20 Must-Have Sailing Accessories

20 Must Have Sailing Accessories | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

While some sailing accessories are simply nice to have, others are a must if you want to have a safe and enjoyable sailing experience. From safety equipment to navigation systems and communication devices there are must-have sailing accessories.

Leaving the dry land and going sailing is, without a doubt, a lifetime opportunity. But you can only stay safe and enjoy this opportunity if you outfit your sailboat with the right accessories. While you'll hear a sailor saying he/she can't go sailing without a plumbed-in washing machine, we aren't sure if this is a must-have accessory. But going out there on a sailboat that doesn't have a wind vane self-steering gear is unthinkable. Although we all have our eccentricities, there are several accessories that you shouldn't even think about sailing without.

Sailing, of course, requires preparation, training, and practice. While accessories such as life jackets are a must-have in any sailboat, there are other must-have items that you should always have before setting out. These accessories are critical not just for safety purposes but also for an enjoyable sail.

This article, therefore, provides a handy guide to the 20 must-have sailing accessories that you should have before going out there on the water.


Table of contents

Safety Equipment

  1. Life Raft

How do you escape from the sailboat should the worst come to you? Well, life raft becomes the order of the day. This is essentially a type of lifeboat that must be carried in the sailboat for emergency evacuation purposes if there's a disaster on the sailboat. Keep in mind that a life raft is a lot easier to launch than a lifeboat. This is because a life raft is designed with an auto-inflatable system, so you won't have to launch it manually.

When choosing a life raft, a rule of thumb is that the life raft should be big enough to carry more people than the sailboat typically carries. For instance, if you have a six-person sailboat, the life raft should be able to carry 8 people. Make sure that the life raft has a hydrostatic release and is kept on the deck where it can be easily accessed when there's an emergency. More importantly, make sure that the life raft is regularly serviced so that it doesn't work with a hitch.

  1. Grab Bag

This bag should contain all the important emergency supplies that you can take with you in the life raft. In addition to being waterproof, the grab bag should be able to float and have interior pockets where you can keep safety items. You can also add a lanyard that makes it impossible to lose the bag even if the life raft capsizes.

A grab bag is a perfect place to store all your essentials including the survival gear, vessel's signaling, medical kit, spare battery pack, flashlights, SOLAS flares mobile phone, EPIRB, and many more.

  1. 406 MHz EPIRB

Connected to a global satellite network, an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is a small radio that can be used worldwide to alert Search and Rescue agencies about an emergency in the seas. For instance, you can use the EPIRB to alert the agencies that your sailboat is sinking.

The EPIRB is one of the most important safety items when sailing. When buying this device, you can look for an upgraded model that comes with a built-in GPS. This is essential in the sense that your position can be instantly transmitted to a nearby rescue agency. You should always keep the EPIRB in the grab bag in case things go wrong.

  1. Handheld VHF Radio

This is an excellent backup to the boat's VHF radio. This is because a handheld VHF radio is independent of the boat's antenna and DC system. As such, it makes sense to have one in the grab bag but do not forget additional alkaline batteries.

Some of the best handheld VHF radio models to consider include Standard Horizon and West Marine. You should keep in mind that some models can float if thrown overboard. Such models have several features such as an integral GPS receiver with full Digital Service Calling (DSC) safety features.

  1. SOLAS Grade Signals and Flares

Any sailboat that's going out there on the water must have SOLAS grade signals. These flares are of great importance when you want to give out a signal and call for help when disaster strikes. You should have handheld red flares as well as rocket parachute flares and at least two orange smoke canisters for daytime signaling.

It's always advisable to have at least a pair of the red, rocket parachute, and orange flares with you. You can consider placing one each in the cockpit while keeping the rest in the grab bag. You should always remember that SOLAS flares are a very powerful way of sending out signals, so you must be very cautious when using them. In other words, don't just use them; use them only when you're in serious help.

  1. Emergency Watermaker

Having SOLAS flares and the EPIRB will, of course, increase the likelihood of having a quick rescue but what happens if the rescue doesn't come as fast as you had thought? Well, you should have an emergency Watermaker. This is essential in producing enough fresh water that can keep nearly 24 people hydrated for days on end.

  1. Radar Reflector

This is an important accessory while sailing in the sense that it's what alerts other vessels, both big and small, of your presence. Although these radar reflectors may vary greatly in their performance, you should use something that's effective such as Trilens and Echomax reflectors.

Most ships out there generally use a 24-mile scale on their S-band radar but such radars are unlikely to notice a small craft in their radar reflectors until they're within a range of six-mile or less. This means that these ships can sometimes detect your sailboat when it's a little too late. As such, you shouldn't take chances. Instead, use your radar reflector and detect whether there's a huge ship or any other vessel, for that matter.

  1. Portable Fire Extinguisher

You should have several portable fire extinguishers to help the crew fight fire. The locations of these fire extinguishers should be clearly labeled to make sure that everyone is familiar with their locations and how to operate them.

  1. Patching Materials

There are certain instances when your boat may suffer from collision or any damage that may put a dent on your hull. Without appropriate patching materials, this may spell doom as there will be a constant flow of water on the deck.

You should, therefore, have patching materials that can help you prevent water from flowing into the deck, thereby allowing for emergency repairs. Some of these patching materials include underwater-cure epoxy putty and pre-cut pieces of waterproof plywood.

