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12 Ways to Avoid Getting Seasick on a Small Boat

I am an avid traveler and often go on boat rides. I am considering getting a boat, but need to get over my seasickness first!

Here are some things to consider if you are getting on a boat and are prone to seasickness.

Here are some things to consider if you are getting on a boat and are prone to seasickness.

If you're looking for ways to avoid seasickness on a small boat, most likely, you are eager to go on a trip but are terrified of turning green and "feeding the fish," so to say!

You may be surprised, but in many people, the fear of feeling seasick involves a variety of fears, which trigger a cumulative effect turning a potentially fun event into something one may dread.

Following are several secondary fears that may further compound your worries about getting seasick.

The Social Fear Element

Not only it's not great to feel seasick, but it can be embarrassing too! Let's face it: looking pale or even green while making gurgling sounds is not the most glamourous sight!

On top of that, you won't be of great company, especially if your outing involves family and friends.

The Fear of Vomiting

This type of fear is a little different. It's an actual phobia; it doesn't matter if you're on your own or in the company of other people. It's called: emetophobia.

Emetophobia, in a nutshell, is simply a fear of vomiting, but it can also be a fear of seeing people vomit. In other words, you have this terrible fear of feeling nauseous and vomiting either because you feel sick or you feel sick from watching other people feeling sick.

Of course, nobody likes to vomit, but people with emetophobia are really phobic about it, and it can negatively impact their lives in many ways.

To make matters worse, some people are not only emetophobic but also have the extra element of social fear, so they'll also dread vomiting in the presence of others, especially people they don't know too well.

The Fear of Movement

Some people find it intimidating to go on roller coaster rides and may avoid them like the plague, while others love the thrill.

If you are scared of roller coasters, you may also fear going on boats. While it's unlikely that you'll encounter dips as deep as those on coasters, there are some meteorological conditions that can cause similar sensations.

I was once on a ferry ride where we had waves similar to a coaster ride. I even happened to emit a little scream! It literally felt as if the boat was falling off the two-meter waves. This was a one-time ordeal; I never encountered it again this bad.

The Unknown Element

And then, you have the fear of the unknown. In other words, not knowing what to expect. This is more anticipatory anxiety than actual in-the-moment fear.

You'll feel anxious about your trip as you don't know what to expect. Will the sea be rough? How big is the boat? How does this specific boat handle the sea? Will it bounce around a lot? Will there be a lot of people? Where can you go and what can you do if you feel sick?

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Getting to Know More About Seasickness

Fortunately, there are several strategies to help prevent you from getting seasick. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Taking preventive steps is paramount, considering that once you are in full seasickness mode, there's not much you can do than just feel miserable.

Though if you take some steps prior and go on your trip prepared and packed with a few essentials, you have higher chances of "navigating in smooth waters," so to say.

Here are 12 tips you should consider when getting on a boat and knowing you're prone to seasickness.

Here are 12 tips you should consider when getting on a boat and knowing you're prone to seasickness.

12 Ways to Avoid Seasickness

As mentioned, when it comes to seasickness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you know you are prone to this, it's best to therefore take several preventive steps before it's too late.

1) Avoid These Foods

On the day of your trip, you want to avoid eating heavy foods that are difficult to digest. Stay away from anything greasy or spicy. You may also want to avoid foods that have strong odors.

On top of that, avoid eating a large amount of food before boarding your boat.

2) Avoid These Beverages

Drink-wise, avoid alcoholic drinks. I know, it may be tempting to just get booze and get over it, but that may work only partially to calm your nerves.

If you are prone to motion sickness, consider that alcohol is highly dehydrating, lowering your body's ability to fight motion sickness.

3) Pick These Foods

When on a small boat, you want to pack small portions of foods. Eat a little here and there, taking frequent breaks.

Also, go with salted, easy-to-digest snacks. A good choice is dry crackers.

