First time sailing Guide [11 Must-Have Tips for Beginners]

First time sailing Guide [11 Must-Have Tips for Beginners]

When we say that sailing holidays are for everyone, we really do mean it.

There is a wide range of yachts, charter types and destinations to choose from, so there is no doubt that even first-time sailors will have an unforgettable experience on board.

Before diving in the deep and entering the world of chartering, feel free to read our First Time Sailing Guide below.

We answer all the burning questions we are sure you have, along with Yacht4Less tips to help you impress your friends with your confidence on board (they won’t be able to tell that it’s your first time – we promise!)

 In this beginner's guide to sailing:

  1. First time yacht charter: A typical day on board
  2. What to pack?
  3. What if I get seasick?
  4. Can I add a skipper?
  5. Hostess or Cook?
  6. What is the refundable security deposit?
  7. Provisioning
  8. When are the check-in and check-out?
  9. How do I find my first yacht?
  10. What sailing qualifications do I need?
  11. What else should I budget for?
  12. Can I go sailing with my cat or dog?
  13. [Bonus]. Get Inspired. Top Mediterranean destinations to start sailing

  First time yacht charter: A typical day on board

First things first.

You are considering a sailing holiday; you have seen the pictures, read the blogs and heard the best stories from your “frequent charterer” friends.

Still, you are a bit unsure of what to expect on a typical day on board.

All yachts have a fully equipped galley and lots of storage (including a refrigerator), so you will be able to enjoy meals on board, just as you would at home.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner or a light snack and drinks – you name it!

Going on a sailing holiday doesn’t mean that you will be sailing all day; usually, charterers enjoy 3 hours of sailing (or motoring) per day.

You could even split that into two parts and do 1,5 hours of sailing in the morning, then stop at the bay of your choice for a swim and lunch, then do 1,5 hours of sailing in the afternoon before reaching your destination for the night.

If you love the sea as much as we do, why not squeeze in a quick afternoon swim as well?

Don’t forget that you will need to be safely anchored at least 2 hours before sundown.

What to pack

Moving on to the most important question – what do I bring with me on board?

Some things will be obvious; comfortable clothes, your flip-flops and swimming suit, beach towels and smart clothes for your evenings ashore.

Now, let us give you some Yacht4Less tips on other things that you really need to remember to pack for your sailing holiday.

  • Travel Documents Valid passports, driver licenses or ID cards will be required from each of the crew members. If you are chartering bareboat, you will need to have your original sailing license with you (not a copy), for any port police checks.
  • Soft Bags Unless you are chartering a very large catamaran, storing hard suitcases will be an issue. We recommend packing soft bags instead of hard framed suitacases. You will find cupboards and shelves in your cabin, where you can easily store your belongings while folding your soft bags and stowing them away in one of the outside lockers.
  • Suitable Shoes You will need to make sure that you have white soled, clean shoes for when you are walking on board, deck shoes, and water shoes for any underwater rocks, pebbles or reefs.
  • Sun Protection You will definitely need to pack a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen; being on board, you will be even more exposed to the harmful rays of the sun, as they reflect on the water.
  • Waterproof – Warm Clothes Although you may not need them, it is always useful to have a waterproof jacket with you (for windy days), and a fleece or woollen top, as it can get quite chilly in the evening, especially towards the end of the season or in windy destinations, such as the Cyclades.
  • Chargers & Cables When under sail and not connected to shore power, you will not be able to use the regular plugs on board, so you will need to pack a 12V Car USB charger. If travelling from the UK & Ireland or the USA, you will need adaptors for European plugs. Most yachts also allow you to connect your phones etc. to the music system via bluetooth, however, you may also need an AUX cable.

What if I get seasick?

This probably is the first thought that every beginner sailor has before their first time on board.

We get it; spending a whole week on a boat can be quite scary, however, this thought shouldn’t stop you from having an amazing time.

Skip to: Best time to sail: sailing seasons around the world explained »

You will find that at least 8/10 people do not get sea sick at all, and in case seasickness does happen, there are ways to fight it.

  • Avoid going below and to your cabin
  • Stay on the deck and look over at the horizon (anything in the distance)
  • Eat something (preferably salty)
  • Wear an Acupressure Wristband
  • Take an anti-seasickness tablet from the yacht’s First Aid Kit

Can I add a skipper?