  1. Throwable PFD

Whether it's a horseshoe buoy, a throw rope bag, or a rescue stick, a sailboat must have a lifeline sling that can be used to save someone in the water. Some of these devices throw well for long distances and with good accuracy and can be used to provide flotation. Most of these devices remain connected to the vessel, which makes it a lot easier to pull the victim out of the water and to the boat.

Medical Equipment

  1. The Boat's Medical Kit

A medical is a must-have accessory in any sailboat. It should have partitions with each partition meant for a particular class of injury. The kit should also be readily available to the crew and have common drugs, bandages, and a first-aid kit. It should have sunscreen, common painkillers, tweezers, bandages, and many more.

Additionally, you should also get a doctor to write prescriptions for non-OTC. You can as well consider using a telemedicine service that can help you in case of a serious emergency.

Personal Equipment

  1. Inflatable Life Jackets

This is a personal safety gear that's not only comfortable to wear but will also offer great performance in the water. When used together with safety harnesses, you'll have a single piece of gear that has nearly all the safety gear that you need on the deck.

Inflatable jackets are great especially on the open water and should also be available for guests and everybody on the boat.

  1. Safety Harnesses and Tethers

Although safety harnesses and tethers may be too heavy or too hot to wear especially in warm climates, they're of great importance in keeping you safe should things go wrong. It's advisable to integrate them with inflatable life jackets and must be worn in almost all conditions. In fact, it would be appropriate if you make them mandatory on the deck.

You should make sure that the tethers do not have hooks that can accidentally unhook and cause injuries. The safety harness should also have an easy-to-release snap shackle at the chest.

Sailing requires foul weather gear just the same way a corporate business director requires a three-piece suit. Don't just buy any gear. Instead, go for a quality gear that fits lightly and can allow you to put shielding garments beneath. The fabric should be breathable for additional comfort. Some of the brands to consider include West Marine, and Henri Lloyd.

Part of this gear should include fleece jackets and pants. Fleece garments are excellent in providing warmth and cushion and shouldn't be bulky. They are also great for sleeping during long passages. You should also have long underwear to keep you from freezing. You should go for a synthetic material. Something like polyester or polypropylene fabric is appropriate. This is because such materials can cling to your skin, thereby transporting moisture away from your skin. That being said, you should never use cotton or any other natural fiber.

  1. Deck Shoes, Hats and Gloves

Nothing arguably ruins a fascinating sailing trip than a broken ankle or foot. It doesn't matter the type of shoes that you prefer, you must have shoes with better grip while on the deck. This is not only to secure your feet but also to prevent you from skidding, which can cause serious injuries.

While a hat may make you look like a dork, it's of great importance in protecting your head and face from sunburn and also from insects at night. Floppy canvas hats are the best thanks to their wide brim but you can also use baseball caps for extra protection.

You should also have line-handling gloves to protect your hands from wear and tear. The gloves should be manufactured from either synthetic or genuine and should remain flexible even after several exposures to saltwater soaking. They should also be waterproof to keep your hands warm.

Electronic and Communication Gadgets

  1. Shortwave Receiver

You should get a quality Sony, Sangean, or Grundig receiver that can work with WFAX software as a shortwave receiver. You can also choose an SSB (Single Sideband) radio as a shortwave receiver, though it will drain the battery banks quickly as it tends to draw a lot of currents.

  1. Spare Antenna

Although they don't have to be elegant, they're of great importance particularly if you lose your mast. There are many affordable models out there, so you can't lack something that can work for you.

  1. VHF Marine Radio, Antenna

This is one of the most important communication devices on a sailboat and can enable you to communicate clearly for up to 60 miles. You can use a base-loaded stainless steel whip with antennas at the masthead. They also offer remote stations as an option and are like large microphones. This is to allow you to have full-power radio that's accessible from the helm while the main radio remains at the navigation station.

  1. Weather Map Solutions

Good weather is of great importance if you want to enjoy safe sailing. While the Furuno FAX207 used to be the standard device on most sailboats, you can now use a laptop, an iPad, or a Xaxero.

This can work in tandem with a fixed mount network GPS that can be used to perform many tasks. The model that you choose should have a large and sharp display, as well as a good interface.

  1. Depth Sounder and Knot Log

Speed and distance are some of the most important navigation information. You should use a knot log to measure speed and distance and use depth sounder to measure the depth to avoid unintentional grounding while enhancing safe sailing and navigation.

  1. Main Compass

This is to ensure that you can know the latitudes and, of course, the direction that you're traveling at.


Whether you've been sailing for decades of just starting out on this incredible adventure, preparation is key to safe and fun sailing. Part of this preparation is being aware of all the must-have accessories that you should have in your boat. Hopefully, you're in a much better position as far as must-have sailing accessories are concerned.

20 Must-Have Sailing Accessories
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

Read more articles

by this author

Home /

20 Must-Have Sailing Accessories

20 Must-Have Sailing Accessories
7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat >>Can You Live On A Sailboat Year Round? >>

Most Recent

Important Legal Info

Similar Posts

Popular Posts

Get The Best Sailing Content

Welcome aboard! Check your email...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Lifeofsailing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

(866) 342-SAIL

© 2024 Life of Sailing
Email: contact@lifeofsailing.com
Address: 11816 Inwood Rd #3024 Dallas, TX 75244
DisclaimerPrivacy Policy