Tips and Tricks to Overcome Sea Sickness on a Sailboat

You’ve fallen in love with the idea of sailing, and you’ve finally gone out on the sailboat to test the waters (literally and figuratively).

The only problem is that you’ve been met with a horrible twist of fate: sea sickness.

It happens to a lot of people, and there are dozens of ways to overcome it so you can get back to what you enjoy.

On a scientific level, you can solve this issue, and get back to what you enjoy doing most.

Some of these tips and tricks work differently for everyone, so make a list of what you’re willing to try, and put it to the test.

What is Motion Sickness?

Let’s start at the root of the problem and identify just what motion sickness means.

Motion sickness is the response that numerous receptors in your body send to your brain, or rather, it’s when those wires get crossed and the wrong signals are being sent.

If you’ve ever been in the backseat of a car and tried to look at your phone or focus on a book, did you start feeling this hazy, queasy feeling overtake you?

If you did, you’ve experienced motion sickness.

Extreme sensitivities to motion sickness can be brought on by more than just primary receptors.

Your joints, body temperature and breathing can also be attributed to motion sickness.

Some of the methods described in this list are more involved than others, and if you experience extreme sensitivity, more than one option may need to be applied.

Two of the strongest sensors that send signals to your brain are your eyes and your ears.

If you’re staring at something that isn’t moving, like a book, your ears are still changing to air pressure and movement, even if you don’t necessary feel it.

Those are mixed signals which prey on a hyperactive vestibular system, which is essentially how your body detects and measures balance in accordance with gravity.

There’s no difference between car sickness, motion sickness or sea sickness: they are all just situational titles for the exact same issue.

If you were walking down the street, your brain and nervous system are working in syncrosy to follow a set instruction, one that is fully voluntary.

Even though you may voluntarily get into a car or on a boat, you’re not physically making the movements happen, which can confuse your brain.

Motion sickness causes nausea, headaches, queasiness, vomiting and stomach aches, among other specific symptoms.

It is possible for some of us to be born without this balance system (though it is rare), which would make you immune to balancing issues and motion sickness.

Is Sailing Worse for Sea Sickness Than Other Types of Boats?

It can all depend on your sensitivity, but yes, sailing is often going to affect you more than being on a cruise ship or a large vessel with balance control.

Touching on our previous bit about detecting balance and regulating your nervous system, you can think of it like this: the larger the vessel, the less likely you are to get sick.

Some people who suffer from motion sickness may feel horrible in a compact car on the road, but may feel far better in a large SUV where there appear to be less dramatic movements.

There’s more drag on a larger vehicle, so you don’t feel sudden movements that are out of your control.

The same could be said for sailing vessels. If you are on a 550 ft cruise ship, then you’re going to feel less dynamic movements, and barely feel the bob and weave of the waves rocking the ship.

The smaller the vessel, the more you’re going to detect those small, seemingly insignificant movements.

How To Prevent Motion Sickness?

Anyone can try these simple tips and tricks, and out of this list, you’re bound to find at least one excellent solution for your motion sickness problem.

We’ve created a list of top 10 tips that will teach you how to prevent motion sickness on the sea.

1. Sleep… a Lot

Before you go out on the boat, it’s important to have a proper night’s sleep.

When you’re exhausted, your reaction time and cognitive ability is greatly diminished.

Do you know what else is diminished? Your vestibular system that regulates balance.

Get a solid eight hours of sleep before you actually take off to the sea for the best chance of avoiding sea sickness altogether.

2. Start the Day With Balanced Nutrition

We know what you’re thinking, but a balanced nutritional breakfast doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself silly.

There’s the fear that you’re going to get sick over the side of the boat, but if you stick to dense foods that don’t require large portions to feel full from (oatmeal, bananas, granola bars), then you won’t feel weighed-down and you’ll actually have some nutrition to feed your body throughout the day.

3. Always Drink Water

drink lots of water for sea sickness

You should always have a bottle of water nearby.

One of the first things that we think of when we feel a sickness coming on is to drink a little bit of water.

The goal of these last three tips is to keep your body in optimal performance conditions to prevent nausea and the feeling of imbalance from taking over.

Fortify your body with nutrition, sleep, and consistent hydration to keep everything in check.

Since you’ll be physically engaging with your sailboat, bring a one-gallon jug of water per day and try to drink the entire thing. Keep your electrolytes up.

4. Avoid Drinking

One of the fun things that you can probably picture yourself doing on a sailboat is having a drink or two.

Nothing to inhibit your ability to operate the sailboat, of course. Even one is too many, and further than that, you shouldn’t have any alcohol for at least one day before you get on the boat.

Alcohol interferes with everything we just listed: sleep, nutrition, and most definitely hydration.

It also ramps up acid production in your stomach, so if you’re feeling queasy, there’s more acid to climb up your throat.

5. Use a Sea Band

If you haven’t heard of these before, you’re about to be in for a treat.

There are proven benefits of acupressure, and in your wrist, there’s something called Nei-Kuan (P6) that your body produces to help fight against nausea and vomiting.

A sea band applies gentle pressure to your wrist to stimulate growth and maximize productivity, which can last for hours on-end. These work for long car rides as well.

6. Plug Up One Side

Since many of your signals are sent from the cochlea in your ears, you can trick them into submitting different signals to your brain.

Your eyes are focusing on stationary objects while your ears are telling your brain that everything is moving, causing conflict. Put an earplug into one ear, and one ear only.

This allows you to maintain your vigilance while telling your brain, “Something is wrong with my cochlea, only focus on visual signals.”

You’re temporarily disabling one sense in order to let the other reign supreme.

7. Ease Your Quease

Quease Ease

There’s an inhalant available called Quease Ease that helps with the nauseous feeling of sea sickness.

It was developed by a United States Nurse with the original intend to calm surgery patients and ease their feelings of sickness, but since then it has become a go-to for dealing with sea sickness.

You simply remove the cap from the container and inhale for a few breaths, then place the cap back on.

There’s a blend of ginger, lavender, and essential oils that are known to help calm the queasy feeling.

8. Scopolamine Skin Patches

Leave them on for up to three days, and combat sea sickness as if it were second nature.

Before long, you’ll forget that you have it on, and you’ll get back to enjoying the open water.

Scopolamine patches usually go behind your ear and stick for about three days, but they are prescription only.

Consult your primary healthcare physician and discuss sea sickness to see if you qualify for a scopolamine patch.

They are considered widely safe, so there should be no problem receiving them.

9. Take Control

take control of your boat

This touches on two points.

For one, when you’re actively steering the ship or standing at the sail and focusing on the water, you’re connecting with the movement and balancing along with the boat.

As a result, you’ll also be direct center in your sailboat, where you’ll feel minimal bobbing and weaving from the sway of the ocean.

10. Take an Antihistamine

It’s important to look for non-drowsy antihistamines, since they can help prevent swelling and activating your internal sense to vomit.

Antihistamines are generally used as allergy medication supplements, but they also work wonders on the great open sea.

It’s important to test these well before your trip so that you don’t take something that inhibits your ability to operate the sailboat.

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