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Packing for Yachting

You’ve got your STCW and ENG1 in hand… what else might you need?

I always pack light before joining a yacht, ideally hand luggage only. Now I realise that’s pushing it a bit for most of you out there so here’s a list of essentials that you should take, try to minimise the “other” stuff.

Main Travel Bag

Think wisely about your actual travel bag. If you’re just starting out, you probably have no idea what kind of yacht you might end up on. You could be getting a job on a 30m Sailing Yacht or a 90m Motor Yacht. As you don’t know what the storage will be like, I recommend packing your stuff in a foldable bag. I know, I know… foldable bags don’t generally have wheels and you’ll have to like, carry the thing… But trust me, when you realise how little storage space is on most vessels, you’ll be happy to be able to just roll that bag up and stow it under your bunk rather than having to put it in a bilge and hope it miraculously comes out dry. Or worse… have to leave it behind on the dock because there’s no space to keep it anywhere! Check out the North Face Base Camp Duffel Bags, they double up as backpacks so it’s easier to carry around. 

Now, let’s get packing:

  • Underwear: You can’t ever bring enough underwear. You never know if that washing machine is going to fail in the middle of an Atlantic crossing! I recommend a minimum of 10 undies. And… make sure to bring “uniform”-proof underwear. Most uniforms consist of white polos/t-shirts and tight skorts. I always bring along at least two comfy white bras (or skin-coloured if you prefer). Put on a white T and see what that green lacy bra looks like before packing it with your essentials. Same with undies, I recommend investing in a few “invisible seam” pieces, so they wont mark when you’re wearing your on-charter uniform. 
  • Socks. You really only need two kinds of socks for most places: (1) socks for your sport/hiking shoes (2) socks for your “guests-onboard-shoes” (generally these are of the tiny, invisible kinds that don’t show when wearing ballerina-type shoes). One major tip: try to get socks that stand out. My boat shoes socks are navy with a bunch of little red hearts. They’re a lot easier to pick out of the sock mountain than the all-black ones!
  • Shoes: The basics are: (1) flip-flops/jandals/sandals (2) sport/hiking shoes (3) a pair of all-rounder heals (for a night out on the town, that fancy meal your charter guests decided to invite the whole crew to). (4) Optional (though maybe necessary in colder climates): a pair of good sneakers though I use my sport shoes when needed. 
  • Dockwalking Outfit: Yup, the outfit… If you’re new and you’ll be out dockwalking bring one or two decent dockwalkig outfits. Think white polo and khaki/navy shorts or skorts. If you couldn’t find something appropriate back home, you can try Decathlon in Europe. That’s where I got my first white polos upon hitting my first Med season. You’ll find more info on dockwalking here.   
  • Beach Wear: a beach dress, a pair of shorts and a T – whatever your style is, two beach outfits is a good start. 
  • Swimwear: A bikini or full suit if you prefer, toss in two for good measure.  
  • Off-Time Wear: clothes you would want to wear when you have a day off and want to go for a walk around town, a pizza with the crew… One or two sets maximum. 
  • Dresses: One or two for the fancier night out with crew (or pants and a shirt if you’re not into dresses) and something suitable for a night out with guests. I have often been invited on the last night of the charter for a drink and/or dinner by guests. You don’t want to appear too slutty for this, so something you would dare to wear on a night out with your parents would be good. 
  • Chill Wear: I can’t travel without my “Cross-Atlantic Airplane Travel” pants. You know, the kinda jogging you wouldn’t want to mailman to see you in, but they’re oh so comfy, so he’ll just have to deal with it. 
  • Warm Stuff: I recommend to bring at least one hoody/sweater and a pair of jeans for the colder evenings, and throw in a light rain jacket too. 
  • Active Wear: Crew tend to get up to all kind of crazy things in their spare time, you might go for a hike in Dominica, walk the shelter dogs in Palma… Bring at least one sporty outfit. If you’re into your daily yoga sesh, bring at least two. Laundry doesn’t always get turned around as quick as one would 😉  
  • Purse: Pick your favourite one. One that goes with the dresses you chose above. You really only need one as you won’t have 3000 opportunities to show the thing off. 
  • Travel Towel: Most budget-friendly hostals in Europe won’t be providing you with anything so you will want to bring something along. I always travel with a turkish towel, they’re lightweight and great for a shower and a day at the beach too! 
  • A cap or hat: to protect that cute little head of yours when you’re out dockwalking or when you get lucky and get some daywork scrubbing teak/polishing stainless/…
  • If your hair needs it: a hair straightener. You want to look your best when you get that interview call! 
Okay… I know it seems harsh to travel so light, especially if you’re a “wanna-be-prepared-for-all-occasions” kinda girl. But trust me… You’ll go shopping. As soon as that first salary hits your bank account you will spend your next day off in a mall of some kind!

Backpack/Hand Luggage Essentials

So you’ve got your clothes figured out. Now it’s time to focus on what should go in your hand luggage, as in, if the airline loses your bag, you won’t die because your essentials are in your carry-on. When choosing your hand luggage bag, I recommend to think about the storage thing again. Hell, I love my cute, lightweight, hardcase Samsonite to the moon and back, but I know for a fact there’s no space for it on the 37m Motor Yacht I currently work on. Instead, I would consider a backpack. That way, if you go on a hiking or tour-around-the-island trip one day, you will have a backpack too. 


