Do Fishermen Get Seasick? How Do They Beat It?

Sailing out on the open water can be thrilling and even relaxing. But for some people, the motion of the ocean is enough to make them want to heave. Seasickness won’t kill you. But it can certainly make you feel lousy.

Do fishermen get seasick? Yes, even seasoned fishermen sometimes experience seasickness. Most of them quickly acclimate to the motion of the ship. But seasickness can happen to anyone. Fortunately, the symptoms are usually short-lived. And they are not life-threatening.

Today we are going to focus on seasickness, the causes, and how to treat the illness once you get it. And we’ll go over 12 tips recommended by fishermen and sailors to combat seasickness.

What Is Seasickness?

Seasickness is a form of motion sickness that is brought on by the movement of the water when you’re on a ship or boat. Nearly everyone will experience some form of motion sickness in their life. If you find that you get nauseous or dizzy when you’re traveling in the car or on a plane, then you are more likely to get seasick when you’re out on the water.

For most people, the symptoms of seasickness will subside once you acclimate to the water’s movement. But it is also possible to get “land sickness” once you leave the water. For people who are susceptible to seasickness, they can experience the same symptoms of seasickness once they’re back on dry land. This condition won’t last long. As soon as your body adjusts to not moving, you will feel better.

It’s important to note that seasickness isn’t any type of disease. In fact, it’s a normal response of healthy people when they’re out on the water. It won’t kill you. It may make you feel miserable for a little while, but it won’t last, and you will be fine. In a minute, we’ll discuss some things that you can do if you find yourself experiencing seasickness.

Here is some more valuable information about seasickness from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

What Causes Seasickness?

Motion sickness or seasickness occurs when your inner ear vestibular apparatus (where your balance mechanism resides) sends messages to your brain that don’t match the signals being sent by your eyes. Your inner ear vestibular system provides your brain with data about self-motion.

When you’re out on the water, your inner ear senses the movement. It can detect changes in both side-to-side and up-and-down motion as your body moves with the water and boat. But because everything is moving together, your eyes register a relatively stable situation. So your brain gets two conflicting messages.

When this happens, your brain responds by releasing a flood of stress-related hormones. That’s what makes you feel sick. Seasickness can be made even worse if you smell strong odors like diesel fumes. 

If you are going to experience seasickness, it will happen in the first 12 to 24 hours after stepping foot on the boat. For the vast majority of people, seasickness will dissipate once you acclimate to the water’s motion. It’s extremely rare for anyone to stay sick beyond the first day or two at sea. An exception to that would be if you experience particularly rough waves.

The good news is the survival rate of seasickness is 100 percent. That may not make you feel better if you’re heaving your guts up, but try to take comfort in the fact that it will eventually pass.

Watch this short video for more information about the causes and treatment of seasickness.

What Are the Symptoms of Seasickness?

  • Feeling of uneasiness
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Increased production of saliva
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How Long Does Seasickness Last?

Seasickness generally only lasts a day or two. And most people will adjust the motion without the need for any medication.

As we’ve discussed, nearly everyone, even seasoned fishermen, will experience motion sickness at some point in their lives. However, some people will find that they are more susceptible to seasickness than others. People who are more likely to experience motion sickness include:

  • Children ages 2 to 12
  • Women (especially pregnant women)
  • People who suffer from migraines

Here is an excellent video with more information about dealing with seasickness.

12 Ways Fishermen Beat Seasickness

Perhaps the best people to ask for advice about seasickness is fishermen. Most of them have experienced it at least once in their lives. So here are 12 tips recommended by sailors.

It’s worth noting that your mind is a powerful tool. If you think about getting sick while you’re on a boat, you probably will. Try to keep your mind focused.  Paying attention to your breathing is an excellent way of doing so.

1. Start off Well-rested, Well-nourished, and Sober

The best thing you can do for yourself to prevent seasickness is to take some sensible steps before you ever step foot on a boat. One of the things you should do is get plenty of sleep before your voyage. Research done by the Navy shows that sleep deprivation magnifies the symptoms of seasickness. They found that fatigue weakens your stamina and makes you more susceptible to motion sickness.

