packing for sailing adventure

Packing List For A Sailing Adventure

Congrats, you are going sailing!  But wait, do you know what to bring?  Sailboats are typically intimate (and sometimes awkward) spaces with limited storage.  In other words, this would be a really bad time to over pack.  But, it could also get miserable if you don’t have the right gear.

First, get yourself in the right frame of mind.  Think, wind and water.

Ok, now find out where you will be sailing and turn to our good friend the internet.  Search for weather in that area and read up on what types of weather, humidity and wind conditions you should expect.  If you’re in the tropics, expect unbearable humidity that could make hot days feel oppressive. If you’re outside tropics, expect it to be 10 degrees cooler on the water vs. land.  If you’re sailing in the extreme latitudes…well, you’re hardcore and probably don’t need my packing list.

As for everything else, we’ve tried to think of all the major stuff you’ll want to have with you on the boat and on land.  We can’t speak for other boats but, if you’re coming aboard to join the Curiosity crew, here’s what we suggest.

Tip:  We’ve included some links below to get your search started.  Most links are to Amazon, if you click through and purchase within 24 hours we get a few pennies too, and that’s good karma.

The Super Important Travel Stuff

  • Passport – You won’t get far without this one. It’s a good idea to create digital scans (or take photos) of all your important cards and documents (credit, debit, id, passport) and email or save them somewhere you can retrieve them from any computer.  Hopefully you won’t need it…but better to be safe than sorry.
  • Travelers Insurance – It’s a good idea to have some sort of insurance…because we are going on an adventure and any adventure has risk.  Make sure it covers boating abroad, and not just land based adventures.
  • Cash & ATM Card – A lot of the places we visit don’t take credit cards, so cash is the only way to go. You can also pick up some of the local currency ahead of time at your local bank. Check the exchange rate online before filling your wallet, $10 in your country might be worth $2 or $200 in another country.
  • Medications – If there’s anything you take regularly, get plenty of it and expect getting more to be a challenge. If you even think you might get seasick come prepared with whatever your preferred method is (ginger, Sea Band, Bonine, or the sleep-inducing Dramamine) get it in your system early and have a backup plan (we’ve heard from other sailors the suppository pills work 10x faster than the oral pills).  This is for your happiness and the overall spirit of the crew. When one person is horribly sick it adds a damper to the entire day because everyone is now worried about that person.

Everyday Sailing

  • Suitcases – Soft sided bags only. No rolly bags or hard sided suitcases (Jason says he will leave them at the dock). Space is at a premium and there is nowhere to store hard sided suitcases. Duffel bags, back-packs, or tote bags that can fold or roll up are best.  We like these Compression Packs: or a full on dry bag duffel:
  • Polarized Sunglasses – You will probably want more than one pair. Maui Jim and Ray Ban both make high quality glasses.
  • Hats – Packable, with strings for windy days. Male or Female we have a few hats from San Diego Hat Company:
  • Rain Gear – Waterproof jacket and pants.  If it’s just a week you’ll be fine with just about anything, if it’s long term sailing something better quality like Helly Hansen cost a premium but lasts longer.
  • Gloves for sailing – We find that climbers gloves, or heavy duty work gloves, are great if you already own those.
  • Clothing – Always think breathable, light, dries fast and multi-functional.  Wool (yes wool), linen, bamboo and organic cotton are excellent choices.
    • Bathing Suits – Practically a uniform on a boat and you’ll want at least a couple.
    • Shorts – You will live in shorts and bathing suits most of the time. Board Shorts are great multi-functional pieces.
    • Shirts – tee shirts, comfy lightweight button ups (good for keeping the sun off your skin), long selves for cooler days and sun protection, hoodies or light jackets for night time.  Obviously if you’re visiting higher latitudes in the winter you’ll want a sweater or two.
    • Dress Clothes – The chance of us going anywhere with a strict dress code is slim to none. A decent button down shirt or casual sundresses are fantastic for days/nights on the town.
    • Scarf + Sarong – These are versatile pieces that keep you warm, provide a little sun protection and they look cool.  Here’s a link: Sarongs and Scarves
  • Shoes – If you want to wear shoes on the boat, make sure they are non-marking non-skid. You’ll need to clean the soles each time you board the boat in order to keep the deck clean, or bring a pair for boat use and one for street use. Otherwise, a sturdy pair of sandals and a pair of all-purpose hiking shoes (like these: will do the trick.

