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Old 11-07-2017, 14:05   #1
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Fun day sail with seasickness

WOW that's a long post, sorry! Felt the need to write it more then to be read I guess!

Still new at this whole sailing thing and every time I go out there is much to learn and experience. Well I had a few new experiences couple weekends ago.

All of my sailing experience from classes to day sails to charters with sailing friends have been with others who know how to sail. Been looking for an opportunity to sail with just my friends for awhile in good wind. That came about 2 weekends ago. On Thursday I saw winds for the weekend would be 6 to 10 knots during the day. Called up my charter company and requested a 30ft Catalina that I have sailed on many times before. She is from the 80's and one of the class boats. Seen a lot of use but what mattered was in good shape. Now is a good time to mention that I had a sinus infection a couple weeks ago. Was feeling 100% now and off most meds. The few remaining had to due with normal allergies and an ear infection with antibiotics. But I was towards the end of the meds and had no issues with them the whole time I took them. Allergy meds I take year around.

Rounded up my roommate and girlfriend for this trip. With a 4th who backed out due to life events. promised all great warm weather and good wind, not too fast and not too slow! Both my girlfriend and roommate have been sailing with me before and are not prone to sea sickness and stable on the sailboats. A joy to sail with them as they are eager to help and learn new things.

The Sat starts with us the dock at 11am we arrived later to catch the afternoon/evening wind that goes from 3 knots to 6+. Temps in the high 70's and lots of overcast. While not looking pretty, the overcast made the day feel much cooler with out the sun beating down on you. The Charter boats don't have a lot of places to escape from the sun.

After a safety brief and check of all boat systems we motor sail out to the ocean. Reviewing with my crew how to tack and adjust the main and other important items.

Swells at 2 feet widely spaced apart, small ripples on the water from the wind. We sailed along at about 4 knots on a close hauled/reach course. As we took turns at the wheel some were not as good as others at keeping on a course so I choose to leave the sails adjusted for a close reach for crew sanity as they got the feel of steering.

My stomach started to feel uneasy as we got to about 3 miles from shore. Not sea sickness uneasy, but eat "interesting" food and tummy not happy about it uneasy. Light at first and building a bit. Around this time my girl friend asked for sea sickness pills. I always have them for crew/myself and tell them that if they start to feel sea sick to stand up/steer/eat a bit/take a pill etc and if worse let me know asap so we can turn around because it will take a few hours to get back to the safety of the harbor. Don't wait till its too late.

My girlfriend takes the pill, a few bites to eat then a quick nap and feels fine when she wakes ups. Time goes by maybe an hour later. Now my roommate asked for a sea sickness pill but said he was fine just was starting to feel something and did not want to get worse. Myself I was not sea sick but tummy was getting more upset. Burping and what not. Not anything urgent but I was starting to get a bit worried. If it was seasickness that would not be good being the only one know how to sail "fully" and if it was the meds starting to act bad or the flu not much better.

Decided discretion was the better part of valor and made a u-turn, to head closer to shore. Putting put us on a tack back to the harbor. We were about 5 miles out now. If I felt better and crew kept feeling fine then we would go up the shore and visit the some piers. Took a seasickness pill about here to be on the safe side.

About 20mins after turning around I was getting worse much worse. Asked my roommate to steer and sat on the down wind side of the cockpit. Over the next mile or so the wind died a bit and we dropped from 4 knots to 2knots and we were spilling a lot of wind from sails not trimmed properly. I trimmed the sails a few times but no sooner then 5 minutes later and we were on a slightly different tack. Did not have the ability to keep correcting them or the sails as I was now starting to feel really bad. Sorta light headed, big breathes was talking slow because it was really hard to form sentences. Much thought went into each one. Knew this course could not keep and if I got any worse sailing at all was going to be a liability.

Made the decision to turn on the engine and motor sail back. Kept feeling worse and worse. My stomach was better but the issues know felt like it effected my hole body. I was really worried about my crew. I knew I was going down fast and could even pass out. At this time was thinking it must be the meds or a flu/bad cold from all the stuff that happened couple weeks ago. Knew that if I passed out or got so bad I was useless that the sails being up were a liability.

