Experiencing sailing: being carried by the winds, setting sails and realizing that the boat is moving in full control, in an almost magical harmony of nature and sea. This is but one of the extraordinary feelings only a sailboat can deliver. In order to fully enjoy the experience of sailing, one does not need superpowers: all you’ll need to do is to relax, let the waves lull you, have a minimum awareness of what is going on onboard and how to behave to make your cruise an even more delightful holiday.
Unlike traditional holidays, a sailboat cruise, regardless of its duration, offers new elements to consider: reduced cabin space compared to average hotel rooms and having to share with other people limited living quarters. The ship crew is composed of professionals with extensive sea experience and they will do everything you could possibly need to help you integrating with the group, making the holiday even more pleasurable. Their mission, in addition to navigating the ship, is to suggest the most adequate solutions to coordinate onboard activities: when you work together, you accomplish things faster, you create team spirit and, let’s face it, you have more fun!
The privacy of other people is paramount, as is remembering that your freedom ends when someone else’s starts: cabins and the ship need to be kept tidy, because everything out of its place might annoy other passengers and even be a safety hazard onboard. And do not be alarmed if you see someone lurking around below deck or at the dinette at night: it is probably the skipper, watching over your sleep and making sure everything is ok.
Sailing: when you’re sailing for the very first time, you can experience mixed sensations. You enter a brand new world compared to the everyday life we live in: time seems to dilate and the mechanical noise that normally we associate with propulsion is gone, yet the ship will move – and then some! The boat will ride waves, incline and sometimes will swerve in ways that may be unsettling for the novice. The reason is that sailboats are designed to sail while leaning on one side, to make full use of their length and sail faster. Underneath the sailboat there is keel that balances the pressure of wind on the sails and increases straightening. Simply put: the more the boat is inclined, the stronger the straightening force that the keel opposes.
Now that we know that the boat is inclined while sailing, where do we want to sit? Up top or down below?
Upwind or downwind? The top side is certainly more panoramic. But the down side is more fun, as you sail much closer to the water! If you need to move, you can only do so in the upwind/top side and you must always remember the old saying of the ancient sailors: you keep a hand for you and a hand for the boat! If needed, sea sickness problems are soothed by staying on the downwind/bottom side of the boat. Once you overcome your initial concerns, you’ll quickly discover that sailing is an incredibly relaxing, as well as one of the most adventurous experiences you may have the chance of doing.
In case of bad weather or hazardous conditions, wise skippers will resort to staying on pier or roadstead in a sheltered bay, rather than exposing the boat and the crew to a stressful sailing session. Do not be upset, should this happen: it is part of the deal and be assured that the skipper will suggest alternative, interesting activities, such as a land trip to interesting archaeological or natural sites, cooking competitions on the beach or anything will help you spend a delightful day at port or in a harbour.
What to bring onboard: sportswear is the most sensible choice for a short sailing cruise. Comfortable pants, t-shirts, a sweatshirt and a waterproof light jacked are the best solution, keeping in mind that, even in full summer, nights at sea can be brisk and humidity is common. A hooded raincoat can also be useful at night against wind and humidity. You will need two hats: one peaked to protect from sunlight and one to protect from the humidity and wind. Onboard you will find blankets and pillows, but we encourage you to bring your own sheets and pillow cases or a sleeping bag: the latter may also be useful should you decide to spend a night sleeping outside under a starry sky. Do not forget a beach towel and a washing towel, sea soap as it is less polluting, a strong sunscreen product and a hydrating after sun product. For those who have trouble sleeping with background noises, or light sleepers, we also recommend to bring earplugs.
Contrary to what you might expect, you always carry your shoes on a boat. They are absolutely necessary while sailing and during manoeuvers: the deck can sometimes be slippery and deck equipment is particularly fond of bare feet. In order to avoid slipping or hitting a stopper or hitting a winch with your little toe you must use a pair of sport shoes. Shoes with black rubber soles are to be avoided like the plague: they tend to leave horrible skid marks on deck that don’t come off easily; obviously, you should also avoid high heels.