  • Passport (Ideally with any visas you might need – more info here)
  • ID (If your country has them – it’s better to loose your ID on a night out, rather than your passport!)
  • Driver License (If you have one, very handy as a stew as you might have to head out to provision for the yacht)
  • ENG1 & STCW (You must have your originals with you when you board a vessel – it’s a law) 
  • Any other original course certificates you might have, such as silver service, powerboat license etc.
  • If you have a personal medical insurance – contact details for these people in case of an overseas emergency (It’s always worth checking out the policy before leaving)
  • Your bank cards and bank details – once you’ve got that job you’re going to have to give the captain or management company a bank account in which to pay you – try and get your “international” bank account number – you’re bank should be able to help you out with this. If your account is in Europe, the IBAN and BIC/SWIFT code should do. 
  • Cash: don’t bring heaps but a few hundred dollars/euros would be wise in case you struggle with your bank card in a foreign country. On this note, contact your bank and make sure that your card will work in your preferred yachting hotspot
  • Business Cards: whether you are travelling with a job in hand or going to jobhunt, it’s always good to have some business cards made. If you’re going to keep your phone number (no more roaming within the EU he), you could make these at home and bring them along. If you are going to get yourself a local number once you get to your destination, I recommend you make the business cards once you get the number. 

In addition to bringing all the originals of your certificates and passport, you should also scan them and keep a copy in your email and/or a USB stick/hard-drive. In case you lose your certificates you’ll then be able to ask the school for a copy and in the meantime use your scanned versions. If you will be using crew agents in your job hunt they will require scanned copies anyway, so you might as well do this before you head off to a yachting destination.

  • Phone: Ideally a smartphone that will let you access facebook and emails so you can check out posts when you’re catching a train from one harbour to the other and be available for crew agents/captain calls. As soon as you land in your new destination, get yourself a local SIM card. Roaming is free now in Europe so one SIM should give you access to France, Spain and Italy – the main yachting destinations. Update your phone number on your CV and start sending out those emails!
  • Computer or tablet (You’re going to have to trawl the internet for possible job opportunities, forward you CV to yachts and agents… smartphones are good but they’re just not ideal for this purpose) 
  • Headphones – maybe that’s just me but I love myself a pair of good headphones, whether it’s to watch a movie in an overcrowded crew house or to drawn out children screams on long-haul flights
  • A multi-country plug adaptor: I’ve got one that adapts from and to European/American/Asian plugs and sockets. A must have for the seasoned traveller.
  • I highly recommend you bring enough of your personal medication to last you a season (6 months), especially if you aren’t sure your drugs will be available in your destination. Also, if your drugs requires prescription, bring a copy. My other half suffers from high blood pressure so we always make sure we have at least 6-12 months of those tablets with us and a spare prescription in case we do run out.   
  • For those among us taking a birth control pill: take at least six months with you. Alternatively, a few condoms wouldn’t be a bad idea in case you end having a spontaneous romance out there. 
  • I always travel with a mini first aid kit, that includes: anti-diarrhoea tablets, paracetamol or ibuprofen (for headaches etc), anti-acid tablets, a few plasters and antiseptic wipes or cream. You won’t always find a 24h pharmacy whilst you’re jobhunting. The good news is that once you are on a boat, they will have a full medical kit on board. 
  • Try and think of other conditions that occasionally affect you, even if you’re not suffering from it right now. I’m thinking rashes/eczema, hay-fever, dry eyes, thrush, bad reactions to mosquito bites… If you suffer from any of these kind of ailments, bring along some remedy for it.  
  • Travel with the basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, a soap bar (so it doesn’t count as part of your “liquids”), your favourite perfume and deodorant, a few bits of female hygiene products (tampons, liners…), nail clipper and file, tweezers, hair brush/comb, hair clips and ties… Remember that liquids should be less than 100ml or 3oz to be able to go into your hand luggage!
  • You will be able to buy the other bits when you get to your destination: sunscreen, aftersun, shampoo, soap, female hygiene products… No need to travel with these heavy items. 
  • Make Up: Everyone’s got different ideas on what should be in a basic make up bag… so I’ll leave that one up to you!
  • Jewelry: I don’t recommend bringing anything expensive. You will most probably end up in hostals and other budget accommodation before ending up on a yacht so I wouldn’t bring anything that is extremely valuable, whether it be emotionally or financially valuable. Bring a few pieces that will make you feel good on a night out and some subtle earrings if you like wearing those on a day-to-day basis. What I do recommend you should bring is a good watch. Time-keeping is important and though we often use our phones to tell the time, it doesn’t look very professional in front of guests.  
And finally, bring a pair of good sunnies! Most yachts spent a lot of time in sunny places, try to get yourself a pair of polarised sunglasses for extra protection. 

Hobbies & Other Interests

I’m big on photography so I invested in a nice compact camera that I take with me everywhere. If you’ve got a hobby that can easily travel with you, bring it! I’m thinking of cameras, drones and even kindles if your a keen reader. You’ll have some time now and again to enjoy yourself, so if it fits in your hand luggage, go for it!

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