A lone sailboat out in the ocean at night.

Can a Sailboater Sleep Anywhere in Open Water?

One of the nicest benefits of a sailboat with sleeping quarters is the ability to bring your bed with you wherever you sail. Most of the time, you’ll likely be bedding down at a marina or in protected coves or other areas close to shore.

But occasionally, you may need to spend a night out on open water, where the sleeping situation can be a bit different. Read on as we explore why and what you need to know.

A lone sailboat out in the ocean at night.

What Is Open Water?

Open water is a general term that refers to any area of an ocean, sea, or large lake that’s far from shore or any other islands or bodies. For example, a boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean would be in open water for the vast majority of the voyage. So would one in the middle of Lake Superior. 

Unlike more protected areas close to shore, open water is often too deep to drop anchor, and you’ll typically see far fewer other boats. Open water includes, among other areas, the parts of the oceans commonly known as international waters, which don’t belong to any specific country. However, a great deal of open water can also be found within the jurisdiction of the world’s coastal nations. 

Is It Safe to Sleep on a Sailboat?

There’s nothing dangerous about sleeping on a sailboat in and of itself. Like an RV (or even a house, in some respects), it all depends on where your sailboat is.

A young man sleeping in a hammock strung up on the deck of his sailboat.

As long as there’s no severe weather, safety issues are rare when sleeping on a boat at anchor close to shore or in a marina slip. Even sleeping out on open water can be very safe, though you’ll need to take some additional steps to ensure you get a safe and restful night of sleep. 

Are Sailboats Hard to Sleep On?

Many sailboats are quite comfortable. Whether or not they’re hard to sleep on depends less on the boat and more on the conditions and location. When sailboats are nestled at the marina, sleeping on one might not be much different from sleeping on land.

Even sailboats anchored in relatively shallow waters close to shore can easily provide a restful night’s sleep. However, out on open water with the waves rocking and the sounds of the sea and boat all around you, some may have issues catching some shut-eye. 

Can a Sailboater Sleep Anywhere in Open Water?

Out on open water, there are few rules about where you can and can’t sleep. The most obvious “rules” are practical considerations. For example, one of the most critical parts of sleeping on open water is ensuring you avoid other ships while most of your crew is asleep.

Therefore, if you’re in an area of open water with lots of traffic, move elsewhere to sleep. Otherwise, the best place to sleep might be the one you’re already at when you and your fellow sailors get tired!

Tips for Sleeping on a Sailboat in Open Water

As you can see, being out on open water is significantly more unpredictable than overnighting at anchor or in a marina. But with these simple pieces of guidance, you and your fellow boaters should be able to rest up safely. 

Take Turns Sleeping

With all the risks that open water presents, it’s crucial to always have someone on watch. This person should be ready to rouse the rest of the boat if necessary. Set up a watch schedule, splitting the night up between those onboard.

This way, each person will only have a few hours of responsibility. Then they can sleep worry-free the rest of the time, knowing a lookout is keeping an eye on things. 

Dress in Layers

Layers are essential to a comfortable night of sleep on a sailboat for two primary reasons. First, you’ll likely be up at least once during the night for your watch. Dressing in layers prevents you from having to spend time putting on extra clothes.

A woman wears a winter coat, hat, and gloves as she rides on a sailboat out in the water on a cold, cloudy day.

Second, temperatures can be unpredictable out on open water. An outfit with layers lets you peel one or two off if you’re hot. And you can easily replace them if things get chilly later. Both of these conveniences can help improve the quality and length of your sleep on the boat.

Manage Seasickness

Seasickness is bad enough during the day. It can be even worse at night when you’re trying to get some rest. If you’re prone to seasickness, experiment with the many varied products designed to treat the condition.

These can range from pills to patches to special wristbands or other products. You can also help avoid stomach trouble by cutting back on alcohol and caffeine ahead of trips.

Plan in Advance

A night out on open water in your sailboat isn’t the most adventurous or dangerous thing out there. Still, it can be more challenging than it needs to be if you don’t plan ahead. This includes keeping all of the above steps in mind as you prepare for your voyage.

You should also ensure you have enough folks on board to conduct a safe watch overnight. Most importantly, you should plan your itinerary. This will prevent you from having to sleep out on open water simply because you have no other options.

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Sleep Soundly on Your Sailboat

A night on a sailboat in open water isn’t as simple as one at anchor close to shore. But there’s no reason it can’t be a restful one too.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure you’re prepared for your overnight. And you can safely continue your journey the next day. Sweet dreams!

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