away the rocking motion that you experience after you return to shore.
Watts Bar Lake, TN
None is more impressive than my own husband getting seasick. It's sudden, intense, long lasting and causes mental anguish. It can grow dangerous; it's no joke. Naturally, he's tried everything over the years. The electrical pulse wristband worked miraculously for him. He can't believe it. The wristbands were pricey and a gamble, but is he ever glad he tried it.
I have suffered since childhood with pretty significant motion sickness symptoms and I have tried several remedies. I have been determined through the years to not let my motion sickness symptoms interfere with opportunities. If you've been plagued by this curse, you are well aware of its ability to wreck an outing.
Over the years medications such as Dramamine and Bonine made me too sleepy to be a practical solution for traveling. In the early 1990s the versions of Scopolamine caused significant side effects with vision and drowsiness. I later tried other prescription anti-nausea medications like Phenergan, and even an anti-anxiety medication Xanax, after some well meaning friends suggested the nausea was "all in my head" and that it was "a control issue". Again the drowsiness from these medications was too significant to be practical for travel.
As a Registered Nurse I have reviewed explanations for the causes of motion sickness, and "knowledge has availed me nothing". This is truly a medical malady, as anyone knows who has gone deepsea fishing and been hit with the demoralizing and paralyzing symptoms of motion sickness. A fairly recent therapy in the treatment of motion sickness and vertigo issues is a treatment called Vestibular Rehabilitation, which focuses on eye, head, and body exercises to retrain the brain on interpreting the body's signals from the middle ear. This therapy warrants investigation by frequent or severe suffers of motion sickness.
Although I am very glad that I find relief from Sea Bands and/or Scopolamine, I relish the idea that mere mortals can fly and sail without the assistance of medication or pressure point manipulation. The next phase for me may well be investigating Vestibular Rehab.
Here are a few things from a website on Vestibular Rehab: The vestibular system is housed in your inner ear. It works in conjunction with your visual and sensory systems to control your balance and orientation to space. Vestibular rehab combines exercises and positioning techniques that help improve the function of your vestibular system. medicinenet.com/vestibular_balance_disorders/article.htm
San Antonio, TX
Although I have spent most of my life being seasick — even when I walked on floating docks — I was forced to come to terms with it when I married a woman who loves to sail. A doctor who also loves to sail prescribed a combination of SeaBands applied to the wrists and the pill Bonine. Be sure to take only 1/2 Bonine or you will become too drowsy to enjoy the sail. The combination of SeaBands and 1/2 Bonine works for me and I recommend it to others.
Only get seasick in certain kinds of surf. I'm a lifelong sailor but the first time I got seasick was on a big cruise ship. They happened to have ginger tablets in the drug store on board, which by the next day had sold out. I took several and rested. Had to re-do a couple of times, but the sickness went away. Has worked on our sailboat a couple of times too and I make sure to always have some on board.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ginger is one of the best seasick remedies. In 2006, prior to my first cruise with my husband and 16 other family members, we watched an episode of Mythbusters on TLC. Mythbusters debunked most of the seasick remedies on the market, with the exception of a doctor-prescribed medicine (which had a side-effect of drowsiness) and standard extract of Ginger.
I purchased a bottle of ginger tablets from my local health store. The first night during dinner, my sister-in-law and I felt a little queasy. Nothing terrible, but we decided to take a Ginger tablet. Within 20 minutes, we felt great! Could this be real? Or the placebo effect?
My opinion was sealed when one of our nephews spent the entire dinner laying on the chair and floor of the dining room, while the other kids were having a wonderful time. I gave him one tablet of Ginger and we all watched as after about 10 minutes, he was sitting in the chair. After another 10 minutes, he was running around with the other kids. He took one tablet a day for the remainder of the trip and never felt sick again.
The final litmus test was for my husband, who has a relatively strong stomach. One night, he had a headache, his stomach wasn't feeling good. It might have been a combination of too much beer, sun and food instead of seasickness, but after taking a ginger tablet, he felt great!
It's cheap, natural, doesn't require a doctor visit and anyone can take it.
We have used Ginger Root capsules for years. We keep a bottle on the boat for newcomers and people prone to motion sickness.
At the first sign of problem, you just swallow a couple of pills — more if needed and the seasickness is gone!! We have used this remedy many times with great results. Ginger Root is a completely natural food product available at any Health store.
Works far better than wrist bands!!
Catalina 320, "Senior Moment"
My Dad (when we were little) used to shave fresh Ginger Root onto white bread w/ mayo ... it wasn't too bad and we never got sick!
Tucker Beck, CCIM
My story is short but important. I used to get seasick in the bathtub, one of those folks who got woozy on a boat that was docked. On a trip from Los Angeles to Catalina I was sick the whole way there and the whole way back. I now go to Catalina, by boat, quite often, and rain or shine, flat water or 4 foot swells, I'm the picture of rosy, happy sailing. My cure? Ginger. No side effects. No prescriptions. No sleepiness. Just blessed relief. 3 or 4 capsules, 15-20 minutes before sailing and if you're out all day, take it every 3 or 4 hours. It's miraculous! The wristband didn't work for me so if there are others for which it doesn't work, please try ginger!
