Every years thousands of people go sailing without suffering anything more than the odd bruise or minor cut but it’s easy for skippers to forget that some of their crew might be in fear of their lives – you may have a plan but make sure they know it!

The good news is most of the worries are about the things that are least likely to happen!  And better still, the things that are more likely to happen are largely preventable.


One of the top fears is that the yacht will lean over so far it capsizes.  It won’t.  Ask your skipper to explain why (and if he can’t, find another skipper).  The only way you are likely to capsize a charter yacht is if you hit waves taller than the mast (extremely rare and you won’t be out in such horrendous conditions because you’re on holiday) or you knock the keel off.

Trust me, I’ve seen (and heard) a fair few people try the latter, and the keels are pretty hard to knock right off (though easier to damage). And if the water is so shallow the keel has hit the bottom, then it probably isn’t going to be deep enough fot the yacht to turn turtle.  The only clients I know who managed it had to run in to the rock so hard the yacht jammed on, with the keel now repositioned in the saloon.

Non Swimmers

So the second fear is now markedly reduced – non swimmers aren’t likely to suddenly find themselves tipped in the water though I would suggest a lifejacket would be a good plan (all boats have them on board except for small child sizes which you usually need to take yourself).  And if you are inclined to clumsiness, you’ll find harnesses to with which you can tie yourself on.  But lots of non swimmers go sailing each year – don’t be put off.

Booms, Winches and Anchors

High booms reduce headaches

High booms reduce headaches

Those that usually damage themselves the most are the professionals who get blase. (And I speak as someone who managed to break two ribs, one big toe (twice), sliced the top off his finger and removed much of the skin off both legs all in the space of his first season.  I did learn though, and even my liver survived many seasons working afloat).  But all the things that will damage you on a yacht back home can do the same when you’re on holiday, so don’t get too relaxed until you’ve tied up for the day.

The introduction of biminis to provide sun protection has meant booms being fitted higher up the mast, so it’s much easier to avoid hitting your head.  The price you pay is you’ve less sail area, but then with the bimini up you won’t be able to see much of the sail so it will probably be set so badly the extra canvas wouldn’t make much difference!! Only joking.

Winches and anchors work just as they do back home, so the risk is the same and very small if you’re using them properly.  Don’t wear rings or necklaces when putting our or recovering the anchor and keep hands and fingers on the outside when putting a rope around a winch.  So the main risk is probably…..

Booze and Sun

Don’t leave your brain in left luggage at the airport.  Have fun but do the binge drinking after the sailing, not during, not just for your sake but for all those around you. Beware the large spirits measures served in many bars. And meantime drink lots of water, then drink some more.  Lecture over!