mike french's Blog

CEASE SICKNESS

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There are any number of possible health hazards that may affect those working on yachts.  And, unsurprisingly, there are no end of mechanisms that we can employ to combat them:  From wearing shoes to avoid foot injuries to observing defined ‘hours of rest’ in order to combat fatigue.  However very little these days is mentioned about good old fashioned sea sickness.  I was always told that the best remedy for this particular ailment was to stand under a large oak tree.  Whilst this remedy is undoubtedly effective, even the very largest yachts are apparently unwilling to accommodate the seasickness threat in this way.

 

So just what is it and what can be done to avoid or cure it?  Supposedly seasickness a result of one’s balance being upset.  Inside the inner ear are three semicircular canals that contain liquid.  On the inner walls of these canals are hairs which move with the motion of the liquid and send messages to the brain.  As the motion of the body becomes more unusual the messages sent to the brain seem to range from ‘yawn’ to ‘vomit’ with ‘lay down clutching a bottle of water’ somewhere in between.

 

To those susceptible to the condition, sea sickness is terrible, debilitating disease, whereas to those who are unaffected; it is all in the mind.  There can be no question that sea sickness is indeed real in the clinical sense, but like stress and hypertension there is much to suggest that  the mind can also play a role in it’s onset and severity.

 

I once sailed with a lady who would develop symptoms of seasickness within a few minutes of hearing a less than favourable weather forecast, even if the local conditions were calm.  Such was her mind’s ability to generate the feeling of nausea.  Likewise, when I sailed as mate aboard an old schooner and having been shipwrecked on a lee shore, the twelve passengers who had been previously confined to their bunks suddenly forgot about their “Mal de Mar” and became more concerned about drowning.

 

There are plenty of old wives who have, over the centuries, concocted solutions to sea sickness, from staring at the horizon to staying busy.  However in keeping with the times there are also numerous gadgets and devices on the market claiming to offer a cure.  From bands with little beads using the science of acupuncture to small electrodes designed to galvanise the same theory into more effective action.  There are also dietary solutions that are recommended from eating ginger to not drinking seventeen pints of beer the night before putting to sea.

 

In essence everyone is affected by sea sickness in different ways and over time everyone tends to develop their own means of coping.  I for one would be fascinated to know what people think is the best way to deal with it.  Whether you are affected by the motion of the ocean, reliant on a potion or if you are able to use mind over matter, just what do you do to cure what just may be the oldest disease on earth?


Sea sickness only afflicts people that travel on the sea. This business is full of fair weather sailors that rarely venture more than 60nm from the coast. Dock-express, delivery crews and holidays are proven methods of diminishing the possibility of becoming sea sick. I’ve been on the sea since 1988 and know precisely how crappy it feels to be seasick, scared and tired. I work my way through the gut wrenching discomfort, avoid foods that make my insides turn and never drink too much the night before leaving. The best cure for seasickness is work, solid rest, good food and the avoidance of swallowing one’s own spit whilst rolling around the inside of a steel can with hydraulic flappers and twirly thingamabobs at the back.
Posted by: Ripped off again at 31/01/2010 22:54


Ive been on the water my entire life and still fall seasick. Id guess that everyone becomes seasick to some degree. For me its intense fatigue and a heavy thick head. Numbers become difficult to mentally manipulate, simple tasks that normally require one minute to accomplish take forever and you end up doing them twice because you forgot something,. This is why as soon as the gale warning is issued all crew spring into action and meticulously prepare every detail on the yacht before this disabling thick head seasickness sets in.
Many suggestion have been made. for instance one ocean racer I worked on had a policy that all crew report to the doctor before the start and have their ears cleaned. Dont know if this helped.
For me the best cure is ice cold coca cola and fresh air. . It clears my mouth and I believe the sugar rush..adrenaline... boasts your resistance. Adreniline seems to be key.
Ive noticed that in dire conditions, when I was convinced we were all going to get hurt, I never succumbed to sea sickness. I distinctly remember being rolled in Mid Atlantic and as the yacht rolled her Black water sewage tank ruptured. The situation was dangerous beyond belief...all crew down below as we rolled became violently sick from the smell, disabled, near dilerious and scrambled half naked out on deck exposed to full storm conditions. Myself and a deck crew got below into this eye watering stench, heaved all the soiled cushion,carpets etc into the sea and hand bucketed hundreds on liters of the stuff out of the bilge. It took hours. I never became seasick. Adrenaline I believe boasts your resistance. Give a cold Coke a try.
And remember its an immature captain who upon seeing crew succumb to seasickness continues to drive the yacht hard. The rule that if the crew are getting beat up the yacht is being damaged is always true...Slow down, change course.
Posted by: junior at 01/02/2010 10:00