In response to your article on seasickness remedies that work, I was reminded of an episode of Mythbusters show (on the Discovery Channel) from 2005 where various home remedies were tested by two seasickness-prone members of the cast. After 20-30 minutes on a spinning chair, both Adam and Grant reported no symptoms whatsoever after taking a ginger pill. All other remedies tested had absolutely no positive effect and resulted in a pretty messy show. I myself swear by the ability of ginger to prevent seasickness and have remained seasick-free since 1998.
New York, NY
In 45 years of fishing and sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida, I have learned a thing or two about seasickness. One is, never drink coffee before a trip at sea ... if you are inclined to be seasick. Coffee is very unsettling to the stomach. Another is the role of ginger as a settling agent for the queasy ... Chinese seamen have been using it for a thousand years to calm queasiness. As skipper for many years, I have been pretty successful, against all odds at keeping my cookies down when I am in charge ... but being crew is another matter. Exiting Hawk Channel out of the Florida Keys into 9 foot seas on a friends 35 Catalina a few years back, successfully, without loosing my cookies can only be a result of taking Crystalline Ginger ... a ginger root product sold in most grocery stores for peanuts. It has also assisted many crews aboard my sailing vessel, a 36 Hunter — Vision, Captiva. I highly recommend it.
Roland E. Norris
Meclizene (Bonine, Dramine II)
I'd like to share my methodology for effectively coping with my severe tendency to get seasick. After many different trials of drugs and gadgets, I have found that taking Meclizine (Bonine) at least 18 hours before motion begins is KEY! Thereafter, I take 1/2 of a 25 mg Meclizine tablet every morning and evening until reaching shore. The directions on most pills for seasickness prevention speak of 2-4 hours before exposure. This simply is not enough time for the drug to get fully distributed in your body. This works so well, that I remained "under control" during a flight in a twin-engine DASH 8 flying through a severe frontal passage with serious-looking thunderheads all around us. My wife who is motion sickness-resistant, didn't use my Meclizine, got very ill on that flight.
Another item of interest is that the Scopolamine patch, for a few (unlucky) individuals, can CAUSE one to suffer seasickness symptoms. Back in the early '90s, I spent 3-1/2 days bringing a 25-foot sailboat from New London, CT to Chelsea, NY. During that time I wore a Scopolamine patch with no negative results. Immediately after this, we flew to the BVI to begin a week of bareboat sailing. At this point, I was on my second patch (I get airsick too). When we left the dock, I began to feel that familiar unease, and thinking the patch had gone flat, put another one on. Unfortunately, the nausea did not recede, and the only time I felt comfortable was when I was snorkeling, or sleeping. Fighting the nausea finally became too much, and we aborted our vacation trip. The nausea, and some vertigo, persisted even after I arrived home, and my wife called Ciba-Geigy, the manufacturer of the Scop Transdermic patch. The authority there told her that I was one in 100,000 that develops this side-effect from this drug. I was told to get on a tranquilizer, and drink lots of water. It took about 10 days to fully rid myself of the side-effects' symptoms, and never considered using the patch again.
BTW: I believe the problems related to the patch's temporary withdrawal was with too great a variance in the dosage being passed through the patch membrane to the skin. I don't think my problem was related to Ciba-Geigy's manufacturing problem.
New Bern, NC
I have been a boater since age 6. I am no stranger to motion sickness, both car and seasickness. I am an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist who deals heavily with inner ear problems since 1980.
There is no ultimate treatment. The problem is the balance and motion apparatus of the inner ear. Even seasoned sailors can get seasickness.
Medical therapy works the best, regardless of anecdotal reports of Relief Bands, copper bracelets, etc. There is no medical evidence to support efficacy. Accupuncture works, but my acupuncturist is seldom around when the seas get rough. The quickest and most effective drug is scopolamine, applied by a transdermal patch delivery system. Hallucinations were mentioned in your article, but these are rare. Most troublesome is the blurred vision side effect, which could affect a skipper's ability to function. Dry mouth is also common. Meclizine (generic Antivert) works well for most people, is available in a 12.5mg dose for children and seniors, and a 25mg dose for adults. It does sedate heavily. So does over the counter Dramamine or Bonine. In a pinch, even benadryl can be used efficaciously, since the previously mentioned three drugs are antihistamine in configuration.
There are exercises that can be used for "vestibular habituation". My daughter is a figure skater, and can spin around twenty or thirty revolutions, and come out to glide backward on one skate. I would be flat on the floor/deck. Her balance canals are habituated to the motion. I have used these "Cawthorne exercises" on numerous patients, and they do work. Although not invented for seasickness, they do work in most cases to make seasick-prone people less susceptible.
Keep up your great publication!
Joseph P Gavron, MD
Palos Park, IL
1. Ginger ale, not the clear kind, but the brown kind, or ginger beer (non-alcoholic). The stronger the ginger flavor the better.
2. This sounds cruel, but split pea soup works well. when we were on a cruise in the Caribbean, the weather was bad, and many passengers felt ill, so the cook came up with pea soup as a first course for dinner. When I teased him about being cruel, he said that the soup works well to settle, and calm the stomach.
Also get out of the cabin, and focus on the horizon, as it does not move, and will settle your mind.
