Sailing Essentials

Important Items to Bring on Your Boat

Packing for a boating trip is not unlike packing for an airplane ride. It begins with creating a list, packing your bags, and then anxiously hoping you haven’t forgotten anything!

If you’re new to boating, use our list below as a starting point, noting that the items you’ll wish to bring will vary based on the length of your trip and the current and forecasted weather conditions.

Looking for a new boat? Check out our current listings for sale.

Here’s a list of items that you absolutely need to have with you every time you’re out on a boat.

Passport & Boating Documents

Make sure your insurance papers, boating license, and registration are all on board, as well as some form of photo ID, particularly your passport if you will be boating internationally.  Read about what type of boating licenses are required.

Soft-sided Luggage

Try and get everything into soft-sided luggage like a duffel bag or backpack in order to maximize storage space on board. Hard luggage is more difficult to fit into closets and cabinets.

Smaller Grab-Bag

Items of importance, such as your wallet, cash, keys, passport, prescription meds, credit cards, and phone should all be stored in a small bag that is easy to grab and go in the case of an emergency. Also include in this bag a printed list of emergency contact names and phone numbers, your insurance policy number and number, and doctor names and numbers.


We hope this one goes without saying! Always pack more sunscreen than you ever think you’ll need. Choose non-oil-based sunscreens in order to protect your yacht’s upholstery and wooden finishes as much as possible. Lip balm with SPF and insect repellent are also recommended.


While sunglasses are recommended for passengers, they are essentially a must-have for drivers.  The sun can be particularly blinding while boating as the rays reflect off the water. Sunglasses also shield a boat operator’s eyes from splashing water so they can stay focused on the task at hand.

Polaroid sunglasses with UV protection can further reduce the amount of glare coming into your eyes from reflected light, allowing your iris to stay open wider and improving your sight.

Some sailors even swear by having goggles on board for when the weather turns really bad and you need protection from heavy rains but without the shaded lenses. 

Ziploc Bags

Ziploc bags or dry bags are great for more than just keeping money and electronics dry during day trips to the beach. You can also use Ziploc bags for dirty or wet clothes, and for sealing opened bags of snacks! Never underestimate all the uses there are for Ziploc bags on any type of trip.

Prescriptions & Seasickness Pills

If you’re prone to seasickness – and many people are no matter how often they go boating – consider packing seasickness or anti-nausea medication. Remember to also bring enough of your prescription medications for longer trips.

First Aid Kit

Always make sure your watertight or waterproof first aid kit is fully stocked before heading out, and includes all the usual suspects such as gauze, bandages, aspirin, antibiotic ointment and gloves. Flares, matches, a water-resistant flashlight and fire extinguishers are also a must.

When you buy a yacht through Van Isle Marina, our yacht brokers will make sure you know about all of the safety gear you are required to have on board.


Speaking of flashlights, bring an additional light on board that is kept separate from the first aid kit. Even better, a headband light for hands-free chart navigation and engine space inspections is extremely handy. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries!


Consider bringing DVDs and CDs with you to enjoy, which are more reliable than streaming services and don’t require special devices that need recharging. By all means, bring your tablet and smartphones too – most yachts will have a charging station or two. Also remember games, playing cards, pens and paper, and a few books and magazines.

Binoculars and cameras can also come in handy; binoculars for birdwatching and cameras for sunsets.

Sailing Knife and Marlinspike

For safety and convenience, consider carrying a knife and marlinspike secured to your belt with a lanyard. The knife is handy for cutting through sailing rope and the marlinspike can help pry open strands of rope for splicing. Folding knives with a three-inch blade and marlinspike work in a pinch, but a straight blade rigging knife and a separate marlinspike in a sheath is better in emergencies.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Make sure there are enough PFDs for everyone on board, in the appropriate sizes. Inform everyone on board where the PFDs are stowed.


Bring more than one cap or hat on board to protect you from the sun, cold, and rain. Consider a large-brimmed hat for sunny weather, and a breathable, microfiber material cap for nighttime watches to keep you warm.

Spare Clothes

Without overpacking to the extreme, we recommend bringing spare clothing, like a spare pair of shoes and a backup bathing suit. In the event that things get wet (as they happen to do aboard a boat!) and don’t have a chance to dry out, having extra sets will certainly increase your comfort on board.

Rainy Weather Gear

When it rains, you’ll want more than just a hat. For longer boating trips, bring a raincoat, bib-pants, thick socks, and sea boots geared to the conditions in which you’ll be cruising. Whether it’s warm or cold weather, go for modern microfiber synthetic layers, including thermal underwear and a neck warmer for better comfort.


If you’ll be sailing and using sailing lines, gloves are going to be a must to prevent blistered, rope-burned hands. Full-length sailing gloves cover everything except the tips of your fingers and provide the best protection when working sailing sheets, halyards, and anchoring rode.

Personal Locator Beacon

A Personal Locator Beacon or Personal Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is a small hand-held device that allows you to transmit a distress signal directly to the authorities in case of an emergency. Your yacht comes equipped with an EPIRP, but personal EPIRPs are available as added peace of mind.

Some types of these devices are available with strobe lights, which can greatly assist during man-overboard situations.

Hand-held GPS Unit

A hand-held GPS unit could be handy for anyone acting as backup to the skipper, or for use on shore for day hikes, for example.


Unless you plan on catching your own food every day that you’re on board, make sure your galley is stocked with enough sustenance for the duration of your trip, or enough to get you to the nearest port.

Fishing Tackle

Does your tackle box need a top up?

Items to Leave on Your Boat

Some items only have to be packed onto your boat once, when you first acquire your boat:

  • Kitchen supplies like cookware, utensils, cups, plates, bowls etc
  • Beach towels and bathing towels
  • Cleaning supplies (vacuum cleaner and mop)
  • Toiletries

When it comes to packing for a boating trip, we hope the above list helps you determine what is most important to bring. Many of the yachts for sale at Van Isle Marina come with more than enough storage space for you to leave some of these items on board year-round. We also have storage lockers available to further assist with your boating supplies while you moor with us.