How to Prevent Seasickness on a Fishing Charter
Oct 3, 2019 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

If there’s one thing that can put you off fishing, it’s the thought of getting seasick. It doesn’t matter how well the fish are biting if you’re feeling awful the whole time you’re out. But fear not! Remedies do exist, and with a little planning, they work. In this guide, you can learn how to prevent seasickness so that you get the most out of your time on the water.

A grinning sea captain with a pipe in his mouth standing on the deck of a ship in a storm
You, after reading this guide.

This is a step-by-step guide to feeling great on a boat. It starts before you even make a booking, and lasts until you get back to the dock. In 10 minutes’ time, you’ll know what boats, trips, and remedies work best, as well as how to minimize seasickness during the trip. Let’s get started!

First and Foremost: Don’t Panic!

A lot of people get nervous before their first day on the water. “I’ve never been fishing,” they think. “I’m obviously going to get seasick!” Not true. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on a boat, chances are you’ll be fine.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared. That’s why you’re here, after all. But at the same time, don’t let the fear of feeling bad ruin the excitement of a great day at sea.

How To Not Get Seasick: Preparation is Key

The dreaded “mal de mer” starts once you get out on the water. Preventing it doesn’t. To give your body the best chance, there are several things you can do in the days and even weeks leading up to your trip.

Firstly, think about when you’re going. Antibiotics can make people more nauseous and might interact with seasickness medications. Women are more likely to get seasick while they’re menstruating. Timing your trip around things like this can be just as important as fishing when the seas are calm, and are much easier to predict in advance.

A charter boat cruising through choppy waters on a cloudy day
You can’t guarantee the weather. You can compensate for it.

If you really want to give yourself an edge, try taking vitamin B6 in the weeks leading up to the charter. It’s commonly prescribed to combat nausea during pregnancy, and it may also help you find your sea legs. Chickpeas, tuna, salmon, and chicken are all full of the stuff. You can also take B6 supplements if that’s easier for you.

Finally, the 24 hours leading up to the trip are key to avoiding seasickness:

  • Eat healthily the day before and don’t drink alcohol.
  • Have a light, non-spicy dinner and get plenty of sleep.
  • Wake up in good time.
  • Eat a light breakfast and take any motion sickness medicine a good hour before you get onto the water.
  • Skip the coffee unless you’re a real caffeine addict. This should be your pre-charter checklist.

The Best Boats and Trips for Motion Sickness Sufferers

Two of the most important things to think about when planning your trip are where you’ll be fishing and what you’ll be fishing on. Everyone thinks about which treatments they’ll use and what they’ll pack for the trip, but being on the right boat in the right place can be make or break for serious sufferers.

If you’re really worried about the effects of the ocean, it’s probably best to stay inshore. Fishing in shallow, protected waters will mean smaller waves and a less rocky boat. You’ll also have plenty of distant, fixed objects to focus on, which helps. On top of that, you’ll be close to land if it really gets too much for you.

Large charter boats docked in a harbor, including a catamaran, the most stable type of boat
Catamarans are the most stable boat type by far.

That’s not to say that you can’t head farther out, mind you. You just need the right boat. In general, bigger boats are more stable and rock less violently in small waves. Catamarans are especially steady both on the move and at anchor.

Look for a boat with plenty of covered deck space where you can escape the sun while still being out in the fresh air. Having room to sit and lie down on deck also really helps. Finally, nothing sets people off like the smell of diesel. Go with a petrol-powered boat if possible, or look for a vessel with a recently-overhauled engine.

If you’re really serious about stability, some boats these days are fitted with gyroscopic stabilizers. This is some serious tech and is normally only found on top-of-the-line vessels. It’s worth every penny, though, as it radically reduces boat roll. You can get a good idea of what we mean from Seakeeper’s interactive demonstration.

Seasickness Remedies: Your Top Options

A starfish and a selection of medications laid next to a first aid kid on wooden decking

Once your boat and trip are planned, you need to think about seasickness remedies. You have plenty of options here, from folk cures to modern pharmaceuticals. The most effective option is a bit of both. Forgive us for stating the obvious, but it’s always best to talk to your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.

Plant-Based Cures

Many plants have a natural anti-nausea effect. Ginger, mint, and lavender have all been used by seafarers for thousands of years. Soak ginger and mint in cold water, and take sips throughout your trip. This helps with nausea and keeps you hydrated at the same time. You can also just pack some mints, although you should avoid gum and super-sugary or overpowering breath mints.