Nice article Mike. As an ex-Coastie and a 24 year vetran Captain, I've heard of and used all the above. It seems everyone is a little different but my experiences have been preparation, keeping the crew's/guest's minds busy, staying cool(temp),
moderation as part of preparation, no full or empty stomaches, Saltines, and a smart/confident Captain to make them feel safe.
Posted by: Robert High at 02/02/2010 20:37


Hi!
Yep, the ones I hear most are staring the horizon and not having empty stomaches for start!! I remember being in a sailing boat galley helping to clean 2 dozens broken eggs in the floor !!! Other time , running to the engine room after one engine stopped, big large waves moving the boat, finding out that water was in the tanks, and everything shaking!! Didn't got seasick. Only time was the 17 pints of beer the night before!
Personally, I don't seasick, and I guess it's enthusiasm! I'm so happy when at sea, can't be bothered\loose time to seasick... ! Some people do get really sick! I believe it's mind allowence.. Don't mean to be critical \ judgemental here, It's just my opinion!
Posted by: Salvador at 02/02/2010 22:58


Quite a bit of great advice. After spending my first true blue water experience in the Bering, in the winter of 1997/98 (el niño) I have never had to feel sea sickness again. Ex-coastie, now a captain of ten years, I ALWAYS carry ginger chews on my case for crew and pax. It helps, I was told it sates the Pituitary gland, I do see it seems to work. So I guess a good sales pitch for snacks being sold on whale watch boats or ferries might be to go and buy Ginger chews and Ginger Ale (the real stuff) and sell it to your guests!
Posted by: George Adams at 02/02/2010 23:18


Quite a bit of great advice. After spending my first true blue water experience in the Bering, in the winter of 1997/98 (el niño) I have never had to feel sea sickness again. Ex-coastie, now a captain of ten years, I ALWAYS carry ginger chews on my case for crew and pax. It helps, I was told it sates the Pituitary gland, I do see it seems to work. So I guess a good sales pitch for snacks being sold on whale watch boats or ferries might be to go and buy Ginger chews and Ginger Ale (the real stuff) and sell it to your guests!
Posted by: George Adams at 02/02/2010 23:21


Its true sea sickness is a real hassel that either we deal with our selves or have to deal with for others. I have been driving now for 15 years and for the first 6 i never got sea sick, I thought it was all a mind thing, but i had a very serious operation on my ear which they removed some of my middle ear and put titainum in, works great and i can dive and surf again, but i get sea sick now, everytime i am in weather. This is bad as all can be sick but not the captain so i have had to learn to live with it. I take Kwells now ever time i go to sea one the night before and one just before i leave sea sick tablets have to be taken like this to work. I dont drink too much the night before and I keep busy, expecially in the first hour. If i feel sick at all i get fresh air and drink a coke and will eat a dry biscut and get busy again. Sea sickness is real and its horrible i have compassion for any guest or crew that gets sick and try to get them sorted before they get too sick once your sick its over you must remove the feeling before it takes over. Good luck to all and safe boating
rob
Posted by: Robin Smedley at 03/02/2010 01:28


Ya Robin, motion sickness is hard to understand. Even with your new found sensitivity Ill bet that I could put you into the Rib and send you blasting out of a rough inlet into the sea and you would not get sick. Why ???
I see it with my guests. During a fairly normal day at sea someone will get queasy.... But Never in the tender on the bumpy three mile trip into town. Ive never heard of someone getting seasick while watersking or windsurfing
Posted by: junior at 03/02/2010 18:38


A yacht owner I know always keeps "Scopace" on hand for his guests. He swears it's the best remedy he's ever found. Don't know if it's prescription or OTC.
Posted by: yachtwriter at 03/02/2010 20:44


You refer to Scopolamine... the skin patches...Its been around for a while. They say its effective. I never carry it. Read the label and it comes with enough warnings to indicate that use is the personal responsibility of the user. Not something you give to a seasick guest. The best way to treat a seasick guest is to slowdown and make the day easy. More often than not once they get their sea legs all is well.
Posted by: junior at 04/02/2010 11:16


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