After a day of sailing, it's a beautiful summer evening with a nice breeze, the sea all around, a few friends, and a few drinks. This is the perfect evening for any sailor. Unfortunately, accidents can happen. So we've put together a list of handy tips to help you party safely on your boat. And if you want to celebrate friendship and life even more to experience a genuine "party cruise", we recommend tailoring your route, boat selection, and crew towards this. Then, you can enjoy the best of clubbing and sailing.
No alcohol for the captain
While it is not illegal in most countries around the world to have alcohol on a boat, or even to drink on board, the laws clearly prohibit piloting a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For the captain, who is responsible for the ship and the crew, the rules are even stricter and the consequence can be astronomical damages that you'll be paying off for the rest of your life.
Alcohol is one of the leading causes of accidents at sea and in port. And it can easily become grounds for losing your boat rental deposit. In fact, once it's proven that someone on the crew caused the damage while under the influence of intoxicants, you can consider the deposit lost. Theoretically, they can give you some leeway at sea and in the marina, but if you really mess up, that won't happen. No matter what, don't be lulled into a false sense of security as you should always be careful. After all, it's about you and your crew's safety.
The captain is always right: what they say goes
From the moment they pick up the boat from the charter company until the moment they return it, the captain is responsible for the boat and all the people on board. In the worst cases, they can go to jail. So respect their instructions and don't rely on the fact that it's a friend or relative. You don't want to get loved ones in trouble.
If you are going to be the captain of a "party boat", don't be afraid to set strict rules and enforce them. You may have all put your money in for the boat rental, but you are the one who bears all the risk. Unfortunately, this does mean you'll probably have to be the "sober driver" for most of your vacation — your integrity as a captain won't allow it any other way and you'll want to check the boat, the route and the weather as carefully as you would on any sailing trip.
YACHTING.COM TIP: If you are happy to give up the captaincy this time, you can charter a boat with a professional skipper. We'll be happy to pair you up with some of our licensed and experienced skippers. However, do allow for the fact that not every captain wants to take on a partying group.
Avoid the hassle by chartering a luxury yacht with a skipper
More and more holidaymakers every year are indulging in luxury yacht charter, so why not simply charter a luxury yacht that includes a captain and crew? All your needs and wants will be catered for, from planning itineraries to cleaning and serving food and drink. Essentially, you'll enjoy all the luxury of a luxury hotel, but in privacy and with a staff that you have all to yourself all the time.
This service is already widely available in popular yachting destinations in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, Thailand, the Caribbean and the Seychelles. We can also arrange this kind of boat charter for you.
Choose your crew well
The best protection is prevention. Don't take notorious party animals who don't know the ropes. You may find their company fun at a party at home, but you'll change your mind when they're three sheets to the wind and you're chasing them down a pier in a completely foreign country. Assemble the party crew from people you know and that you can rely on, and with whom you won't have to have long discussions about the need to wear a life jacket or to clean up the boat while sailing.
It pays to clarify your expectations with the crew and include them in your planning. Although, from our own experience, we caution against being too democratic. Be sure to include at least one port with renowned bars and festivals on your route (we'll be writing about this next).
YACHTING.COM TIP: If you can, bring a teetotaler or a friend who is willing to abstain from alcohol. Promote them to the role of first mate and share some of your duties with them when the rest of the crew is not being as reliable and cooperative as you had hoped.
Try a catamaran
If you're heading out on a party cruise, you're probably not going to be tackling long hauls. So maybe it's time to finally try a catamaran? As we love sailing full tilt at a nice angle of heel, catamarans are often overlooked by us skippers — we don't mind sacrificing comfort for optimal sailing conditions.
However, a catamaran is generally faster than a sailboat, provides more stability when sailing (even for a larger crew) and cabins in two separate hulls mean better soundproofing and a sounder night's sleep even if your friends keep on partying. Plus, it has comfortable covered seating and the better models come with a grill. As you have probably seen in promotional photos, you can also lounge around on the trampoline (squared net at the bow) just above the water's surface.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Maybe you still don't know if a catamaran is right for you. Take a look at the pros and cons of sailboats, catamarans and powerboats in our article — A step-by-step guide to renting your first boat.
Be considerate of other crews
When drinking in the marina, keep in mind that the boats are moored up pretty tightly. And your neighbours will want to get enough sleep before you set sail again. They will often have longer crossings ahead of them and children in their cabins.
Plus, you should try to observe port etiquette at all times. As a basic courtesy, you should only board someone else's vessel with the permission of its captain. If you are tied up to other boats at anchor and have to cross over to get to the jetty, go across the bow only and say hello. Avoid the cockpit, which is a private area.
