Friday, 12 September 2014

Mal de mer

When people are talking to us about what we have been doing we often hear ‘I couldn’t do it, I get sea sick’. On internet sailing forums, there are often questions from those starting out and struggling with travel sickness, concerned that they will not be able to continue.


The thing is, we did; even the great Lord Admiral Nelson used to get sea sick. Before we left, one of our crew couldn’t even go on a roundabout in a playground without being taken off looking an interesting shade of green. He loved sailing on our old boat though and even after being sick then sleeping it off would ask when we were going again.

Portishead on the Bristol Channel

Finding what works for you is half the battle. There are some very good tablets around which suited a couple of us and which we were also able to buy in France and Spain from the pharmacies. The youngest could not take these as he was under the recommended age but we found him a herbal remedy that was very effective. Another crew member did not like taking the tablets but found that the wrist bands worked well. I have recently heard lots about blocking one ear as a cure for motion sickness. We didn’t try it but an internet search will find you lots of people recommending this.


I find that steering cures me and will spend hours happily scanning the horizon for ships about to mow us down. One of the deckhands likes to curl up on the bench in the cockpit and the skipper finds that lying stretched out on the deck is the best place for him when the water gets lumpy. Finding things for the children to do seemed to help. Sticker books, drawing, craft activities and things which need slightly less complete focus have worked well as have joke books and puzzle books.


Sometimes it is the preparation for a trip which makes all the difference. Being in the cockpit can be fine but going below can push the hardiest of stomachs to its limit. Finding meals which are easy to prepare or come in a tin which just needs to be warmed through and a box of snack foods kept in the cockpit all make life easier on the move. We experimented to find what we was best to nibble on (crackers, pain au lait, ginger, small chocolate bars, trail mix, plain crisps, fruit, cereal bars, bread sticks, rice cakes) and discovered quite quickly what to avoid (anything too spicy, too sweet or too rich).

Bognor Regis - South coast of England
On boats the problem is caused by the actual motion so even on days when the sea is relatively calm, hitting the waves at an awkward angle or having a current pushing against the wind can cause really unpleasant conditions. Some areas are also more prone to turbulent water. The Gironde springs to mind as an entrance channel which went on and on with rough water and a horrible churning motion that had us all really green around the gills. And it is not just travelling that can be a problem. In stormy weather it is possible to feel sea sick whilst tied up in the harbour if the waves are bashing the side, rocking the boat constantly. Then there was the very roll-y mooring buoy at Ile de Haout…


We all steadily adjusted during our time as cruisers and became less likely to feel awful unless the motion was really bad. We have travelled quite a few miles visiting people in the car over the last couple of months and haven’t had any problems at all – hopefully that will continue. I’m not sure that 3 years at sea is a practical solution for most children who suffer from car sickness but it certainly seems to be effective!



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