What to bring - Clothes and Personal Belongings
First of all let me say congratulations on making the decision to go cruising, it can be one of the hardest parts about the whole process and you did it! Way to go! Before we bought our boat and set sail to go cruising we had a million questions just like you do and we would scour blogs and vlogs to try to find these answers. What kind of boat to buy? What about homeschooling? What curriculum to use? What should we bring with us? What will Cole need to bring? How do you meet other families? What areas and islands should we sail to and which ones should we avoid? What about Pirates?
These are just a few of the questions we were asking and now we are finding ourselves on the receiving end of these inquiries. I decided to take inspiration from these frequently asked questions to write a series of blog posts with the details based on our experiences since we started planning and packing.
All these answers and recommendations are what has worked for us, or not worked for us and is based on cruising the Eastern Caribbean, something to consider if your planned cruising route is different.
Planning to go cruising is a crazy experience in itself, there are a million things to think about and emotions can run high. Here you are planning a complete life change to the unknown and yet somewhere inside your head your brain is telling you that it will all be worth it. Well let me tell you that it is worth it!! Good news right? Here are our answers to those questions to help pave the way to your adventure.
A picture to help you keep your eye on the prize! Yes it is all worth it!
What to bring with you?
Let me start by saying that we brought too much stuff with us! We drove to Florida from Vancouver Island in a 26’ 1986 motorhome so we could bring our favourite things with us. Great idea except it turns out we have too many favourite things! At the time it feels like you will need all these things but in the end life on a boat is quite simple and you just don’t have the same needs.
Lets break it down into categories; clothes, galley & household, tools, kids stuff, homeschooling and electronics. Of course if you are not able to bring all the things from these categories because you are flying to pick up your boat, the list will quickly become shorter with probably just your personal belongings coming along. Also its worth mentioning that many boats come with full galleys and many tools etc so often it is only your personal items that you need to bring. That being said, personal items will be our first topic in this blog series.
Dressed for a night out for dinner. Nothing too fancy, but I'd say we clean up nice. : )
Lets start with clothes. You will need plenty of bathing suits and shorts and
t-shirts, a pair of everyday sandals or flip flops a good pair of sandals that can double as hikers, such as Keens. Bringing the next size up for kids is a good idea because it is difficult to impossible to find them in the islands and while you can order them online, finding somewhere you can have them shipped to is the challenge. Clothes are easy to find in most of the islands, however its the specialised stuff that is more difficult. If you packed enough clothes for 3 weeks that would be plenty. Remember you are still living life out here and you will be doing laundry. The Islands have a casual vibe so you won’t be needing any high heels or ties but it can’t hurt to have one outfit for special occasions. We always try to make sure we are dressed with clean nice clothes when clearing customs to show respect, showing up in grubby tattered cruiser clothes doesn’t make the officials excited to invite you into their country, so why not show them you are excited to be here by dressing up a bit.
Clothes get salty down here pretty quick, actually every time you get in the dinghy to go to shore you can expect to get a bit wet, sometimes more than others. Its all part of the adventure, but light weight, quick drying fabrics will be appreciated.
Dinghy rides are more often than not wet rides.
So what do we wear in a typical day? Here is the low down… We get up and usually put on a bathing suit and go for a morning swim. Once we get out, we will dry off and put on another dry bathing suit or shorts and a top ( t-shirt or tank top ). We do some of our morning chores like school work, boat projects, and chores, so being dry is definitely more comfortable. The afternoons can bring a trip to shore and town where you are wearing some nice shorts and t-shirts or a trip to the beach and some snorkelling so another bathing suit. You do not need jeans although we have worn cozy athletic pants and socks the odd time along with a hoody on night watches and during cooler temps. A light rain jacket will be handy for some of those soggy days. We bought ourselves some rain ponchos and they work great to help keep the backpack that you are wearing, dry. In the evenings you can find yourself at a beach bar for happy hour or on a friends boat for dinner and the attire can vary. For the most part people are wearing some of their nicer cruiser clothes.
Happy Hour aboard Saltair 3 with fellow cruisers, which of your outfits would you wear?
While you might think sleeping naked is a good option in the heat, consider the inevitable event of your anchor dragging at night or some other reason you might have to jump out of bed and leap outside for. If the situation is critical there may be no time for clothes and believe me we have witnessed the Full Monty! Maybe you care, maybe you don’t, but if you do, you might want to bring some PJ’s!
Sun protection is a concern and while most cruisers don’t spend time sun tanning, we sport some of the best tans just from living aboard. The sun is strong out here so its important to protect yourself. A few important things to find before you get onboard will be a light weight long sleeve shirt, possibly one that offers UV protection. A couple of rash guards for days at the beach and snorkelling. I say a couple because when you are in and out of the water a few times a day putting on wet gear can be a challenge. Good polarised sunglasses are a must, you will wear these all the time and reducing the glare from the water is important. We have bought cheap $20 glasses too many times and found that they just don’t hold up in the harsh sun and salt conditions, so save yourself the trouble and buck up for a decent pair. You don’t have to spend a mint just buy the best quality you can afford. Brad bought a pair of Costas, they are pricey but have a lifetime warranty and are made for this environment. I have a pair of Sun Clouds and am happy with them. We found that glasses with a the nose pads made with anything but plastic tend to deteriorate with the combo of salt, sweat, sunscreen and sun. Along with sun glasses you will need a hat that will stay on in the wind, Brad recommends bringing a few hats because they too are hard to find out here. Of course don’t forget the sunscreen! You can find this pretty much everywhere but if you have a specific brand you like you may want to stock up.
Sporting a big hat and some polarised shades are a must in the sun!
In short bring what you feel comfortable wearing. If you have favourite types of clothes or shoes bring extras.
Other personal items that are important to consider are things like prescriptions. If you talk to your family doctor before you leave be sure and ask for a year supply of whatever medication you are taking. You can usually get the same prescriptions in the islands but it eliminates the hastle of visiting a Dr to get the prescription. It is also helpful to know that the French islands are much more lenient with their prescription filling and on Islands such as St. Martin you can have refills done with just your original prescription bottle, so hold onto your empties. Another bonus to this is that they tend to be a fraction of the price that you are used to. Prescriptions are not the only thing to consider. If you have a specific toothpaste, face cream brand or other toiletries you like you will want to bring extras with you onboard. Not that you can’t find toothpaste, the Islanders brush their teeth too, but the brands will be different. We also stocked up on our preferred pain medication like Tylenol and Ibuprofen, as well as cold medication, cough syrup and a broad spectrum antibiotic. If you are prone to an illness you may want to have the medication necessary to treat it on hand. Cole suffers from ear infections so we made sure we had the prescription for it, in case one flared up. Our Doctor had no problem giving us this. Don’t forget to ask your Dr. about what vaccinations he would recommend before you travel. In Canada we have specialised travel medical clinics, just ask when you call.
Remember when packing your clothes less is more! You don’t need a different outfit for everyday, you will live is shorts, T-shirts, bathing suits and flips flops and its brilliant! Life is simple and it is a wonderful feeling to not need more. We're barefoot 90% of the time and love it! So when you put everything you think you will need in a pile on your bed, before it goes in your suit case you could cut in half and still have all you need. Good Luck.
Stay tuned for the next segment of this series. Thanks for reading.
Life is for Livin'