I am a Canadian physician who has cruised long distances, and the posted answers cover everything I’ve heard on seasickness. Tom Connelly’s advice is excellent – be outside, face the wind, watch the horizon – important even when taking seasickness drugs. You cannot focus on a task close-up – that is, no reading, sewing, cooking, splicing lines, gutting fish, playing scrabble, etc. On a long passage, it is frustrating when you can’t “do” anything except take watch outside, and sleep (or lie horizontal) when you’re off watch. It’s true that after a few days you get used to the motion, but that’s only true if the motion is consistent. If the weather and wave pattern changes mid-passage, you have to start all over again!
During our circumnavigation, I tried every drug available in the developed world, and then some, including ginger snaps. A warning about the scopolamine patch (Transderm Scop) – side effects do include blurred vision and sometimes even hallucinations – too risky for someone with watch-keeping and navigational responsibilities. I believe the manufacturers warn against cutting the patch in half (although many of us tried that too – hoping for less side effects) – it interferes with the proper absorption of the drug through the membrane. The manufacturers were having absorption problems with the intact patch not too long ago, and took the patches off the market for a long time, but they are available again now. I think they are a reasonable option for someone who is a passenger or even crew, but not for someone essential, like the skipper.
While cruising in the South Pacific I met some cruisers who offered me some Stugeron (generic name is Cinnarizine). I must have been desperate to take a drug I’d never heard of, given to me by complete strangers (although we all treat fellow cruisers immediately like family). It is now the only thing I use, because it works every time. It is an antihistamine, and works in the same way as Gravol (or dramamine), but does not have the side effect of drowsiness at the doses needed for seasickness – for me it was the opposite of drowsiness – I got so much energy from it I was baking bread, cleaning the head, happily bouncing around down below – I felt great! Just so glad to not be seasick anymore.
Unfortunately Stugeron is not available in Canada or the United States. (I couldn’t get it in New Zealand or Australia either – a time when I did more experimenting with other drugs.) The good news is, Stugeron can be obtained easily, without a prescription, in most of the European and developing countries – including Bermuda, Mexico, and many in the Caribbean etc. So you’ll either have to cruise to these places – or get a “source”. It is not a new drug, and is safe – just no one markets it here.
Dosing is individual – I find that 15-25 mg in one dose at breakfast daily is all I need. (I took it for almost 6 months straight going across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea. I like the idea of premedicating for days in advance before known rough conditions or awkward motion – for severe sufferers that might give added benefit.
Bonamine (generic name is Meclizine) is another good option, available by prescription, but I experienced more drowsiness and less effectiveness than Stugeron. I would use it before Gravol though – too much sedation with Gravol. As for the wrist bands, I never met anyone in our years of cruising who had any success with these. In my experience, the majority of cruisers use Stugeron.
Posted to an old Searoom forum