Preparing for seasickness and passage

When meeting other sailors, we’re often asked if we never get seasick. We have done quite a few longer passages since we left the Canaries, and people assume that we must be hardcore sailors. But in reality, Runa and Esben suffer horribly from seasickness during the first couple of days of sailing. When it’s really bad, Esben throws up every 15 minutes. Mattis and I don’t get it as badly as the others, but we also do get seasick sometimes. So seasickness is something we have to take into consideration when preparing for a passage.

When we chose to sail to the Mediterranean through the French canals last summer, one reason was actually to make the start of the trip more enjoyable for Runa. She didn’t find it a great idea to leave her friend to live on Chip-Chip, so we found it important to make the beginning good for her. And once we were in the Mediterranean, it was possible for us to slowly build up and take longer trips. In the beginning we had a few trips of one night, then we sailed two nights from Ibiza to Cartagena, then three nights  to Gibraltar and finally four nights from Morocco to Lanzarote. This way, everybody gradually became better at handling the longer trips before we took the eight night trip from La Gomera to Dakar (and it’s of course not just seasickness that we learned to handle better, but maybe more importantly, to sail and live on the boat in general while underway).  But it wasn’t until we left Mindelo in the Cape Verdes to cross the Atlantic, that Runa experienced being completely free from seasickness (to her delight, Esben was more seasick than her, though his seasickness wasn’t bad at all either). And since then, we have had a lot less seasickness onboard, which is nice, especially as it means we can do much more while sailing – like catching fish.

So now, in Recife, we were preparing our longest trip to date, namely the 1400 NM sail north to French Guiana.  We could easily have spent more time in Brazil, but our visas were running out, and we had to get moving. By now, we were pretty used to making passages that lasted more than a few days, and we had the routine for preparation down. And even though seasickness is less of an issue by now, we still plan as if we are all incapacitated by seasickness for the first three days – this also comes in handy if the weather turns unexpectedly rough.

Firstly, we clean the boat up completely, make sure the toilet doesn’t stink (and that is has enough paper) and tie everything up that needs to be tied up. Mattis sleeps in the dinette, which is down while we sail, with a lee cloth to catch him and his teddies.


The kids are relaxing in Mattis’ bed

Secondly, we  get out clothes, life jackets and lifelines for everybody. Especially in colder climates it’s annoying to look for the warm socks in the back of the cabinet when you are woken up for a night watch. But around here it’s not so very important, as we usually just wear a t-shirt. We always wear life jackets and clip in when we’re outside underway, and get the gear ready for everybody, though the kids tend to spent most of the time down below. Also, we prepare a set of clothes for each of the kids to wear if we need to abandon ship. We do, of course, also have a grab bag in case of emergency, but I wont go into further detail about that here.

Thirdly, and very importantly, we prepare food. A lot of it. When not sailing, we don’t eat a lot of meat, but we find that meat makes us feel more full when we’re underway and gives more energy. We usually prepare some chicken breast and a lot of meat balls. This is very easy to eat during the first couple of days, when especially Esben needs something that will give him some energy, and which can be grabbed quickly. We also prepare a big stew of potatoes, carrots some meat and whatever vegetables that we have. This can be put in smaller containers, and this way it lasts longer in the fridge. Additionally, we make sure that we have a batch of homemade yoghourt, bread, chocolate, biscuits and lots of fruit ready to be eaten. The trick is to make it easy to eat, so even if you’re seasick, you can get some food in. Esben knows that when he is not well, he can eat a bit while lying down, so he will take something on the way to bed, and if he is not asleep, I will give him some chicken, or whatever we’re having, when the rest of us are eating. We have also sometimes put bags of nuts in the pockets next to his bed, so he can easily eat a little bit to eat to keep his energy up. Runa also likes to eat salty potato chips, they are somehow a bit easier to eat if you throw up everything you take in your mouth.

We also like to can some dishes before leaving. This way, we know that no matter how bad things go, we can always just open one of these and have dinner without problems. Food is important after all 😉 On some trips we have been really happy to have these dinners, like when sailing close hauled from the Gambia to Cape Verde. But mostly, it’s just nice to know that they are there. We also have some canned meat, which can be nice in the end of a passage, when we don’t have any fresh meat left (we do not have a freezer on board). These pictures below are from before we left, but the principle is the same when we can food on Chip-Chip.

For those who wonder, passage prepping for us is not only about the food (only almost), we do also prepare the boat itself for passage. We go in the mast to check the rigging and go through the running rigging to check for chafe. Everything is cleaned up and tied down outside, and we fill up water and diesel, and check the engine oil. And we take care of all the other little repairs that we deem necessary before leaving.

And last, but not least, we check the weather. Despite of the days with strong winds on the way to Recife, we are actually rather conservative when it comes to weather. We check the forecasts for days before we decide when to leave, and only go out when we find it makes sense for us. This is not necessarily at the time that it makes sense for other people, but we find that we know ourselves and our boat, and we know in what type of weather we are comfortable. So we tend to stick to our own plans – and sometimes we leave even though everybody else thinks the weather is awful, usually, it’s fine.

So we spent the time in Recife getting the boat and ourselves ready for the last long leg for a while. The kids spent time in the pool (where else?) we did many grocery shopping trips and we finally managed to check out of Brazil. In the end, we even had a window of small waves, but reasonable wind. And then it was time to go.


Life is good

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4 thoughts on “Preparing for seasickness and passage

    • Our toilet is in a small room between the main cabin and the v-berth, in the port side. Fairly standard, at least in Scandinavia. Yes, we also like the big bed when sailing – good for playing 😊


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