My husband Kostas and I sail with charter guests around the Greek Isles on our Atlantic 70 sailboat, Stressbuster. Over the years we’ve developed a list of what our guests need (and what they won’t miss). Here are our top fifteen tips of what to include and how to pack when getting ready for your next charter vacation.
If you’re traveling outside your home country, make sure you’ve got the necessary travel documents in order and ready to go: passports or visas, tickets, and cash/credit cards.
Luggage storage space on almost all boats is limited, and hard-sided bags can cause damage to teak decks and other wood trim. Soft duffels can be folded up and stowed after you’re unpacked. Soft bags with wheels are acceptable, but should be handled with care onboard to avoid damage to the yacht.
The single most common mistake people make on a yacht-charter vacation is bringing Too Much Stuff. On all but very formal charters, the lifestyle is very casual. Especially in tropical or warm-weather locales, you won’t need to bring too many clothes to meet your daily needs.
Almost all yachts forbid the wearing of street shoes aboard, and most have dedicated baskets or lockers for street-shoe storage, where footwear is deposited when you board. On Stressbuster, we prefer that clients leave their street shoes in our shoe basket or in their cabins and either go barefoot or wear flip flops or some other clean, comfortable, light-soled shoes aboard. Don’t overdo it on shoes – two or three pair is all you’ll need.
For swimming in places where there are sharp rocks or sea urchins, bring a pair of water shoes.
During a day of sailing, your attire will likely consist of bathing suits and a simple cover up of some sort. Even going ashore for dinner doesn’t usually require a change out of the garb you’re wearing during the day, unless you’re feeling the need to freshen up.
If the yacht you’ll be sailing on or the charter company does not provide them, bring your own. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, you may want to consider a lightweight wetsuit jacket to stay warm while snorkeling, especially in fringe-season months.
Tee shirts, tank tops, or sarongs for women are all a good bet to wear over bathing suits and protect you from the sun. For leg protection, plan on shorts, jeans, or other lightweight long pants; those that have removable, zip-on or –off legs so they can be either shorts or long pants are very handy. For shore clothes, you can “go as you are” almost anywhere in the Greek islands – shorts, tees, jeans. The only exception is if you choose to visit a church or a monastery, where conservative dress is required – covered legs and arms. At such places they generally have racks of clothing for visitors to don when they arrive.
Ladies, if you do feel the need to dress for dinner, sundresses are good—or simple lightweight slacks and shirts. Capri pants are cool and comfortable. For men, lightweight slacks and tees or cotton shirts are fine. For all, jeans are fine everywhere.
(NOTE: Most of our charters are during the warm summer months. In the early spring or late fall months, warm fleece, leggings, socks, and a warm sweater should be added to this list, as nights can get quite cool).
Avoid packing sunscreens containing oil, which can stain both teak decks and canvas deck and sunbed cushions.
Not all charter companies provide them, and in Greece most people use island-harvested sponges instead, so they’re difficult to find. Almost all charter yachts include linens (sheets and towels); some provide beach towels (Stressbuster does). Ask, and if beach towels won’t be provided, bring one of your own.
Bring a waterproof jacket and pants if you have them.
If you’re a noise-sensitive sleeper, other crews (or your own) can sometimes be noisy. And in Greece the streets along the quays where we dock are often abuzz until the wee hours.
Ipods: Ask if the boat you’ve chartered has a stereo system to which these can be hooked up (most crewed yachts do).
Chargers: Ask if you’ll be able to recharge your cameras, computers, and other electronics onboard. On Stressbuster, we have an inverter, so guests can readily recharge cameras, laptops, and other small electrical items. The voltage in Europe is 220V so US electronics will need a converter plug, available at any store that sells electronics in the States.
Hair dryers: If you absolutely can't travel without one, ask if your vessel has one onboard. (Stressbuster does).
Unless you want to be very sleepy, we suggest the “non-drowsy” formulas. Even for people who don’t get seasick, taking something on the morning of the day you board is a good idea – it will give your body a chance to get used to and adapt to the motion of the boat. Many people have good luck with the prescription Transderm Scop® behind-the-ear patch, but be very mindful of possible side effects. Discuss these with your physician and/or pharmacist before using.
Foreign prescriptions are not honored at Greek pharmacies, so make sure you bring what you need.
And last but not least, organization helps. Fold and stack your clothes in groups – shirts, tank tops, shorts, long pants, bathing suits, and undergarments, for instance. Vacuum-bagging clothes in plastic bags or rolling items up will save space. And remember, no matter where you charter, there are almost always laundry facilities available onshore!