Sail Away

“Nothing, simply nothing beats messing about on the water,” said Rat to Mole, in my favourite book of all time, The Wind in the Willows.

And man, he was right! A boat trip, even if for a day, is pure luxury. If you haven’t been lucky enough to go on a proper boat (of course I mean a sailing yacht) and an invitation arrives, what do you need to know?


Firstly, what to wear. You don’t have to wear a navy and white striped top, though you can of course if you so wish. What you should wear for daytime sailing is layers. Depending on factors like the weather, the skipper and your own nerve, you may need to wear a life vest which are not the most comfortable things against the skin, so a soft t-shirt really will help here.


Start with suntan lotion, all over. Don’t miss an inch. Then trunks, shorts or light trousers and a t-shirt, with a light sweater or long sleeve shirt over the top. The morning might be fresh at sea but the afternoon, you’ll feel the heat and may need to cover up to avoid sunburn. The sun at sea is stronger. Don’t ask me why. For the evening – especially if you have taken too much sun – it may feel cold when the sun goes down. An overshirt or jacket may be good here.



Footwear is pretty key. Barefoot is best reserved for those who know the boat well. There are a million clutches, locks, and random pieces of metal all over a deck and your bare feet will be magnetically attracted to them. You may have to take your street shoes off to get on the boat, so have a pair of soft pale colour soles – like our white leather sneakers - to get on the boat with. If you are sailing to a destination, you’ll change out of these back to your street shoes.


Have a proper pair of sunglasses with a cord. Yes, you may look like your dad, but you definitely will stop them from falling overboard The sun reflects off the water and so proper protection is needed.

If you are staying overnight, don’t make the rookie mistake of taking the wrong luggage. Even on a Wally cabin space is limited. Number one rule is take a soft bag, one that will fold down easily. Packing such a bag is easier than a hard case, and you don’t have to worry about weight unless you’re flying to meet the boat somewhere.



The trick to looking smooth on a yacht is rolling and not folding your clothes. Creased linen looks good, but the rest of your clothes need to be as crease free as possible, ironing on board is not done.

Choose your clothes, remember layers, you’ll be able to rinse trunks out but take enough t-shirts and shirt to change a couple of times a day; you may go on land for dinner or another boat. You should always dress for food, even if it is the middle of the day on ‘your’ boat. T-shirt and shorts will suffice, but no bare bits at the table please. This goes for female company too. Sorry.

Put shoes, books, and anything heavy at the bottom of your bag.

Lay the clothes flat on top of each other and then once the whole pile is prepared, fold in any sleeves etc that are outside of the boundaries of the bag you are taking and roll the whole lot as if a snowball.

Lift the bundle and place in the bag and fill gaps with socks, boxers, scarves and other small items.

As soon as you arrive and are shown your cabin, take the bundle from your bag and simply unroll, hanging up what you can and squishing down the bag and stowing it away for the duration of your trip.

It is tempting to keep sinking the gins, but a hangover at sea is worse than ten toothaches, take my word for it. Drink water between each alcoholic beverage.

The ‘pass the port left’ saying you will have heard at every formal dinner, is a good way to remember the left side of the boat when it is facing forwards, is the Port Side. It will have a red light. The other is Starboard, and will have a green light.

Winches are wound to control the sails, clockwise for a fast wind and anticlockwise for slower.

If you hear the skipper shouting GYBING, duck / hold on to something. It’s just a turn but the main sail can whack across with ferocity, many a sailor’s scar is the fault of this fella.

Fair winds.

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