Health tips

On this page: Dehydration | Cramp | Seasickness | Sunburn & sunstroke | Sea anenomes | Doctors & dentists | Drugs | Pre-existing conditions & allergies

Some notes on some of the things to avoid and somethings you might like to do, to stay fit and healthy whilst you’re away.  Much of what follows may be obvious advice, but if it is, how come so many people don’t follow it?


A large percentage of people who complain of sea sickness are actually suffering from dehydration.  In many sailing areas the breeze does a good job of evaporating sweat as fast as it forms and so people don’t realise how much fluid they are losing.   Add to that the seemingly inevitable alcohol comsumption (made worse in many areas by the huge size of the measures compared to what we are used to back home) and most people simply don’t get enough (non alcoholic) liquid whilst they’re away.

The first treatment is to try to avoid it – try drinking 4 or 5 litres of water a day.  If you do succumb, you may well find some rehydration salts in the first aid kit.  If not, flat coke is apparently a good substitute (though I try to avoid it – horrible stuff flat or fizzy in my book).


The salt loss from heavy sweating can result in cramps.  This is not funny if it happens to you during the night, and no great joy for your sleeping companion either who risks being crushed as you try to work out how to get out of the cabin whilst racked with pain!  The good news for health freaks is that this is a great excuse for a plate of chips with plenty of salt on (though note it’s the salt that provides the benefit, the chips aren’t essential)!!


Being sick at sea is unpleasant but rarely fatal! There are also a wide range of approaches to curing seasickness and however wacky some of them seem, they do work.   The full list is on the Seasickness page so I won’t repeat here but do think positively – if you set out worrying about it it does seem to increase the odds of it happening.

Sunburn and sunstroke

The effects of the sun are worse at sea
The effects of the sun are worse at sea

Aside from degydration I’ve had a fair few people (myself included, bizarrely on an overcast day in the Solent) suffer sunstroke.  Many people severly underestimate how much sun and UV they’re getting so keep hats on and keep slapping on the suncream – it doesn’t last forever, especially if you go swimming!

Invest in a decent pair of sunglasses too.  An optician once advised me that you can get as much UV in a fortnight sailing in the Med as in a year in the UK.  Somehow I doubt this (any opticians out there like to comment)? but the gist is right.  I see lots of folk in very trendy looking shades who don’t realise that many are fashion items only and have very little benefit against UV.   You only get one pair of eyes so look after them – there are shades that will satisfy the fashionistas and give you protection  Those are the ones you trendsetters want!!

I would also advise contact lens wearers to take some prescription glasses.  A combination of the heat and breeze can dry out lenses which makes eyes not just uncomfortable but rather less effective vision wise!

Sea Anenomes

These are common in the Med and to some a great delicacy.   But the spikes on these little black balls are very painful once stuck in your body, and not easy to extract.  The creatures attach themselves to rocks so if you’re swimming around these, put some shoes on before you put your feet down!

If you are unlucky enough to get a spike or two in your foot (or elsewhere), try to pull it out gently, without breaking it.  Unfortunately this seems virtually impossible so plan B is to soak it out.  You’ve a choice of two liquids that work – vinegar or urine.  You pays your money, you takes your choice!

Doctors and Dentists

If you’re unlucky enough to need one, your yacht operator is a good source of advice about where to go, or if on Flotilla, the lead crew should be able to advise.  You may be pleasantly surprised with the service.

Don’t put things off – if you are taken ill at sea, head in immediately.  Don’t bank on a helicopter or lifeboat tearing to your rescue – we are rather spoilt with such services in the UK compared to what you might find elsewhere.


If you manage to lose or forget medication, be aware that in many places virtually anything can be bought over the counter from the local chemist.  It does help though to know what you’re on and guidance like “it comes in a blue packet” won’t help the pharmacist.  Always take a copy of your prescription (not packed in the same bag as your medication)!

Pre-Existing Conditions and Allergies

Make sure there’s at least one person with you who knows of any pre-existing conditions and drug or other allergies, so if the worst happens and you’re struck down, the most appropriate assistance can be given.