I'm get motion sickness fairly easily and one of the my most miserable experiences ever is related to sailing and that fact. After waiting out a norther for over a week, I finally left solo for Bimini
from Angelfish Creek in my 26-foot pocket cruiser
. The winds were SE at 25, and the forecast
was for them to remain that way. However, my experience had been that they often died by 5-10 knots or so during the night. Unfortunately they increased to 35 knots and I found myself sailing close hauled in steep seas with 2 reefs
in the main and a headsail barely bigger than a storm jib
. Despite taking Meclizine, I found myself puking over the side for hours on end. There was no horizon to watch at night. Often the waves would hit without warning, sometimes seeing the stars dissapear to windward provided some warning. I finally found some relief when the vomiting was replaced by dry heaves and I realized there was no longer any need to lean overboard
. A few spits afterwards sufficed. The worst part was I ended up 8 miles upwind and up current
from Bimini and could not make any notable progress upwind against the stream, wind
and waves. In my condition there was no way I was going to go below, study the charts
for other options and enter more waypoints, so I turned around and headed for Palm Beach. Once, on a broad reach with a warp out, life was considerably more comfortable. (I always knew this was my fallback if it got bad enough) That might have been the end of my cruising had I not had an obligation to meet someone. The following night I crossed to West End in 15 knots with no problem, but the bruises would remind me of that night for the next two weeks.
That experience and others have helped me to better figure out how manage my motion sickness:
1. LITTLE THINGS THAT HELP - Refraining from drinking the night before, good sleep, not going below, staying hydrated, focusing on the horizon, sipping ginger tea all help, but in the end, for me medications are essential if there will be any notable sea state.
2. MEDICATION - Meclizine and the Scopolimine patch seem to be equally as effective for me, but I prefer meclizine. Both make me drowsy, but it's easy to forget to replace the patch and it gives me cotton mouth. I find having meclizine built up in my system over time is much more effective than taking it one shot before sailing. I like to split my dose between two times a day. My experience is that it makes many people drowsy for about 24 hours after taking it. To deal with this, I start taking it well before I sail at a time I can afford to be drowsy, such as a day on the plane.
3. WRIST BANDS DON'T WORK - At least not for me and others I've directly observed. While I've read some people swear by them, I've thrown up in mild conditions using them and have seen others do the same. It never hurts to try though, as long as the consequences of them not working are acceptable.
4. PREPARATION: Preparation is always important in rough seas, but if you get sea sick, it's even more important. I try to make sure there is no reason for me to go below. I have warm drinks in a thermos. Backpacker meals
similar to Meals
Ready to Eat, mean I can enjoy a warm meal simply in the cockpit
. Studying the map, coming up with contingency plans and entering them in the GPS
mean it's easier to alter plans if necessary. Being able to reef simply from the cockpit is even more appreciated.
5. TIMING WEATHER
: Choosing to leave when I did was in part due to scheduling and having to meet someone. I thought I had allowed plenty of time, but having to wait out a cold front for over a week, was pushing my schedule. Waiting one more day would have made all the difference. Being prone to motion sickness may mean being even more conservative when it comes to weather
6. WARPS/DROUGS In following seas, these have been of great benefit to me in reducing boat motion. It also reduced the strain on my autopilot
. Coming back to Florida
after that rough night, I improvised one using about 100 feet of line, a small pot and a folding dinghy anchor
7. SEA KINDLY BOAT - If you get seasick, you may wish to place seakindliness up on the list when boat shopping
as compared to performance. What really brought me some comfort on my first heavier displacement pocket cruiser
, was knowing it could take more punishment than me without much work on my part. For the opposite reasons, I got rid of a Telstar Trimaran
after only one cruise
to the Bahamas
. Ease of operation in rough conditions has as much to do with systems, like reefing as the boat itself.
8. CHANGE YOUR CRUISING GOALS: If you've tried all the means of dealing with motion sickness you can think of, but it's still making your cruising miserable for you or someone in your family
, consider a different approach. It may be better to modify your dreams than give up on them all together. It's one of the factors that made me change from having a small pocket cruiser in Florida
to having a larger boat with a charter
company. I spend almost as much time sailing, but I'm in much more protected waters, have a larger, more sea kindly boat and don't have to sail sleep deprived. I've modified my dreams of crossing an ocean to dreams of lazily working my way through the Bahamas.
These have been some of the lessons I've learned the hard way. Many have been previously listed in this thread and many may not apply to everyone or all situations. However, I hope sharing my experiences and what has improved things for me will help others who suffer motion sickness from learning
things the hard was as I have.