If you are renting a sailboat and it has been a while since you have trimmed the sails, there are a few items that you should always bring along that may not be supplied by the boat’s owner.
Here is a list of the most important items needed for every sailing adventure. You can check with the boat’s owner, or the listing on GetMyBoat to see if the boat you are renting has any or all of these items.
Every boat will come with enough life jackets for all passengers. Combined with the movement of a sailboat on the water and the fact that sailors move around the boat, a lot, it is highly recommended that your wear a life jacket at all times while sailing. Do not worry; that does not mean you have to strap on the old, foam, orange life vest. PFD technology has come a long way. Now there are thin harnesses that drape over your shoulders and are secured around your waist. Some PFDs inflate automatically should you fall in the water. These days, there is no excuse not to wear your life jacket. Accidents happen, and, on a sailboat, some can leave you with reduced capacities. If you are prepared and wearing a life jacket you can reduce the risks and have fun – instead of worrying – while on the water. Information for selecting, caring for, and using your PFD can be located on the official website of the US Coast Guard.
In the old days, the only questions captains asked a sailor were “Can you tie a bowline?” and “Where’s your knife?” You should have a knife that is strong enough and sharp enough to cut through a half-inch of synthetic line. Why? Because with the pressure that wind puts on sails, lines get extremely taut. If a line gets stuck, tangled, or jammed, it can quickly impact the stability of the boat and the safety of the crew. When lines must be cut, they need to be cut immediately!
Unless you sail in a biosphere, the weather is unpredictable. Sure, the forecast may call for sunny skies and 15-knot winds, but the history of sailing disasters is filled with stories of good weather gone suddenly and extremely bad. It is a lot easier to stay calm and collected when you are dry and comfortable instead of not wet and cold.
Whether you are sailing a Sunfish for an afternoon or a yacht on a multiday charter, bring your “foulies.” What are foulies? The term refers to a windproof, waterproof jacket, bib pants, and boots. Many sailors claim that the boots are the most important part because being able to move around a boat in a storm can be awkward with footwear that is not designed for that purpose. Flexible, neoprene boots with sure-grip soles are a must.
Yes, a paper chart. If you are sailing into unfamiliar waters, you need to know where the water is shallow, where hazards exist and, of course, how to reach your destination. Electronic GPS chart plotters are great, giving you a real-time image of your boat on an electronic version of a paper chart. However, paper charts make it easier to plan your route and, well, electronics sometimes fail, freeze, or malfunction. Sailing with paper charts for backup is essential.
If your boat does not come with a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio, you can purchase inexpensive, handheld versions that are powerful enough to communicate with land-based stations (marinas, coast guard, etc.) and other boats. Monitor Channel 16 in most areas and you will hear all official communications to mariners in your area, including any local warnings or other concerns. The VHF radio is also your link to help should you need it.
The promise of sailing is self-propulsion. With nothing but the wind, delivered courtesy of Mother Nature, you can go anywhere in the world. Think about it! You are not dependent on gasoline to get you anywhere. With a sunny sky, a well-stocked galley, and the wind at your back you are free to wander like many adventurers have for thousands of years.
So, go for it! Cast the line, trim the sails, and head out for your adventure. When you are prepared, you will forget about your land-based troubles within a few minutes and be free to follow the wind wherever it takes you!