What sailing gear should you bring if you are going to crew on someone’s yacht?
It can be a difficult decision because you want to have the ‘right’ stuff but you also don’t want to arrive with a huge suitcase of unnecessary sailing gear. although the yacht owner is primarily responsible for providing your safety gear, I would suggest that you also consider your safety – should something go wrong – as a major consideration.
Here is my list of Top Ten pieces of sailing gear you need to bring along:
When it gets dark the best thing you can have to find your way around a strange yacht is a LED headlamp. The first important benefit is that it leaves your hands free to work, doing tasks such as sail changes, holding on down below and making a coffee. The best ones are just one piece (not a separate battery box) and have the ability to shine in red or have a red lens that folds down over the headlight.
The best headlights will not be found at a $2 shop, you want something like the Petzl headlight that will survive a bit of rough handling and of course – look for one that is water-proof to some degree.
Coming from a skiing/snowboarding background, I have seen hundreds of people whose day has been totally ruined by not having a good pair of goggles. For sailing, it is imperative that you bring a pair of goggles with you just in case the weather turns really nasty. Your eyes are so important for making good judgements and play an important role in staying balanced and not getting sea sick.
Get a quality brand like Scott Goggles or Smith Googles and look for clear lens goggles. If you are careful with ski goggles they will last you for 10 years – keep the original box and always dry them off and put them away. Never use paper (tissues) on the lens and put them on BEFORE you go outside!
3. Polaroid Sunglasses
If you are unaware of the advantage of using a polaroid lens in your sunglasses, I can only say that you won’t find a serious sailor out there without polaroid sunglasses. They reduce the amount of glare coming into your eyes from reflected light and this allows your iris to stay wider open – improving your sight.
When looking for sunglasses stick with a reputable brand of Polaroid Sunglasses and remember that you only get what you pay for. Make sure that they offer UV protection for your eyes as well. Like good goggles, put them away into a hard case when not in use.
4. Life Jacket
You might think that this is the skipper/owner’s responsibility to supply you a life jacket however there are a few good reasons why you should bring your own:
- You will always know where it is and be able to find it quickly in an emergency
- You will know that it is serviced and up to date and not been sitting around untouched for years
- You will know it fits, how to put it on, and will have jumped into the pool at home to see what it is like to activate it – won’t you?
You should look for a Life Jacket with the best features that you can afford – I mean it’s your life we are talking about!
5. Handheld GPS with local charts
I know that you trust your skipper for the navigation and safety of the vessel and you should use your handheld GPS unit to do two things. Firstly you should take some responsibility for checking that you are going the right way and that there are no obstacles around. Your skipper has many responsibilities and you can act as a back-up navigator ensuring the safety of your journey.
Secondly, you can use the data from your GPS to keep another log book with distances, speeds, conditions etc. so that you have a nice memento of your journey. Again, look for a GPS unit that is within your budget and you might like to take the battery life into consideration when making a choice. I have a Garmin GPS and it has served me for over 10 years without any problems.
6. Personal EPIRB
As stated above, you may assume that your skipper/boat owner will provide adequate safety measures such as an EPIRP for the yacht in an emergency and it would be a serious oversight if they did not. I can guarantee that your significant other will be more than happy for you to invest in a personal EPIRB for your adventure. They will sleep better at night knowing that you have this little bit of insurance with you the whole time.
A Personal EPIRP will allow you to have control over your safety while at sea (to some extent) and not be reliant on others to remember to activate the ship’s EPIRB should an accident occur. Many lives are saved every year with an EPIRB and your live is valuable too.
7. Soft Duffle Bag
You will need a kit bag for all your belongings. The last thing a skipper wants to see is you turn up with a solid suitcase to bring aboard. A suitcase is hard to store in the nooks and crannies of a boat so find yourself a soft sports type bag to stow your gear into.
Your bag will become an important storage place and you need to be able to fit it into any area assigned to you. You may even be sharing a bunk/storage area with another crew member so try to be as easy going and frugal in your required space while aboard. Find a sailing bag with plenty of pockets to put different items into – for example a pocket for electronics, a pocket for papers (log, diary etc), a pocket for secret chocolate supply…
8. IPod/MP3 player
You will always find time to sit back and enjoy listening to some music or some podcasts. Just remember that onboard everyone will need a little bit of quiet time. Even if you are a talk-a-holic, respect others space by being happy just doing your own thing while the time passes by. Of course, on the other hand, don’t be an anti-social person by continually having your earphones plugged in!
Grab yourself an iPod or similar and also check what recharging options are available on the boat. Most will have a 12V socket that you can plug into for recharging. Check with the skipper when is the best time. They may prefer you do it while daylight and the solar is charging or alternatively they may prefer you plug in only when the engine is running.
9. Alarm clock
Just remember that when out on a longer voyage you will probably have to get up to take your turn on watch. If you are a deep sleeper like me, you might find that you can rest better if you have a back-up alarm as well. I like to set my wristwatch for waking up and then have a small portable travel alarm clock (battery operated) as a back-up.
When looking for a Travel alarm clock you should also look for one that has a count down timer. We use this when out sailing by setting the alarm to go off every 15 minutes to remind you to get up and have a good look around for shipping and/or check the heading and conditions. In the middle of the night this may even let you doze for 5-10 mins between checking for shipping.
10. Wet weather gear
You will need to provide your own wet weather gear. Find something that is 100% waterproof for when it is pouring and you have to spend a lot of time outside in the rain. A water proof shell is fine because you can always vary the amount of layers you have on underneath to regulate your temperature and stay warm. I prefer a waterproof layer so that it is easy to stow and won’t absorb any moisture – therefore not needing to dry it off in-between use.
I do add a disclaimer that I have never been sailing out of the tropical zones so I can’t imagine what it is like to be sailing in really cold conditions. I have spent over 20 winters in the snow working outdoors teaching skiing and snowboarding and I know that I have always used layers of clothing to control my temperature. I also always had:
- Gloves – using dish washing gloves over the top for making them waterproof
- A neck warmer – these are the best item for pulling up over your face to keep out the cold. I still use mine for riding my scooter
- Thermal underwear
Wet weather gear is a really personal choice but I can assure you that being under-dressed is the one sure way to ruin a good time out on the water. Remember to keep an eye on your sailing companions because one of the first signs of hypothermia is drowsiness and loss of orientation. Not a good mix for someone out on the water in difficult and challenging conditions.
11. What do you think?
I hope that you enjoyed reading my opinion on things to bring. Please let me know of any others that you think need to be on the list of sailing gear to bring as crew. You can add a comment below or visit us on Facebook – http://facebook.com/thesailingpodcast and leave me a comment there.
Come and join David and Carina on their journey