by The Anonymous Deckhand
Call it what you will. Mal de mer, motion sickness, seasick; it has got to be one of the most miserable feelings on earth for those so afflicted. It keeps many people from enjoying the part of our passion for fishing that takes place on the water. Once a person has been hit with a case of seasickness they never forget it, and thinking about it can make them even more prone to it in the future. Even though they may venture out on a boat to fish from time to time and not get sick, the thought that they might get seasick always detracts from their enjoyment of the experience.
Over the years working on boats I've seen a great many people who struggled with this. The thing they all had in common was of course not feeling good, but the causes often varied from person to person. For many it was the smell of the diesel exhaust from the engines. For others it was the sometimes rough ride. Still more would be adversely affected by food tastes or smells. Some of the worst cases I've witnessed were apparently accompanying a bad hangover. Whatever the cause was, most would do almost anything up to and possibly including sacrificing small animals to make that awful queasy feeling and worse go away!
The cures for this condition seem to be even more varied than the causes. When a person finds something that works for them they will swear by it and stick with it 'til death do they part. Most commonly seen are the over the counter pills like Dramamine and Bonine. For those with only a mild case these seem to work pretty well. Many people find that the scopolamine patch is their preferred cure. These folks were absolutely frantic when the patches were taken off the market several years back due to dosage delivery problems in some users. The patches were eventually brought out again with their problem having been solved and you could almost hear the sigh of relief from the users! Then there are those wrist band things with the little bead on them that is supposed to be something to do with "acupressure". I'm pretty well convinced that they are more psychosomatic in effect, but hey, whatever works for you! Right?
One of the stranger things I've seen was an electronic wrist band. It worked by delivering a small electric shock to the nerve bundle on the inside of the wrist as that was supposed to somehow affect the user's equilibrium in a positive way and alleviate seasickness. There were five different power settings on the thing that were everywhere from a barely noticeable low setting to a high setting that would make you jump! I was skeptical of these at first, but to date it is still about the only thing I've seen that will often cure seasickness after the person in need is already affected.
Overall though, the single most effective thing I've seen used was the pill Scopace. I was a bit shocked to find that it had been discontinued in the U.S. back in 2011. After doing a little research I found out that it is still available......sort of. If you want or need this, you will have to get a prescription from your doctor and have it filled at a "compound" pharmacy. (The dosage in the old Scopace pills was 0.4mg.) The pharmacist will have to make up your prescription and put it into capsules, but from what I've been able to find out it is the same stuff that used to be available in pill form and at the same dosage. If anyone has further information regarding this please feel free to chime in.
Many things will ease the symptoms a little and most boats I've worked on had something available to help their passengers. Ginger has long been a remedy and ginger ale or various ginger drinks can help some. Often just keeping something relatively neutral in the stomach like bread or crackers will help too. But once in a while you find someone that nothing at all seems to work on or provide them any comfort. I really have sympathy for folks like this, especially the first timers who find out that the boat doesn't return to the dock because they just lost their lunch over the side. I also have a great deal of respect for those who know they'll likely get sick and go fishing anyway. You just have to admire such perseverance. However the ones who may feel a little queasy but still manage to keep everything down sometimes become targets of opportunity for a merciless buddy or two. The well meaning friends will begin to offer advice of all sorts and strangely, even as twisted as some of it sounds to the casual observer, the victims of this malady will often try some of it out of desperation. More so if they are already flipping their chips! I once overheard an angler tell his sick friend who was hanging his head over the rail at the time, "You know, I heard that chocolate covered cockroaches will cure that"! The sorely afflicted guy immediately looked up at his pal and asked "Ya' got any handy"?
It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that beer is a cure all, and will actually try it when they are seasick. As funny as this sounds it seems to work for some! People are willing to try almost anything to feel better. I had one passenger on a trip who was just miserable. What he'd taken before boarding hadn't worked, and nothing he tried on the boat worked. He'd been sick since we'd left the bait receiver. I asked if I could maybe get him a bottle of water or anything. He looked at me, pointed to his temple and said "Yeah, a bullet. Right here". That's how bad it feels for some folks.
Even worse off are those who are already getting sick and whose "friends" keep trying to reload them.That's just cruel! I saw a group of friends on a trip once where one of them was pretty bad off. We hadn't had a jig strike on the troll for an hour and a half until one of the lost it and started talking to the fish. This was immediately followed by the cry of "HOOKUP!" and we had about a 20 fish stop on nice albacore. When the bite was over we were on our way and just then the same poor soul barfed again and once more we heard "HOOKUP!" and had a stop for another 12 fish. When the bite was done and we were on our way again, one of the group went into the galley and came back with a breakfast burrito for his sick friend. The guy looked at his buddy and said "Man, I won't be able to keep that down. Take it away". His buddy said "Yeah, but if you eat sumthin' you'll feel better. Besides, every time you puke we get bit"! This caused peels of laughter from the rest of the group as the sick one made commentary on his friend's ancestry that involved barnyard animals. The laughter had barely stopped when the sad fellow lost it again and.........you guessed it. "HOOKUP!"
If you have a favorite story or better yet a remedy, please feel free to share it!
Good fishing to you all,
The Anonymous Deckhand