What types of clothing should be worn on your first sail? Sunglasses, brimmed hat, and loose fitting clothes may well be sent flying if foul weather gear, harness, tether, life jacket, and sea boots are needed. Also consider lip balm, sunscreen, and a bottle of water, since a strong sun and breeze cause dehydration. How long you’ll be sailing and where you’ll be going play an important role in the types of gear you need so it’s important to recognize the conditions you may encounter before setting off.
Guest Crew: Occassional Daysailing in Good Weather
- Life jackets Every boat in US waters is required to have an approved PFD on board for each person. Check with the owner or skipper whether you will be expected to bring your own. There are both traditional and inflating life jackets, the inflating category breaking down further into manual and automatically activated types.
- Non-skid, non-marking shoes: While it feels great to go barefoot, a stubbed toe is always a downer. On a sailboat there’s no shortage of deck cleats, pad eyes, and other hardware to bash a wayward toe. Also, wet decks are slippery and in order to prevent sliding, non -skid shoes are recommended. Slits that spread in the sole of non-skid shoes and boots allow the rubber to grip the deck. The soles of the shoes should be white, as ugly black marks on the deck take a good scrubbing to remove.
- Jacket: It is nearly always cooler on the water than it is on land. The wind can make conditions seem surprisingly cool, even on a hot summer day. Windchill cuts the temperature by a little less than one degree for every knot of apparent wind. Conditions can change quickly on the water, whether it be an approaching fog bank or a rain squall and a light jacket is useful as a windbreaker and to shield you from the elements. If expecting heavier rain and wind conditions, use foul weather gear.
- Sailing Gloves: Sailing gloves protect the palms of the hands and fingers up to the first knuckle from the line handling on board. Designed for hands that haven’t developed calluses, they are often worn in races where the hoisting, tailing, and grinding are frequent.
- Soft duffel bag: Stowage on sailboats is nearly always an issue. The art of cramming was perfected on boats, thus the preference for soft bags that are stowed more easily. Don’t forget to secure your bag before the sailing begins, or it may be bouncing around the cabin floor for the duration of the outing and, depending on the boat, sit in a puddle of pooled bilge water.
- Hat: Protect your face from the sun with a broad brimmed hat. Avoid hat-overboard drills by making sure it has a chin strap to keep the hat from flying off in wind gusts. Some sailors also use baseball style hats, but again ensure the hat is securely fixed.
- Sun Glasses: Glare off the water on a sunny day can be intense and harsh on unprotected, wind blown eyes. Polarized lenses are best for seeing through the glare. Make sure you have a way to keep the glasses from flying off your head.
Regular Crew: Sailing Often in Unstable Weather
- If you’re around boats long enough, you’re bound to acquire a collection of boat related tools such as a combination knife, shackle opener, and marlin spike. Cordage has to be cut from time to time, whether it is a line tangled in the propeller, or just some frayed ends that need to be cleaned up. Shackles frequently bind themselves beyond hand tight under loaded conditions of shaking sails. The shackle opener grants leverage to open most tightened shackles. The spike is used to pry stubborn knots apart and for splicing line together.
- Safety Tether and Harness: Prevention is the best prescription! The best way to avoid a crew overboard situation is to ensure that everyone is fastened to the boat. Tethers are strong lengths of webbing or rope with a heavy-duty clip at either end, many of which are rated to several thousand pounds. They attach to harnesses that ensure that the crew won’t accidentally slip into the sea. The clip can be disengaged quickly in the event of an emergency, and some harnesses have two lengths of webbing with clips—in the event one clip needs to be undone for moving around the boat, the other ensures the crew is always attached.
- Safety Whistle: A whistle on each life jacket is a good idea in case of a crew overboard situation. A small, inexpensive, high-pitched sounding device could save your life, having already saved countless before. Higher pitches carry farther and provide a more reliable signal to home in on, whereas just yelling expends precious energy and internal body heat. A whistle is also useful for signaling intentions to other boats in close quarters or meeting situations.
- Personal Strobe Light: Again, if you were swept overboard at night in a seaway, you’d want to have every chance of being recovered. A personal strobe light is a small light that attaches to a life vest or harness and, when activated, emits a very bright flashing light that can be seen for miles.
Cruising Crew: Overnight or Longer Voyages and Charters
- Foul Weather Gear: Water conducts heat more than 25 times faster than air, making a wet body a cold body. Fatigue has always been one of the sailor’s biggest enemies, and wet conditions can rob energy needed for clear thinking. The idea is to keep water out and keep warmth in. There are different weights of foul weather gear for different conditions. Match the weight of the gear to expected temperatures.
- Binoculars: Binoculars allow the mariner to extend his or her vision, a crucial ability in navigating. Whether trying to find the number on a buoy, or taking a bearing on a nearby ship to assess the risk of collision, binoculars are essential in a wide number of situations. The wildlife encountered in offshore and coastal passages makes a good set of binoculars an often-grabbed item.
- Flashlight: An operating and charged flashlight is likely to get lots of use on a sailboat voyaging at night. Whether to check the tell tales or to sneak down below to make a cup of tea without waking your crewmates to make a cup of tea, flashlights are your eyes in the dark.
- GPS: Satellite navigation has been a revolutionary concept for many sailors and with hand held units becoming less expensive and more accurate than ever, it is good seamanship to carry a spare GPS. The mystery of navigation can reappear as soon as the GPS goes on the blink.
- Hand Bearing Compass: A hand-bearing compass allows the navigator to take bearings on markers and landmasses for position fixes, and on other vessels to determine whether the risk of a collision exists. It is a good back up compass for steering in an emergency.
- Charts: Chart kits are a practical and economical way to have the charts and harbor details you need in an easy-to-manage book. They are also useful for pre-planning a chartered trip.
- Chart tools: Navigating tools minimize error when plotting position on a chart. Dividers, protractors, mechanical plotters, parallel rulers, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and chart tubes all aid in seaman-like navigation.
- Wind Meter: Take the guess out of windspeed. It usually seems windier than it actually is. Know your boat’s threshold for reefing precisely with an electronic wind meter.
Check with your skipper, since not only does this familiarize you with what may or may not be on the boat, but evidences interest in the boat and its gear. A good crew is a knowledgeable crew, and this applies not only to seamanship but also to the level of familiarity you have with the boat and its equipment. Again redundancy and spares are an important part of forehandedness, the ability to anticipate minor headaches, such as, misplaced navigation tools or non-working flashlights, and to come up with timely replacements.