The Adventures

  • Camera (extra batteries, cards, etc…)  I like a compact, pro-level snappy cam like this:
  • Sunscreen – All natural, ocean friendly and nothing with bronzer or self-tanners in it (It stains everything). I highly recommend looking over this sunscreen guide and recommended products:
  • Backpack – We suggest a pack that’s at minimum water resistant but preferably waterproof like this one:
  • Lycra or Wetsuit – Lycra pants and top/rash guards or a wetsuit for diving & snorkeling. Also these help protect your skin from coral and sun exposure. Here’s a Link: Rash Guards and Wet Suits
  • Snorkeling/Free diving/SCUBA diving/Spearfishing gear – (tell us what you have, we’ll tell you what to bring.) Keep in mind some countries won’t allow certain items and some airlines won’t allow you to fly with dangerous gear.  We have this mask and snorkel for free-diving and snorkeling about.
  • Diving Gloves – These gardening gloves work well:
  • Extras – If you have a kiteboard, skateboard or surfboard (or anything large/awkward) that you want to bring, that’s awesome!  But let’s discuss it first.  We’ll want to talk it through and make sure we have space for it on the boat.

Fun & Entertainment

  • Favorite Game (cards or a board game)
  • Entertainment – e-reader/podcasts/music/movies (an iPad, Kindle, etc) Download everything while on land, don’t count on internet while we’re sailing.
  • Treats to Share – coffee, beverages, chocolate, gourmet jam…It’s always fun when people bring treats that have a story behind them, it helps kick-start the camaraderie.

Please Don’t Bring

  • Hard sided suitcases or bags with wheels.
  • Flat irons and curling irons are preferably left at home (they draw a lot of power) plus humidity will work against you. Natural hairstyles are best.
  • Fancy High Heel Shoes – one pair is fine for hitting the town but you most likely won’t wear them.
  • Hard Metal Watches/Jewelry – they damage the boat easily and can attract unwanted attention in some countries.
  • Fancy Clothes – sports coats, anything that needs dry-cleaning or special care.

Did We Miss Anything?

We’re still newbies and learning as we go.  So, we definitely don’t have it all figured out and are always happy to hear suggestions.  If you think of something we should add to the list, please let us know!

Want to know what to expect when coming aboard?  Check out this post:  Coming Aboard S/V Curiosity – What You Need to Know

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (40)

  • Wooden ship kit - Ages Of Sail

    That’s really nice post. Appreciate your skills. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ahmad Groby

    I agree with you

  • mike h, lic capt retired

    great list, i just want to add a few tips if i may. for insulin bring some injection pens they don’t need refridgeration, nudity- please don’t do it. it’s rude. little sealed plastic wallet on a lanyard are a safe way to carry cash on the hard. twenty years of chartering in bvi and i still love it. hope you all like it as much as i. if you go to the caves listen carefully, you might hear ben gunn cackling from the cliffs.

  • Linda Whalen

    One more thing.. these folks need to be willing to sign a waver so you can record them and post them. After all, video blogging is your career. I know I am looking forward to your “crew for a month” videos. Wish my hubby and I could get away for such a trip as he is former Coast Guard and I owned a motor boat on the Chesapeake Bay.

    • Yes, we have a contract they’ll need to sign before coming aboard. 🙂
      One can never be too careful.

  • Jake

    Don’t forget undergarments of all sorts. For some newbie sailors *cough* *cough* you can go through a few pairs. Also, while they may be a little spendy, a wool coat is helpful for nights on watch. While already on the list, make sure the rain jacket sheds water FAST. Nothing is worse than having a wet, cold, coat. Good deck shoes also help a lot. Even in light swells, the decks get slick. Deck shoes or shoes that get good grip and can be put on easily (keens) can be a lifesaver. I am sure a few fishing lures dipped in Holy Water wouldn’t be rejected either 🙂

  • Capt. Bruce

    Hello guyz from Capt Bruce in Florida.
    I have a couple of items you might consider adding or suggesting for guests

    If you were prescription (distance or reading) glasses, bring two pairs.
    One to wear and one to break. Also have you eye doctor give you
    a written Prescription for your eye glasses, in case they need to be duplicated.

    Same goes for those of us who need Prescription Lens in our sunglasses. Besides
    bringing 2 pair, always get the doctor to give you an additional written RX in the
    event you want to have new sunglasses made somewhere outside the US.

