I’m probably alone in this, but I don’t like getting seasick. By admitting this fact, I’m also admitting that I’m prone to seasickness, which probably makes me less of a man, right? Bull — no matter how tough you are or think you are, you ain’t tough enough to not get seasick. Some people seem to have a natural immunity, which makes me more than a little envious. But if you’re like me, there are a few things you can to help minimize or even eliminate your unintended chumming.
If you’re not sure what seasickness is, you’ve never been seasick. It can come on gradually or quickly, and the sea doesn’t have be particularly rough. In fact, there have been times when I’ve been on rough seas and felt fine with no chemical assistance at all. Seasickness is caused by the brain getting its signals crossed: The balance system in your inner ear says you’re moving around, but your eyes say the environment is stable (or at least more stable than what the ear says). The confused brain sends out a red alert, which makes things much, much worse.
It’s a horrible feeling. You feel like you’re going to vomit, but it’s much more than that. It hits different people different ways, but you’ll be woozy and dizzy, your mouth will be watering, and all you’ll want to do is TURN THIS BOAT AROUND AND GO BACK TO LAND NOW PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I’LL GIVE YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT! And when you’re seasick and can’t stand it anymore, that’s really the best plan. But avoidance is the way to go if at all possible.
So how to avoid it? First things first: Any food that might make you feel a little funny in the tummy should be avoided the day before you’re going out on the boat. Heavy, greasy foods are common culprits. If chili or Indian food gives you trouble, skip it. Anything that causes indigestion, a bloated feeling or any other gastronomic distress — even just sometimes — would be a poor choice.
And it’s not just the food you eat — it’s what you drink. I know that a lot of people like to enjoy a party atmosphere when they’re out on the boat, and a lot of people do more boating when they’re on vacation, but too much alcohol is a bad idea. Obviously, getting drunk while you’re piloting a vessel is less than brilliant, but drinking the night before will dehydrate you. And you’re more likely to feel the effects of seasickness when you’re dehydrated.
There are a number of medications and devices that can help you with staving off seasickness symptoms. They generally work best if you take or apply them before you feel sick. Most are readily available over the counter. If you have any sinus congestion from a cold or allergies, that can contribute significantly to a bout of seasickness. I usually take a 24-hour Sudafed the day before I go on an offshore trip and another the morning of the trip. I’m sure other sinus-clearing medications will work similarly.
One advantage of the Sudafed is that it won’t make you tired. I used to take Dramamine, but I hated the sleepy feeling I got from it (even the non-drowsy formula). It doesn’t affect everyone the same way though, and some people wouldn’t think of getting on a boat without a Dramamine pill in them.
MotionEaze is a blend of herbal oils that is applied by dabbing it behind the ear. The manufacturer claims it will bring relief in 5 minutes, even if you’re already feeling sick. It has a very strong smell, so if you’re scent-sensitive this may actually make things worse, but for many people it does seem to be helpful. I’ve used it, and it works pretty well for me.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years to reduce nausea. Capsules of ginger root powder or special blends of ginger and other ingredients can be used to good effect. You could even try ginger ale (be sure to get the good stuff, with actual ginger in it; the cheap stuff is artificially flavored). For that matter, there are any number of other OTC preparations made for motion sickness. As most motion-sickness sufferers know, figuring out how well a particular one will work for you requires experimentation.
Transderm Scop is a prescription drug that delivers scopolamine slowly via a patch. I’ve used it for those circumstances when I was going to be far from home with people who’d spent a lot of money on a charter, and I absolutely positively needed to stay upright. Scopolamine is not for everyone (it’s potentially hallucinogenic), so talk about it with your doctor.
The Sea-Band is a stretchy cloth bracelet with a rigid plastic button. You’re supposed to position the button over an acupressure point on your wrist. Does it work? I know people who have told me it worked really well for other forms of motion sickness, but no one who would swear to its effectiveness for seasickness. You may find it uncomfortable, since it puts pressure on a sensitive spot.
So you’ve tried to avoid seasickness and it hasn’t worked. You’re standing at the rail and you’re feeling green. Don’t panic. Focus on breathing deeply and calmly. Try to stand where you have shade and a breeze. Avoid going in the cabin. Sip water or a half-and-half mix of water and Gatorade. Nibble on crackers or bread, or chew a piece of beef jerky. Don’t look down at your feet — focus on the horizon line. If you’re fishing, try to focus on that even though you don’t care about fishing right now. Keep your thoughts off feeling sick, because it’s all in your head (remember, your brain’s mixed signals). If it’s beyond that and you’re going to lose it, don’t worry about it. It’s happened to the best of us. Throwing up may make you feel a little better, but probably not for long.
Once you get back to shore, you may think your fun with seasickness is over. It probably is, but not always — watch out when you go to clean up for the day. I’ve had a really strange experience where my nausea came back with a vengeance as soon as I stepped in the shower. It only lasted a few seconds, but that dizzy feeling could land you on your butt if you don’t watch it.
There’s nothing unmanly about getting seasick. After all, you’re only human. The good news: As you spend more time on the boat, you’ll probably notice your tendency to get seasick decreasing — and that’s definitely not a bad thing.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.