So you have friends coming to sail with you, but they've never been on a sailing boat before - what do you tell them? Jerry and Susan Barber, cruising on their Lagoon 440 catamaran Vida Dulce in the Caribbean, have it down to a fine art. So good are their 20 pieces of advice, in fact, that we'd like to share them with you.
Jerry and Susan and their catamaran Vida Dulce
This is the email that Jerry and Susan send to their non-sailing visitors, before arrival:
We're looking forward to seeing you! Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your stay with us on Vida Dulce.
You'll be staying in a guest cabin (sheets, blanket and pillows provided) Your bathroom is just outside your door (soap, bathroom towels provided). Both are much smaller than a small bedroom or typical hotel room.
What To Bring
Luggage Please bring soft-sided, collapsible luggage if possible. Hard luggage is difficult to stow. I know the airlines are charging per-bag fees for checked bags and limiting carry-ons, however when possible, it's better to bring smaller bags rather than one large one.
We suggest packing lightly. Swimsuits & cover-ups, along with a few shorts, tees, tanks, casual skirts and/or dresses. You'll want clothes that are comfortable while climbing in / out of the dingy, on / off docks, etc. Almost everywhere there are tees / tanks / etc. available for sale so bring less with you and save room to take one home. A dresser outfit (e.g. chinos w/polo shirt for guys, nice dress or skirt/top for gals) is nice to bring for a special evening out but certainly not required, A light raincoat, light sweater, long sleeve tops and comfortable long pants are good for the cooler days and evenings, especially if on watch during a passage. A 'surfer' board top is nice to have for snorkeling to avoid burning your back. If we're meeting in a place that is more formal, we'll let you know in advance.
Please coordinate your clothes to minimize the number of shoes you bring with you. Flip-flops and thongs are universally worn where we sail; seriously most of the time you'll be barefoot or wearing them. Keens or Crocs or similar are great for extensive walking, hiking and site seeing. Water / reef shoes great for snorkeling if you have them. If you bring a fancy pair of shoes, flats or wedges are best. Spiky high heals cannot be worn on board or in the dinghy.
Passport & Visa (if necessary): Please make sure you have all necessary documents. Also check for mandatory shots (e.g. Yellow Fever areas) and bring documentation.
Polarized is best but be sure to bring whatever type you have.
Sunscreen & Aloe / After Sun Treatment:
The sun is strong in the Caribbean. SPF 30 and SPF 15 are good starter lotions, even if you tan easily. Bring as many SPFs as you want to use, many are difficult to find in local stores. Please bring only lotion types (no tanning oils). You may want to bring Aloe / After Sun Treatment to sooth sunburned skin.
You won't necessarily see them but biting bugs are everywhere; even on-board despite our efforts to keep them out. The experts recommend formulas with Deet. We have plenty of Deet-based products so no need to bring them. We prefer to use products that don't include Deet as after a few days of use, Susan feels toxic. If you also prefer the non-Deet options, please bring it with you as non-Deet products are nearly impossible to find here.
We have bathroom towels for your use but they don't go to the beach.
It's nice to have your own water bottle for hikes and beach excursions, or while on watch. It's also a great non-spill way to have water on your bed stand for night time thirst quenching.
Mask, Snorkel & Fins (if you want them):
Many of our destinations have wonderful snorkeling areas. We may be able to locate a place to rent them, but it is always nice to have your own, especially mask and snorkel. If you plan to scuba dive during your visit please be sure to bring your diving certification card. If you have your own equipment you might consider bringing your own regulator along with mask, fins, and snorkel. We will most likely be diving with local dive companies so if you want to save luggage space, they can rent you equipment. If you have not been diving recently, please take a refresher course before coming and review your equipment. If you have not had a dive physical in several years and/or are on new medication, please check with your physician and the DAN (Divers Alert Network) website before diving. In addition to being a serious disruption to your time here, medical evacuation is very expensive. Please take the time to be prepared in advance.
Prescription Medications (if you use them.):
To be safe, transport them in the original prescription bottle.
Nice to bring if you already have / use one to protect your face from the sun.
Nice to bring if you already have them to protect your hands while sailing, anchoring and mooring.
Sea / Motion Sickness Remedy (if needed):
Vida Dulce moves all of the time, even at anchor or on a mooring ball. If you're prone to motion sensitivity or sickness, please bring the remedy that works best for you. We usually have or can purchase, saltine crackers, ginger cookies, and ginger ale. The first couple of days are when you'll feel the most motion coming from land, so if medication works best, you may want to take it everyday for a couple of days in advance so that it's already in your system. Everyone gets motion / sea sick at some level and time. The key is to address symptoms early.
Food, Alcohol & Other Necessities:
We will usually go shopping when you arrive. If we will be short on time to provision, Susan will contact you in advance to plan menus. If you have favorite recipes, please bring them along. We don't guarantee we'll be able to purchase all ingredients but that's the fun of being in a new place! If you have 'must have' items, please bring them with you. (Reminder: many food items are not allowed through immigration even in checked baggage.)
What To Leave At Home:
Hairdryers & Other Bathroom Appliances Vida Dulce's electrical system isn't designed for typical bathroom /beauty appliances so please leave them home.
Dark Sole & High Heal Shoes: Vida Dulce is a white boat. Dark sole shoes will leave black marks that are difficult to remove. Most places we will go are fine with flip-flops or flats even with dressier dresses (women) and chinos (men). On board you'll be barefoot.
Regardless of SPF tanning oil leaves oily blotches on everything including the hulls, and it quickly soils the furniture. Please bring lotion style sunscreen instead.
Non-Prescription Medications & Drugs of Any Kind:
Most of the countries we visit have very strict drug laws. Most conduct random searches of boats as a security precaution. Do not even consider bringing any type of illegal contraband or drugs. Not only could you wind up in jail, we will likely as well. Worse, the authorities will confiscate Vida Dulce. Please make sure everyone traveling with you is aware of the seriousness of this issue. If a teenager / young adult is traveling with you, please find an opportunity to search his / her luggage before you leave home. Explain the issue and blame it on us if you get caught in the act.
Last Yet Perhaps The Most Important Thing You Need to Know:
We are at the mercy of the weather. We stay in protected areas when the weather is poor rather than risk life and Vida Dulce to meet a scheduled time and place. Therefore, when you plan your trip, we recommend that you also reserve a hotel at / around the location we are planning to meet. A few days before you leave, we'll email you to let you know if we arrived at the rendezvous point, or if weather is delaying us. If we are at there you can cancel your hotel reservations without penalty. If we are delayed, you will have a nice place to stay and enjoy yourselves while we wait for the weather to clear.
See you soon!
Maybe (if you are unlucky) your sailing region is not the Caribbean, but these pieces of advice can be easily personalised for wherever you sail. For more information about the travels of Vida Dulce, go to their http://www.sailblogs.com/member/vidadulce/?show=profile!website.