Aromatherapy

You don’t need to eat plant-based cures to feel better – just the smell of them has a powerful effect. Bring a chunk of ginger to cut and smell whenever you feel bad. Otherwise, buy essential oils to sniff every so often. Make sure to try out any oils before you get onto the water. Everyone’s different, and if it smells bad on dry land, it won’t do you any favors at sea.

Pressure Points

A diagram demonstrating how to prevent seasickness with acupressure. It shows a person massaging a pressure point just above their wrist.

An acupuncture point just above our wrists has been proven to relieve symptoms of motion sickness. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go sticking needles in your arms! Instead, massage the point between your tendons around three fingers above your wrist for a couple of minutes on each arm. You can also buy or make bracelets that do this for you.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

Prefer to stick to good old-fashioned pharmaceuticals? Dramamine, Benadryl, and Antivert are common, over-the-counter antihistamines that treat seasickness. They don’t have the serious side-effects of more powerful seasickness pills, so they’re perfect for most people. The only problem with all of these is that they can make you drowsy.

Prescription Medications

If you really don’t do well on boats, you may need something a little more powerful. Your two main options here are Promethazine and Scopolamine. You need a prescription to buy either of them in most places, and they can cause serious side effects for some people. If you just get a little woozy, it might be best to stick with the over-the-counter stuff.

Dos and Don’ts Once You’re On the Water

A seasick woman leaning over the rail of a boat
If you want to avoid this, read on!

You’ve chosen your remedies and taken your vitamins. You had a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. Now it’s time to actually get onto the water. As you might expect, there are a lot of things that will make your day better or worse. Here are our top “dos” and “don’ts” to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

DO

  • Eat a light snack. Keep your stomach a little full, it will keep it settled. Snack on dry, salty foods like crackers after a couple of hours on the water. Avoid heavy, greasy meals.
  • Sit facing forward. Just like on a bus or a train, facing forward makes you feel much less sick while the boat is moving. This is especially important if you’re trolling all day.
  • Look at the horizon. You feel woozy because your brain can’t make sense of what’s moving and what’s not. Looking at the horizon or a distant object helps counter this.
  • Take deep, slow breaths. “Diaphragmatic breathing,” or breathing deeply from your stomach, helps reduce nausea. Aim for around six breaths per minute when you’re not active.
  • Listen to music. You’ll feel much worse if you’re stressed, or anxious about getting sick. Listening to music distracts and relaxes you, allowing you to enjoy yourself more.
  • Lie down. Lying down and closing your eyes for a little while works wonders. However, don’t lie down inside if there’s space on deck. Fresh air and open space are key.
  • Take the wheel. Just like with a car, driving the boat for a couple of minutes can make you feel much better. Obviously, you should only do this if the captain says it’s safe.

DON’T

  • Get dehydrated. Take regular sips of water or soft drinks. Don’t get dehydrated because you’re worried about needing the restroom. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, though.
  • Get too hot. It’s easy to get overheated without noticing it. This can dry you out and give you a headache. Wear a hat and sunglasses, and take regular breaks from the sun.
  • Go inside. Heading into a dark, rocky cabin is a surefire way to feel terrible. If you need something from below deck, ask someone who’s used to being on the water to get it.
  • Read. Ever tried to read a book on the bus? It’s the same on a boat. Focusing on something onboard, like a book or your phone, will make you feel much worse.
  • Smoke. The smell and taste of cigarettes could easily trigger you, as could the nicotine. Stay upwind of smokers and wait until you get back to the dock to smoke.
  • Forget to take your next pill. If you’re on anti-nausea medication, remember to take your second dose on longer trips. Again, don’t go below deck to fetch it yourself.

How to Prevent Seasickness: Conclusions

A happy couple toasting while sittnig at the front of a luxury charter boat at sea
Big boat, check. Calm seas, check. Here’s to not getting seasick!

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to motion sickness. The best treatment is a combination of everything we’ve mentioned here. If this is your first fishing trip, prepare your body ahead of time with vitamins, then give it a fighting chance onboard with the tips and cures mentioned above.

Most importantly, having a good frame of mind will make you feel a hundred times better. Knowing that you’ve done everything you can will give you the confidence to get out there and have a great time. And the more time you spend on the water, the more your body will get used to it. Keep at it, and eventually you might not need any kind of cure at all!

Do you suffer from motion sickness? If so, what works for you? Let us know your top tips on preventing seasickness.

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