Managing Motion Sickness


Motion sickness (mal de mer) is the same issue but with various alias' based on where it is experienced. Being in an airplane, a car or a boat can all have the same effect from a mild queasy feeling to vomiting and dehydration. It can happen to anyone, even if they have never experience it before. It can come on when your brain receives conflicting information from the bodily systems that help maintain your sense of balance and equilibrium. For example, reading a book that looks stationary in a moving car, that is not stationary.


In most cases, it can be easy to manage motion sickness sailing on the Chesapeake Bay without medication. Medication should be a last resort.


Usually, the more active the crew is, the less likely they are to experience motion sickness. For example, it is rare for a person driving a car to get motion sickness even though a passenger in the back is experiencing it.


On a larger boat some crew will tend to relax let the skipper sail the boat, just like a passenger in a car who is not paying attention to the road. When a crew member starts to feel uncomfortable, sometimes just putting him/her on the helm and giving him a course to steer will help. Alcohol ingestion, noxious odors such as engine fumes and inner ear injury or infection can make motion sickness worse.


Further tips for unsettled stomachs:


  • Fresh air- get them out in the wind and focus on the land/horizon. Laying down on deck or below is not a good idea.
  • Confidence- Sometimes the fear of getting motion sickness can bring on motion sickness. Telling your crew that you will head for harbor for a break if one is needed, can give them confidence. 
  • Food- always have something to eat before sailing, and snacks aboard. Not greasy or spicy foods though.
  • Ginger Ale will also help settle an upset stomach,  it's good to keep some in the cooler. 
  • Ginger Snaps to munch on, or if you are brave, a slice of ginger root to chew.
  • Some find that the special wristbands (found at most marine stores) for motion sickness work very well.
  • Reclining and closing your eyes. This sometimes helps because you are not seeing anything, but just feeling the motion.
  • Medication such as Bonine. Watch out for Dramamine, it makes most people sleepy. This is a last resort and should check with your doctor first. It works best if taken several hours before sailing. Individuals who suffer chronically from motion sickness should take medication before going out on the water.

Offshore, in large ocean swells, is different. Once a person is acclimated to the conditions of being at sea for a day or two, motion sickness will usually go away. That can be a very uncomfortable couple of days! Once after a long passage at sea, we docked for dinner upon making landfall. While sitting at dinner, many of us felt the room spinning and began to feel queasy. After we stepped back aboard the boat, we were fine! I'm not sure if there is such a thing as "land sickness".