Gear you should always have when sailing

In this article we will discuss some essential and not so essential gear you will need to bring with you when you charter as yacht with Kavas Yachting.

In my tall ship days I heard a story of how in the early 1990’s Russian sailors aboard the sail training ship Kruzenshtern had been at sea for several weeks when they arrived at a tall ships festival in New York.

A group of them were told they could do a run ashore so made sure they had what they needed, and went into Manhattan wearing only their shorts and knife belts (with 9 inch bladed knives and a 9 inch marlinspike each). No shirts, no shoes – they never wore them at sea…

Needless to say the local police weren’t too happy to find a bunch of heavily armed, shirtless foreigners in their city and after some rough and tumble they were returned to the ship under orders to put shirts and shoes on, and leave their sailing tools aboard ship.

Knives and marlinspike

At sea, as long as body parts don’t get stuck in winches, clothes are optional.

Your knife belt isn’t.

Sailing knife and marlinespike

You should carry a decent, sharp knife that can be used in just a second or two to cut away any problems.

Your foot might be in a bight of sheet when it tightens and you could have to cut the sheet to avoid being thrown over the side.

A marlinspike is a nail shaped piece of hardened steel that you use to break knots or for other general rigging tasks.

On tall ships this piece of kit is still more important than clothes as you could be 110 feet up the mast when you need to work on something immediately and can’t hang about shouting to the deck for one to be sent up the gantline.

Aboard a yacht? You should certainly have one among the crew, though all good sailors have their own.


Sailing gloves

Let’s face it you won’t have hands that are so hard you can put a cigarette out on your palm without feeling the pain as you don’t sail for a living.

Your hands may blister quickly from rope handling so after the knife, your next most important piece of kit should be a pair of sailing gloves.

These generally have a suede or leather patch on the palm and this, not your skin, will be burned with the line running through your hands.

Sun block

Sun block Sunshine reflects off the surface of the water and can cause sunburn far faster than the sunshine ashore at your home in Birmingham.

Countries in Northern Europe have some of the highest skin cancer rates in the world because we see the sun so rarely that when we do see it we binge on it.

It seems crazy that people will risk skin cancer just to look a little more attractive for a few weeks on their return home.

With rare exception the most interesting parts of you will be white anyway… Wear a high Sun Protective Factor (SPF) sun cream for the first few days to tan and then put the sunblock on.

Better to be pale and interesting than to attract the partner of your dreams only for them to care for you as you die of melanoma.

Wet weather gear?

offshore sailing gear

Particularly with global climate change we cannot guarantee that you will have 7-14 days of bright sunshine. You should if at all possible at least have a good quality coastal sailing jacket with a hood and a fleece collar. On a wet day there’s nothing more comforting than being on deck with your hood up and the fleece collar around your neck. It feels as if you’re watching the filthy weather from elsewhere.

This part of the world however is very warm. At sea you may prefer to sit in a rain shower in just a tee-shirt and shorts rather than putting on your foul weather gear and soaking your clothes in your own sweat? This is a conundrum we all face from time to time. On a cool evening when you’re touring the bars the sailing jacket will keep you dry even while you’re soaking your innards.

Clothes and shoes

Don’t bring too many clothes!

For some having three changes of clothes a day is the normal and having just the right clothes for every occasion is a necessity. Yes, bring a reasonably smart outfit for the odd decent dinner or when prowling for night time fun, but us sailors are a scruffy lot at the best of times.

There isn’t the storage space aboard for more than one change of clothes a day and many people sailing might question even that much.

Bring swimming gear. There are some fantastic places to sunbathe and swim that aren’t accessible from ashore.

deck shoes You may not like wearing deck shoes and yachtie gear through the year. (Let’s face it unless you have a white beard and wear a blue peaked cap the yachtie look isn’t amazing when you live in central Berlin) You should however have a pair of rubber soled, fast drying shoes that don’t leave marks on the deck.

Basically, deck shoes!

These can cost as little as €30 and will serve you well for your trip, even if they next come out of the cupboard for your next trip with us in 12 months’ time!

Your clothes should be lightweight and capable of being layered for warmth.

Cotton Traders make a line of fast drying clothes, as do Ben Sherman and a few other outdoors targeted brands. The idea is after a good soaking you can hang them up in the sunshine for an hour or so and they are ready for action.

This also applies to outer layers – you should bring light sweatshirts or hoodies. Two tee-shirts beneath a sweatshirt is fine when it gets cold in the evening.


This might horrify some but you will often be out of mobile signal range and therefore unable to access Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Kavas Yachting is able to provide on boats a WiFi access with a small fee, which is 80 € per week. This includes 8G of data transfer

For those quiet evenings at anchor, have your Kindle or good old fashioned book. Kids may ‘need’ their games consoles though won’t be able to play online all the time. Have an iPod of music and perhaps even pack a game of Monopoly for everyone to play.

It may be a good opportunity for parents to declare a ‘digital diet’ while you come sailing with us. After a few days suffering withdrawal symptoms people usually recover and may come to enjoy the offline world sufficiently to break free altogether. Given how ‘connected’ we are all the time, this is no bad thing.

Little luxuries...

Bring the odd little luxury that you might not find in Greece. For all the talk of ‘Ever Closer Union’ it will be 1000 years before Marmite becomes popular outside of the UK, and sauerkraut isn’t something the Greeks think highly enough to consume themselves. If you’re flying in, keep your little luxuries light in weight. Don’t bring a crate of finest Munich beer as the airline will charge for excess baggage!

Finally, baggage and protective gear

tablet-waterproof-case If at all possible, bring lightweight, waterproof baggage that can be rolled up small down below. You’ll use it twice – once on arrival and the next time on departure. Don’t have something so big and flexible it can’t be stored out of the way.

You’re at sea and things will get wet below.

Keeping your iPod / iPad / Kindle in a waterproof case while at sea will save you from trouble down the line.

If a wave comes from the bow and pours down the main hatch on a beat, and trashes your €1200 iPad Pro that has been rattling around in the saloon, it isn’t Kavas Yachting’s responsibility!

Plan of sailing vacations in the Greek waters? Read this interesting post as well:

Unique things to do in Greece


That should have just about covered your needs and essentials for sailing with us. Life aboard is about having fun and is not a fashion show. Enjoy the sailing and fun ashore, but travel light while doing it! If you have any other suggestions, comment below and we’d love to hear it!

See also ↠ Before departure briefing

Richard Shrubb