Dealing With Mal de Mer Aboard Aria
19 May 2013 | Little River, SC
I had a wonderful daysail yesterday with Stephanie, but this picture of my daughter at the helm is not something I thought I would ever see. Meet a girl who can get seasick on a floating dock. Today, she's an avid sailor who has done a number of cruises with me, including in the Caribbean and Bahamas. For her, meds were the answer. Over the years, we have tried every medication - holistic and otherwise - and have settled on Stugeron aka "Sturgeon." (Cinnarizine) This medication is not available in the US, but it can be bought over-the-counter in the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and Bermuda. I stock up whevenver I'm out of the country. This post is not intended as a scientific endorsement, just my own limited experience. For us, Stugeron works as well as Scopase and Dramamine, but without the cottonmouth and with little fatigue. Stephanie takes 30mg an hour before sailing, then 15mg every 8 hours thereafter. The transcope patches, so popular among sailors, wipe me out so badly that I can't stand a watch. I've heard of captains who require the patch. You won't find me aboard that boat.
I've been seasick twice - once suicidely so in a particularly rough Gulf Stream, and once mildly so while belowdecks fixing a broken steering quadrant in rolling seas (after a night of drinking. Stupid!).
Before a passage, I drink no alcohol and avoid greasy foods. An hour before casting off, I take 30mg of Stugeron and another 15mg every 8 hours until I'm confident I have sea-legs, usually 24-48 hours out. At the first sign of queasiness, I pop a Stugeron tablet; it's important to get it into my bloodstream before vomiting begins.
It's well-documented that crew attrition, generally through seasickness, is the Number One cause for abandoning ship. Having been sick that one time in the Gulf Stream, I will not judge anyone in this regard. It's truly awful. Hanging over the lifelines, thoughts of suicide become real. So keeping my crew healthy, then, must be a huge consideration when going to sea. In my First Aid kit I carry plenty of Stugeron, of course, but also Dramamine, Scopase, Transcope patches, Bonine and ginger crystals (disgusting!). I query every new crewmember about his history with mal de mer. As a lubricant to the discussion, I begin by being honest about my own bad experience. At sea, I watch carefully each crewmen's behavior. A person who is beginning to feel seasick usually becomes quiet. That's the first sign. I ask how he feels, and if the answer is marginal, I take action.
They say anyone can get seasick in the right (wrong!) circumstances. Vigilance, prevention and a medicine chest filled with drugs is my answer.