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?