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Sailing Crew Guide

Sailing Crew Guide

What to wear, pack, eat and do while sailing


Pack and dress almost like you’re going camping in rainy weather (except don’t wear hiking boots on board):

Rain jacket

Rain pants

o Even if it doesn’t rain, the deck will likely get wet and you won’t want to sit unless you have waterproof pants.

Soft-sole shoes, ideally waterproof.

o If you don’t have waterproof soft-sole shoes, use some other soft-sole shoes with waterproof socks (e.g. neoprene) or put plastic bags over your socks.

o Do not wear hiking boots on board.

Thermal underwear – non-cotton

Warm coat or sweater meant for outdoor activities

Warm cap

Waterproof hat

Sun hat

Gloves – ideally gloves you can use to pull ropes and grab cables.

Avoid cotton. When it gets wet, it holds the water against your skin.

Dress in layers. The weather can vary from warm to cold, and from dry to rainy, multiple times per day.

Do not over-pack. Space is limited inside the boat. If you can’t carry it in a single bag, you’re probably bringing too much.

The boat should have at least one heater, so in the cabin overnight it should be warm. Also, the boat should have a hot water heater so warm showers are possible.

Food and water

Coordinate with other passengers regarding who will bring what. Most food and water will be shared. Bringing too much is almost as bad as bringing too little.

The boat should have cooking and eating gear like pots, pans, dishes and cups. But you might want to bring a water bottle with a flip lid, to avoid spills.


The boat has fresh water but usually it doesn’t taste great so bring separate water to drink. Best option is large jugs with spouts.

Each person should expect to drink about ½ a gallon per day.


The boat will have a refrigerator but capacity is limited. Also the temperature is likely to vary widely.

Bring just the right amount of food and water for the trip. Some people are tempted to bring lots of fun food. Resist that urge. Space is limited, especially in the galley (kitchen) which is also the navigation station. What we don’t eat will either go to waste or get carried off the boat (which is more annoying than usual toting). And excess food prep means excess clean-up.

Also remember that part of the fun is to visit restaurants at various destinations. Take eating out into account when planning what food to bring on board.

Finally, most destinations sell provisions. So if you decide you need something more, you can probably get it during one of the stops.

See also “vestibular comfort” below for snacks that help with nausea.


The boat will have a stove, oven and possibly barbeque. It is possible to cook under-way (while sailing), docked or at anchor. It’s fun to cook but it also means more clean-up, and clean-up needs to happen promptly after each meal. So it might be worth saving cooking for special meals, like breakfast or dinner at anchor.

It’s great to make coffee or tea in the mornings. The boat should have a French press and a kettle (but probably not coffee or tea).

Otherwise, consider bringing food that does not require much preparation. E.g. pre-made sandwiches, healthy snacks – especially hydrating snacks like grapes and watermelon.


The galley (kitchen) is also the navigation station so the area must to be kept clear. Food gear gets in the way, and tends to fly around when not stowed. We’ll need to clean up and stow food and gear immediately after eating, each time. 


For overnight trips, you should also bring these:

Sleeping gear, e.g. sheets and blankets or a sleeping bag

o (The boat will have berths, a.k.a. beds, but might not have sheets and blankets)


o Sunscreen

o Earplugs for sleeping

o Soap and/or shampoo

o Tooth brush, toothpaste, floss

o Etc.


o Boat has a shower but probably not soap, shampoo or towels

Cell phone charger

Flashlight (e.g. head-mounted) and spare batteries

E-Reader or a book

If you’re really into sailing, you can also bring these:


Hand-bearing compass

Rigging knife

Charts or chartbooks of the area

Coast Pilot for the region (e.g. Coast Pilot 7 for Puget Sound)

Navigation tools

GPS and spare batteries

Vestibular Comfort

Do you get sea-sick? If you’ve never been sailing, you might not know for sure. But if you get motion sick, for example if you can’t read while riding in a car, then you might be susceptible to motion sickness on a boat. That’s okay though! Lots of sailors go through that and there are steps you can take to prevent or mitigate symptoms:

Bring drugs (and take them before you get on board).

o Dramamine comes in 2 varieties. It comes in travel tubes.

o Scopolamine is a prescription drug that astronauts use when they go into space. You can get pills or patches.

Bring ginger in various forms.

o Ginger ale, crystalized ginger, ginger pills, etc.

Look at things on shore or at the horizon.

o One reason people get sick is because the mismatch between what you see (a stable cabin) and what you feel (rocking motion). So look off into the distance.

Feel the wind.

o Cool breezes make people feel better.

Remain active.

o A good way to remain engaged is to drive the boat! It keeps you looking into the distance, keeps you above deck, and keeps your mind occupied.

Avoid going below deck.

o Going below limits your view of land or the horizon and makes the mismatch worse.

Get it out of your system.

o Lots of people will just get sick and don’t know how to avoid it. But after they toss their cookies, they begin to feel better rapidly.

o Just stay down-wind of everybody else. E.g. stay near the stern (back) of the boat and face down-wind.

o Do NOT go into the head (bathroom) to throw up. Being down there will make you feel worse.

Early indicators of motion sickness

These clues indicate you might be becoming sick:


Cold sweat


Unusual quietness – especially people who are normally talkative.

Pale lips and skin


If you notice this happening to yourself, do something right away to make it better.

If you notice somebody else acting that way, recommend they take the steps above, especially getting above deck and looking into the distance.


Part of the fun of sailing is the sailing itself. It’s very fun and everybody can learn to do something even if you have never sailed before. And if you’re experienced then it can be very helpful to rotate through roles. But as long as there is enough active crew, you don’t have to do anything – you can just ride and have fun in other ways.

Here are roles and responsibilities:


The skipper is responsible for everybody and everything on the boat. Skipper steers (operates the helm) and gives orders to the crew (like what ropes to pull when, and requests for navigational activities).


The crew helps the skipper drive the boat, dock and anchor. Mostly that entails pulling on ropes and sometimes tying knots. You don’t need prior experience; most people can start to crew with only a few minutes of training, which you can learn as you go. You can decide at any time to help crew the boat.


The navigator helps answer where are we right now, and where are we going? That involves (among other things) looking at stuff through binoculars and reporting what you see, so that’s pretty cool, and most people can do that without prior training.

Other than that, navigation involves a specialized skill set. If you’ve taken a course in navigation and want to practice, this role is for you. If you haven’t taken a navigation course but want to learn as you go, it’s possible to learn while sailing – just say so and we’ll make it happen.

Time table

Trip planning




Casting off

Returning the boat