My husband Don and I both fish at least once a week. We are also terribly prone to seasickness. The best remedy that we have come up with so far (besides staying home), is Meclizine HCI 25 mg. We first started using this under the name of Bonine. I have since found out that I can buy 100 tablets at a time, for a greatly reduced price, by asking for it at the pharmacy counter. Like I said, we fish a lot. I tried a patch behind the ear once, but all I wanted to do all day was sleep.
When we went to Alaska to catch halibut, we were prepared for the bad seas there. We took one tablet each before bed and another in the morning, and he took another one in the late morning. The seas getting out of the inlet at Homer, Ak, the first morning were seven feet. Don stood outside the back door to insure that he did not get ill, (fresh air helps) while I was able to remain in the cabin. The rest of the day was moderate swells, but we were both fine.
Other tips that I can offer is to eat a muffin or toast for breakfast when going on the water. Do not drink beer or wine the night before. Keep crackers or potato chips, etc. to munch on if stomach feels funny. Even with the Bonine, I will occasionally get queasy if I try to read anything. I program our GPS, and I threaten mutiny if Don tries to leave the dock before I have our info entered for the day. We also pre-rig our tackle the night before so it can be snapped on and baited, with plenty of extras available. Do not look down if at all possible. If I have to do or undo a knot or tangle of any type, I hold it up at eye level. Stay out of the cabin as much as possible. I keep a small container on board so I do not have to go below for restroom facilities.
If you are drifting to fish and feel bad, start the motor and drive for a while until you feel better. The driving and having the boat moving without the rocking always seems to help. With all of these precautions, I have occasionally felt bad for a short period of time. I watch the horizon and concentrate on breathing slowly until the feeling passes. I have never thrown up on a boat.
Even though you did ask for "cures" I wasn't exactly sure what you wanted. In my opinion, a guaranteed technique to "prevent" sickness is to pop a couple of Dramamine 45 minutes before you sail. However, in my opinion also (and I have never tried Scopolamine) the only "cure" is to head for land. I tell all my guests to take Dramamine — some do and some won't. I also tell them that, if anyone gets sick, I will head for land immediately and I "have" done it 2 or 3 times. Fortunately, I have power. I would subject no one to this terrible feeling regardless of accidental or carelessness caused attacks. I will always head for land immediately.
However, there have been times when I've forgotten to take my boat drug, or the experience was so incredibly difficult (going down below in a hot sailboat to pull in a spinnaker while traveling through large 8+ ft. waves, or standing on a rolling boat in 90 degrees carrying 50 lbs. of dive gear on my back) that the drug just didn't work.
One of the biggest problem with boat drugs however, is they tend to make you very drowsy and/or thirsty.
My cure for that is to cut everything in half: cut the circle patch of scopolamine in half or cut the Meclazine tablet in half. They both still works.
However, if you are planning to be on the water for several days at a time (7 days or more), or are participating in a race, you may want to take the full dose, BUT, do it the night before so that the drowsiness is much less of a factor.
And, if you do find yourself becoming seasick — with or without boat drug assistance — the best thing to do is to eat something salty — crackers, pretzels, etc. — which will cause the stomach to calm down.
Hot Springs Village, AR
West Hills, CA
Scopolamine and Scopace
Among offshore sailors — those who will be out in the ocean for more than a few hours — Scopolamine is probably the most widely used of all the various medications. Scopolamine is a prescription drug sold under the name Transderm Scop and is administered via a patch placed behind the ear. It is advertised as being effective for three days and there are usually no serious side effects. However, when side effects do occur, they can be severe; several readers wrote to say that they had experienced hallucinations and/or dizziness. Note that the company that makes Scopolamine took it off the market in the mid-1990s to remedy some quality control problems with dosage levels. The problems below were all experienced with the newer version of Scopolamine.
As a lifelong member of the dreaded seasickness club, I've gotten sick on all manner of vessels — from tiny runabouts to large ferries. I'd always resigned myself to life as a landlubber, despite my love of the water, until my boyfriend (now husband) spoke of his plans to own a sailboat and go cruising. How exiting! How adventurous! How awful. Was there any hope that his dreams could become our dreams? The answer was most definitely "yes."
Those who get seasick will try just about anything to combat the queasiness and vomiting. I popped over-the-counter pills and was left groggy and cotton-mouthed ... and still seasick. The scopolamine patch wasn't a winner either, as it left me, a petite woman, feeling nauseated even before I stepped foot on the boat. I bought the Relief Band (uncomfortable and bulky), tried biofeedback, watched the horizon and didn't go below, but nothing cured me of that nasty mal de mer.
Nothing, that is, until I found Scopace. Scopace is scopolamine in a pill rather than a patch. The pill form allows the dosage to be customized for the individual and for the situation. I don't experience any side effects (other than joy), and I don't have to wear a sticky patch behind my ear either. Scopace is simply fantastic — I can't praise it highly enough.
So dreams do come true! My husband and I bought a Hans Christian 33 sailboat and take it out every chance we get — and I haven't felt seasick once. I urge everyone who can identify with feeling sick at sea (or on planes or cars or amusement park rides) to give Scopace a try. Aside from sitting under a palm tree, this is the ultimate cure!
