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Essential Sailing Gear for Getting Started

Essential Sailing Gear when getting started in a sailboat

We’re going to make this simple – a list of essential sailing gear to help you get started sailing. This covers the basic sailing attire, safety gear, and sailing items for crew.

Clothing for Sailing

You won’t need all of these items to get started sailing, but you will experience conditions that’ll make you think about the items in this in new ways. The first 6 items are essential clothing for sailing, we recommend starting there.

  • Base layers
  • Deck shoes/boat shoes/sail boots
  • Sailing jacket / rain coat
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or cap
  • Sailing gloves
  • Foulies
  • Undergarments (neoprene or wool)
  • Sailing trousers
  • Sweater
  • Canvas sailing belt
  • Cold weather: dry suit
  • Ocean trousers or salopettes

Essential Gear for the Sailboat

Your sailboat might already be equipped with many of these items. Again, it’s worth consider how you plan to use your boat and which essential sailing gear you’ll need.

Bare Essentials

  • boat compass
  • marine chart
  • flashlight
  • required safety gear
  • first aid kit
  • small tool kit or multitool
  • working anchor and rode

Cockpit Equipment

  • wind vane and/or handheld wind meter
  • barometer
  • Cockpit Mayday procedure card
  • compass deviation card
  • flashlight
  • boat maintenance log

Navigation Equipment

  • boat compass
  • handheld compass
  • GPS
  • chartplotter – make sure you bring updated charts
  • backup chartplotter – this can also be a laptop, tablet, or even smartphone
  • sextant & up-to-date navigation almanac
  • marine charts
  • Communication equipment
  • satellite phone
  • marine VHF radio
  • (handheld) depth sounder
  • signaling flags for international waters

Safety Gear

  • air horn or whistle
  • bosun’s chair for rig work
  • radar reflector
  • flares or LED signaling light
  • emergency weather radio
  • first aid kit – needs to contain at least
  • fire extinguisher
  • life sling
  • life raft for offshore sailing

Other Gear

  • 1 anchor for inshore
  • at least 2 anchors for offshore (preferably 2 storm anchors)
  • tool kit for minor repairs on rigging, sails, and engine
  • multimeter for checking the wiring
  • full tank of fuel
  • spare parts (plugs, fuses, etc.)
  • heaving line 50’-70’

When Passage-Making with Crew

It’s best for crew to pack light. These essentials can be divided between items that are always onboard and items that crew are responsible for bringing.

Crew Safety Gear

  • life jackets (PFD) – 1 per person
  • waterproof headlamp
  • harness and tether for offshore sailing

Crew Paperwork

  • passport for international trips
  • diving certificate
  • drivers license

Toiletries for Crew

  • towels
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • medications and perhaps medication for seasickness
  • soap
  • dry shampoo
  • deodorant

Other Sailing Gear

  • dry bag – to protect your precious gear
  • swimming/snorkeling/diving gear
  • fishing gear
  • sleeping bag in cold weather
  • cellphone and charger
  • electronics like an e-reader, tablet, laptop, camera, and chargers
  • ear plugs
  • 12V to DC adapters
  • power banks and spare batteries for all electronic equipment
  • outlet travel multi-adapters for international trips

Thoughts on Sailing Gear

Sailing can require a lot of gear, but it’s best to start with the most essential gear. Begin with less than you think you’ll need if you’re starting out on a sailboat. Over time, you’ll quickly discover the items you actually need aboard your vessel for the sailing you do. With this essential sailing gear list, hopefully, your task of gathering gear will be made simpler.

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