Seasickness is a feeling wholly like any other (except maybe morning sickness, I’m not sure, I haven’t had children).
It makes you feel as though you just might die. It can be incapacitating. Coastguards have been called out to rescue boats due to severe seasickness. It’s a serious problem that affects a huge amount of sailors.
Read that? It affects sailors.
Don’t think that just because you get seasick, you can’t sail. It’s a horrible sensation and can be exhausting and dehydrating but it can be overcome and dealt with.
Me? I totally get seasick. Once I was doing a two hour night shift and I was throwing up as quietly as possible while the skipper slept below. I would vomit, check the horizon, check the sails and the wind, and have a sip of water before the next flash of nausea came.
On long passages I tend to get sick for the first two days and then after that I’m completely fine. It’s called ‘getting your sea legs’.
To combat seasickness, I spend all the time I’m not sleeping, in the cockpit. This helps hugely and I know it helps other sailors too. Being below while awake can be pretty stomach churning.
How to deal with seasickness
A big cause of seasickness is fear. It doesn’t have to be panic, just a steady, unrelenting niggle of doubt and anxiety will make you feel sick.
Being at sea can be daunting, as can nasty weather and the only way to really deal with that fear is by learning how to sail and knowing what is going on around you.
Taking the time to understand weather, waves and how it all affects the boat is a big help on this front. For everything else, there’s ginger biscuits and drugs.
Stugeron is a very popular seasickness remedy in Europe (although apparently you cannot get it in the States). It’s available over the counter in the UK in 15mg tablets that you take every 8 hours. For me, and many others, it works.
It makes me slightly drowsy as well, which is annoying but can be overcome with a coffee, a good mp3 player and a bit of hand-steering.
Patches (similar to nicotine patches in looks) are also available. The best idea is to go to a pharmacy in the UK (or wherever your home country is) and ask before you leave. Trying to convey what you want in a different language is very difficult and can lead to all manner of confusions.
A word of warning – just because you weren’t seasick on the few day-sails you did in the Channel, does not mean you won’t be seasick in large ocean cross-swells with a bit of added wind chop.