Sailing abroad is an exciting prospect, and for many, venturing beyond UK waters brings with it a unmatched sense of adventure. That said, sailing abroad is not without its challenges. Whether it’s a short trip to the Med to sample the azure waters, or a gruelling months-long round-the-world trip, there are several things you’ll need to consider. Let’s take a look!
The laws of the “coastal state” that you’ll be sailing in are what matter here. Some countries have different laws from those at home, and some have more than we do in the UK. Do your research and make sure you’re up to speed with all the relevant laws regarding navigation, customs, environmental conservation and immigration, to name a few.
One difference that has tripped many a skipper up when boating abroad is the legality of red diesel. Although it’s still allowed for use in motorboats in the UK, it’s actually banned in most EU countries. If you’ve loaded your boat with with red diesel at home, then an inspection in foreign waters may well result in difficulties if you’re storing it in anything other than the normal fuel storage tank.
Weather conditions are not always a problem, and they’re often part of the reason why we choose to sail abroad in the first place! Seas in places like the Mediterranean offer wholly better weather conditions that those we find off our own shores.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention. Certain areas may be prone to occasional bouts of rough weather, even if they’re known for hosting generally fine conditions. In tropical regions, tumultuous weather often arrives much more suddenly than in our northern climate, and many a sailor has found himself in real trouble as the conditions quickly turned.
It pays to do your research – not just finding out about forecasted conditions, but also getting a feel for the overall trends and nuances of the weather in the region you plan to sail in.
Your trip will on the whole be a lot smoother if you’ve got all the documentation you need to satisfy the officials you might meet at foreign ports, borders and inspections.
Firstly, ensure that everyone on board is carrying their own personal documentation. That means things like passports, and possibly relevant employment papers for crew members. Also, remember that you may need visas if you’re sailing outside the EU. Even if you’re not setting foot on foreign soil, you’ll still be in foreign territory, and you’ll need proof that you have permission to be there.
You’ll also need all the proper documentation for the ship itself. That includes the ship registration document, which may be something you’ll need to organise since it’s not required by UK law for sailing in UK waters. It will be required for foreign ports, so make sure you obtain one before setting off.
Additionally, remember to bring your insurance certificate (and it goes without saying, make sure you’ve bought insurance that covers you for sailing trip abroad in the first place). Many countries won’t permit entry unless you can provide proof of insurance coverage. It might even help to get copies translated into the target language(s) of the countries whose seas you’ll be sailing on.
This is a small gesture that can make a real difference when it comes to dealing with coastguard, or during encounters with other foreign sailors abroad. It’s a nice display of courtesy, which will generate a good deal more reciprocal good will from others than if you were flying the British ensign! Remember, the correct maritime ensign probably won’t be the same as the country’s flag.
Sailing abroad should be an adventure – make the preparations suggested above, and you’ll be free to thoroughly enjoy your trip.