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What To Wear Sailing On A Yacht 2021 Helpful Guide

A friend invited you sailing or you have decided to learn to sail and are headed out for the first time. Your going on on a 30-40 foot sailing yacht for the afternoon. You want to stay comfortable and be not too hot, not too cold, and not feeling like a soggy sponge all day.  Your clothing choice can make or break your first day sailing. If you are planning on going sailing on a 40 foot yacht you’ll wear very different clothing than on a 14 foot dinghy. You want to know what to wear sailing on a yacht.

Are you sailing on a yacht or a small sailboat

So you’re going to go sailing and want to know what you should wear out on a sailboat? The first thing to ask is how big is the sailboat because wardrobe requirements are drastically different. If your sailing on a keelboat that is 20 feet or more then you are in the right place. If you’re going out on a small boat, probably less than 20 feet without a keel then please see my guide for what to wear sailing on a small sailboat.

See the below video for an idea what sailing on a yacht is like and what people are wearing.

What to wear sailing on a yacht

Bathing suit and/or quick drying breathable shorts

Unless it’s really windy your probably not getting wet on a big sailboat. Going upwind you might get some spray if it’s blowing over 20 knots. For the most part the boat won’t be getting you wet. If it’s hot out you don’t want to feel hot and sweaty. Quick drying clothes made from breathable fabric are a good idea. Even though your not swimming bathing suits still work well.

Gill Men’s Expedition Shorts

  • Quick drying
  • Low profile Velcro adjustment on waist
  • 2 deep thigh pockets
  • Zippered thigh pocket for secure storage
  • 50+ UV Protection: Lightweight, cool, and comfortable nylon fabric with durable water repellent finish

breathable quick drying shirt

Quick drying and breathable “technical” shirts work well for sailing. You might have to do some work grinding winches and pulling lines and don’t want to be a sweaty mess. Long sleeve tech shirts provide sun protection and no one wants to get a sun burn.

Gill Mens UV Tec Zip Neck Top

  • MOISTURE-WICKING FABRIC – The UV Tec Zip Tee is made from ultra lightweight pique fabric that actively wicks moisture away from the skin.
  • 50+ UV PROTECTION – The UV protection built into the fabric to protect you against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and allows you to get on with the job on board.
  • FLAT LOCKED SEAMS – This lightweight fishing shirt features flat locked seams for superb comfort, preventing rub or chafing.
  • HALF ZIP DESIGN – This breathable fast drying shirt has half zip design which allows for ventilation when needed or close fully for weather protection.

Non-streaking shoes

If you don’t want to make the boat owner unhappy. Don’t wear shoes with soft dark rubber soles. They leave scuff marks all over the boat that someone has to rub out later on. Boating shoes with light colored bottoms are best. These typically have a good sole that has grip on fiberglass when wet too.

Open toed sandals and flip flops are a bad idea. There are a ton of metal hardware pieces all over the boat that you can easily trip and cut your toes on. When sailing upwind the boat will be heeled over 15 to 30 degrees and won’t be the easiest thing to walk on.

Dockers Men’s Castaway Boat Shoe

  • 100% Leather
  • Rubber sole
  • Heel measures approximately 0.75
  • Mocc-toe loafer featuring two-eyelet lacing and slotted collar

Sailing Gloves

When sailing on small boats most of the time your holding onto the ropes. If it’s windy you rarely ever want to cleat ropes off. Sailing gloves protect your hands from getting rope burn. They are similar to weight lifting gloves or batting gloves or any other gloves that have a leather palm and finger surface. Your hands will thank you after a day of pulling in and hanging onto ropes.

Gill Men’s 7242 Short Finger Champion Sailing Glove

  • Offset finger seams to remove pressure points and reduce wear
  • Pre-shaped construction fits your natural hand shape
  • Wide neoprene wrist band with stretch
  • Wraparound palm protection eliminates uncomfortable side seams. Inside facing wrist closure prevents accidental starting of watch. Dura-grip fabric on palm construction providing incredible levels of grip. Improved abrasion resistance and grip

Sun hat or cap

It’s good to have some sun protection while out on the sailboat. Hats provide shade for your head and block the sun from your eyes as well. Any hat that is breathable will work well. It is a good idea to use a hat leash on any hat you bring on a sailboat. The wind is really good at removing hats and throwing them over into the water.

Gill Race Cap

  • 100% Nylon
  • Hook and Loop closure
  • FEATURES: Wicking inner headband Clear front for team branding 50+ UV protection Retainer cord with clip
  • Technology: 50+ UV protection. Lightweight water resistant fabric.