Instructed crew to on how to furl the jib and lower the main over the course of about an hour. Mainly because talking a lot was hard and I hard to really concentrate on how to explain how do the actions in terms they would understand. My hand started tingling around this time, I think it was because on how tight I was gripping the dodger and the lifeline to stay upright on the edge of the boat. But did not want to risk it. Asked my roommate to grab the charter book and pointed out the numbers for vessel assist and the charter company incase anything bad should happen. Hated doing this as I knew it would scare them but now my whole body was tingling, good news was stomach was better around this time but that was about it...

About 1.5 miles from harbor entrance I put out the fenders. Made sure to butt scoot along the way cause standing up and falling in the ocean would not be good for my health. So if someone saw a sailboat with fenders out not even in the harbor I had my reasons! The plan as I explained to the crew at this point was to motor to the coast guard/harbor patrol base at the end of the harbor entrance. Mainly because there dock is one you can slide right up against. I knew there was no way we could dock safely in the charter dock at this point. Crew thought that was a good idea too. Contemplated calling the coast guard and putting them on notice, not asking for help but letting them know our position and situation. In case things got worse as I was sure this was a medical issue. Never got bad enough/stopped getting worse at whole body tingling including my tongue which was a weird feeling.

As we entered the harbor entrance it was really busy with lots of boats enjoying the great weather. My crew was not up for navigating around everyone. I could see they were looking kind of scared. Took the wheel and asked them to keep a sharp look out for all vessels. It got annoying how much they called them out, but I did not tell them to stop. About 20% of the way through the entrance started to feel better and let them know, 50% of the way through and I was contemplating heading back to the charter dock, 75% of the way and I felt 80% better, heading to the charter dock was on the books. Kept the crew abreast of my thinking the entire time.

We docked at the tight charter dock, a really nice docking if I do say so. Secured the sailboat and we headed for early dinner, having not touched anything we brought for the most part. By the time I stepped onto the dock I felt 95% better just really drained of energy. And very embarrassed at the whole situation.

Some random thoughts after discussing the day with my roommate and girlfriend.
  • My roommate said he was at a few points about 5 seconds away from taking control and motoring in circles while he called 911/coastguard for help. He did not because I kept talking and walking them through things so he felt better that things were under control.
  • My girlfriend said she was surprised and at how slow and labored I gave them directions, but because I was clam and giving clear directions it made them feel better and know what to do.
  • They both were more scared about entering the harbor then docking, that is why they had planned to motor in circles instead of head to the coastguard. Most surprised by this!
  • Obviously I got seasick, but not until the 25% of the way through the harbor did I really think it was seasickness. It felt so different then all the other times I have ever felt seasick. I did take a seasickness pill about 30minutes after my roommate did just incase it was seasickness. Don't know if it really ever worked. Think some of the meds and my ear infection might of made it a bit worse and/or show symptoms a bit different.
  • Never been so scared before, mainly about how my girlfriend and roommate would got home safely.
  • Realized they never asked if I was ok, when I brought it up to my girl friend she said there was no need to ask as I looked whiter then a ghost. And they only believed me that I was feeling better was because color was returning to my face as we entered the harbor, lol

If you made it this far, thanks! Feel free to tell me all the stuff I did wrong

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Old 11-07-2017, 14:10   #2
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Seasickness is just part of boating, eventually it happens to everyone given the right set of circumstances. No need to feel embarrassed. Next time, take a Bonine 1/2 hour before departure, no drowsiness or dry mouth and make sure you have some food in your stomach.

Good luck.