My seasickness began later in my life. Perhaps it is associated with hormone changes. A friend found the Relief to be his solution to seasickness. It did not work for me. Dramamine, merazine and meclazine work for me and also Sturgeon, but it is not available in the U.S. Scaplomine was used by another friend on a passgae and she reported having extra crew in the cockpit with her. Yes, hallucinations can occur.
s/v Nice 'n' Easy
Mel Chandler, MD
We were cruising California's Channel Islands, the sea got a bit steep and my doctor friend from New York began to feel "nawshious," (that's how they pronounce it in the Big Apple.) After she "regurgited, an emesis of 150 ccs of California calamari," she said she was going below to lie down for a while. I advised her to stay on deck where she could see the horizon and away from the tinge of diesel. She ignored my advice and went below and lay down.
A few minutes later she was back in the cockpit, hale and hearty. What the doctor ordered wasn't what the skipper ordered but it sure worked for her! We were getting ready to leave the dock in San Diego for a SCUBA diving trip to the Sea of Cortez in Rock's Downeast 38'. Beth handed Rock a scopalamine patch and asked if anyone else wanted one. Joe, who was the XO on the carrier "America," reached up saying, "I'm not too used to being on little ships like this, I'll take one."
I had never known the need to use the patch but, since I hadn't been to sea for a couple of months, I thought I'd try one so I too reached up. The fourth crew, Steve, said, "I've raced on too many boats to need a sissy patch."
Three days later we ran out of wind just north of Cabo so we put in there. The first thing we did was put Steve off; he had been seasick all the way down. When we were checking our stores Joe and I both sheepishly said we thought we should get some more sodas for we had both drank more than our share. Rock smiled and said, "There's two more cases under the starboard settee."
The patch had kept Rock, who was very susceptible to seasickness, well for 750 miles of open sea. Joe and I, who thought we weren't susceptible, suffered only a little dry mouth. The three of us had a great two weeks of diving and didn't suffer Steve anymore.
You asked about handling seasickness. I think I'm an expert on the subject. You see, I get seasick looking at the boat when she's parked in the driveway. I don't even need to be on the water!
My particular claim to fame with this, though, is that I get seasick when everyone else is fine, and am fine when everyone else is seasick — put me in the middle of a force 8 gale and rolling waves, and I'm happy as a clam. Put me on a nice smooth bay, and I turn green. The gentle rocking motion that lulls others to sleep, lulls me to the side of the boat. The fish love me.
I once was on the Fantasia, crossing the English Channel in such awful weather that the ferry (the largest one in the fleet at the time) hulled at Dover when it slammed sideways into the dock. For once, I wasn't the one curled up on the floor, half out of it from the drugs and wishing I could die. Rather, I was cheerfully escorting a lot of Martians to the outside deck and getting them to hold the rail securely while they, er, chummed.
I've tried everything. Dramamine works well, but I'm comatose. Last time I used it, my husband declared he'd never allow me on board again when taking it as I'd bounce out of the boat into the bay and still not wake up (he's probably right on that score, it took hours to surface from the arms of Morpheus). Ginger capsules, swilled down with ginger ale, tasted good but didn't make a dent. The wristbands with the little plastic pressure points only served to leave a pattern in my tan. I've stood at the wheel and looked afar, only to find that afar kept moving up and down gently, and I had to move aft quickly. Deep breaths didn't hack it, nor did saltines. With my history of motion sickness, it would take a small power station to pulse enough electrical impulses to my wrist, in order to break through the misery.
Two things do work for me, though. TransScop (the scopamine patch) kept the queasies at bay enough for me to not wonder what on earth had ever made me think I belonged on a boat, and I'm just fine in the later afternoon and at night. Go figure, the fish are eagles and I'm a darned owl.
Capt. Bob Keim
Your story on seasickness implied that scopolamine was a likely solution. My experience is definitely otherwise. While I have never had a problem with seasickness, my wife is chronically seasick when on the water, yet we love most to be on the water in the Caribbean. For years, the solution was meclazine, but it required a new oral dose every 6-12 hours. Scopolamine offered a 3 day patch; how convenient.
But, we discovered that scopolamine must NEVER be used if alcohol or meclazine is consumed any time during or somewhat before or after, the patch is in place. The result for us on three occasions: grand mal seizures. Those are frightening enough at home, but on a boat in the Caribbean, it's not paradise. What if she chokes, or injures herself against decks or railings or the seizure comes on while she's in water of any depth.
So where's the doctor on Mustique? I know now!
So belatedly (and as by now a really concerned spouse) I read the patients' disclosure and find scopolamine may result, not only in hallucinations, but in drowsiness, blurred vision, disorientation, memory disturbances, dizziness, restlessness, confusion, difficulty urinating, rashes, and changes in heart rate.
Then I read the physician's notice and it went on with additional precautions that the patch should be used with caution on the elderly (who is that?) and by those with impaired liver or kidney functions; by those with narrow angle glaucoma, and by those with a history of seizures or psychosis. She had had a seizure before taking the scopolamine, so she qualified.
It's true that when Googling for scopolamine and seizures, the drug doesn't seem to cause seizures, but if the patient has a propensity for seizures, scopolamine can be worrisome or dangerous.