Sunglasses (with a strap if you want to keep them)

A good set of polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes from being damaged by the sun. If you really like your sunglasses a strap is a good idea to keep them attached to you. Like everything else that goes out on a small sailboat, they are easily knocked off your head into the water. The more expensive the sunglasses, the easier it seems to they to end up at the bottom of the lake.

KastKing Hiwassee Polarized Sport Sunglasses

  • Grilamid® frame
  • Made from superior German and Japanese raw materials 1.00mm thick polarized lens
  • Polarized
  • Scratch Resistant Coating coating
  • Lens width: 2.5 inches
  • KEY FEATURES – Polarized lenses reduce glare – Impact resistant TAC lenses protect your eyes from flying objects – Lightweight, durable, and comfortable Grilamid frames – Anti-slip nose and temple pads – Block 100% of the harmful UVA and UVB rays

Sweater or fleece

It’s a good idea to bring along a fleece sweater or hoodie even if it feels really warm at the dock. It’s usually 10 to 20 degrees colder out on the water. Cooler temperatures combined with wind chill can quickly make a hot day not so hot. A good long sleeve fleece sweater can be your best friend when it cools down out on the water.

Helly-Hansen 33874 Men’s Crew Hooded Midlayer Jacket

  • 100% Polyester
  • Machine Wash
  • Helly tech protection (waterproof, windproof and breathable)
  • Fully seam sealed

PFD or Life jacket

If your going out on a larger sailboat, chances are the boat owner will have enough life jackets on board to cover everyone. If your going out for say racing, and will be running all over the boat in windy conditions it’s a good idea to where a PFD. People do occasionally fall off boats and it’s not easy to stop a sailboat going downwind to turn around and pick someone up.

Inflatable PFD’s work well for sailing on a yacht. They are not bulky and only inflate when you fall in the water. If you plan on going sailing on a large boat regularly, investing in a good auto inflating PFD is a good idea.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

  • Blue a/M-24 automatic/manual inflatable life jacket/soft neoprene neckline/for persons 16 years of age and older; and over 80 lbs
  • Automatically inflates up immersion in water or when the wearer pulls the “jerk to inflate” handle/equipped with Back-Up oral inflation
  • Convertible form auto/manual inflation to manual only inflation/comfortable, lightweight and low profile design
  • Durable fabric resists tears and punctures/not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers
  • Min. Buoyancy of 22.5 lbs. When inflated/U.S. Coast guard approved type V life jacket/personal flotation device with type III performance

Quick drying pants

Breathable quick drying pants are good when it’s a little bit too cold for shorts. Your legs can get splashed by water easily when your sitting on the rail going upwind. You don’t want to wear something that will feel wet and spongy the rest of the afternoon after it gets wet.

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

  • Button closure
  • Responsible Collection: Recycled/Repurposed
  • Material: nylon ripstop, recycled polyester, polyester mesh
  • Fit: regular
  • Pockets: 2 hand, 2 back, 2 cargo, 1 side zippered
  • Waist: exterior adjustable waistband

Foul Weather Gear

When your out on a boat and a storm blows in you need a solid set of foul weather gear to stay warm and dry. This will consist of a rain coat, rain pants and boots. If you check the weather forecast and there is a chance for storms you will want to bring these along. It seems if the weather forecast says there is only a 30% chance of thunderstorms, that there is a 100% chance of one actually happening.

WindRider Pro Foul Weather Gear – Rain Suit – Jacket + Bibs

  • WATERPROOF AND BREATHABLE – 2 layer laminated fabric with mesh liner for comfort whether in cool or warm weather. So when the wind and rain gets bad you will remain dry and warm. Tight Lines
  • DOUBLE ZIPPERS – Both the jacket and the bibs have double zippers. This means you don’t need to take you jacket and bibs off to go to the bathroom. That is convenience!
  • TONS OF POCKETS – Is it possible to have too many pockets? Between the bibs and the jacket you get 13! Both the jacket and the bibs have fleece lined hand warming pockets and pockets large enough for a full size Iphone.

motoring down the river on a yacht

What to bring with you sailing on a yacht

A gear bag (small duffel bag)

Small duffle bags work well for packing and organizing your boating gear. Your PFD, Gloves, hat, sweater, pants and sunscreen can all be stuffed in here until needed. Don’t go huge. Go get something with wheels as they can scratch the wood and fiberglass interior of a yacht.

