Hannah Cotterell
Written by
Hannah Cotterell

A packing survival guide for your first charter

Posted on Thursday, May 23, 2019 | reading time: 5 min

The packing rule

There’s an age-old rule about packing.

Lay everything out on the bed, then reduce it by half. The theory? You basically never use most of what you take with you! This can be especially true when it comes to sailing in glamourous sunny locations where your main attire is a swimsuit, a hat and some beer goggles.

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However, packing for your first yacht charter when you don’t have much boat experience can be a little daunting. No need to fear, our top tips will keep you covered.

Baggage or should I say bag…

Used to cruising through the airport with those super hip four-wheel suitcases everyone’s pushing around with ease? Well, I’m afraid on a boat that’s just not the done thing. Hard walled, wheely bags are the worst thing you can take on a boat, they take up loads of space and the wheels can damage nice teak floors and polished decks.

“You’ll have to resort to good old fashioned muscle power.”

Use a soft duffle bag swung over your shoulder, that’s squishy when it’s packed full and folds away nicely into a locker when you’ve unpacked. It may be annoying to carry your bag around the airport but you’ll look like a seasoned pro when you arrive at the boat and everything fits snuggly into place.

Weather’s weather whatever the weather

One thing’s for sure on a boat, the weather can change its mind at the drop of a flipper and if you’ve not come prepared, trust us, you won’t win the fight.

From baking hot sunshine to monsoons and downpours, make sure you take enough kit to cover all bases. Whether you’re going somewhere that looks like an island paradise or not, always pack full wet weather gear. On a boat, once you’re wet, it takes longer than normal to get dry (you won’t have a dryer), so better to avoid that situation altogether. If you do get wet, make sure you have a “quick dry” towel with you, normal towels sit around below deck never quite getting dry and before long it starts to smell a bit musty! So avoid being the smelly person, use a quick dry towel, hang it on the guard rail for an hour and boom you’re nice and dry.

I’ve got my new shoes on…

When it comes to shoes you’ll want some close toed, light soled, non-marking deck shoes. Doesn’t sound quite as sexy as those loafers or nice stilettos you had planned? Well sorry…

“Leave the foot swagger for the dock.”

Shoes like normal trainers with black soles mark the deck and you’ll end up taking them off and running around barefoot, stubbing your toes! A good pair of docksiders or white soled training shoes are a must!

Hello sunshine!

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Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and UV resistant clothing - no you’re not going to the desert but trust us these are now your best friends. Just remember, the sun is twice as strong when you’re out sailing as the sun reflects off the water causing you to burn twice as fast. In addition, don’t get caught out by cloudy days, the sun’s UV is equally strong when it’s overcast, this is when most people forget to protect themselves and it all goes wrong. Start every day with a layer of sunscreen and be sure to wear a hat at the least, otherwise, you run the risk of looking like a burnt lobster for the first week of your holiday.

Show some coral love

Us sailors always check the bottle, many sunscreens have coral harming chemicals in them, like oxybenzone (which is also not good for people). This can be left in the water when you swim, leaving these substances to be absorbed by our beloved corals. These chemicals contain nanoparticles that can harm coral reproduction and growth cycles, leading to irreparable damage and bleaching.

“So be uber cool, read the bottle and protect our seas not just your burn!”


Take a reusable water bottle. The seas are full of plastic these days and most sailors avoid plastic like the plague. You’ll need to drink more water than normal on a boat anyway so be sure to put your name on it as those pesky things have a habit of going missing.

Not feeling so groovy? Seasickness advice…

If you think you might be prone to seasickness, one thing’s for sure, if you wait until you feel sick it’s too late to do much more than get in your bunk and pretend it’s not happening or get up on deck, stand up (don’t sit down) and look at the horizon. As long as your brain can see that you are moving (to correlate it with what your inner ear is telling it), things generally get a bit better. Another good tip is to get on the helm; steering the boat generally helps a lot more than sitting down even if that’s what you feel like doing.

There’s a range of solutions out there from wrist bands to pills. If you want to take sea sickness pills remember many of them require you to start taking them 24 hours before you get on the boat.

“If you’re going to throw up, here’s another rule for you, aft (back) deck and downwind!”

Our sailing holiday packing list

Well, we hope that’s been useful or at least given you food for thought, remember if it’s not practical you probably don’t need it. So we’ll leave you with our packing list just for fun!

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  • Sunglasses
  • 50+ sunscreen and after sun (non-chemical and coral friendly)
  • Swimsuits
  • Underwear
  • PJ’s
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Foul weather gear
  • Hat
  • Quick dry lycra clothing
  • Water bottle
  • Soft waterproof duffle bag
  • Watch
  • UV sun vest
  • Deck shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Toiletries
  • Some nice clothes for dinner
  • Mask and snorkel
  • UV lip balm
  • Knife or multi-tool

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