FORUM: Preventing Seasickness

As a young teenager in the early 1970s I sailed on three different half-day fishing trips departing from Art’s Landing in Newport Beach, California.

I sought Pacific bonito—a staple component of my family’s diet: fresh we loved it grilled, otherwise it was delicious smoked. Affectionately nicknamed Boneheads—perhaps in tribute to their appreciation of bait, bonito are small (usually 4 to 10 pounds), aggressive, fast, powerful tuna. Bonito meat is firm, red and flavorful. To catch bonito the Captain would explore edges of the kelp forest, and anglers would fly-line live anchovies or sardines.

By my third trip I’d learned the most productive spot to fish from is either corner in the back of the boat (the stern)—where mates intermittently toss a baitfish drawn from the baitwell into the water in order to attract game fish: a ubiquitous practice called “chumming the corners.”

  • It was my first time being first-to-board. I stood guard over the starboard corner (in the right-hand back-side of the boat, viewed in the direction of travel) until we’d arrived at the kelp forest and the Captain identified the spot we’d begin fishing.
  • It was my first time being in a location on deck where diesel engine exhaust fumes lingered. I learned that our boat isn’t fast enough to leave the fumes behind if faster wind blows at us from the rear. It was my first experience with diesel engine fumes.
  • It was my first time being on the ocean when there was wind and there were waves.

Having breathed a copious quantity of diesel fumes over a substantial period of time, all the while being tossed about by wind and wave, I didn’t possess the physical and mental tenacity necessary to properly fish a corner amidst a crowd of anglers. So I added a weight to my rig, pinned fresh bait on the hook, made my way to the middle of the starboard side, dropped the weight to the bottom and leaned against the rail—breathing air, hoping to regain my equilibrium.

No sooner than I’d settled in to settle down a fish ate my bait and was hooked. I had to wind the fish up. It wasn’t fighting very strongly, but I wasn’t winding very well so it took a long time to bring it up from the bottom. At the surface of the water some of the cod’s innards were sticking out of its mouth. As I gawked in horror at the sight of the fish bobbing on the surface of the water, a wave brought the cod closer to my face and my stomach rebelled. I lost the fish in the process of retching. Afterwards I had to go to the bow (the front of the boat) to breathe in fresh air. There would be no more fishing for me the rest of the day.

Fast forward three decades and I lived in a San Diego neighborhood called Point Loma, home of the San Diego Sport Fishing Fleet. I was blessed to be taken under the wing of a master angler on one of the most productive sport fishing boats in the world. Among the first things that I learned was how to ensure that I never again became nauseated at sea.

In addition to the obvious step of not inhaling diesel or other harmful fumes, keeping me from experiencing sea-sickness involves a two-pronged process.


The first prong in my anti-nausea solution involves inhibiting the development of motion sickness by using Bonine motion sickness medication. Please follow instructions printed on product packaging. If you have medical conditions and/or or take prescribed or other medications, please consult with your physician concerning possible interactions involving the use of this motion sickness medication.

Here is how I use Bonine.

  • The last thing I do before retiring for sleep the night before getting on the boat, is take the recommended dose (for an adult this is one Bonine tablet). Medication must already be in your system before the boat gets underway.
  • The first thing I do after setting foot on the boat on the first morning is take a second dose (one more tablet).
  • The first thing I do the TWO following mornings is take another (third, then fourth) dose.
  • Then I stop taking Bonine, even when I am on 14-day-long voyage.


Other factors besides the motion of a boat underway at sea can induce nausea. For example, powerful storms, alcoholic overindulgence, a bout of indigestion, and a host of other causes may underlie a feeling of queasiness or nausea.

The second prong in my anti-nausea solution is immediately squelching any nausea which occurs using a QueaseEASE inhaler for nausea relief.

This inhaler is easy to operate—unscrew the top, put the inhaler beneath a nostril, and inhale. The formula combines four essential oils: peppermint, lavender, ginger and spearmint (alternative formulations are available for different purposes).

Used by nurses as a non-pharmacological perioperative aid with patients experiencing post-surgery or post-discharge nausea, this inhaler provides immediate relief: it is non-drowsy, non-habit forming, and safe for all ages.

I haven’t needed the inhaler yet—Bonine has served me flawlessly. But my third boat trip left me an indelible memory, and I’m not willing to risk ruining a precious multi-day deep-sea safari.

I’ve personally seen the inhaler work.

I was on a trip with just enough weather to make experienced anglers hit the sack soon after dinner. Anglers’ cabins on long-range fishing boats lie beneath the water line—the lower one is in the vessel, the more stable is the ride.

Four first-timers, friends from the Midwest, were in trouble. All four had motion-based nausea, and one also had alcohol-based nausea.

I asked them to come out on the fishing deck and sit with their backs against the engine housing: it was warm there, with a gentle cross-breeze of fresh ocean air. I explained they only had to deeply “sniff” the inhaler once, and then pass it along. Making two rotations, each angler smelled the inhaler twice—and all were instantly cured.

The angler with alcohol-related nausea asked if he could keep the inhaler until morning, “just in case.” In the morning he returned it saying that it wasn’t needed.

Better Safe Than Sorry.

Preventing Seasickness

Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

January 27, 2020

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