Adding a skipper means that you hire a professional and licensed captain, responsible for navigating, sailing and mooring.

All skippers are very experienced, with extensive local knowledge.

  • The skipper rate ranges from 130 to 200 EUR per day, and this depends on the destination and yacht type; please consult your charter broker for the exact cost.
  • When hiring a skipper, you can be as involved with sailing as you like, and we do recommend booking one for your first charter, even if you do have the necessary sailing qualifications. Their local knowledge will definitely offer you peace of mind.
  • You can inform your skipper about your preferences and must-see places (or others that you wish to avoid), and they will plan a custom-made itinerary for you and your crew.

   Hostess or Cook?

  • A hostess is responsible for keeping your yacht clean and tidy while providing light meals, cold snacks and drinks. The hostess rate ranges from 120-150 EUR in most cases.
  • A cook will offer gourmet cuisine; she is only responsible for the cleanliness of her kitchen. The cook rate ranges from 130-200 EUR in most cases.

When adding crew to your bareboat charter, please remember that each crew member requires their own cabin, and you will also need to take care of their meals for the duration of the charter.

 What is the refundable security deposit?

The refundable security deposit is obligatory for all yachts charters.

It is an amount you block on one or more credit cards upon arrival to the base and is fully refunded at the end of your charter if no damages are caused.

  • You will not be charged for any damages clearly caused by the normal wear and tear of the yacht.
  • In some cases, a damage waiver is offered instead of the security deposit. This is a smaller amount (ie. 300 EUR), is non-refundable, however, covers all possible damages. Feel free to check with your personal charter consultant for more details.
  • You can, of course, secure yourself against the risk of losing your deposit, and your charter broker will be happy to inform you about all personal yacht charter insurance packages currently offered.


  • You can provision your yacht in advance. Your charter broker will send you a blank provisioning list for you to fill in and send back. The base staff will then buy the products you have selected and deliver them to your yacht.
  • In some destinations, you can order your provisioning online.

   When are the check-in and check-out times?

  • In the East and West Mediterranean, embarkation is from 17:00hrs onwards on the first day and disembarkation is around 09:00hrs on the last day. This time schedule gives the base staff sufficient time to prepare, inspect and clean the yachts on back to back bookings.
  • In the Exotics, the Caribbean and the Americas, charters usually start from 12:00hrs noon or might offer an embarkation, check in and sleep aboard around 17:00hrs on the first day and a departure early in the morning of the following day.
  • You will find your exact embarkation and disembarkation times, as well as your return conditions on your Yacht4Less contract.

You may also like: Top 10 destinations for all levels of sailing experience | Winter Sun Sailing Holidays: A Guide to Escape Cold Winter Days 

 How do I find my yacht?

  • Approximately one month before embarkation, your charter broker will provide you with the “base information” and/or “boarding pass”.
  • This will include the details of your charter, the address of the marina you will be sailing from, name and contact details of the fleet operator, as well as other necessary information for the area and your embarkation.

 What sailing qualifications do I need?

  • A valid sailing license is necessary for all bareboat charters in most destinations worldwide, and the skipper needs to be over 18 years old.
  • Croatia has a very specific list of accepted licenses and a valid VHF license is also required. Please ask your charter broker to share the list with you and confirm the acceptance of your skipper license.
  • Some destinations in the Caribbean and South Pacific allow bareboat charters with the provision of a good sailing resume.

 What else should I budget for?

Please kindly note that provisioning, fuel, water and mooring fees need to be covered by the charterer.

The cost varies from destination to destination, so feel free to ask your charter broker to assist with the approximate calculation.

Read on: Yacht charter cost: the ultimate guide to saving money »

   Can I go sailing with my dog or cat?

Are you interested in a sailing holiday, but don't want to leave your furry friends behind?

While there are a few extra things that you need to consider when planning a sailing holiday with pets on board, such as picking a pet-friendly sailing destination, vaccination, and lifeline netting, you can definitely take them with you.

All you need to do is inform your Yacht4Less charter consultant, and they will be happy to guide you through a seamless planning and booking process!

Keep on reading: How to: Bring Pets on Sailing Holidays »

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