If you’re going to spend your R&R time with some liveaboards, but have never done such a thing before, and maybe feel in over your head, don’t fret. Take a deep breath, read on, and know that soon enough you will be rocking with the waves of the ocean and sipping on sundowners.
Before taking off on your well-deserved vacation, here are a few things that you can expect may happen and things that will be appreciated by your hosts.
- First things first, your luggage. Large, hard-case suitcases should be completely banned from any sailboat. No one has room for that, unless you don’t mind having it as your bunk mate. “Confined quarters” means there is room for you, and some of your stuff, not for luggage the size of a secondary small human. We HIGHLY recommend you pack your things in duffel bags, or any soft material bag that you can roll up and stow somewhere once you have unpacked the excessive (see below) amount of stuff you brought.
- Excessive packing will most likely happen. Like on any vacation, you always feel you need all of your stuff. Go through your things and ask yourself, “will I really need this for a week long vacation?” Chances are, weather permitting, you are going to spend most of your time in a bathing suit, so pack a couple of those, mostly everything else can be purged from your luggage. A couple shirts, a couple shorts, one pair of pants, a dress, and sunscreen (don’t forget the sunscreen). Outside of your daily necessities you will probably find that you gravitate to the same clothes everyday and will most likely head home at the end of your trip not having worn half the stuff you brought. It’s a vacation, de-clutter your mind, your luggage, and give yourself some breathing space in your berth.
- Most boats run off of 12volt power, supplied by solar, wind gens, and sometimes an extra boost from a generator. There will be ways to power your electronics, if you feel you really need to bring them. Keep in mind the salt water environment, you may want waterproof cases for your things; accidents do happen, especially when you up your time around water. You can also leave all that stuff behind, drop off the face of the online world for a little bit, and truly disconnect for your vacation. If an emergency arises, or you really need to check your facebook, your hosts most likely have a phone (with internet) they can lend you…how do you think they got ahold of you to plan this vacation?!
- If you get motion sick/seasick and have meds that you have tried and/or prefer, bring them. If not, your hosts probably have some on hand or can recommend some to you. Don’t feel ashamed about it or let it put a halt to your ocean adventures. Even the saltiest salts get bouts of seasickness and there are plenty of tricks and meds that can make the trip absolutely delightful.
- Tied to the above topic of seasickness, far from the glamorized idea of sailing, you most likely won’t be out on the open ocean doing long passages with no land in sight…unless that’s what you signed up for! Liveaboards’ boats are their home. They usually aren’t out there, healing to 45+ degrees, racing to the next spot. Au contraire, we enjoy taking the boat from point A to point B, where it sits while we live on it, enjoying a new location. Most sailors seek out bays that are known for calm waters and good protection, and although this cannot be guaranteed, it is definitely what everyone is looking for for a good night’s sleep for the guests and themselves. Day trips, and bay hopping, are most likely on your vacation itinerary, and no matter the sailor, no one enjoys sailing in bad weather, and so if that is forecasted you most likely will not find yourself out in the middle of it. Forget everything you saw on The White Squall, your hosts don’t want to put you, or themselves, through anything of the sorts.
- When you arrive, if the boat is on a dock then it will be an easy hop aboard. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Enter the dinghy. A dinghy is a smaller boat that will take you to the bigger boat. Think of it as a sailor’s car. Depending on the dinghy and the weather, this trip could either feel like you are in a convertible on the autobahn on a nice summer day, or it could feel like you are stuck in a rainstorm and the roof won’t close up. You may get splashed a little. If this is a concern, it shouldn’t be, it’s part of boating. Just don’t be dressed to the nines, and maybe cover up your bag with something (a garbage bag works just fine) to avoid having all of the contents getting wet.
- Trying to visualize what the inside of the boat may look and feel like? Pictures never really do it justice. The easiest way to explain it to first time visitors is that it is quite similar to an RV. Living spaces are tight but comfortable. Kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, running water, it’s all there, just in smaller format than in a house. There is not a whole lot of personal space, but that is half the fun of it. However long your vacation is, it will be filled with friends, fun, and new experiences. You will not be a guest, you will become “one of us”, part of the sailing family. Hopefully you will go home remembering how the smaller space brought everyone closer together, rather than hating that you did not have enough room for the 4 pairs of shoes you brought. Reference back to the“Excessive Packing Paragraph”. Because of the space and the additional bodies, one VERY important thing to remember (which your hosts will love you for), is to not leave your things laying around everywhere. You’d be surprised how little time it takes for a boat to feel overwhelmingly cluttered with stuff. Everything has it’s spot, and should be returned there after you are done using it.
- If you are not an early riser, or if your hosts have kids, earplugs may be your favourite sailing item. Just saying.
- Toilets, each boat has its own way of doing things when it comes to this, and most are fairly different from any land toilet you have experienced before. We’re talking about composting toilets, or electric toilets, or levers, switches, pumps and manual force, toilet paper in, toilet paper out, the options seem endless. The boat toilet (better know as “the head”) will be thoroughly explained to you when you arrive. If you forget what to do, or all the steps feel confusing, don’t be shy, ask again. Your hosts will gladly go through it all with you again, and again, and again. Because explaining the toilet process repeatedly is way easier than having to change out a broken “head”.
- Wether or not a boat has a water-maker, it is always nice to watch your water consumption. Not to the point of restricting the amount that you drink, but those half-hour showers should be nixed. Instead, enjoy nature and take a few more refreshing plunges into the ocean. However, if you can’t do without your shampoo, conditioner, rinse, repeat routine, then get ready to sweat for that extended shower. Filling up a boat’s water tanks can sometimes be a strenuous activity involving many trips to shore, water jugs, and heavy lifting. All that sweat will defeat the purpose of the original lengthy wash. A “navy shower” could just save you a lot of sweat and effort.
- Lastly, leave room in your luggage for your hosts! You will get used as a pack mule, guaranteed. About a month before your expected vacation you will start receiving packages at your place. These are shipments of things that are not accessible in the boat’s current location. You can expect to receive anything from boat parts, to clothing, and every knick knack in between. And you’ll also end up with a shopping list for non-shippable things such as Nutella. This is one huge way you can help your hosts and thank them for your stay, by lugging all of these online shopping goods to their boat.
With the broad strokes made, you should be able to pack up, fly out, and enjoy your time on a live aboard boat. The finer details will come into focus once you are there and enjoying your time aboard, sipping rum cocktails and watching the sun set over the ocean. At that point, all of the pre-stress will feel ridiculous as you will just be enjoying life.