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Old 11-07-2017, 14:52   #3
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Sounds like you pretty much did all the right things.
The short answer is just to throw up and be done with it. But for most folks, that is not the end of it. Getting accustomed to the boat, being calm and relaxed, not feeling anxious about anything, have something to do with it for some, but not all. I helped a friend bring his boat up about 60 miles, but halfway through he was so sea sick he was really starting to lose it. Fortunately there was a pier nearby so I could drop him off and continue on. On another trip, heading to Hawaii, another friend was so sick he could not get out of his bunk or eat or even drink water, so after 2 days we decided the trip was not going to work out and we returned. But we all get sick some time to some extent. I have had problems with "floaters" in my middle ear that took sea-sickness to a new level of vertigo for me. Luckily it only happened once. Take the pills, sleep on the boat the night before, those things help. I tried ginger, it made me sick.
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Old 11-07-2017, 14:58   #4
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

I had an uncle who served his 20 in the US Navy. He told me "Quit bragging you don't get sick, it can happen to anyone, anytime, given the right circumstances." I mumbled something about the Earth, moon, sun and Uranus all lining up..

A few months later it came back to haunt me. He was right and I quit bragging!
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Old 11-07-2017, 17:54   #5
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Good story, well told.

Imho, you should probably use something, like the Bonine, (it's meclizine HCl, and can be purchased as a generic), until you have more confidence. Knowing you are "semi bullet proof", can really help. I think that as you gain confidence, it will be less of a problem.

If Bonine or marezine work for you, there's no need to go farther with anti-seasickness meds. If they turn out not to, there are different things that people do that work for them, but it is trial and error for each of us to find out what works best for us. As skipper, you don't want to take something that will make you fall asleep. You can trial for sleep as a side effect just by taking *it* on land, and see if you get drowsy. Rule it out if you do feel sleepy.

There are a number of threads on CF about diminishing seasickness, a CF Google Custom Search (Under the Search button) should get you there.

Good luck with it.

PS. I was once seasick for 16 days of a 24 day passage. It's no darn fun. You'll note, I survived! Best to find out what works for you.

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:07   #6
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

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Old 12-07-2017, 09:19   #7
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

I've never really had the experience, but I have heard of people completely getting rid of seasickness by simply jumping in the water. heave-to and take a quick swim if the water will allow.
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:37   #8
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Since 2000 I have carried a Reliefband on board to treat crew that suffer from seasickness. I usually start them off with some ginger ale and/or ginger snap cookies. If that doesn't settle their stomach I then give them some dry candied ginger. When that doesn't work I have them use the Reliefband. I have yet to see it not work, even on the most severe cases. Unlike drugs, that make them drowsy, their are no negative side effects from wearing the band. It has been approved by the FAA for pilots and by the FDA for morning sickness. You can get them either on-line or at West Marine. I'd never leave the dock without at least one on board plus a spare set of batteries. JMHO
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:46   #9
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Originally Posted by TRM-MYC View Post
I've never really had the experience, but I have heard of people completely getting rid of seasickness by simply jumping in the water. heave-to and take a quick swim if the water will allow.
I have experienced this. Scuba diving in Mexico in a small, stinky boat with big waves. We were all feeding the fish on the way out. Jumped in at the dive site, 10 feet down we were all better.(my wife did throw up through her reg. |-O possible but not recommended)
The problem was sea sickness came back with a vengeance once we hit the surface. Bobbing in waves trying to climb back in, then the long bouncing ride back.
That event is why I don't want a 2 stroke outboard. The smell brings it back for me.
To the op, practise seems to be the best long term cure. Experience and confidence grow with practise and your body seems to adapt. But the right drugs help loads as well. Ann is probably the one to listen to in that regard.
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:47   #10
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

If the drugs mentioned above don't work for you, ask your Dr. for Promethazine (sp? -- sorry, away from the boat). Used by NASA for motion sickness. Best stuff since sliced bread.
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Old 12-07-2017, 11:14   #11
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Great post!

Heading out, you were going INTO the wind. This is the most comfortable and stable point of sail, so you mostly felt fine. And you were steering...that means your were facing the wind (lots of fresh air) and looking at the horizon. All good stuff for avoiding sea sickness.