4) Pick These Beverages

While alcoholic drinks are out of question, consider staying hydrated with the right types of drinks that will help you feel better.

Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Drinking ginger ale will also help.

Some swear a coke helps them, as it stimulates burping, and that seems to help some.

5) Look at the Horizon

Try to focus as best as you can on a distant stationary object, such as the distant horizon. This helps prevent your brain from sending mixed signals that may cause you to feel seasick.

On top of this, try not to move your head around too much.

When traveling with my aunt, who suffered from severe car sickness on curvy roads even into adulthood, she would always look ahead and never face my family members or me when we were having conversations with her. It's as if she was a "horse with blinkers," always facing ahead.

6) Breathe The Fresh Air

If you are prone to being seasick, try to stick to fresh air. A small amount of fresh air every few minutes will help you cope with the symptoms of seasickness, and the fresher the air, the less likely you are to become seasick.

7) Avoid the Cabin

In most small boats, getting fresh air is easy as there's no other option, but if you have the option to go in a cabin, avoid that.

The lack of fresh air, coupled with no longer seeing the horizon, will make matters much worse!

My dad used to work on cruise ships, and he often told me about poor ladies who spent their whole voyage in their cabins being miserably sick. I now wonder whether if they forced themselves to get out and move about on the deck breathing the fresh air, they could have been spared from all this suffering.

8) Avoid Reading

Reading on a boat is not an excellent idea, and this also applies to reading from your smartphone.

Not only can reading cause you to experience nausea and disorientation, but it can also cause your seasickness to get worse.

Once again, try to focus on the horizon or another fixed point in the distance.

9) Sit in the Right Spot

While sailing, it may help to stay in the center of the boat, not the bow or stern, so to avoid feeling motion sickness. The center of the boat is usually where things are more stable, so avoid sitting at the bow or stern during rough seas.

10) Bring Ginger Candy

Ginger, when eaten raw, crystallized or in a candy form, can help you to avoid feeling seasick.

When I travel, I always make sure to bring along plenty of Gin-Gin candies. These are specifically crafted for motion sickness and have helped me on many trips, either when starting to feel a bit nauseous or just nervous.

11) Try an Acupressure Wrist Band

Acupressure wristbands can help prevent seasickness. These wristbands work by applying pressure to the inside of the wrist, calming the body's nervous system and preventing nausea. I haven't tried one of these yet.

12) Take Antiemetic Drugs

Another great option is to take antiemetic drugs such as Dramamine, Bonine, and scopolamine. These are easily available over the counter or via prescription and work by blocking certain brain chemicals that trigger nausea and vomiting.

Because these take some time to have an effect, ensure to take them at least 30 minutes before you get on the boat to prevent nausea.

I always make sure to take some Bonine in advance if the seas are expected to be rough. Once nausea and vomiting set in, it may be too late for these to work.

Consider that these drugs also have side effects you should consider. For instance, they may make you feel sleepy, but there are now non-drowsy meds.

Before you take any meds, always consult your physician to make sure that they are right for you.

What is Seasickness?

Believe it or not, seasickness derives from your senses. Physiologically, what happens is that there is a mismatch of information between what your brain receives from your ears and your eyes.

Because your ears detect movement and your eyes sense movement, your brain is overwhelmed by too much information.

Basically, a person's inner ear is the main sensory organ that determines how much motion a boat is experiencing.

When this is not matched with the motion experienced by the eye, this disruption causes the brain to become confused and responds by releasing stress hormones, causing the associated unpleasant symptoms.

Interestingly, some people never experience seasickness, while others suffer from it to varying degrees.

You may find it amusing to know that even expert navigators suffered from seasickness. Among the famous sailors affected are included Admiral Nelson, Charles Darwin and even Christopher Columbus.

So, don't be too hard on yourself if you're prone to getting seasick. Be prepared and consider the tips outlined in this article to make sure you can fully enjoy your time on the water.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Alex Ferris

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