Being on a boat for a long time can eventually wear you out of shape. No, we are not kidding. Despite sailing and sailing activities being heavy in the physical aspect, the crew can be out of shape eventually. And it can also wear them out of mental shape as well. So, how do you really stay in shape on a boat in South Africa? Let’s find out in this article.

Long Voyages and how does it affect your health?

When we talk about long voyages, we are talking about spending days on the sea for fishing; or an inter-continental recreational cruise in a superyacht or cruise; or a scientific expedition that requires you to spend days or months on sea. The drastic change in routine, working hours, dietary habits etc, can affect your health and fitness. Work hours on such vessels are often irregular. One day, you are working 18-20 hours tending to an emergency and the other, you are just leisurely chilling or working light jobs like cleaning or maintaining. These jobs are light in terms of working hours (usually during daylight, 9-5 sort of deal) and are not as physically taxing.

This is exactly why a boat’s crew must be flexible and resilient, or they may face adversities on the seas, where limited help is available. Even the most resilient crew members may eventually face minor adversities like physical or mental weariness or getting out of shape. And for a boat crew, the most important thing for them is to be fit for the job. So, how can a boat crew manage to stay fit?

Related: What is an ENG1 Certificate and Why do I need one?

How to Stay in Shape while on a Boat in South Africa?

1. Nutritional Balance

With long working hours and the mental stress and fatigue that follow, it is highly possible to lose your nutritional balance. Thus, it is important to be aware of your nutrition intake. A balanced diet no matter where you go is your primary step to staying fit on any boat. Not all boats may have balanced provisions onboard. In such times, it is best to avoid overeating and stay hydrated. Though, we do understand the desire to indulge every now and then!

2. Planning your meals

If your work schedule is irregular, plan and prepare your meals beforehand. This will help you avoid relying on fast food or unhealthy snacks while on duty. Also, controlling your portion sizes is crucial in maintaining your fitness.

3. Exercises

Depending on the routine, it might not be possible to keep up with physical exercises all the time. However, whenever you can, and in the physical state to do exercises, you should set a general routine.

  • Bodyweight Workouts: Perform bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks in your cabin or a designated area.
  • Interval Training: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts can be effective and time-efficient.
  • Use Onboard Facilities: If your boat has an onboard gym or fitness equipment, use it during your free time.
  • Deck Exercises: Use the deck or outdoor spaces for exercises like skipping rope, yoga, or stretching.
4. Sleep and Rest

Sleep and rest are a luxury when you are working on boats, so make it count. Whenever you are off-duty, do get plenty of rest. Being restless and lack of sleep is not good for your fitness and overall well-being in the long run.

Mental Fitness: Equally Important to Stay in Shape on a Boat in South Africa

When we talk about fitness on a boat, we do not only consider physical but mental fitness as well. In fact, it is still not surprising to see people neglecting their mental health, even in 2023. However, being mindful about your mental health is also equally important to be resilient and flexible with your job demands.

1. Physical Activity

Did you know that physical activities/exercises actually reduce your mental stress? Whenever you exercise, your brain releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals help in reducing stress and improving your mood.

2. Identifying Mental Distress

It is not every time you would be able to stay calm and collected. Sometimes, you may get stressed, annoyed, or frustrated. Understanding that you may be experiencing a mental distress/issue is the first step to dealing with your mental health.

3. Staying Connected

Being on a boat for a long time means being away from your family, friends, and a familiar environment for a long time. This can induce a feeling of loneliness and homesickness inside you. However, staying connected with your family and friends from time to time can help you alleviate this issue and manage your mental health for the better.

4. You are not alone

And by that, we mean that there is no shame in relying on others whenever you need help. You are a team working on a boat and you are in this together. Talking to your colleagues or seniors about any potential mental distress or issues you are facing is an effective way to get help. Remember, communication is the key and on a boat, it is damn well an important one.


To stay in shape while working on a boat in South Africa, being mindful about your diet and exercise is crucial. This is completely your responsibility. Know that working on a ship can be really taxing and one should not take that lightly. You do require a certain kind of passion to be able to work fluently on a ship.

Working on a sea vessel is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you think it is your cup of tea, then Sail and Power SA can help you out. We are an RYA-accredited marine institute in South Africa focusing on RYA PB2, the RYA Jet Ski license, and Superyacht training. Feel free to reach out to us for more information.