Some days at sea, like when you’re crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria, can feel like being trapped inside a washing machine.
Swell comes at you from two different angles, and when you are riding the south-easterly trade winds with 25-30 knots on your tail, it’s only a matter of time before someone on board starts to turn green.
Seasickness can strike at any time, but it’s generally worst when the sea lacks a rhythm and when you’ve got things to do downstairs where’s there is no fresh breeze and no horizon to gaze at.
Our third gulf crossing was the roughest we’ve had yet; so wild in fact that when I needed to go inside, I had to pop a pill, wait 30 minutes, then make the dash.
We ‘snacked’ our way across the gulf, propped up on beanbags in the breeze, and after it was done and dusted, I handed out prizes to category winners in the seasickness stakes!
A decade of passage making on, I’ve learnt an enormous amount about how to keep seasickness in check.
A firm fix on the horizon, fresh air and keeping your hands on the helm helps by bringing you in tune with the motion of the boat and the sea, and restoring your balance.
When it comes to remedies, I’ve tried just about everything: acupressure wristbands, natural oils that made me feel even worse, and various over-the-counter drugs of all strengths.
None have worked better for me than natural ginger, which I nibble, turn into cordial, tea and icy poles, and bake into cakes and cookies.
If you are a sufferer who has tried every pill, potion and gadget on the market, returning to ginger can be a breath of fresh air.
Why does Ginger work?
All available research points to the power of ginger’s volatile oils – gingerols and shogaols – that stimulate the production of digestive juices and neutralise the stomach acids that cause nausea and motion sickness.
Scientists believe that eating ginger stabilises blood pressure, which lessens nausea too. This is altogether different to the way anti-nausea drugs and acupressure bands work, by interrupting or shutting down messages to your brain.
While ginger can work miracles, it pays to remember that ginger is a natural blood thinner and, in very high doses, may cause heartburn.
I’m such a big ginger fan that I’ve devoted a section to it in my new provisioning, fishing and cooking guide for sailors and cruisers – The Hunter and The Gatherer.
Along with 160 recipes, the book is a guide to becoming more self-sufficient at sea: brew your own ginger beer, forage coastlines, fish, harvest, start a micro boat garden, bake sourdough, make yoghurt and cheese, and put together your own natural first aid kit and cleaning supplies too.
Try this tummy-calming ice
It’s quick to make, super refreshing and restores everyone from skippers to kids.
Honey Melon & Ginger Ice
Feeds 4, gluten-free & vegan
1 honeydew melon
2 tbsp ginger cordial 250ml (8.5oz) sugar-free lemonade or soda water
Cut the rind and seeds from the melon and slice it into chunks. Blitz with ginger cordial until smooth, then stir in the lemonade or soda water. Pour into a shallow metal tin, cover with foil and freeze for 3 hours or until frozen around the edges. Break up with a fork, spoon into bowls or cups and serve.