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Passenger Memories: A Cure for Seasickness

The Conservancy is always delighted to hear from former passengers and crew of the SS United States. In recent months, we've been regaled with memories from one of her earliest voyages, had our hearts stolen by a soaring, shipboard love story, and even checked in with one of the very few people born on America's Flagship.

We recently heard from John Rodes, who traveled aboard the Big U at age 11. Like many people not used to traveling at sea, John found himself struggling with an unfortunate bout of seasickness. However, he was able to find a cure in the most unlikely of places — the SS United States' swimming pool.

"I was approaching 11 years of age, and hadn't yet learned how to slightly bend my knees and use more leg muscles to absorb the upward swell of the deck — I was land-lumbering, having not yet acquired my sea legs.

And so I had horrible, inescapable motion sickness. I couldn't take a Dramamine because I couldn't hold anything down, after having insisted, against the steward's kindly advice, on eating far too much of the wonderful food at my first luncheon aboard the great vessel.

Trying to sit or lie down didn't work, so I started exploring, as i'd been doing before lunch. As I traversed the companionways from one deck to another in my wanderings about, I got an inkling about the leg effort mitigating my abdominal churnings, but that was not yet the cure.

As I entered the swimming pool compartment, I saw a single unbreaking wave, near a yard high, crossing the pool from aft to fore and back the other way, moving end to end every few seconds. It was strange to see the water moving so massively in an empty pool — every empty swimming pool I'd seen before had been pristinely placid until I'd started a ripple or splash.

At first, I thought somewhat indignantly, 'That's what my stomach is doing.' Then, 'That's what the sea's doing.' Then, 'Hey, if I get in the water that I see moving compared to the ship, [it] will move all of me with it, instead of the ship moving my innards around compared to my outards. And I'll feel better.'

Sure enough, seconds after I entered the water, the wave of relief lifted and lowered me, and at once, the ship appeared to be moving compared to me and the water, and I soon felt fine. I stayed in the water for most of half an hour.

When I climbed out, as I felt the lifting of the deck, and it falling slowly away beneath me, then returning upward, I noticed that the period of that alternation was the same as that of the back and forth movement of the wave in the pool.

Using the wave as an anticipatory guide, I began to alternate between bending my legs at the knee for the swell, and staying like that for a bit, then straightening up for the ebb.

After that, whenever the nausea threatened to return in full, I knew to renew my active standing, or return to the pool.

That was how the little sea within the great ship on the ocean taught me how to be a little like the sea when I was aboard the ship, and so cured me of seasickness for life."


John Rodes

Passengers relax beside the Big U's beloved saltwater pool. Pictured on the right, Caroline Wilson Craig, who served as a cruise ship model on the SS United States. Photograph donated by Caroline's granddaughter. Christie Craig; Used with permission of the Craig Family Archive.


The SS United States has created unforgettable memories for countless former passengers and crew. We can save this magnificent vessel for future generations, but we need your help.

Do you have memories of your time aboard America’s Flagship? Send us an email at

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