10 rules for a fun but safe party on a boat
If you're throwing a party on your boat, set a few guidelines with your crew that you'll all follow. This will prevent accidents or unnecessary injuries. At the very least, we recommend the following ten points:
1. Never drink when piloting the boat
Not only will this protect your crew and your loved ones, but it will also keep you out of trouble with the law. Unfortunately, not all skippers understand this still — more than 15 % of boating accidents are caused by alcohol.
2. Check the weather forecast before you set sail and during the party
Always make sure you have suitable weather before setting sail. Check local forecasts, the sky and the wind, not only before you set sail but also during the celebration. As soon as you have the feeling that a change for the worse is coming, immediately turn back towards the marina.
3. Try to have your party at anchor, buoy or in a harbour
It's safer for everyone involved if you aren't sailing at the same time, so it is preferable to be moored in a bay or marina. This allows the skipper to concentrate more on what is happening on the boat and alleviates the work involved in steering. Although, of course, the captain will still have to closely monitor the conditions.
4. If you are sailing and partying, hold a steady course and choose a reasonable speed
The boat full of revellers should be moving at a safe speed with the skipper trying to maintain a steady course, avoiding sharp turns or acceleration that may cause injury or someone to fall overboard. Be especially cautious in areas with more boat traffic.
5. Wear life jackets
Up to 80 % of fatal boating accidents are caused by not wearing life jackets so make sure all crew members are wearing one. Should someone fall into the sea, a life jacket can save their life.
More handy advice for sailors:
6. Accident prevention — make the boat safe and clarify the rules
As the deck is smooth and the boat moves, slipping or falling is common and can lead to serious injuries. Causes are mostly slippery surfaces, loose ropes, unmarked obstacles, and having no railings or safety nets. Always take into account the fact that having alcohol in the blood can increase all these risks.
Even so, as a precaution, have a refresher with the crew and explain the rescue procedure if someone falls overboard. It's best to give yourself some hands-on training during the voyage as well. Check out our article — Man Over Board (MOB): a step-by-step guide.
7. No jumping in the water and night swimming
An intoxicated crew might not notice that one of the bathers needs assistance. At night, the poor visibility makes this even more difficult.
8. Use sunscreen
Even when sober, some crew members can forget to protect themselves from the sun's rays but during a party, this is even more likely. So, dress appropriately (preferably a loose long-sleeved shirt), wear headgear and sunglasses, and apply suncream with a high UF factor to any exposed skin.
9. Follow a drinking regime
Drink plenty of fluids. And we mean water. A poor drinking regime can lead to weakness and exacerbate seasickness. If you're also suffering from a slight hangover from yesterday, it's pretty easy to knock yourself out for the day.
10. Always keep a first aid kit on board
You never know when you'll need so first aid kit so when you take over the boat, make sure you know where the first aid kit is and what's in it. And it's always a good idea to bring your own travel first aid kit with you.
YACHTING.COM TIP: How should you deal with injuries on board a yacht? Which accidents and injuries are you at risk of and what are the specifics of first aid on a boat? We recommend checking out our guide — Yachting accidents and injuries: first aid tips and advice on how to deal with them effectively.
Harbour nightlife: the top resorts to party
The best option is to also cruise destinations known for their clubs and bars. During the day, enjoy sailing and swimming and head out in the evening for a few drinks at a local nightspot. Ibiza, for example, has been synonymous with partying and lively nightlife for decades. The most famous clubs can be found in the Playa d'en Bossa beach area or in the Formentera neighbourhood. The nice thing is that they are often right on the beach.
Mykonos in Greece enjoys a massive influx of tourists every season, attracted by those white houses with blue roofs that we all know from the magazines and the top-class nightclubs. The ones in Ornos Bay are especially popular as they're sheltered from the Meltemi.
Porto Montenegro (the marina in the port of Tivat on the Bay of Kotor) is one of the liveliest spots in Montenegro, and since superyachts dock here, you might be able to mix with the rich and famous in one of the local luxury clubs. For a more budget-friendly option try Budva.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Montenegro has much more to offer than just luxury bars — unbridled nature, historic towns, UNESCO sites, beginner-friendly seas and super-luxurious marinas with pools and bars. Read more in our article on 8 reasons to sail in Montenegro.
Sailors have also had good times in the bustling clubs near the marina in Hvar, Croatia. Already legendary is Carpe Diem (Enjoy the day).
Italy's Porto Cervo, the main marina in northern Sardinia, has been carefully building a reputation as a luxury party spot since the 1960s. Suffice to say, Silvio Berlusconi has a villa here.
Puerto Banús on Spain's Costa del Sol had been on the radar of all yacht party lovers long before fashion designer Roberto Cavalli opened his luxury club there. Now half of them go there just for him.
Monaco and Cannes on the French Riviera don't just draw people to their infamous Grand Prix and film festival, but also to their clubs. In Monaco, Port Hercules is a renowned marina so vast it offers berthing for up to 700 boats, including superyachts.
A catamaran is a perfect choice for a party or a family holiday. What will you choose?