    As for seasickness, I highly recommend the round patches that you wear behind
    the ear. The trade name is called scopolamine. They are prescription meds that
    will need to be prescribed by your doctor. One patch ( behind either ear) works for 24 hrs
    They are rather inexpensive and getting an Rx for 48 patches is reasonable. Again,
    ask the doctor to also include a written RX in case you need to fill them outside of
    your normal pharmacy in the US. I have seen 48 PLUS being dispensed if you can
    reasonably justify the length of the trip. Personally, nothing else works for me during
    heavy seas but SCOPOLAMINE but you need to apply that one patch at least 24 HOURS
    in advance of needing them, so that the med gets into your system. The only side
    effect I have felt on occasion is DRY MOUTH, but as with ANY medication, this in
    combination with any regular prescriptions that you take should be discussed with your
    doctor at the time the prescription is issued.

    Medications (NON narcotic) Have your doctor provide you with an RX so you can
    hand carry meds like BP meds with you, and you should hand carry enough to
    cover the duration of the trip. NEVER place them into luggage that is being checked
    into the lower cargo holds, unless you don’t mind your meds accidentally taking a trip
    to the other side of the world, while you are watching JASON departing the dock for
    a multiday / week cruise where you bags will never catch up with you 🙂
    Again, request a written RX in case you need to have that medication refilled outside of the US.

    Check with TSA before departing, in case rules have changed, but its my experience that
    prescription medications can be taken aboard a US PLANE being carried in your
    carry on luggage. Liquid meds can also be carried in that carryon, and do not count
    towards your limitations of liquids being taken INTO THE CABIN. Again, always
    carry a written RX from your Doctor and DECLARE THE MEDS to TSA before getting
    into a Security Line. ALWAYS keep the meds inside the Pharmacy bottle to which they
    were issued, since that bottle describes the Brand, Dosage and Quantity

    ((( Ask me about INSULIN, needle, syringes and CPAP, Oxygen canisters etc if needed )))

    TSA is generally pretty kewl about approving your meds to be carrying onto the plane,
    in carry on luggage, even with things like Needles and Syringes …. AS LONG AS YOU DECLARE
    / TELL THEM AHEAD OF TIME so it doesn’t look like you are trying to sneak items in carry on luggage.

    Placing meds into bottles/containers where the Rx Labels do not jive with what the contents are
    supposed to be is a guaranteed way of having the contents seized by TSA. Dont try to save room
    by placing 2 bottles that should contain 30 pills each into one larger, improperly marked bottle that
    will fit 60 pills. Follow the labels to a tee, or chance seeing your meds get seized.

    Hope some of this is helpful to your passengers and guests !

    ///bruce/// OUT

  • Frank M

    Very nice list. There is, or at least used to be an organization based in the BVI’S known as the Charter Yacht Owners Association. They support and promote folks who own their boats and spend time doing crewed charters. Usually they do this as a supplement to their income as it is difficult to pursue it full time. They had a similar list, I will list here some additions I believe to have value.
    I know you have not decided to do actual crewed charter yet, but the conditions you propose for pseudo crew are very similar. I believe there is at least a 50% chance you will consider getting your 6pack ticket and take a few charters once you reach the Virgins.
    Shoes, most CYOA folks prohibit the wearing of ANY form of street shoe on board. Barefoot on board has always been the way, especially on the plastic boats where grit on shoes gets embedded in soles and makes micro scratches.
    A minimum of three swimsuits for a 7 day charter, most recommended 5 is better. Nothing is more disconcerting then putting on a cold damp suit into the morning.
    Drugs, do not attempt to fly internationally with any form of pills that are not in the original prescription bottles, OR copies of the actual labels and pharmacy reciepts. Depending on who’s working that day in customs and what their mood is, it can get ugly.
    Dive skins, there is a lycra ‘onesie’ known as a dive skin. It is typically worn underneath a wet suit in cooler water. Used by itself it becomes the right answer for tropical waters instead of neoprene. Packs very small. Will keep the sun off way better than a t-shirt or constant reslathering of sunscreen. Folks have been known to spend over six hours snorkeling in a diveskin with no sunscreen at all. I use a bandana for the back of my neck. Sunscreen with any form of parabens will stain even sunbrella over time.
    Dive Gloves, a lot of divers in the Caribbean are quite sensitive about people touching the coral or anything else in the water. Therefore they may become fairly belligerent about tourists with dive gloves. I have witnessed dive charter people confiscate gloves. Spearfishing cruising couples are viewed differently in that regard.
    Cash, cash is great, until, someone takes it. A thin moneybelt is a must for carribbean travel. Anywhere in the EU or Asia too for that matter. High limit credit cards are handy, but dangerous for casual walking around within open market areas with crowds of people, what works better, are Amex gift cards that can be reloaded online and if stolen are only at risk for the cash in the account. Debit cards should not be brought along much less used in travel situations.
    Clothes, my wife has a ‘charter’ dress. Bought specifically to not wrinkle, light to wear in the tropics, nice looking enough for a night out in a decent restaurant. Meant to pack small. Sarongs and similar things work very nicely too. American women need to be advised that on many of the islands parading around in a bikini anywhere off the beach is frowned on by the locals. There are multiple vendors who make mens shorts/pants with legs that zip off. These are very handy on board and on shore.
    Foul weather gear, FWG tends to be bulky to pack, experienced sailors will have their own. Landsmen will not, and are unlikely to venture out on deck in weather. I have FWG, I have both crewed offshore and crewed charter as a customer. I would not bring FWG on a crewed charter. I wouldn’t bring it unless planning to do passage making and watch standing.
    Motion sickness: different people tolerate the drugs and wrist band, etc, in a wide variety of response, there is no universal treatment that really helps, except one that I know off. In sailing yachts this method always works even though it is not convenient and maybe even a little scary for women. While underway, or immediately upon losing way, get in the water. The effect is almost instant, the temperature change and movement will have a dramatic positive effect. Be sure to tie off to a drag line if underway. 5 minutes in the water will make such a difference you are likely to be ready to eat something when you get out. This is a very old, salty kind of thing but is still valid.
    If the CYOA is still there, I believe you would do well to make contact. Time spent in the BVI’S doing a few charters might help boost the sailing kitty. The full timers I have known and supported never seem to last more that two years of full time chartering before they burn out. So I would not recommend it as a full time deal unless for a limited season.
    Best regards
    Frank M.

