“I really admire your sense of what’s important”, said our skipper a couple of years ago, when we showed up at the pier with one cabin-baggage-sized case per person, embarking on a two-week holiday.
To be absolutely honest, hard-shells are not the most ideal type of luggage for a boat (flying on business all the time, that is the most efficient way we know how to fit everything we might need in a limited space). But compare that with a sorry sight of droves of charterers dragging their huge suitcases, sports bags, and God knows what else around the marina every weekend, and you begin to get the skipper’s point. Large luggage is not a sailor’s friend, and most of the stuff that goes into it will stay untouched for the whole holiday anyway.
With the Mediterranean holiday season in full swing already, and “Must-pack-this-and-have-to-pack-that” guides springing up on most lifestyle and fashion blogs, we decided to compile an alternative list of the things that we and other people we know have found useless on a Mediterranean sailing holiday. It must be mentioned here that by “sailing holiday” we mean going on a trip in a small (up to 60ft) sailing yacht, with intent to sail at good speed, swim, anchor off beautiful beaches, and moor in small village harbours. If you are planning a trip on a fully crewed, 5-storey-high motor yacht that goes to glamorous marinas, our list need not apply (and then you probably have enough space for your things not to care).
So whether your friends have invited you to spend a week on their boat in Greece, or it’s your first time trying to learn sailing in Croatia, these are the top five things you really, really do not need, head to toe:
- Hair dryer, straightening iron, curling tongs, and whatever else you normally use to get your hair clubbing-ready in the city. It’s your holiday, and your hair deserves one, too. During the day you will be exposed to sun, wind, and salt water, if you are swimming. If you get off the boat in the evening, people on shore will know you have been sailing, and nobody will expect you to look like you just stepped off a magazine cover. In addition, not every boat has electrical sockets that can be used for a hair dryer. Fancy carrying one to shore in an inflatable dinghy? Totally not worth the hassle. And, if you decide to have a shower in the marina or one of the harbour restaurants, most of the better ones will have hair dryers at your disposal.
Instead, make sure your hair stays healthy by using shampoo and conditioner with UV filters (travel size bottles!), and bring a suitable head cover for the day. Baseball caps and jersey bandanas work best – straw hats tend to blow away in the wind.
- Decorative cosmetics, nail polish, and jewellery. As we mentioned previously, at sea, natural beauty works best. We once watched a friend try to do her nail polish on deck, and we don’t think she brought nail polish on a boat ever again after that experience (you know who you are, so let us know if you did ;)). A marina is not a parking garage – even if moored on a quay, the boat never stops moving. In addition, most nail polishes react weirdly with sun creams, changing colour and flaking. With jewellery, anything dangly and twisty that can get tangled or stuck in the mechanical parts of the boat or the lines should be avoided. Also, don’t bring expensive jewellery or watches – things slip off or fall overboard and end up in salt water (if not the bottom of the sea) more often than you’d imagine.
Instead, bring a well-equipped first aid kit (not all charter boats have their kits properly stocked, and you may not be able to read the instructions on the medicines in a foreign language), and enough high quality, SPF 50+, water-resistant sunblock. After years of doing water sports, we swear by Daylong products. They have a light texture suitable for sensitive skin, do not need to be re-applied during the day, and are perfectly resistant to water if you use them correctly. To avoid skin irritation, make sure you carefully wash off your sun cream every night. If you can’t have a proper shower on land, makeup remover wipes work best.
- Tailored clothes that crease easily. The space in the yacht cabin is usually pretty tight, and chances are, whatever you bring will stay in your bag for the whole duration of the trip. If the clothes are creased when you take them out, you will probably not want to wear them anyway. We have also heard of people who bring portable irons on holiday, but this is definitely not the time or place to do it. The last thing you need on a constantly moving boat is a fire hazard in a form of an iron that someone forgot to unplug (if you can find a socket in the first place). If you cannot imagine yourself stepping off a boat in anything but tailored clothes, try natural fabrics like wool and silk, and hang them up in the closet when you embark. The boat environment is humid enough to straighten them out without steaming (Artie tried this on his new blazer this trip, and it worked like a charm).
Instead, invest in some good quality technical clothing, such as sailing trousers, lycra, and stretchy board shorts. The fabrics used these days have UV filters, are lightweight and breathable, and dry easily if you get sprayed with water of fall in while rowing a dinghy. For the evening, jersey polo shirts, chinos (long ones to help fend off the bloodthirsty mosquitoes), and knitwear will work just fine. And, don’t forget a good quality sailing jacket – it gets pretty windy even in very warm weather!
- Your laptop. It’s a holiday, remember? Even if you have the best intentions of doing some work on board, you won’t, we promise. Below deck, staring at the screen may trigger light (or not so light) motion sickness, and the cockpit is no place for electronics when you are sailing – water, salt, and the high risk of things falling overboard should be enough to discourage you. Besides, electronics charge much more slowly from a boat battery than they do on land, so the fewer gadgets, the better. Check your emails on your phone, and if you can’t fall asleep without reading a book, stick to a small tablet.
Instead, make sure you keep your electronics safe (we have no illusions you won’t bring any) by putting them in water-resistant cases and/or getting a good quality airtight dry bag for when you need to carry them to shore to charge them or use the Wi-Fi (restaurants and bars will let you do it for free if you spend some money with them).
- Non-sensible shoes. For women, this means all kinds of pumps, stiletto heels, and super-strappy sandals embellished with Swarovski crystals. There’s just simply no surface on a boat where wearing heels would be safe or advisable. On land, you might be faced with cobblestones or unpaved paths, which are not much better. As for straps, you want to avoid anything that would rub your feet (the risk is amplified in the heat and after exposure to salt water), as even small wounds take ages to heal at sea. For men, no huge non-breathable sneakers or dress shoes with leather soles. On a boat, salt is everywhere, even when you don’t see it, and it attracts moisture during the night. There is a good chance the sea will be the last thing your shoes see, so opt for something comfortable, that you might not mind losing.
Instead, bring a pair of flip-flops (foam and silicone, with no leather or stitched parts, so they don’t rub), and a pair of good sailing shoes with non-slippery soles.
If you have never been on a yacht before, we sure hope you do try it, and this helps clear some things up. If you have any questions about sailing in general, feel free to drop us a line. See you on board!