How to cope with seasickness? Here’s what works for Lynn Terwoerds


I was wondering if you have any thoughts/comments on how to deal with and cope with seasickness.I have tried the scopolamine patch, ginger, the wrist band w/ electrical pulses, and now stugeron.

We sail our boat on the Puget Sound, and when on our boat I never get sick. However, when I have been on a sailboat in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (with extremely choppy seas 6-10 ft) and on a larger boat (the Hawaiian Chieftain) off the coast of Oregon for a day passage in 20 ft swells, I have gotten seasick. Sick to the point where I felt it best that I go lay down and try to sleep for awhile. Both times it took at least 12-15 hrs for me to feel anything like normal. I have also gotten sick while out on whale watching trips.

What things can I do/try to help myself through this? Are there coping mechanisms I can try? We have had this dream to one day take our boat and sail from the Puget Sound down to Mexico, but this issue could seriously get in the way of our dream.

All suggestions/ideas are welcome at this point b/c I don’t know what else to do.

Thank You!!!

Lynn Terwoerds answers:

I’m happy to comment on seasickness.

I learned that sailing in Puget Sound was very different from the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the ocean.  It’s all saltwater but that is where the differences end for me.

I jokingly call the Straits of Juan de Fuca the “Straits of Want to Puke Ya”.  For me it’s about the sea state – on the coast and in the straits there is a swell and a different motion than what I am used to in Puget Sound.  I don’t even need big seas to suffer from seasickness.

Here are some of the things I do before I know I’m either going in the straits or out on the open ocean:

- Stugeron has the least side effects for me so I try and take a whole pill the night before we leave so that there is some of the medicine in my body. Just before we leave, I take a half of a pill (Stugeron is scored and therefore can be cut in half.  Just FYI, any pill that is not scored is supposed to be taken whole and not cut in half).  My dosage is going to be different from others because I am very sensitive to medicine and usually only take half the recommended dose.  You may want to take more.

- I’ve learned that if I am tired and dehydrated I’m sure to be very seasick. You can’t rehydrate your body the day before or the day of your trip.  To be hydrated you need to start a week in advance.  Also, be aware that coffee and sodas work against hydration.

- Another pointer on hydration – when I’ve done ocean passages, I hydrated with water and also a sport drink called Ultima Replenisher. I wanted to get plenty of electrolytes into my body because I knew that I would not be eating or drinking much for the first few days of the ocean passage.  In the first few days of an ocean passage, the only time I can drink or eat anything is when I am laying down.

- On the day before and the day of my trip I avoid coffee, eggs, anything fatty or acidic. For example, if we’re going out the Straits in the morning, I would only have a banana and some toast for breakfast.  I would skip the eggs, coffee and orange juice.

- John and Amanda Neal have had a lot of luck with taking vitamin C before passages. I haven’t had a chance to try this out but it makes a lot of sense to me.  I think they use something called EmergenC ( You’re getting the Vitamin C in a drink which gets both water and vitamins into your body and neither has side effects.  Again, just like hydration I wouldn’t start this as we’re leaving – I would start several days in advance.

Here are a few more seasickness related tips:

- When I am on watch (yes, I stand watch even if I’m seasick) I take our old lifejackets and put them behind my back to prop me up just enough so I am not flat on my back. This allows me to be in the cockpit and recumbent (laying down for me takes the symptoms of seasickness away). Then every 10 minutes I stand up and take a 360 degree look around and return to my recumbent position. At least I can stand watch this way and be outside in the cockpit.

- Getting your clothes off to get to bed can be awful if you are seasick. One thing I have done on Tethys is to stand at the top of the companionway looking aft at the horizon and start unbuttoning and unzipping so that when I get to my bunk, I slip off my clothes like a fireman.  When I get up, I step into my clothes like the firemen do.

- We’re always tethered to the boat on ocean passages but it is especially important if you are leaning over to be sick.

- You can live without food but you can’t live without water. Even if you feel miserable, it’s important to take small sips of water. I rehydrate when I am laying flat on my back in my bunk.

- I used the scopolamine patch only once – it made me hallucinate! Stugeron is approved in the UK but not in the US. There is debate about side effects, etc.  NASA does a lot of research on motion sickness but there is a difference between how the body reacts to meds on planet earth than when you are in zero gravity.


About Lynn Terwoerds

I’ve done two passages both from Hawaii to Seattle, and I enjoy cruising in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. One day I plan to turn off my computer, throw my cell phone in the ocean, loosen the dock lines and go off cruising for five or more years.

Until then, I fondly recall that the open ocean is so beautiful it made my heart ache, and seasickness is a distant memory swept away by the wine dark sea.

See also on this website
  • Seasickness (Admiral’s Angle column #18): The most asked-about issue of cruising! What are the realities and how can you combat it?
More info (external links)

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3 comments to How to cope with seasickness? Here’s what works for Lynn Terwoerds

  • I don’t get seasick often but it’s usually when the seas are confused and I go below to prepare a meal that it gets me. Then, the only thing that works for me is taking the helm. It’s magic actually. Concentrating on the horizon and gripping the wheel does something to calibrate the mind with the inner ear.

    I usually take a stugeron then, too, as it is the only medicine that works after you’ve started feeling sick. All the others are preventative. Stugeron is not available in the US, but you can get it over the counter in Europe.

    When you are heading offshore, it’s important to also ask your doctor for a prescription anti-nausea drug suppository. If all else fails and you cannot swallow a pill, the suppository could save your life. Intractable nausea and vomiting can be very serious; if dehydration causes severe electrolyte imbalance it can affect your heart and cause mental confusion among other problems. Lynn’s advice on hydration is really important. It’s also important to know the signs of dehydration.

  • Lisa Schofield

    I am prone to seasickness, but have found that the more time I am on the boat, the less I am subject to the malady. I agree with most of the above comments, but would stress that it is important to find an over the counter or prescription drug that works for YOU! I can’t tolerate Sturgeron at all, I took 1/2 of one, and it knocked me on my behind! I have found that the “less drowzy” 24 hour dramamine works well for me. If we are making a longer journey, I take it the night before, or several hours before we depart. I have also used the scopalamine patches with success, although I cut them in half. Do read the warnings!

    If I am just feeling a little queasy, some of the “holistic” products, like Motioneze helps. Stay hydrated (hot tea works well for me), and I agree with keeping the fatty foods to a minimum. Pretzels are a snack that really help me also.

    If we are on passage, I pre-cook meals so I don’t have to spend much time below. Worst case, I lie on the middle of the salon floor, where the motion is the least.

    Lastly, we do carry Compazine suppositories for all the reasons that Daria listed, but fortunately, have never had to use them!

  • Sara

    I too have gotten quite seasick almost every time we beguin a trip, I have tried all the known remedies but what works for me are dremamine pills that contain caffeine, I get them in Spain (Biodramina C). I take one the first day half an hour before sailing and take another half the next day, after that my body´s gotten used to the movement and I´m fine. If you can´t find this specific pill maybe regular dramamine and caffine would do the trick.
    I think it´s important to keep hydrated and also keep something light in the stomach such as carrots, cookies, sailing on an empty can just make you feel weaker and weaker…

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