I was raised by a well-trained and respected family physician in the time that doctors expected their patients to trust their advice. But now, whenever any doctor prescribes any new medications, I'm sure to ask for and read both the patients' and the physicians' disclosures and do my own on-line homework before taking.
Buyer beware: scopolamine, never again.
I have tried almost all seasickness bands, ginger and other medications with no luck with the exception of a prescription patch that goes behind your ear. It worked for me before they took it off the market and I use it again now that they have it out again. It works well for me and I don't seem to have any side effects, nor do I get sleepy. I do use a patch when I know the boating experience will be beyond the usual such as going out the Golden Gate Bridge in confused seas, fishing on boats with diesel fumes, sailing for hours with a beam-sea or laying at anchor with a lot of surge knocking the boat up and down continuously. Hopefully some of these ideas help you manage your seasickness and keep you having fun out on the water.
San Francisco, CA
I have tried everything under the sun to control my seasickness: patches, pills, wrist bands, acupuncture — you name it, I've tried it. Sadly, they either didn't work or I had severe side effects from them. There's only one thing that works for me with little to no side effects: Scopace (scopalamine). I've been using it for the past couple of years and it's truly a life saver. Scopace not only prevents seasickness if taken before going out on the boat, but it can also pull you out of seasickness if it occurs while out on the big blue. The only side effect I've experienced is what I call slight to moderate dry mouth. But you don't feel like you have to drink-drink-drink all the time. It's more subtle than that.
Santa Barbara, CA
I just read your seasickness article and found it really funny. Our family has been flying and sailing for over 40 years. I and my daughter cannot get 20 min from home in a car as passengers and have to you know what. We have so many stories about the problem that I could write a book.
We have also tried all the remedies in the letters except ginger. What I really have a hard time understanding, is why no one mentioned marezine. Most of the time a tablet will work taken 1/2 hour before leaving. My entire family, except my dad, suffers from the problem. He's the pilot. My daughter is now a sailboat captain and would not leave her home without marezine. It is hard to find and you usually need to order it. It has never been advertised but it is not a prescription. Once we give anyone a marezine on our boat, they are completely sold on it. My dad can do trick flying and I will not get sick.
Custer Park, IL
As I turn green easily, I enjoyed (sympathetically, of course) reading about the gamut of seasick remedies ranging from the serious to the seriously funny. I was surprised, however, that no one mentioned Marezine (generic: cyclizine). I've taken it for years with great success. It's available over the counter, and, as least for me, doesn't cause drowsiness like other over-the-counter solutions. And for a skipper or solo sailor, that's key.
A few tidbits about seasickness may be of interest and value to meet your request for comments about the illness. My information is based on my own propensity to become seasick and my generally successful experience advising guests on board my sailboat on Lake Michigan.
A. Murphy's Law of Seasickness: Seasickness will happen at the most embarrassing time, like when you are trying to impress a new date or advance a business relationship.
B. Principal causes of seasickness:
1. Fatigue: Such as staying up all night the night prior to casting off a cruise, or getting to bed late because of last minute packing and closing up the house, etc., will compound any existing inclination for seasickness.
2. Tension and Anxiety: These twins are the hand maidens of fatigue. Take a nap before casting off to relax and catch up on rest.
3. Lack of Food: The hustle of leaving the office or home for the boat can preclude eating well (meat and potatoes type foods — nothing fancy or spicy hot). Perhaps the departure plan includes skipping a shore-side lunch to save time and you instead have a quick picnic lunch on board after shoving off. Although it may seem counterintuitive, failing to eat well before casting off can be a big no, no! Always relax and have a good meal beforehand. The combination of relaxing for a few moments and having proper food energy before shoving off are a winning combination.
4. Snacks on board: I have had considerable success eating bread sandwiches (two pieces of fresh bread (no greasy or fatty filler such as butter and salami) and solid foods if my stomach became upset. Avoid cold chicken or greasy food such as last night's leftover pizza. Candy bars (Snickers, Planters Peanut Bar, etc. work well). Consume whatever liquid you like (no hard liquor, but beer may be all right). (The jury is still out on the beer issue but a modicum of liquid is important.)
5. Chill: If it is getting colder or weather, and the wind is picking up, don't procrastinate putting on a jacket. Put on additional clothing before your body cools down. Don't forget your head and legs are where most heat loss occurs. If you already are chilled, get below, lie down and take a nap to get warm again.
The winter of 1950-51 I was a radioman aboard a destroyer patrolling the North Korean coast.
Bob Kline USN-R Ret
Spirit Lake, LA
I used to be very susceptible to seasickness, but I have been cured. The way it happened is nothing less than a miracle — and good fodder for a story — which I'm about to tell.
I love fishing on the ocean, but have always had an issue with seasickness. I come from a family where almost everyone suffers from this affliction and I was no exception. Every time I went out on the ocean, the queasiness hit, starting mildly and within a short time I was hanging off the side of the boat laying a chum line. I recall going on a bluefishing head boat one evening and, as I was hanging over the side chumming and fishing at the same time, overheard some other fishermen saying, "man — that guy looks bad. ... But he's still fishing!" Anyway, every time I went fishing I had to carefully plan what I ate the day before, make sure to take my Dramamine, and bring water and ginger ale to drink (no food!). Even then I got seasick and was always glad to get back in the Inter-Coastal waterway where the seasickness magically went away.
