Preparations for a Cruise

Every time you are going on a cruise – even if it is only a small trip for a couple of days – you should check your boat, gear and equipment. Is everything in shape? Ready for the adventure, food and beer in place, the GPS working alright – but didn’t you forget something? In this article, I try to put together a short checklist of all the things you should have handy before you set sails.

Planning a cruise can take several minutes – for example, if you are going to sail for a few days on a local route you already know very well – to several months. Especially cruises that will take you to several exotic locations will require a great deal of preparation. You should start your planning at least half a year before your departure. But even smaller trips need to be prepared. It is useful to divide the issue into bigger and smaller trips, meaning regional versus international ones.

Extensive Planning for Major Cruise Enterprises

This is something I can’t really talk about much – partly because I lack the experience, partly because every big cruise is different. If you travel to foreign countries, you should start by reading general travel guides and literature. Good guidebooks for independent travelers are the Australian “lonely planet” guides; “Moon” and “Let’s Go” are other valuable sources of information. You can find books specifically about sailing and cruising with reviews in the book section of

Talk to people who have been cruising in the area. Look up region and country online, for example in the cruise destination guide of this website, on cruising forums or cruise magazines. Get information about the legal aspects of your cruise well in advance – visa and sailing permits are sometimes hard to get on time. You should start writing applications as early as six months ahead of your departure.

Check the recommended vaccinations similarly soon. Some vaccinations require several shots over a period of months, others will not protect you for a long time after the injection. Try to get in touch with people who have experience with sailing in the area of your interest. There is nothing as valuable as up-to-date first-hand information from sailors who have been on a similar cruise.

Checklist for Local and General Cruises

If you are going on a small cruise, vaccinations, visa and sailing permits might be less of an issue for you. However, there are plenty of small things to check before setting sail. Here are general guidelines of what you should keep in mind before your departure:

1.) Check engine and propeller: Is every thing clean and in good shape? Are there enough fuel and oil to keep things running smoothly?

2.) Check the first-aid-kit: Is everything complete and in order? Do you know how to use the equipment? Does anyone else in the crew have first-aid skills? Is there any medication that is out of date and should not be used anymore? I have a first aid kit checklist on

3.) Check your tool-kit: Do you have all necessary tools and materials for emergency repairs offshore? I have a toolkit checklist, too.

4.) Check your culinary cargo: Do you have sufficient amounts of food and water aboard? Is the food stored in a dry place? Where is the beer?

5.) Check the deck and rigging: Do all fittings work, are the lines in order, no damages in the canvas?

6.) Check your emergency gear: Are enough life-jackets available? Do you have other personal buoyancy on board? Do you have a water-repellent torch and batteries? Are your tools for distress signals in order? Do you have your binoculars handy?

7.) Check other safety gear: Foghorns, flares, harnesses and alike – is everything in order and working? Are the fire extinguishers and smoke detectors working?

8.) Check the electronics on board: Do GPS and VHF radio systems work? Do you have sufficient energy supply for your trip, e.g. enough spare batteries? Do you have tools in your repair kit appropriate for your electronic systems? Are the navigation lights doing fine?

9.) Check your charts, maps and papers: Do you have all permits, visa and documents available? Do you have a list of all crew members and their passport numbers? Do you have maps, charts and tide tables available? Do you have things on board that require special documentation (such as fire arms)?

10.) Check your communication: Is the crew briefed about your plans and destinations? Does somebody know where you are going? Does every member of the crew know his or her rule on board? Is everyone capable of doing the job?

Further Reading

Back to "vacation"

More on Health and Safety Issues for Cruisers

Wikipedia on Maritime Cruising

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention - Travel Health Advice

Department of State's Travel advice - crucial information for your safety