What to Bring on Your Sailing Trip

In this chapter, you will learn about the practical and essential items that you need to bring along on a sailing trip. Specifically, you will learn about what clothes and footwear are appropriate for a sailing vacation, which tools and useful items you should have with you on the boat and which accessories and leisure items will help to enhance your trip. You will also learn about the critical medications to bring on a trip, as well as the food and water that you and your travel party will need.

Medication is especially important to have on hand for safety and health reasons, as you may not have easy access to a pharmacy should you need any over-the-counter or prescription medicines. The sections in this chapter include Clothes and Footwear; Useful Tools and Items; Medicine; Food and Water; and Accessories and Leisure Items.

Clothes and Footwear

When packing clothes and footwear for a boat trip, remember that the best apparel will be practical items. You will experience plenty of direct exposure to the sunlight, which makes SPF and UPF clothing useful. Consider swim trunks, a swim shirt or a ladies' swim suit with built-in UPF 50. This material protects your skin from sunburn. Choose light colored clothing in lightweight fabrics for additional sun protection.

A wide-brimmed hat helps to shade your face and neck from the sun while relaxing on the deck during the daytime. Shirts and cargo shorts or pants with plenty of pockets may also come in handy on the sailboat.

Rain gear is also important. A long rain coat that is resistant to wind and water can help you to stay dry while working on the boat's deck during a rain storm. The open water may get chilly at night, so a coordinating navy blue cardigan sweater will help to keep you stylish and warm.

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sailing-vessel-954837_1920 by Kriemer image courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

If you want to try traditional nautical styling, choose pieces of clothing within these categories that use stripes of red, white and blue colors and coordinate them with tan or light brown solids. If you plan to make any on-shore excursions, ladies may wish to have a tan colored skirt in keeping with the nautical theme, while gentlemen may prefer a pair of light brown slacks.

A pair of light brown loafers is appropriate for both men and women. The floor of the boat can get quite slippery when it is wet, so rubber soled shoes are your best bet as a part of your boating wear. You can choose soft soled shoes with individual toe slots, also known as barefoot shoes, or you can select a pair that has heel and arch support and added treads to maintain a strong grip as you move around the deck.

For dry weather, a pair of boat shoes is a great choice. These shoes look like athletic shoes but they have elasticized laces rather than laces that tie. This helps to prevent you from tripping over loose laces.

Useful Tools and Items

While space is at a premium on a sailboat, there are several essential tools that you should bring along with you. A handheld GPS or VHF helps you to navigate easily. In case of an emergency, a collision mat helps to protect the boat's hull and a personal locator beacon sends out a distress call when you activate it. A radar reflector helps nearby ships to find you in case your boat loses power. A sharp knife is useful in many ways, from cooking to cutting rope.

Dock lines and fenders ease the tie-up process when you come into port, while gear ties help to keep things tidy around the ship.

Fuel stabilizer insures that your boat's fuel won't go bad while it is not in use. You may also want to bring along a few waterproof boxes and pack your first aid kit, cleaning products, spare lights and extra fuses in them.

Cup holders and paddle brackets are also useful items to have on board. Also remember your personal identification, passport, fishing license and insurance information.


You will need to pack all of your usual prescription medications for your sailing trip, including your heart or asthma medications. Plan to bring along an extra 1 to 2 week supply in case of unforeseen delays in getting back home. You will also need a selection of over-the-counter medications, including motion sickness remedies, paracetamol and antihistamines. Motion sickness is the most common malady reported by people taking a sailing trip. Medication to treat motion sickness can help you to avoid feeling ill on your vacation. Eye and ear drips can alleviate pain and stinging from salt water exposure. Consider bringing digestive medications such as anti-diarrhea and anti-constipation medications. You will also need some basic supplies and ointments such as bandages, wet wipes, burn ointment, sun block, ibuprofen and antibiotic cream.

Food and Water: Offshore Provisioning

For every sailing trip, it is important to bring sufficient amounts of food and water plus some extra in case of delays or spoilage. Fresh food can spoil, so you will need to use it first and then switch to your supply of non-perishable items. Bad weather or illness could delay your return to shore, so plan to bring an extra week's worth of food and water for everyone on board.

Consider the preferences and dietary needs of your guests and crew. Also ask about any food allergies, as this could necessitate avoidance of certain food groups.

Look to nutrient-dense foods, including granola bars, oatmeal, canned meats and tuna. Include plenty of proteins, such as fresh or dried eggs, dehydrated or dried meats and dry or canned beans.

Grains and starches like crackers, rice, dry pasta and potatoes help you to feel full. Canned broth, spices and sauces help foods taste better.

Cheese, breads and canned juices add variety to your meals. Some frozen meals and fresh fruits are great for the first few days of your voyage.

Bring some snacks such as dried fruit or chips. Beverage mixes like tea bags and coffee help increase your comfort.

Drinkable water is your most essential item. You will need 1 gallon of water per person per day, with some extra in case of bad weather. You may also wish to bring some bottled or canned juices, soft drinks or alcohol if your guests desire.

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bottles-60479_1920 by Hans image courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Safe food storage is critical for avoidance of gastrointestinal illnesses while sailing. Consider your boat's capacity for freezing and refrigeration.

Your budget is also important, as canned tuna and water are less expensive than smoked salmon and soda. If you will have any off-shore meals, keep that in mind when planning how much food to bring.

If you are chartering a sailboat, the company will pack the food and water based on your preferences. Charters have plenty of experience with provisioning but the cost per meal may be higher than if you did your own.

Accessories and Leisure Items

Accessories and leisure items are non-necessities for your vacation, but they are crucial for your entertainment. Some popular leisure items that you may want to bring based upon your preferences and destination include fishing gear, digital or film cameras, snorkeling equipment and a laptop computer with Wi-Fi. You may also wish to have beach balls, a set of dice, a deck of cards and a few board games to keep occupied in the evening hours. A media or music player also provides nighttime entertainment. If you like to read, bring your e-reader or a thick paperback novel. Something to keep your hands busy, such as a knitting project, can also be helpful for relaxation.

Consider that exposure to saltwater could ruin any electronic devices that are not fully sealed. These items are not essential, so keep in mind your boat's storage capacity for such leisure items.


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