A few years ago I was down on the Outer Banks in North Carolina with a friend and we wanted to go out on a fishing boat. The local tackle shop told us to go to the Hatteras Marina on Saturday and get on the head boat there. They told us that it goes out for half-day trips in the Pamlico Sound where I wouldn't need to worry about getting seasick. So we headed down on Saturday morning and found the boat. It was loaded with guys, motor running, and the mate was pulling in the lines. The guys on the boat were waving and yelling to us to hurry up. So we ran aboard as fast as we could just making it as the boat was pulling from the dock.
Being that we were going to be on the sound side and only for a half day, I had skipped my usual routine of careful eating and taking my Dramamine and since we were so rushed to get aboard, I had forgotten my cooler. I had no water, no ginger ale, no Dramamine, and no preparation I was a bit worried about that, but couldn't do anything about it.
As we were navigating out I began to notice something odd. Everyone on the back of the boat was wearing the same style and color baseball hat. Strange I thought. ... So I walked around the boat looking at hats. Everyone — except me and my friend — was wearing the same hat. I asked one of the mates about it and he started laughing and saying, "You're kidding me — right?". After a while we both realized something — I wasn't kidding and we were not on a head boat going out for a half day in the sound. Turns out we were on a private charter heading offshore for a 12 hour Gulf Stream trip! The mate ran up the ladder to the pilot house and the boat immediately stopped. The captain came over the loudspeaker announcing that there were two "stowaways" on board and they had better come see him IMMEDIATELY!
To make a long story short, in order to preserve our safety, we agreed to pay the cost of the trip and stay on board rather than making a boat full of fishermen go all the way back to the dock to let us off (we weren't wearing life jackets and getting thrown overboard was a concern)!
So there I was — on a 12 hour offshore fishing trip with no Dramamine, no water, and no Ginger ale! The seasickness started creeping up. When I got to the point where I thought I was finished, I went to the side of the boat, sat on the bench, put my feet up on the rail and tried to sleep it off. I was sitting there in a deep trance, sleeping but not asleep, trying to deny that I was about 5 seconds away from being a one man chum line when the mate walked up to me, slapped me on leg, and said in a loud voice, "How's that Yankee stow away?"
I was totally caught by surprise and jumped out of my skin. Startled like I've never been before (or since), the adrenaline kicked in full force. My seasickness instantly disappeared and to my total amazement — never came back — ever. We had a great day fishing and to this day I can still go out on the ocean and not feel seasick!
I was a commercial fisherman (crabber) for two years and during that time I brought along about 15 observers who wanted to see how everything was done and have a day out on the Ocean. Every person I brought along went through almost the exact same sequence. They were very excited on shore and as we were motoring out to the traps. Once I starting working the traps, they began to get ill. Pulling traps has the same effect as being anchored, the boat turns sideways to the swell and the diesel exhaust starts swirling in the air. After a few minutes of the rolling motion, all of my guests were seasick and getting sick over the side. They would then be quiet for about half an hour and then begin feeling better. Then for the rest of the day they were fine and enjoyed it. After the first couple of observers, I began warning people that they would get sick but people still wanted the experience.
I'm also an avid sailor and have a couple rules I follow. I avoid greasy food and too much alcohol (that includes the night before). I believe that people get seasick for several reasons. The first and most important is the stress of the situation, if they are in an unfamiliar situation or on a boat for the first time and are unsure what to expect they can get very nervous (think stage fright). The second seems to be slow movement rolling. Whenever I have guests aboard and we're moving, there's no problems, once we slow down or stop is when the issues begin. The third is smells. If you have fish cuttings or diesel fumes, try to stay upwind of these and that will help.
Finally, I believe that a person can acclimate to the situation over time. I didn't try this, so I don't know for sure, but I strongly believe that if I had taken the same observer along crabbing every single day for the whole year that after a few months they would no longer become seasick and that their body and mind would be accustomed to the experience.
I have spent the better part of the past 30 years on the water. Many years racing sailboats on the Gulf of Mexico, to include a couple of gulf crossings, as well as, many years on inland lakes. I am not prone to seasickness and have not in the past prepared for the prospect of becoming ill while on the water. While many of my fellow crew members never left the dock without a "patch" or similar preventive measure, I was always proud to be one of the few that did not require such "silly" procedures.
It happened one day, of all places, on an inland lake, during a rough wind aboard a 23 foot sailboat. Of course I was not prepared for the feeling that came over me. The feeling that stopped me in my tracks. As I slowly fell to my knees, then a full sprawling out on the cramped bow of the 23 footer, my ole buddy Ted Kennedy ( No, not "that" Ted Kennedy) yelled to me from the cockpit to eat some "orange crackers". I didn't understand what he meant by "orange crackers" until he tossed a package up to me on the bow. "Orange crackers", you know the ones I am talking about. Small, square, with peanut butter or cheese in the middle, usually in a package of six. Well, as bad as I felt, I was willing to try anything, so I downed a six pack of orange peanut butter crackers. Believe it or not, I was soon on my way to recovery. I thought, it was a miracle! This event made such an impression, I have used this remedy on two other occasions. Both times it worked like a charm. I have even administered this procedure on others with similar success. So, needless to say, I am always supplied with a package of "orange crackers" while on the water. They are even tasty for an afternoon snack!
