Motorboat Expert

Independent Yachting Magazine

Seasickness: causes and treatment

Seasickness on a yacht

Updated on June 9th, 2024

There is nothing unusual or wrong with seasickness. If you feel sick in the sea on a yacht, you feel dizzy and your body is covered with cold sweat, then you are experiencing symptoms that have been familiar to sailors since ancient times. Seasickness can also be expressed in headaches, pale skin, increased salivation and drowsiness. Moreover, as a rule, all symptoms appear simultaneously.

Seasickness can occur on any type of vessel, be it a power planing boat or a classic sailboat. Moreover, a typical story is when people who are resistant to seasickness bought a catamaran after owning a monohull and could not adapt to it for a long time, suffering from continuous nausea. Although, it would seem, everything should be the other way around.

Causes of seasickness

The reasons lie in the discrepancy between the perception of the environment by different organs of the body responsible for spatial orientation. Seasickness can occur when the inner ear, which is responsible for balance, sends signals to the brain that you are moving, although the organs of vision, that is, the eyes, will refute this information if you focus on something stationary.

For the occurrence of seasickness, it is enough just to be inside the cabin while the yacht is moving. This further reinforces the discord in the brain. Therefore, the advice to look at the horizon can be effective in reaching a consensus between the senses.

Can everyone get seasick?

Almost all sea wolves will tell you that this problem has never touched them and it is peculiar only to green inexperienced youths. Moreover, you can hear the version that if a person, having first gone to sea, immediately fell ill with seasickness, then yachting is not for him.

In fact, more than 90% of yachtsmen have suffered from this disease to some extent at least once in their lives. A survey of ARC transatlantic regatta riders found that 26% of participants experienced typical symptoms, more than half of whom had used some form of prophylaxis or treatment on board.

Even many astronauts, during the period of adaptation to weightlessness on the ISS, actively use special vomit bags.


Studies show that motion sickness can be inherited in 50-70% of cases. There are also reasons to believe that there are racial differences in sensitivity. For example, the Chinese are more prone to seasickness than the Italians and Greeks. It seems that seafaring among the peoples of the Mediterranean is sewn into the DNA.

Gender differences also exist and women are more sensitive than men. Finally, physical fitness and general stress levels are known to affect sensitivity to seasickness.

Therefore, based on these data, it is safe to say that the most vulnerable person on the yacht is an overweight, hysterical Chinese woman whose parents suffered from seasickness.
And the most persistent will be a Greek slender man who does not experience any problems at work and in his personal life.

Duration of symptoms

If we go back to the sailors of the ARC race, 58% of those who experienced seasickness recovered within one or a maximum of two days. 27% continued to experience symptoms for three to four days. 8% were sick for about five to seven days. And only 7% of sailors felt unwell for more than one week.

Be that as it may, more than half of yachtsmen (60%) who are prone to seasickness said that this does not prevent them from performing their tasks in managing the yacht and working on board.

Prevention and treatment

It should be noted that different methods will work for different people to eliminate the symptoms of seasickness. Ultimately, you will determine what is best for you, both in terms of medication and diet.

  • Medications

Medications are recognized as quite effective remedies for seasickness. They help about 80% of the time. There are many such drugs, you can find them in any pharmacy. Mostly antihistamines. The main problem with drugs is side effects that do not fit well with yachting: drowsiness and dry mouth.

There is an alternative to pills – scopolamine patch, which is glued behind the ear. The use of patches can also cause side effects. There is even mention of one sailor who experienced withdrawal symptoms after constant and prolonged use of scopolamine patches. We don’t know if it’s a legend or not.

  • Food

Food countermeasures can be used to prevent motion sickness. True, the list of effective products is extremely small.

The most famous of these is ginger root. Indeed, a number of clinical studies have shown that ginger can reduce nausea and vomiting, but its mechanism of action is not yet fully understood. In addition to ginger, researchers believe that grapefruit juice works best.

Candy icicles, cola and crackers are quite popular aboard many yachts to ease the crew’s nausea. In any case, they won’t be redundant. But alcohol, of course, negatively affects adaptation to pitching. Coffee, like any other caffeinated product, is able to neutralize the side effect of drowsiness caused by medication.

  • Work on board

Distractions can be a great help, so cleaning the boat, cooking, sailing, or repairing the rigging is a popular strategy among captains for younger crew members. If you manage to puzzle the seasick sufferer, then half the battle for his recovery is done.

That is why it is rare to see a skipper suffering from nausea during bad weather: his attention is completely focused on the management of the yacht and the actions of the crew. In addition, he constantly, at least out of the corner of his eye, observes the horizon. And, of course, he has a great responsibility for the lives of people on board, so he simply does not care about personal well-being.

  • Adaptation

Adaptation to sea rolling is something that will happen by itself sooner or later. The brain will learn to interpret conflicting information from sensors differently and stop wasting energy on expressing external symptoms. But you will get the opposite effect of this when you step on a solid shore.

Many solo yachtsmen who go out to sea do not struggle with seasickness at all in order to avoid drowsiness from medication. And it usually goes away within a day. However, one must understand that the body adapts to specific conditions: the nature of the waves in a given area of ​​the sea, the type of yacht, etc. Even a simple change of course can reawaken unpleasant symptoms.