Then you turned around, you must have been on a broad reach, or even a run. This means a following sea. A following sea is awful and is much worse for sea sickness. The boat rolls more, there is less force on the sails (as you describe), you go slower, and there is less fresh air (apparent wind speed greatly reduced compared to close hauled). Then you started the engine. The drone of the engine, and the FUMES...added to the following sea...the exhaust comes out the back of the boat and blows into the cockpit when you are off the wind...and anyone would be sick. If its a gas engine, then add carbon monoxide poisoning to your troubles. Diesels are no better though.

And of course once you were in the harbour you felt better. No surprise. Thats why so many people never leave the harbour. I've seen this many many times...everyone perks up so much once out of the waves/swell.

So, what did you do wrong? many things! And what could you do differently?

When you felt bad, going onto a run with a following sea, and starting the engine where the worst things you could do. The only terrible thing you forgot to do was go below and read a book (look at charts). Alternatives?

1) Beam reach back and forth, so you never have to take the swells and wind over the stern.

2) Take your sea sick meds AN HOUR before heading out. They take time to work.

3) Take that nap. Getting a rest helps.

4) BARF IT UP! When you barf you get an adrenaline rush that lasts 5-10 minutes where you feel a bit better. Get everything done in that time period, before you have to lie down again.

5) SING. SING A SONG. SING OUT LOUD. SING OUT STRONG!!! I'm serious. Singing loudly stabilizes the inner ear. You and your friends could have entirely avoided all feelings of illness if you had started a racous chorus of loud singing...loud as you can go. It also lifts your spirits. Seriously, this works. No meds, and its fun!!!!

6) Sail more. Your body gets aclimatized to the motion. Sleep on the boat the night before. I am always queezy at the start of a new season, but a few nights aboard, and I'm fine.

So now you are learning about your body. This is rarely covered in sailing books. Now you know.
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Old 12-07-2017, 11:59   #12
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

These dramamine chewables work instantly.

I used one after four (4) hours in 22-28 knot winds when I was just about to blow chunks and felt better immediately.

The instructions also say take two (2) for 24 hour relief so I went on and took two and was having a few beers and hour or so later as I was nearing my anchorage

That was in 2014.

Now at times if I feel anything while going out raising sails, connecting autopilot, etc, I'll bite one normal old school dramamine pill in half and am usually fine the rest of the weekend or vacation
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Old 12-07-2017, 12:29   #13
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Sea sick ( motion sickness ) medication really needs to be taken prior to even driving to the marina. As to seasick meds, Read and follow the instructions. Some are many hours prior.....not when you start to feel sick.

Some make you drowsy, something that you do not need a skipper or crew, or even a passenger. Also, with all the other illness meds in the OP's system there may have been some mixing and matching of meds that could cause trouble. Plus inner ear infection..

Many decades as a professional skipper ( U.S.C.G lic to 500 tons ).....including lots of charters and deliveries, and blue water sailing, plus international sailing.

Here is what I found to recommend.....however, as others mentioned, some of all those magic bands, ginger, pills, patches, etc will work for some, and not for others. And some of them not for any one. But follow the proper printed procedures by the pill or patch companies.

i would recommend prior to sailing or motor vessel fun days or charters.

1. No booze the night before
2. Good Healthy Breakfast, and no abundance any liquid. And, lay off the juices, coffee, soda pop, any thing acidic etc.

Some of the worst : party the night before, have a few donuts, and a few cups of coffee the next morning......almost 100 % chance of being sea sick.

Stay up top side, do not go down below. If you are getting sick, lay over the downwind port or starboard quarter.....or over the stern. Have some one grab tightly to the back of your belt...strong hold. That way the ill person knows that they are not going to fall off the boat into the ocean.
Will not work with bikinis....although it might make an interesting sea story at the bar.

Also, I will have a wet towel for them to wipe off their face and self. Take care of them.

It also can help to put them to work, watching for traffic, enjoying the coastal views, taking some helm time, and trimming sails.


on a fun day sail......if, no renevue, and some one was really sick, I would do a 180 and return to the harbor. Many times once back inside calm waters, they will recover, and we would still have a fun day sailing / motoring the many interesting channels inside Newport Bay.

Other times, once you pull into your slip or on to a side tie, and they get their feet on terra firma.....problem can go away. Sometimes not.