    • Frank,
      Your insight here is invaluable, it will no doubt help many cruisers. We’ll add a few to our list for sure. Thank you so much.

  • Jean

    Good list. Don’t forget hair ties if you have long hair. Loose hair is a hazard around sailing equipment.

  • Deborah Kerr

    Thank you for the link to EWG about the sunscreens!! Good information 🙂

  • Will

    Do you find one brand of deck shoes superior to others?

  • Andrea

    Nikki the one thing that wasn’t mentioned ( probably because it’s a given) were the cat’s. How will they react to strangers, do they warm up eventually or are they gluttons for affection. My cat is pretty particular about strangers. It also might be good to mention how does being in the open air affect allergies. I love watching your adventures. Keep them coming.

  • Jax

    I was thinking about money the other day, and if you’d do a post/video on it I think it’d be awesome. How do you handle money on the boat? Do you have a box of cash onboard? Do you visit local banks? Without visiting the US again, how are you going to get more when funds get low (ATM’S?)?

  • Tim Cramer

    I’d love to join you guys for a voyage….Adventure is my middle name! What do I need to do to make this happen?! Timmy C.

  • Hi Wynns!

    Great list which I will definitely tweak for boating in the PNW. We bought a bigger boat last year and look forward to having more people visit us this summer. Best to be really clear and my list will include some things we might need and can’t get easily.. like great coffee. We always tell our guests that we don’t expectant any reimbursement for expenses as we ar out on the water anyway. That said they love helping out in done way, wine, coffee, specialty groceries!
    Thanks again!

  • Will Barns

    One final comment – to search for the Under Armour Heatgear product, search for UA Tech™ ¼ Zip
    Men’s Long Sleeve Shirt. The Under Armour site will show you the product I own, and you can read comments there.

  • Will Barns

    When cycling on an island you may want to try the Specialized reflexsun UPF 50 bicycle jersey or whatever it is called these days. Specialized is well known for their quality bicycles. My jersey has 4 small pockets on the lower backside. One of those pockets is zippered. I cannot say whether it would be comfortable while riding on a tropical island with high humidity, but I wear it on warmer but drier days where I live. I’d rather be too warm than cooked. (The Specialized web site says: VaporRize™ microdenier moisture transfer fabrics developed for UV protection, Three back pockets and welded security pocket, Full-length zipper, Slightly higher neck for additional sun protection,
    DeflectUV 50+, and Form fit.

  • Will Barns

    A lightweight and long sleeve shirt that I really like is the Under Armour heatgear (Loose). I always wear it on a sunny and hot day to give me protection from the sun. I burn easily and I’ve never burned on the arms when wearing this plus it is very comfortable. This is a great tool for keeping the skin healthy on long drives when my arm is partially in the sun all day. I think it is more comfortable than a short sleeve shirt and (right or wrong) I usually don’t wear sunscreen underneath the sleeves.