We encourage you to bring two pairs of shoes, one of which is to be used only onboard, canvas sneakers are perfect for this. Bring a pair of sunglasses, polarized if possible, with safety string and a swimming suit and you’ll have all you need to spend a lovely sailing cruise.
Use of restroom onboard: sailboat have a WC that is fairly similar in shape to the ones we use every day. It is, however, completely different it its functioning. Unlike our house WCs, it does not use a tank to flush: it has a manual pump that uses sea water to flush and drains everything outside. Piping is, for safety reasons, reduced in diameter and therefore no toilet paper, tampons or similar may be flushed, to avoid certain cogging of the WC, with all the unpleasantness this entails.
Seacocks are valves that enable water to enter the system. They must normally be kept shut during sailing for safety reason: an open seacock is a potential hull breach in the ship structure.
The skipper will certainly explain to the crew how the WC works and will allow its use during sailing. Do not be afraid to ask anything: asking is preferable to a cogged or flooded WC.
Water, showers and electric power: Even a large sailboat can only carry a limited amount of fresh water. Tanks hold a few hundred liters of fresh water, which may seem a huge amount, but if it were used like we normally use water in our houses, it wouldn’t last past a few hours at most!
During short cruises, this is not an issue, but if the boat remains at sea for longer, it can be: not all ports have tanks to replenish fresh water and in summer in the Mediterranean Sea water is certainly a rare and sometimes expensive commodity.
A little care will do the trick: always turn off the taps in the restrooms and kitchen, do not have “Niagara” –type of showers: that’s all there is to it.
Whilst sailing, energy is produced by a series of large 12 volt batteries, which feed all systems on the boat. When in a port, when possible, the electric system is connected to a normal 220 volt outlet. Onboard there are several 220 volt outlets identical to the domestic ones, so charging mobile phones is not a problem, even though we suggest bringing with you an adapter to plug in the cigarette lighter.
A few words on seasickness: and finally there it is, the white whale of the seafarers: the infamous sea sickness. Naupathia is caused by an imbalance in the inner ear, where the structures dedicated to balance are located. The rolling of the boat disrupt this organ, overloading it and causing it to send erratic signals to the brain. This disruption causes nausea.
Do not worry though: you can’t call yourself a real seaman unless you’ve thrown back to father Neptune at least once what you’ve eaten the night before. This is part of the deal and no one on board will ever make fun of you for having been sick. Just know that Columbus also suffered from it during the first three days of navigation and it is a historical fact that Admiral Nelson could not even stand from his bunk during gales. Sir Francis Chichester, the famous solitary sailor, had a special pivoting seat built for him to minimize this condition.
Seasickness symptoms start with a sense of general unease and peak into a strong nausea, evolving into fatigue. What remedy can we use? Sailor traditional remedies abound. Some suggest eating a salted anchovy, others drinking lemon juice or staring at a fixed point on the horizon. In our experience, these are a few rules that we can suggest you follow:
a) every morning, as soon as you’re awake, take a Vitamin C pill. This is the best known remedy to “cement” your stomach;
b) do not binge on hard to digest food or liqueurs, especially at night and, if possible, for breakfast do not have anything related to milk and prefer savory foods over sweet ones. Try to eat frequently but in moderate amounts pretzels, chips anchovies, oil-pickled veggies, salami, cheese or anything you could use as a mid-morning snack or as an appetizer before some delicious spaghetti with sea food sauce.
c) keep warm: cold is one of the main causes of seasickness; if possible, try to sleep one night onboard, to give your body enough time to get used to the strange floating sensation of the new environment.
All these method are very effective at preventing seasickness. However, if you should feel sick, do not hesitate to tell the skipper, and try to keep your attention focused on a task that will keep you occupied. Try to take your mind off the sensation of upcoming sickness. If symptoms increase, go lay down in the dark at the middle of the central part of the boat, that is more stable.
