The Equipment Roundup

So your first trip is around the corner, but you have no idea what you will need? We have all been there once! In fact, with limited area for your belongings on yachts and airline limitations, the question never gets old. So it is time for a post on the topic.

The Base Kit

What stuff you need depends heavily on where you are going and what you will be doing on the boat. In case you will have no responsibilities, the least you need is:

  • Documents: You are on a boat and might visit other countries. So remember about the essentials like passport, tickets and licenses.
  • Suitable shoes: Rubber soles with no profile are what you want to stay safe while walking around on deck. Additionally, they should not leave any smears on deck, otherwise you will be the person responsible to clean it up. Luckily, most shoes fit those criteria, almost any Converse or Vans Authentic clone will do, no need for special brands.
  • Sunscreen: You will be out in the sun all day. Water reflects sunlight, putting even more stress on your skin. So bring high SPF sunscreen and reapply throughout the day.
  • Sunglasses: Same reasoning as with the sunscreen and the effects can be just as bad.
  • Hat: Another crucial item for sun protection. If it is cold where you are going, bring a beanie.
  • Waterproof and Breathable jacket: Trips are planned months in advance. Apart from rough guidelines, you have no idea how the weather is going to be. Rain is a frequent occurrence and you do not want to be the person on board complaining about wet clothes and being cold. So better have a good jacket.
  • Normal clothing: When going to a bar/restaurant on land, you do not have to prove you are a sailor, so bring normal clothing and leave the sailing gear on the boat.
  • Swimming gear: The water is a stone’s throw away, after all.
  • Chargers: Bring a 12V phone charger and a power strip for land power. That way, you will always be able to charge your devices.
  • Books/Entertainment: While under way, there is not much happening, but you still feel busy most of the time. In case you get bored, it is nice to have entertainment.
  • Kitchen towel: Where I come from, bringing a kitchen towel shows you are willing to do kitchen work and is considered good seamanship. So never leave the house without a towel.
  • Flip-flops: Some marinas have beautiful showers, some have really nasty ones. In any case, bringing protection is advisable.
  • Sleeping bag/sheets/pillow/towel: Every boat is equipped differently. On some, you will have blankets, pillows and sheets, on others, you will have bar mattresses if you do not pay extra. Find out in advance what you can leave at home.
  • Earplugs: There can be all kinds of annoyances at night: Being in a cabin with someone else, fridge noise, waves caressing the hull or halyards beating against masts. Earplugs will allow you to get sleep in most circumstances, so pack them.
  • Mosquito spray: Even though mosquitoes do not breed in the sea, the land has plenty of breeding grounds for them. Having to close all doors and windows in hot weather is no fun either, so bring mosquito spray.
  • Seasickness medication: Ask two people about this and you will get four opinions. Options I heard of are ginger, Vitamin C pills, Stugeron, Superpep. They work for some but do not work for others. It does not hurt to bring a selection for testing purposes (placebo’s are real, after all).

Extras as Crew

So you want to do something on deck? That is great! The following will be useful for you:

  • Gloves: With synthetic rope everywhere on board, you will get rope-burn if you do not wear gloves on deck. Whether those are cycling gloves, garden gloves or made for sailing, they will do their job. Every now and then, you will forget about them either way and remember why they are important. Don’t overpay, rather treat them as consumables.
  • Knife: Most sharp folding knives will do, whether you have to cut a rope or slice an apple. It has a screwdriver? Even better! If you want something more sophisticated, a model with a shackle opener or marlinspike is a nice upgrade.
  • Watch: You might not have your phone on you at all times, so a watch is helpful. If it has an alarm, even better. Great cheap option: Casio F91W.
  • Lighter: Whether you cut rope into smaller pieces or see one fraying, having a lighter ready to fix it is a god-send that can not be substituted easily. So bring one. And if you get bored, learn how to do whippings to prevent future fraying.

Extras for Heavy Seas

You are ready to take things further? Then these things will be important to keep you safe and dry in heavier conditions:

  • Weatherproof Pants and Boots: If you are not spending the entire trip sheltered in archipelagos and expect to go through unpleasant weather, there may be water coming from above and below. So bring waterproof pants and rubber boots (with soles as explained above), or you will not be of much help to your crew when they need you most.
  • Waterproof Gloves: Being warm but freezing your fingers off is a terrible feeling. Wet sailing gloves protect you from rope burn, but not cold (not even the fancy neoprene ones). So to be comfortable even in a storm, bring waterproof gloves. I have heard good things about skiing gloves, but also about Nitrile-covered cotton gloves which cost around 2 € a pair. Experiment for yourself or buy a few pairs of the latter kind to be on the safe side.
  • Automatic life jacket: Some charter yachts still only have foam lifejackets. Those are a pain to wear around the boat and often not the safest option. So check if the boat you are on has self-inflating life jackets. If not, buy one. Reminder: You need to have a permit from the airline in question to fly with one.

Extras for Night Time Sailing

  • Layers: While it may not seem like nights are much colder, lack of sunlight, increased humidity and your metabolism craving sleep are major factors contributing to you feeling cold at night. Therefore, bring many layers and do not hesitate to put them on early. Once you get cold, it is hard to get warm again. Favor multiple thin over few thick layers. My favorites so far: A synthetic base layer, a thin merino wool sweater (can be replaced with thicker items or multiple ones), a soft shell jacket and the sailing jacket on top. Breathes well and kept me warm so far.
  • Caffeine: Falling asleep at the wheel under sail can have fatal consequences, so bring coffee or energy drinks to make night shifts easier for you and your watch buddy.
  • Headlamp: The headlamp will not help you see the water when it is dark and the moon is hiding, but it will help you tremendously with all work on deck or below deck. Do yourself and your crew a favor by buying one with a red light setting that can be enabled and disabled without cycling through white. Red light is much more bearable in the dark and your eyes will have an easier time adjusting to the darkness again.
  • AIS: It still irks me that so many charter yachts do not have an AIS receiver. Of course it is possible to spot other craft without one (and smaller ones do not have transponders anyways), but if you are in areas with heavy traffic, seeing which ones will pass easily is a big relief. For this reason, I have bought an “AIS-to-go” set consisting of a splitter (Glomex RA-201) and USB Receiver (dAISy) allowing me to retrofit any VHF-equipped yacht with it.

Extras for Experimental Purposes

  • Fishing Gear: There is a great book on the topic of fishing on sailboats and many people seem to do so successfully. I have never caught something myself, though, and I am not alone. Nevertheless, people say practice makes perfect, so it is worth trying.

Extras for Sharing the Experience

  • Phone or Camera: While there are people on YouTube that bring amazing filming gear on board, my personal preference simpler. I keeping my waterproof Sony phone always in my pocket, because I know in many moments I will be too lazy to grab my digital camera. However, when I have enough time for a good shot, the resolution and zoom of a digital camera (Sony Alpha 6000) is always preferrable.
  • Tracking App: Your phone is a versatile tool, it also allows you to track your trip, whether with any of the usual GPS Loggers or our currently-in-beta Blue Boat Log app that makes tracking, story-telling and sharing a breeze! If you have an iOS device, send us a message and we’ll add you to the closed Beta!

Now you are ready to enjoy your trip!