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What to Pack for an Offshore Sailing Passage

Updated: Jan 8

Every year, starting on November 1st, hundreds, if not thousands, of sailboats make an annual passage from their summer homes in the north to the warmer, sunnier climate of the south and the Caribbean. Sailing one of these offshore passages means that you will be sailing several weeks and passing through many different climates, from freezing temperatures north of the Gulfstream to the hot and humid temperatures found in the Caribbean. Packing for an offshore passage can be an exercise in packing for everything while being careful not to pack more than you can store in tight quarters. Below is everything Captain Forrest packs for a week at sea when delivering boats from Boston, Massachusetts to the Virgin Islands each year.

In order from top to bottom, left to right.

Any soft sided duffel will do as they can be stored almost anywhere on the boat. I like this bag in particular since it has thick padded walls, backpack straps and shoulder strap, a thick rubber waterproof bottom and a separate waterproof pocket to store dirty and damp clothing that expands into the main compartment as you fill it.

2) Portable Battery Pack w/ Supplemental Solar

Having a personal battery pack is key for when your charging cables don’t reach a 12 volt outlet whether in your bunk or in your cabin. Solar is an extra perk for power saving or emergencies.

Now that Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) typically only cost a couple hundred dollars and do not require a subscription, this is a key piece of kit. I tend to put this into a pocket of my foul weather gear before I head up on deck. PLB’s work via GPS but may not communicate with your own boat. Other alternatives are AIS transponders which will communicate with your vessel but not the Coast Guard or Bluetooth enabled MOB alarms.

4) Costa Polarized Sunglasses w/ Crokies and Sunglass Case

Polarized sunglasses with dark lenses are critical for comfort and easing stress on your eyes. Having a lanyard to keep them connected to you and not at the bottom of the ocean is key too!

5) Head Lamp (White/red light)

White light for visibility but red light for preserving your night vision.

6) Toiletries Kit

(Inside: Contact Lenses, Travel deodorant, Travel size toothpaste, toothbrush, 200mg Ibuprofen, 50 SPF sunscreen, 15 SPF Lip Balm, Travel size Dramamine, Wet wipes, Eyeglasses)

Must have quick release snap shackle on PFD side and locking carabiner on jackline side. Dual attachment clip tethers are even better!

I like this particular harness for two reasons; 1) The manual inflate handle is held flush against the harness with two small bungee ties which prevents it from getting caught and accidently inflating. 2) The harness sits relatively high on my chest, keeping the tether clear of any winch handle or winch I am using. I have also found Mustangs customer support to be very quick and helpful.

9) Beanie

Foul weather jackets have become very lightweight in recent years. I always look for a hood that fits well, and a slightly larger size of jacket to accommodate copious layers underneath. This jacket also has a built-in microfiber glasses wipe that is attached to a bungie in one of the pockets.

11) Lightweight quick dry baseball cap

This one is a Musto cap with retaining lapel clip

12) 25’ Safety Orange Paracord

For tying any random gear in place

13) 25’ ⅛” Spectra Line

Spectra line is stronger than stainless steel rigging. I keep these two lengths packed since they don’t take up much space and can hold an incredible amount of weight in an emergency.

14) 25’ ¼” Spectra Line

15) Pillowcase

16) Small Sport Towel

Any microfiber camp towel has a ton of drying power without sacrificing too much space.

17) Sleeping Bag

18) 2 Softcover Books

19) Pair Boardshorts, 2 Pairs regular Shorts, 1 Pair Fleece Lined Sweatpants, 1 Thermal Base Layer, 2 Pairs Long Pants, 4 Pairs Boxer Briefs

20) Pair Waterproof, Fleece lined palm-dipped gloves

I bought this pair at a local hardware store for $8.00 and they are the best pair I have ever had!

21) Gill Race Foul Weather Bib - This pair was more expensive than is needed but I enjoy the reinforced rear and kneepads as well as the super reinforced heel hems, which always seem to drag and tear on other foul weather pants.

A game changer for cold nights at sea! Can last almost 8 hours on a medium setting on a single charge of the portable battery pack.

23) 4 Pairs Long Sleeve Lightweight Shirts, 1 Long Sleeve Thermal

24) 6 Pairs long socks

25) Stanley Insulated Mug - A good personal mug is key!

26) Toadfish Suction Koozie - I use this more for storing small pieces of gear that would normally slide all over my berth than I even do for keeping drinks cold.

27) Nylon Belt

28) Collapsible Water Bottle

29) Long Sleeve Fleece with Hood

28) Pair Flip Flops

29) Pair Insulated Slippers - Having a warm pair of boat slippers is an incredible luxury. These compress into an extremely small pouch.

30) Shorty Xtra-Tuf Boots- Sailing Boots

Once you have all your gear ready to go, it'll be time to put it to good use. There's no better way to hit the open water safely and be fully prepared than by taking our ASA certification courses.

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