Gill Race Team 60L 60 Litre Capacity Waterproof Bag

  • 60 Litre capacity.
  • Secure velcro fastening and a roll-down closure for a watertight seal.. Waterproof ID pocket.. Non-slip, padded shoulder strap.
  • Wide mouth opening for easy access.
  • Reinforced haul-handles at both ends.
  • 4 external D-ring attachment points for securing your bag during a bumpy rib ride.

A rigging knife or multitool

It’s a good idea to have a knife or multitool attached to your PFD or life jacket. You never really know when your going to have to cut something loose on a boat. Rigging knives are pocket knives with a few specialized tools for sailing. They have a marlin spike and a shackle tool. The marlin spike is exactly what it sounds like, a big spike. It is used for undoing knots. You work the spike into a knot and to loosen it up. A shackle tool is a slotted tool for opening shackles. Both come in really handy on a sailboat.

Maxam Sailor’s Tool

  • A DYNAMIC NAUTICAL KNIFE: The Maxam Sailor’s Tool is a powerfully-effective multi-sailing, -fishing, -camping and -hunting tool that’s designed for fast/easy cutting access and is efficiently packed in a sleek ruggedly compact stainless-steel body.
  • THE PERFECT ECONOMY SAILING KNIFE: Featuring a honed blade, marlinspike, shackle key, bottle opener and stainless-steel handle with a 2″-ruler on one side, 5-cm on the other, our functional sailor’s knife measures 6.125″ long when opened and 3.75″ closed.
  • A PRACTICAL RIGGING KNIFE: With a durably robust marlinspike running along the spine and a lanyard ring for secure storage, our affordable sailor’s tool can easily be utilized to pick lines as well as loosen all kinds of difficult-to-untie knots.

Sunscreen

Even if it’s cloudy you can still get sunburnt out on a boat. The water reflects the sunlight back at you giving you another opportunity to get burnt. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

For more information on sunscreen click here.

Banana Boat Ultra Sport Reef Friendly Sunscreen Spray

  • Water resistant up to 80 minutes
  • Invisible clear spray
  • Easy grip spray can
  • Twist and lock spray, no cap
  • Twin Pack

A small flashlight

If you’re going to be out sailing after dark, a small flashlight can be your best friend. Head lamps work especially well leaving your hands free to do whatever you need to do on the boat. They can be kept in your pocket or gear bag when not needed.

Energizer High-Powered LED Headlamp Flashlight

  • SUPER BRIGHT LED Illuminates up to 85 meters with a 360-lumen beam of LED light in high mode – This head lamp can light up the room, or the campsite, with ease.
  • MAXIMUM DURABILITY Features a durable construction that withstands 1-meter drop test, a shatterproof lens, and a water-resistant IPX4 rated body – making this head light the perfect rugged companion both indoors and outdoors.
  • 7 VERSATILE MODES Provides 7 light modes: high, low, wide, wide low, red, flashing red, and green. With versatile modes, you’ll have optimal lighting for just about any situation.
  • LONG RUN TIME Long-lasting and effective with up to 50 hours of LED light in low mode. So you have the reliable power and light you need. The perfect back-up light in case of power outages.

Money for gas and marinas

If you get an invite to go out on someone’s boat, a little donation is always appreciated. Gas for a sailboat is fairly cheap and not a big deal. The marina and yacht club fees can be quick pricey. Typically they are several thousand dollars a year. A little offering to help spread the load is always appreciated. The owner may not always accept it but it’s always appreciated.

The one exception to this is racing. If your going to be race crew on someone’s boat, you are not expected to give money to go out on the boat. The owner needs crew to be able to race the boat and your doing his work.

Water

You’ll get thirsty on the boat if your out for a long time. A water bottle with fresh water is a good idea to be comfortable while your out on the yacht.

Beer

Bringing along some sailing beverages or post sailing beverages is always a good idea. Bring along a bit to share. If everyone brings something there will be plenty for all.

No extra surprise guests

It is perfectly okay to ask the owner of the yacht, your going sailing on if you can bring along a friend. They will typically say yes if there is space. It’s not okay to bring random extras along without asking. All boats have a capacity limit that can’t be exceeded without risking a fine from the local police or coast guard. There may physically be room for 20 people to stand on a boat but the rated limit might only be 8 people.

Go Have Fun Sailing

I hope you have a great day out sailing on a yacht. I find it a lot of fun and I hope you will too.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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