Tips for Crewing Offshore

Ingen dåligt väder, bara dåligt kläder. // There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing!
— Nordic Adage

 

November 1, 2014
by Isbjorn crewmember & friend Lee Cumberland

As someone who is new to the offshore sailing world, I had many questions before going on my first offshore passage. What do I pack? How much time should I budget?  I thought I would share some things I have learned about being a crew that will help you be more prepared, less annoying to the skipper and other crew, and hopefully get invited back.

Limit your luggage to one bag. A large duffel bag should be all you need for a 3-5 day passage, more than that is not only unnecessary but more to move to and from the boat and more stuff the other crew members have to deal with on the passage. I found that I could fit three changes of clothes, foul weather gear, towel, and toiletries in my Henri Lloyd Sea bag with no issues. Showing up to the boat is everyone’s first impression of you. Get off on a good foot by having efficiently packed luggage.

Bring a sleeping system. Have a sleeping bag that you’re comfortable in; you’ll be in an environment that is completely unfamiliar. If all else fails, at least when your off watch in your bunk having a comfortable and familiar sleeping setup will allow you to get more sleep and ultimately have a better experience.  Make sure the bag is adequate for the conditions the boat will be sailing through. It also helps if the material can be easily dried — god knows at some point water will find wherever you store your gear. If the boat is small, make sure to clean up your bedding area when you go on watch. That way it is out of everyone’s way when you’re topside and everyone else is living down below.

Pack for 20 degrees colder than you think you will encounter. Even in the summer the temperature offshore is always colder than near shore. Picture how it feels to be on a ski lift: you’re frozen by the time you get to the top of the mountain.  Sitting on a boat with a 15-knot breeze can feel very similar depending on the season. The key is layers. I try to pack clothes so that they can be worn as separate outfits but can all be used together if and when you need extra protection from the cold.

Dietary restrictions? Think ahead and pack what you need. Let the skipper know ahead of time if you have allergies. A reaction offshore can be deadly. If you do have specific dietary preferences bring along your own supply of food. Be sure to share with the other crewmembers. You may introduce them to some new types of food, and by offering you’ll alleviate any tension made by being “some dude eating weird food.”

Bring something small and simple to occupy your down time. One of the best things about being offshore is it limits. Not having the option to work or be distracted with the routine and stress of daily life leaves you open to read that book you’ve had for a while or write that long letter to Aunt Jemima. An e-reader is nice and compact, but beware of the charging requirements. Paper books never need charging!

Keep all your personal items in your bag. Don’t leave your shit lying around the boat! It’s already a super small space and any clutter you can avoid will gain you tons of points with the crew and skipper.


Packing Lists

All items must fit in one (1) soft-sided duffel bag. Make sure to carry-on your essential items in case your checked bag gets lost - it’s a good idea to simply wear your foul-weather jacket on the plane to save space!

Essentials.

  • Your wallet
  • A passport
  • A good attitude

What not to bring - we provide this onboard.

  • Towel (we provide quick-dry ‘pack’ towels), sheets & pillow
  • Large electronics (like laptops - iPad's & Kindle's are okay)  
  • Sunscreen

Helpful tips & reminders.

  • Pack one pair of deck shoes and one pair of flipflops (sea boots ONLY if it'll be a cold passage).
  • Long underwear & lightweight foulie pants work better than cotton pants or jeans if it’s chilly.

Cold Weather (PDF).

  • Swimsuit (1) (Remember that the shower is outside, in the cockpit)
  • Water bottle
  • LED headlamp (we like a red LED option, like this one from Petzl) (1)
  • Books / magazines
  • Winter hat & scarf. We now sell #isbjornsailing winter hats online & onboard!
  • Gloves (for helming) - we like Sealskinz ‘ultra grip.’
  • Sets of warm cloths & long johns. Packable down best. (2) 
  • Set of comfortable clothes to lounge & sleep in off-watch (fleece, sweatpants, shorts)
  • Summer clothes for daytime (quick-dry preferable)
  • hat / visor / sun protection 
  • Medications you take (you MUST tell us health issues)
  • sunglasses
  • watch
  • personal toiletries
  • full foulies (bib pants and good jacket with hood - Andy wears Helly Hansen's 'Ocean' range in cold weather)
  • USB memory stick if you want photos from the trip
  • An open mind and a willingness to work hard
  • Deck boots (Andy & Mia wear Dubarry 'Ultima' boots)
  • Sleeping Bag (a packable, dri-down style, like this one from Sierra Designs is best).
  • Dry bag for electronics - sailing is a water sport after all!

Warm Weather (PDF).

  • Swimsuit (2) (Remember that the shower is outside, in the cockpit)
  • Water bottle for use onboard
  • LED headlamp (we like a red LED option, like this one from Petzl) (1)
  • Books/magazines or a Kindle/iPad
  • Warm hat for night watches
  • Lightweight long-sleeve shirt
  • Summer clothes for daytime (quick-dry preferable)
  • One set of warm clothes for evening watches (fleece, etc.)
  • Hat or Visor to keep the sun off your face
  • Medications you take (you MUST tell us health issues)
  • Sunglasses, watch
  • Personal toiletries
  • Ear plugs / sleeping mask to block light and noise during day naps.
  • Lightweight rain jacket or foul-weather jacket 
  • USB memory stick if you want photos from the trip
  • An open mind and a willingness to work hard
  • (Optional): Sleeping bag (if you get chilly at night - we recommend a packable, dri-down style, something like this one from Sierra Designs).

Warm-to-Cold Transition (PDF).

  • sunglasses
  • watch
  • personal toiletries
  • foulies 
  • USB memory stick if you want photos from the trip
  • An open mind and a willingness to work hard
  • Deck boots & wool socks (2)
  • Sleeping Bag (we recommend a packable, dri-down style, something like this one from Sierra Designs)
  • Dry bag for electronics - optional
  • Swimsuit (2)
  • Water bottle
  • LED headlamp (we like a red LED option, like this one from Petzl) (1)
  • Books / magazines / Kindle / iPad
  • Winter hat
  • Set of warm cloths, sweater, long johns (1) 
  • Summer clothes for daytime (quick-dry preferable)
  • Hat / visor / sun protection
  • Medications you take (you MUST tell us health issues)
  • Ear plugs and sleeping mask (to block light and noise during day naps)