    Another long sleeve shirt that works for me in the sun but is less comfortable (IMO) and I only wear when it is a bit cooler is the Columbia OMNI Freeze Zero (OMNI-WICK EVAP).

    Both of these shirts have short zippers at the neck which I like.

  • isa

    Not all travelers insurances covers such activities as boating or sailing. Be sure to read all the little letters on the insurance contract!

  • Bri

    Thanks for this list, Nikki! We leave for our charter vacation in the BVI in a little over 2 weeks and I’m alternatively panicked and excited about getting everything pulled together beforehand. 🙂 If you’re in the area we’d love to meet up with you (i remember you saying something about being in the BVI in April a while ago, not sure if that’s still the plan). Hope all’s well aboard Curiosity!

  • Clinton Andrews

    For just a moment…mind you, just for an instant…I thought this was an invitation! Rats! Well, maybe some day. Thank you for all your videos… I thoroughly enjoy watching them…and actually can’t wait until the next one comes out. Makes my day when it does. Keep up the good work. And Happy Sailing!

  • Trey Scavone

    Two things I would add that you are perhaps too polite to mention.

    1. A great Caribbean attitude. Leave your watch and timeline at home. Things move slow in the islands so plans change constantly. Kick back and enjoy the lack of solid plans. That doesn’t mean nap on deck while others are chipping in on the daily chores. Volunteer to help and don’t be offended when the say it is easier if you let them do it. Cruising couple develop a system and sometimes “helpers” kill their flow.

    2. Pack little something specifically for the host. It is not like you are staying in their home. It is more like you are staying in their car…and they also live in their car. And it is expensive for them to have a car. it should be something small and perhaps consumable. They don’t have space to store the inflatable mermaid or the mosaic vase you made at the craft fair. Think more like really great scotch or a gift card to West Marine or Amazon. Picking up the tab for dinner is always appreciated.

  • Jen

    A PFD! I’m sure you have enough PFDs on board to be coast guard approved. But if someone interested in coming aboard already has one, heck they should bring it!!

  • Alan Coe

    Having taken over 40 guests on charter cruises in the Caribbean this is the list we give them:
     – Swimsuits (min 2, one to dry, one to wear) & cover-up
    – Shirts—tees, polo shirts, sun-shirts (3-5)
    – Shorts—quick-dry, zippered pockets (2)
    – Quick-dry long pants, long-sleeved shirt (UPF) for travel and ashore
    – Evenings ashore: Ladies: capris, top, sundress  Guys: lightweight slacks/shorts, shirt – very casual
    – Shoes/onboard—non-slip, non-marking, closed-toed (eg. deck shoes, Crocs, Keens) – mostly you will be barefoot
    – Shoes/ashore—sandals, water shoes, bare feet
    – Rain jacket—hooded, lightweight, breathable
    – Hat—ballcap, visor, or sun hat (with tie-down or the wind will blow it away)
    – Sunglasses (polarized if possible), retainer strap. Bring a spare pair.
    – Sailing gloves if you wish to handle lines (not required)
    – Beach towel
    – Sunscreen,lip balm, aloe
    – Floatable soap, shampoo/conditioner
    – Personal flashlight (small) or headlamp
    – Camera, phone, books, magazines
    – Suitcase/duffel bag (soft sided, collapsible)
    – Passport
    – Debit or credit card, Cash ($500 should be adequate)
    – Ipod/music – There will be speakers onboard to connect to and a portable blue tooth speaker
    – Snorkeling gear; mask, snorkel, fins
    – Daypack to take things ashore
    – Ziplock bags – protect things going ashore or put wet things in
    – Bug spray – for ashore
    – Eye Mask, ear plugs – unless you wish to always be up with the sun or hearing everyone who snores!!

    What you will not need:
    – Electric hair implements – no 110 for hair blowers or curling irons
    – Jewelry – will tarnish quickly and easily lost
    – Electronics that need charging (exception – camera, ipod) – there is limited electric

  • Sarah Johnson

    This is a ocd travelers dream! You kids should just start a magazine. Or a help hotline!

  • Kurt

    Two things.
    1. Collapsible water bottles. ( like these ) Most places you want to bring the water with you, even to town. Local bateria is just that – local. Avoid the temptation of the water fountain unless you are 110% sure. Lifestraws work, but its looks a bit odd (& perhaps rude).
    2. Shoes – if you have been wearing them in town, take them off before getting on someone else’s boat & leave them on the dock. As mentioned, they can damage gelcoat and they carry everything, into a clean boat.

  • Lisa Bee

    Oops! Diving mask links to the wetsuit page!


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