How Do You Cope With Sea Sickness? My Great Barrier Grief


Travel is my biggest passion. But it has also made me sick to the stomach on many occasions. As a child, I was always the one who ended up with my head in a plastic bag on school coach trips. My parents were always prepared for my predictable spells of travel sickness whenever we drove long distances on holidays.

Theme parks were my idea of a nightmare and numerous attempts at challenging my natural disposition failed miserably. While I seem to have outgrown my travel sickness when it comes to travelling long distances in the car, there is still one mode of transport that makes me very apprehensive – BOATS.

Like a lot of people, I suffer terribly with sea sickness. Does this prevent me from travelling on boats? No. Has this led to embarrassing situations and missed opportunities? Yes.

As a teenager, I was obsessed with dolphins. On a family holiday to Lanzarote when I was around 15-years-old, we took a boat trip over to Fuerteventura for the day. The journey there on the small, glass bottomed boat went smoothly and we spent an amazing day walking through the sand dunes of Corralejo and splashing around in the waves. There was always a small chance of spotting some dolphins and some appeared on the return trip. But instead of watching dolphins tailing the boat and jumping up out of the water, I was turning green with sea sickness.

Anybody who has ever suffered with sea sickness will know it is relentless. Not even an opportunity to see dolphins could persuade me to move.

Calm seas are a big relief for travellers who suffer with sea sickness.

Another time, on a school trip, I was cooped up in a baby changing room on the ferry from Dover to Calais, with my PE teacher repeatedly expressing disbelief that somebody could be sick so many times.

“Look at the horizon,” I remember people saying. This did not work for me. The best thing I could do was huddle up in a ball and hope the journey would soon be over.

Frustratingly, my worst experience with sea sickness was on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

My time in this amazing place was more like the ‘Great Barrier Grief’. Instead of images of beautiful expanses of blue/green water and stunning sand islands, my memories are clouded by an unfortunate episode.

It had been some years since I had suffered with sea sickness and I had rather naively encompassed a false sense of security from this fact.

I and my friends chose to take a full day trip on The Falla – an old-fashioned tall ship. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Setting off from the port in Cairns, it was a quiet morning and the water was calm.

Perfect day for a boat trip, I had thought. Around half an hour in, the wind speeds rapidly increased and the sky clouded over. The ship began rocking and my stomach began to churn. Within minutes my head was over board.

Did I mention that it was a full day trip?

While my friends took in spectacular views and enjoyed swimming, snorkelling and diving, I was huddled up with a towel over my head trying desperately to fall asleep. This was the only state that assured I was not constantly being sick.

Half way through the day, there were a few other ‘sickies’ as well. At one point, we were taken over on a rubber dinghy to this tiny sand island. The wind was strong that the boat was half capsizing. When we reached the sand mound, I collapsed and rested for 20 minutes or so. It did not help.

We then had to wade back to the dinghy to get back on the boat and I suddenly noticed several fins in the near distance. “They’re just reef sharks, don’t worry,” I heard somebody say. For a second there I thought I would be an easy snack!

As everybody enjoyed a buffet lunch on the return journey, I was largely in the land of the nod, which was better than the alternative.

*Touch wood* I have never suffered with sea sickness since, despite travelling on several boats.

How have I learnt to cope with sea sickness?

  • Stugeron 15 is my best friend when travelling on boats. I always take this a couple of hours before a trip and it has not failed me once.
  • Keeping still. Choosing a comfortable spot and keeping as still as possible seems to do the trick.
  • Sleeping. I always try to get some sleep during a boat journey.
  • Opting for catamaran boat trips. These boats glide through the water, limiting uncomfortable motion. I have never been ill on a catamaran – even on one occasion when I was hungover.

Do you suffer with sea sickness? How do you cope when travelling?






  1. November 27, 2011 / 21:57

    I just take Bonine and am fine, but I can never be without it!

    • November 28, 2011 / 20:56

      Glad you have found something that works. I guess once you know something does the job, it’s a less daunting prospect getting on a boat.

  2. November 28, 2011 / 17:36

    Hate sea sickness or motion sickness of any sort. Horrid feeling.

    One trick I’ve learnt is that ginger is a natural anti-nauseant, in any form. My favourites ~ crystalized and tea (made right from the root, with a little bit of honey). Gravol even make ginger pills.

    Best of all ginger doesn’t make you drowsy.

    • November 28, 2011 / 20:54

      I’ve heard ginger is good for this and natural options are always good. I really like ginger as well! Thanks for the tip.

  3. November 29, 2011 / 17:47

    I totally sympathise – I found those acupressure wrist bands with a ball in them that presses on a pressure point in your wrist make a massive difference. They got me through a very rough boat trip in Bali earlier this year in one piece. That and ginger as Emme says, and a supply of peppermints seems to help too, along with the old ‘look at the horizon’ trick.

  4. November 29, 2011 / 18:05

    Cheers for the tips, Lucy. I tried the wristbands on a 40 hour coach trip years ago (when I used to get general travel sickness as well). They worked great on land, but when I got on a ferry from Dover to Calais I was still really ill. The ‘look at the horizen’ idea has never worked for me. I really wish it did :-) I definitely like the idea of a natural alternative like ginger.

  5. December 2, 2011 / 05:06

    I’ve tried ginger and those little pressure point wristbands as well – they’re okay, but not completely effective! Which is sad, because my partner really wants to live on a boat. :)

    • December 2, 2011 / 14:36

      Aww no, I hope you find your sea legs as that would be pretty cool living on a boat! I wish I was okay on boats because they are a great way of getting around and seeing things – especially tiny islands etc. I guess there’s always a barge!

  6. January 18, 2012 / 20:20

    I’ll add a vote for ginger as well. My first transatlantic cruise they had ginger beer. It is a great thing. Really strong ginger flavor sometimes with little ginger bits floating in the soda. It is tasty even on land.
    That all said, I don’t really get motion sickness in the day walking around. Fresh air, sunlight and the ability to see the horizon help me. I get a bit queasy in the interior cabinways and took stuff for sleeping, but otherwise was ok.
    I do hope you figure out a way around it. There are so many amazing things to see from boats.