I have been boating and fishing for many years and have experienced first hand the dreaded feeling while far offshore and in rough waters.
While traveling overseas on a foreign [Italian] carrier I tried a capsule [Xamamina] that the crew had in the aircraft first aid kit on board and was amazed at the results.
I bought plenty more while there and from time to time gave some to friends and some complete strangers in times of need, they were also amazed at how well these capsules worked and thanked me profusely.
The only side effects are a slight dry mouth feeling.
I have tried to locate a local equivalent at drug stores, the closest thing to it is Dramamine, but obviously it does not work as well and it makes me very drowsy.
One capsule will do it before you sail.
Please note that I have also given it to one young fellow that was in terrible shape while dry heaving for several hours and am happy to say that it stopped his problem within fifteen minutes and he felt a lot better afterwards.
Great River, NY
I lived in Florida for 18 years, and fished the ocean for most of those. As a young person I had a lot of trouble with "the greens". I believe a large percentage of the problem is mental, i.e. if you worry about getting sick, or see someone else who is, than you probably will. I loved the seas and was determined to eliminate seasickness from my weekly fishing trip. I read somewhere that shortly before leaving the dock, one should eat several dry saltine crackers and half an apple. I did so and got immediate positive results. This became my usual routine in the mornings, and I can't recall a time when it didn't work. After some years, I got true sea legs and the problem was not even a consideration. I fished many a rough sea without any snack with no problem. I do believe in the mental thing, but also that it is important to keep food in your stomach that is easily digestible (not bacon and eggs). This survey of yours is going to be a hoot.
Flat Rock, NC
I sailed around the world on a 31' ketch, and I do get seasick. I tried everything. I even tried taping an aspirin to my belly button, something that I had heard might work. It didn't. After a year and a half of misery, I met another sailor in Pohnpei, Micronesia who had a cure. Her name was Joyce from the S/V "Just Do It." She recommended the following: 25mg. of phenergan (promethazine hydrochloride), 30-40mg. of non-drowsy Sudafed, and 15mg. of Stugeron (cinnarizine). This combination, taken every six hours, and sometimes in smaller doses, depending upon the weather, was what helped me make it around the world. Our trip was during the 1994-2000 time period. We had lots of other angels, like Joyce, who helped us along the way. We are grateful to all of them. Stugeron is a European seasickness medicine that was available outside of the United States at the time of our trip.
White Salmon, WA
Here is what not to do when the water kicks up and it gats rough out there.
While on fishing trip, the seas began to pick up so I chose to take a pink seasickness pill just to be cautious. As the seas increased I began to feel a little off but not that I couldn't fish. Then the waves were about 10 feet and the stern of the 120-foot boat was coming out of the water and slamming down. Did I get sick all through the trip back, 50 miles plus. Upon arriving I hit the dock and immediately felt good, but thought those pills didn't work well so I wanted to check the brand name. Yeah, I took a pink decongestant instead. I did note I had clear nasal passages. The motto: read the label.
My brother and I (both in our 40's) fish a 28 foot Bertram Express out of Corpus Christi, Texas. David and I were born in Corpus Christi and lived most of our childhood weekends fishing the waters of the area bays and Gulf of Mexico. My dad took us fishing on his wooden Chris Craft more times than I can count yet he never got sea sick. Of the two of us, my brother was blessed with immunity to sea sickness. As long as I can remember however I never turned down a chance to fish in the Gulf but I always got seasick. I have tried every combination of remedy known but none of them seem to work for me, including Scopolamine ("the patch") that you referred to in the article. Dad believes everyone is prone to motion sickness given the right circumstances (though he has never encountered it). An old Gulf shrimp boat captain he once knew (Nathan Bodwin) told him "if you haven't been sea sick, you haven't been out enough". That may be true.
San Antonio, TX
I had been seasick for years including my time in the Navy on a destroyer. For 30 years I have tried everything that I heard about or that was recommended to me. Finally, about 8 years ago I found the cure that works for me. It is an over the counter drug call Marezine. I take one tablet before going to bed the night before heading out to sea. I take the next one about a half-hour before leaving the shoreline. It is also best to have something in your stomach at all times. The best food I have found for eating at sea is soda crackers. Just nibble on them as soon as you can and during the first few hours of the trip. I have used the formula on several of my friends and it has also worked for them including one that told me he has never been on a boat without getting sea sick. Good Luck!
Back in the 90s I spent over a year serving on the replica 18th century brig, Lady Washington, out of Aberdeen, WA. A brig, you may recall, has two masts with square sails on both masts. She is 112' OAL, 22' beam, weighs 170 tons and the main mast is 98' tall. As a cargo vessel she is captious; in modern terms "tubby" and rather round in cross section with a bow designed to be buoyant, bluff, not pointy and sleek. SAILING a vessel such as this is one of the true joys of living, but MOTERING the same vessel into the wind and waves along the NW coast in December is a truly wretched experience. This is what we were asked to do, motor into the wind from Aberdeen to Neah Bay, WA, just inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We waited for a storm to pass, then ventured out over one of the roughest bars in the US into the Pacific. The seas weren't so large but they were very steep and close together, but what was worse, they were disturbed, very disturbed. One would come from the W and the next from the NW etc. Even though we had 6 or 8' of freeboard, it isn't uncommon, under normal circumstances, to bury the gunwale, but one has a reasonable expectation that the other gunwale will be buried in about 10 seconds. Not this time. We would bury the starboard gunwale, come back to center and suddenly bury the starboard gunwale again or the reverse or in any combination.