Another point, we have all invited people to go sailing and or flying with us.
If they say, " No, I get sick, or it scares me," I just let is slide and we can share good times on land adventures. I do not badger or belittle them.

Also....if some on board gets sea sick, dont start telling sea sick stories. You are going to have more than one person with mal de mere. many times, just hearing a person next to you wretching, others can be effected as well. You may have a line of them checking the prop, chumming for tuna, etc. Not good.

Point being, make sure the people coming, want to be there, and have a pre cruise meeting before time. Advise them as how to prevent feeling sick as well as how the day will go....proper footwear, jackets for later in the day, visors or hats with chinstraps, sunscreen, water, treats, food, music etc..

once on board

Also, just like pre flighting an airplane, you can go thru the weather reports, your sail plan for the day, and also, let them know how much fuel is on board, in hours and how much time you will be out on the briney. Lots of reserve is good.

Check the oil and the belts, and engine and tranny operation, coolant. Do not only show them where the life jackets are stowed, but chose one of them, and demonstrate how to put a life jacket on. Briefly explain man overboard procedures, as well as one and for you and one had for the boat. Prevent problems in the first place.

In addition to the throwable M.O.B horseshoe PFD, on the stern, I tie an additional life jacket on the stern pulpit, slip knot for easy release and throwing to person overboard.

I will also add in other safety ideas, as well as running rigging, head operation, flare gun kit, and one easy lesson on the VHF, in case something would happen to me. Emergency phone numbers for coasties, harbies, and vessel assist.

No, this does not scare anyone, but what are they seeing....

This skipper is a professional and they are going to be in good hands. many will want to act as crew, others will be soaking up the rays.

And another thing may happen. Instead of just okole sitting, they get involved, and when the day ends they just might say..

" I like this sailing, or power boating, I want to learn, where can I go to do this ? "

Now, there is a super successful end to a day sail, or charter or a first flight in a general aviation aircraft.

Those comments really make me feel good. Bringing someone into sailing or flying.

As to preventing sea sickness ( may or may not work since all of us are different ) and I also used this as a professional pilot...

The seven P's....".Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance."

For boats, on additional thought:

Skippers responsibility is to the crew, passengers and vessel. All three.
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Old 12-07-2017, 23:01   #14
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

Thanks for all the shared stories!

Did not know that taking waves from the stern makes sea sickness worse. Thought from the sides was worse.

Thanks for the fast acting chewable tip!

Always carry bands and pills, I had the bands with me but well I was not sea sick in my mind so I did not see the need to wear them.

Singing! I like that. Next time someone looks green I will give that a try!

I have been sailing many times and not felt like this. So don't normally take meds beforehand. And this time I took them late because I did not think i was sea sick. Hard to describe but I would of bet someone 100,000 dollars it was something other then sea sickness. It felt so different. I have gotten slightly sea sick once while sailing and I just took a sea sick pill and in 30min to an hour felt fine. So the pills i have work. But will look into the others. The one i use does not make me drousy. Think ear infection or just the perfect conditions set it off.

Been in 5 to 9 foot seas a few times and felt fine. Actually 2 months ago took a tour boat to Santa Cruz islands and the winds were 20 to 30 with bad seas. The boat company was refunding left and right and cancelled most trips. But they sent one boat over to pick up people and took about 50 of us over to backpack over the weekend. That was 8ish foot waves. Now that one I took a pill an hour before hand and enjoyed the trip. But boy 20% were puking over the rails by trip end.
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Old 12-07-2017, 23:35   #15
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Re: Fun day sail with seasickness

A few thoughts in no particular order :

The one time I took a seasickness pill when I already felt bad, it instantly made me feel a whole lot worse. Suggest using slow release patches, rather than pills.

Given your symptoms, I would be surprised if your ear infection was not a contributing factor.

The best cure for seasickness is regular exposure to the environment that made you sick. Sail more!

Sleeping on the boat really helps.

Don't go so far out next time - stay closer to sheltered waters.

Bristol 31.1, SF Bay.
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