Close your eyes, take deep breaths and try to sleep or chew on dried bread or some cookies; should you feel the need to throw up, do so: trying to resist would only make things worse. Most of the time, as soon as the stomach is empty, you’ll feel better very quickly.
There are a large number of medications to cure motion sickness, and chewing-gums, patches and bracelets can surely be of help but remember: their only limitation is that they have to be taken before sailing; once you’re already seasick they are completely useless. They also have another side effect: drowsiness.
Again: no one will make fun of you for being sick: we have all given back to Neptune his due one day or another. And don’t be ashamed of being sick: as the saying goes, the sailor will get to curse the sea before loving it.
Beds: there are many types of bedding arrangements on the various boats: single bunks, double beds, double-deckers in a double cabin, double bed with spare bunk in a cabin for 3 people.
Beds are assigned chronologically and by need and their assignment cannot be contested (however, you may request cabins for a single person).
Personal belongings: do not leave anything unattended! Any item and valuable items in particular must NOT be left unattended on the boat or even in the cabin. Alma S.r.l. shall not be liable for them and no indemnification will be provided by either us or our insurance company so BE CAREFUL.
Identification documents: all persons onboard at the beginning of the rental must have a valid identification document.
Minors: minors onboard are entirely dependent on and under the responsibility of their parent or guardian regarding both their safety and their behavior, and they shall watch over them.
Animals: No person onboard may carry any type of animal on the ship.
Health: Upon boarding you must notify the skipper of any personal limitations due to health, disability or other reasons that may in any way impede or hinder the enjoyment of the holiday to yourself or others.
The ship commander may refuse access to the boat to people not deemed fit for sailing.
If such limitations are not notified, requests for reimbursement for refused access to the boat will be disregarded.
Damages to people or things: every person onboard is responsible for their behavior with others and with all items and furniture of the boat.
In case of damage to yourself or to people under your charge, to the ship or its furniture, to equipment or supplies, to other guests or their property, to neighboring ships or their guests or their possessions, to equipment or to port facilities or other damages, the person causing the damage shall reimburse the Company before disembarking or, if impossible for practical or technical reasons, after the repair or substitution, for the entirety of the repair cost or as quantified including additional indemnification for the time needed for repairs if the ship cannot be used during that period.
In particular, we recommend to use the restroom onboard carefully, especially the WC. We remind you that any foreign object that is flushed in the toilet will cause immediate cogging of piping, the removal of which will be expensive and distressful to other guests.
PROHIBITIONS: you may not smoke below deck at any time and if you’re smoking on deck, you may only do so downwind (each person is responsible for any damage to the furniture); you may not possess and/or use drugs and/or illegal substances of any type. You may not possess nor use weapons of any kind. You may not throw off board cigarette butts or any object. You may not start fires or use bludgeoning or sharp objects onboard. You may not use or adjust onboard instruments without previous agreement of the skipper. You may not inspect nor intervene on electric, hydraulic, mechanical, engine, generation, desalinization systems, including maneuvering the deck or any of its part, without previous agreement of the skipper.
It is forbidden to behave or dress inappropriately onboard.
Commander: this is not a cruise ship, this is a sailboat. A skipper will be in charge of the boat. All guests onboard shall follow his orders and commands. The commander has the right to disembark people who, with their behavior, endanger the safety and normal enjoyment of the trip by other guests or crew members or that cause damage to things and people including off board. For safety reasons and at the unquestionable judgment of the commander, the program may be partially or entirely changed.
Conclusions: as you will quickly see, a sailboat is not a strange alien ship: it is one of the safest, most relaxing and pleasurable means of transportation in the world. You will embrace nature; become one with the wind and with the sea. Sailing means tuning oneself to forgotten rhythms of living. Life onboard is full of small, exciting moments that are never experienced in our daily lives, which stay with us once we disembark, to be forever treasured in our memories.
If you have any doubts or uncertainties, feel free to ask the skipper, he is there to make your debut as smooth as possible! We wish you a pleasant sailing experience and welcome you onboard the boats of Alma del Mar, into the strange, romantic and beguiling world of Sailing.
May the wind be at your back!