Another way that you can help yourself ahead of time is by eating a solid meal. Seasoned anglers warn that you never want to take on the rolling seas with an empty stomach. But having said that, you don’t want to be overstuffed either. Try eating oatmeal, pancakes, or bagels before boarding. You should also eat small amounts of food throughout the day and drink plenty of water.

An old sailor’s myth says that when you start feeling seasick, you should eat Saltine crackers. It’s probably a smarter idea to eat a small meal, but many professional fishermen swear by the crackers.

If you really want to prevent seasickness, then you should avoid alcohol for 24 hours before going boating. Trust me on this. Even a minor hangover can quickly turn into a full bout of seasickness.

2. Look at the Horizon

If you find yourself experiencing the effects of motion sickness, one thing that you can do is to focus on the horizon. When you’re sailing on a boat in the middle of the ocean, everything is moving. So it’s vital that you find something stationary to focus on. Often times the only stationary object is the horizon. Focusing on it will usually reset your internal equilibrium.

3. Take a Pill

Fishermen also recommend taking medicine for seasickness. Two of the most popular and common remedies are Dramamine and Bonine (links to Amazon). Both of these medicines are basically antihistamines that are available at most pharmacies over-the-counter. One word of caution is that these remedies can make you sleepy, so you may want to look for a non-drowsy formula.

Because medicines often have side effects, it’s a good idea to take these meds on a test-drive before you try to use them on the water. Take a dose of the medicine a week or so ahead of time. If you don’t experience any issues, then you should take a dose the night before your voyage. Take another dose about an hour before you leave. This will help to build up a defense level of the medicine in your body.

4. Try a Patch

Another popular remedy for seasickness is the patch. You wear Scopolamine patches behind your ear. They look like little band-aids, and they contain a small amount of medicine that penetrates your skin for up to three days. Scopolamine patches are the most common prescription drugs sold for seasickness. This medicine also comes in pill form.

The patches work much in the same way as antihistamines. They work by interfering with the nerve communication in the part of your brain that controls vomiting. But the great thing about patches is that they work for longer than antihistamines. They have fewer side effects too.

However, it’s still a smart idea to test out the patch on dry land for at least a full day to see how you react to it. One important thing to note with the patches is that you have to be sure to remove them after three days. If you depend on them for too long, they can give you the very symptoms that you are trying to avoid with seasickness—things like nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and headache. Leaving the patch on for weeks at a time can also lead to hallucinations.

5. Avoid Other People who are Seasick

If there’s one guaranteed way to get seasick, it’s watching other people get sick. Believe it or not, seasickness is highly contagious. So be sure to avoid anyone who is feeling seasick at all costs.

6. Try Ginger

Another remedy that sailors swear by is ginger. Fishermen have been using this popular herbal remedy for centuries to combat seasickness. Researchers from Mount Union College in Ohio and Brigham Young University found that taking just one gram of ginger worked far better than a dose of Dramamine.

The researchers think that ginger works through the digestive tract by shutting down messages to the brain. This is the same way that most over-the-counter and prescription nausea drugs work.

One word of caution with ginger is that it can actually thin your blood. So be sure that you check with your doctor if you’re on high blood pressure medicine before you take ginger.

You can get ginger in several different forms. You can chew it (see product on Amazon). Or you can suck on it (Amazon link). Or you can dilute it (see on Amazon) in tea. Whichever way you take it, it will help with motion sickness.

7. Wristbands

If you are hesitant about taking medication, another option you have is a seasickness wristband. This remedy is based on ancient Chinese practices of acupuncture.

The sea band was invented in 1980 by a surgeon named Dr. Daniel Choy. At the time, he was participating in a race from Newport to Bermuda when his seasick pills accidentally got wet and dissolved in his pocket. So he tried working with his own pressure points. When he applied pressure to a spot on the underside of his arm (about 1.5 inches above the wrist), he found relief.