Meanwhile the jib boom (the pole like extension to the bow sprit) would be alternately buried and 30' in the air, frequently creating zero gravity in the forecastle on its way down. Several times during zero gravity moments the vessel would lurch to one side or the other leaving the sleeping watch below laying on the forecastle sole. We had a very experienced crew, many of whom had never been seasick. This included a retired research vessel captain, our red hot deckhand, a few who occasionally became sick and at least one experienced hand who was always sick on the ocean. We would usually sail with 8 to 12 crew and EVERYONE was sick. It was wretched. I had 30+ years boating experience and was never sick until I got on the Lady Washington motoring into the wind. The only sure cure is to get into calm water. We laid at anchor in Neah Bay for a day or two, gently rocking back and forth. When the cameras and actors arrived to make part of an I Max movie depicting the wretched conditions experienced by Chinese immigrants to the NW in the 19th century, we headed back to the ocean. By this time all the crew was accustomed to rocking at anchor and none of us, even the most susceptible, were sick. The actors, however, didn't need to act wretched; they truly were wretched. After the shoot we headed back to Aberdeen in similar ocean conditions, but NO ONE got sick. Laying at anchor with gentle wave action for a day or two is the cure.
Capt. Don Minnerly
I am a lifetime boater with over 50 years of experience, and also susceptible to seasickness. I've had seasickness several dozen times. Here is what I've learned about avoiding seasickness on a small boat:
The root cause of seasickness is when your brain loses its sense of balance. On land the brain maintains balance primarily with input from your feet and eyes. On a rocking boat, the feet are no longer reliable, so only the eyes are left to keep the brain informed as to balance. To avoid the loss of balance, and seasickness, do the following while on a rocking boat.
1. Never, Never look down at your feet or the deck for more than 5 seconds! If you must look down to release a fish or pick up something, look down for 5 seconds, then look up at the horizon to reestablish your frame of reference. If you look down, losing the horizon for more than 5 seconds, you can be instantly seasick!
2. Don't become firmly attached to the rocking boat. Your head must remain vertical. Let your arms, knees and waist "gimbal" as the boat rocks. Sitting can be a problem. Keep standing if possible. If you must sit, lean forward and keep your head vertical, counteracting the movement of the boat. Also keep your eyes on the horizon, thus giving your brain an immovable frame of reference.
3. Don't go below. It is the same as looking down in that you lose the immovable frame of reference. If you feel the first pangs of seasickness, get some fresh air in your face while doing all the above. The fresh air helps.
These rules help me and my crew avoid seasickness. When I do feel woozy, I can usually remember violating one of these rules.
I have been boating/sailing for over 25 years and have made deliveries from Maine to Florida and to the Virgin Islands and back. In all those miles traveled I have been seasick to the point where you are afraid you are going to die, then to the point where you are afraid you are not going to die. I have tried every remedy available in the US and nothing worked. However there is a product available only in the UK, including Bermuda and the British Islands in the Caribbean. It is called Stugeron 15 made by McNeil Ltd of England. It works for me and others I have recommend it to. My wife even uses it on long car or plane trips. Hope this helps other boaters.
You won't hear too well out of the plugged ear but you won't even care! I've seen my son-in-law stick a paper napkin in his ear when he can't find his plugs, looks like a clown, but he doesn't care!
B. Philip Lee, D.D.S.
This, you will find unbelievable, but it works. Place a piece of newspaper between your shirt and your stomach. It works every time. People who are just about to throw up do this and it cures them in minutes. It really does work. We were crossing the bay from the Chester river to the Servern River years ago in 6-8' seas. My wife was just sick, sick, sick. Her brother, captain of the 40' vessel, told her to do the newspaper thing, and in minutes she was ok. Ask your readers if they have ever heard of this, we can't be the only ones.
I am a victim of motion sickness and have tried everything from the scopolamine patch which dilated fmy pupil for days after taking using it. The wrist bands weren't bad, but the dramamine made me sleep through my entire trip, even when it wasn't supposed to do it. Ginger sometimes helps but the best thing that I have found is Motion Ease. Its a liquid that you put behind both ears, can be readministered any time its needed, has helped me ride on planes, boats and amusement rides that were off limits in the past. A small bottle costs less than $20 last time I got it, can be ordered on line at motionease.com or over the phone at 888-212-5503, lasts years and is all natural. I think I could be a sales person for this product since I have also bought it for several friends in the past. Hope this is helpful.
We and one other couple were on a charted sailboat snorkel cruise to Molikni Crater. As we left the wife of the other couple started to get sick and the Captain gave her an eye patch to wear. In about 10 minutes she felt a lot better. The Captain said that when you cover one of your eyes your peripheral vision is restricted and reduces the visual rolling that you experience. It doesn't make a fashion statement but it works. Also that is why the pirates wore eye patches.
Bob & Susan Remeika