First Time Sailing? Here’s Your Guide to Having the Best Time

Enjoy snorkelling, cocktails and learning how to sail with this is the ultimate guide to your first sailing holiday
Enjoy snorkelling, cocktails and learning how to sail with this is the ultimate guide to your first sailing holiday | © Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo
Lexi Fisher

After months of dreaming of palm trees, crystal clear water and the sun warming your tanned shoulders, you finally took the plunge and booked a group sailing vacation. Congratulations! You’re on your way to a boatload of fun – pun intended – from snorkelling and sunset cocktails to learning how to sail. Read on for our top tips on how to get the most out of your first sailing holiday.

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Ready for an adventure on the high seas? Check out Culture Trip’s group sailing trips to far-flung destinations like the Caribbean, French Polynesia and the Seychelles.

Go with an open mind

Things don’t always go according to plan when travelling. This is particularly true on a shared yachting vacation, where you’ll benefit from being flexible and going with the flow. We can’t direct the wind, after all, but we can adjust the sails – plus, stepping into the unknown is all part of the adventure.

Travellers sailing in the Seychelles

Take something to share

This could be something traditional from your home country, like a home-baked cake or perhaps something a little stronger (read: booze). Alternatively, bring a skill you can teach the others on board. Sharing something special and unique is a good icebreaker and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. A little show of generosity goes a long way and can be the catalyst for amazing shared experiences.

Bring warm layers

Evenings in the tropics can get surprisingly chilly. Whilst the refreshing winds keep the heat at bay during the day, they will have you reaching for a jacket once the sun goes down. On top of this, short but regular downpours during the rainy season, as well as occasional stormy or overcast days, meaning you’ll be happy that you packed extra layers.

A sailor sits at the front of the boat during a rainstorm

Take a game

There is plenty to see and do on a sailing holiday, but sometimes you need a break from the sun or something to pass the time during a long passage. Having a deck of cards or a game handy can be a fun and rewarding way to not just kill time, but also to get to know the other people you are travelling with.

Be responsible and set an example

Travelling sustainably isn’t difficult, but no one wants to get preachy – or preached to. The easiest way to do this is to set a good example for those around you by taking your trash with you, not interfering with wildlife, following the regulations in Marine Protected Areas, supporting local businesses and buying local handicrafts made from natural, renewable materials – instead of plastic knick-knacks from chain souvenir shops.

The Lucayan cruise terminal and harbour marketplace

Pack light

Less is more on a sailing vacation. Who wants to be rummaging through suitcases full of things when you can be outside enjoying the sunshine? The basics, like a couple of bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts, a casual dinner outfit and a couple of warm layers is all you really need. Pack it in a soft-sided suitcase like a duffel bag if you can, as hard-sided ones are more difficult to store on a yacht.

Remember seasickness tablets and sunscreen

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and take your mother’s advice; wear sunscreen and take the tablets. Nothing ruins a sailing holiday like being stuck down below with your head in a can or laid up with a painful sunburn. Another piece of motherly advice – read the instructions. For maximum effectiveness, seasickness tablets often need to be taken hours before you set sail and sunscreen should be reapplied every hour or two.

A stunning day on Opunohu Beach

Drink lots of water

It can be easy to underestimate the heat of the equatorial sun, especially after a rum punch or four. Combined with the cool water and salt air, dehydration on a sailboat comes on much more quickly than you might realise. Drinking more water than usual will prevent headaches and heatstroke – which can sometimes be disguised as seasickness.

Spend local currency before heading home

As pretty as colourful foreign notes are, they’re useless at home, where banks usually won’t even exchange them. Spend them before the end of your holiday – it’s better to buy your friends and family local souvenirs than head home with a handful of cash anyway.

Share contact details

After a week of swimming, sunset cocktails and snorkelling until your fingers turn to prunes, you may be surprised by how the people you only met a week ago now feel like family. Your sailing holiday may be over, but your new friendships don’t have to be. Exchange numbers and stay in touch – there may be many more great vacations together in your future.

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