Today there are many options on the market for anti-seasickness wristbands. They all put gentle pressure on the “sweet spot” which suppresses nausea. There are even battery-operated versions like Relief Band that use a mild electrical pulse rather than pressure. You can learn more about the Relief Band here (click to see price on Amazon).

There are two different varieties of anti-seasickness bands that you can try: magnetic and acupressure (from Amazon).

8. Stay Hydrated

If you really want to avoid seasickness, then you have to stay hydrated. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Staying hydrated is particularly important when you’re out on the open water. Not only will dehydration limit your body’s ability to deal with destabilizing motion, but it can also lead to symptoms of seasickness. And if you’re already feeling terrible, dehydration will make it even worse.

So it’s essential that you drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you start to feel sick. Another great option is drinking Gatorade. Gatorade will keep your electrolytes pumping and prevent dehydration. As we’ve already discussed, you should avoid alcohol. A hangover will make you feel sick, but alcohol is also very dehydrating.

The Cleveland Clinic has more information about preventing dehydration here.

Water can help you in other ways too. An old sailor’s myth says that immersing your feet in ice water will stop you from feeling seasick.

9. Avoid Reading

One of the surest ways to get seasick is to read while you’re on the boat. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading on your phone, computer, tablet, or even paper. It will make you feel sick. The reason for this is because focusing your eyes on a stationary target convinces your brain that your inner ears are wrong.

If you really have to read while you’re on the boat, it’s a good idea to read small portions at a time. You should also take frequent breaks to look up and focus on the horizon.

If you want to avoid seasickness, you should keep your papers and devices stowed away until you get your sea legs.

10. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another option recommended by fishermen. In one recent study, scientists found that people who took two grams of vitamin C and then spent time on a life raft in a wave pool had lower levels of seasickness. The reason that this works is that vitamin C cuts the production of histamine, which makes you feel seasick.

Many sailors swear by guzzling Emergen-C before a trip. This way, you get both the vitamin C and water into your body. The best part? There are no side effects.

11. Plug an Ear

Another thing you can do is to put an earplug into one ear. I know it sounds weird, but sailors swear it works. As we’ve discussed, seasickness is caused by conflicting signals sent to your brain from your inner ears and your eyes. The movement that you experience is detected by your inner ear or your cochlea. When you’re on the boat, your two cochleae send messages to your brain telling it that you are moving.

The problem happens when your eyes send a different message to your brain. When you’re on a boat, your eyes see the entire environment moving with you, so it appears that you are not moving. These conflicting messages between your cochleae and your eyes are what make you feel seasick.

However, if you plug one ear, your brain senses that there’s a problem with your ears, and it then ignores the signals being sent by your cochlea. When you plug one ear, your brain focuses on the signals being sent by your eyes. This simple trick can stop you from getting seasick.

Some sailors believe that this trick works even better if you insert the earplug into the opposite side ear from your dominant hand. So if you’re left-handed, you should put the earplug in your right ear.

12. Sleep It Off

If nothing else works, try going to sleep. If you start to feel sick, lying down can help. This works because histamines are prevented from reaching the brain when you’re lying down. That means less nausea.

If you have trouble sleeping, you should still lie down. Another thing you can do is to close your eyes. Closing your eyes means that your brain will be receiving fewer of the conflicting signals that make you feel sick.

A Final Thought on Seasickness

The 12 tricks that we went over will help most people. However, there is a chance that none of them will work for you. If all else fails, sometimes you just have to ride it out.

The Yachting World survey says that seasickness usually lasts just a day or two. For the vast majority of people, seasickness doesn’t stop them from participating in activities on board. It’s often just a minor inconvenience.

It is also believed that seasickness decreases with age. For 75 percent of people who get seasick, they will eventually get acclimated to the motion of the water. Time naturally cures most people of minor seasickness. But if you’re in the 25 percent of people who don’t acclimate to seasickness easily, you now have 12 fishermen remedies to try!

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