As you're prepping your boat for a thunderstorm or squall, take a minute to prepare yourself as well.

Put On Your Shoes!

Yeah, we named our boat Barefoot Gal and now I’m writing to put on your shoes? What’s up with that?

Actually, it has a lot to do with the fact that I much prefer to go barefoot.

But if you’re like me and tend not to wear your shoes when you’re aboard the boat, it’s a smart idea to slip them on when threatening weather arrives.

We really don’t like to think that our boat could be the one to drag anchor and go aground, but what if it did? A bit of foot protection would go a long ways.

Water Witch, a beautifully restored wooden boat, was in the next cove over from us when a nasty chubasco (thunderstorm that comes across the Sea of Cortez) hit. Their anchor dragged and they couldn’t make it out to deep water. Unfortunately, she broke up on the rocks and the two on board had to crawl over those rocks to “safety” in the middle of the storm. Imagine trying to do that without shoes . . . or even trying to find your shoes as the boat is hitting the rocks.


As you’re prepping the boat for a squall or thunderstorm, it’s also a good idea to do the following:

  • Put collars with ID on pets if they’re not wearing them.
  • If you have ID tags (we love the Road ID tags — see my post), put them on.
  • If you’re just wearing a swim suit, slip on a pair of shorts and t-shirt.
  • Stick a waterproof flashlight in your pocket — don’t count on being able to grab one in an emergency.
I could make a huge list of personal safety items — stick meds in your pocket, put a safety strap on glasses, carry a sound-making device — but the reality is that you probably won’t do all that every time threatening weather approaches. To me, the biggies are shoes, ID (for you and pets) and light.

Underway, you should have your ditch bag(s) readily at hand. But even at anchor, it’s smart to take a few precautions. Having your boat go on the rocks is an awful day (we’ve been amongst the first ones on the scene twice); getting injured in the process is even worse.

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  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 05 May 2014 Reply

    I hate wearing shoes too but I see your point.

  • Angie Morales
    Posted at 05 May 2014 Reply

    Oh wow, the boat on the rocks kinda lives up to its name… I always wear non skid shoes or my Keens. Have stubbed my toes a time or two in calm conditions and in the marina

  • Bill J
    Posted at 06 May 2014 Reply

    Always wear shoes when either retrieving or letting out anchor.
    That will save your toes one day!

  • K.M.McKeenan
    Posted at 09 May 2014 Reply

    I hate shoes!
    Mom always said “wear your shoes its snowing!”
    Grandma swore up and down I would end up with tetanus, It’s the law in most places while driving…. Oh and OSHA. LOL. They kind of frown on barefeet on job sites.
    But sailing too???
    When will the anti-nakey-feet rules end?
    What would be the best kind of shoes to have onboard in your opinion? Especially for those of us who like to have toes as free as our spirits?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 09 May 2014 Reply

      Well, I rarely wear them actually sailing . . . only if my feet are cold. But when things turn nasty, yeah, I put them on. I wear Keens 99% of the time that I wear shoes — they go in and out of water very well and the protection over the toes is pure genius for those of us who like to hike in rocky places with lots of thorns.

  • Danni Stor
    Posted at 09 May 2014 Reply


  • Margaret
    Posted at 30 June 2014 Reply

    I love my Keen scuffs..good traction on bottom and on foot bed, on and off in a flash!

  • Kathy
    Posted at 22 October 2014 Reply

    My husband used to get after me to wear shoes. Then one day my toes parted on a cleat and I broke a toe. I tried not to hobble in front of him and one day he caught me , hobbling told me to give it up.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 26 May 2015 Reply

    Great advice. I usually wear Crocs when I wear shoes but when the weather gets sporty I wear sturdy lace up deck shoes – something that won’t ever come off my feet.

    I have a whistle on my key chain, always in my pocket. I usually have a mini-Maglite in my pocket as well. Biggest implication is I have to wear a belt to keep my pants up. *grin* Almost always a safety strap on my glasses.

    hugs to Barefoot Gal.

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 26 May 2015 Reply

    great article, good reminders to prepare for our upcoming rainy season in Florida.

  • Candy Williams
    Posted at 26 May 2015 Reply

    You always have such good tips/reminders for us.

    I will never forget one really bad thunderstorm we were anchored in one night…back in the 80’s we never wore many clothes…that night during the peak of the storm my husband made me put on tennis shoes and stand in the salon away from the mast …so there I stood in the cabin naked with tennis shoes on…quite a sight i am sure…lol…I guess he was just being prudent.

    Your tip on putting on shoes is an impt. one…I can just imagine trying to crawl over coral heads and barnacles barefooted. Again thanks for your good reminders!!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 27 May 2015 Reply

      . . . or climbing over coral naked! Maybe I should have said “wear your clothes!” 🙂

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 26 May 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the good reminders!!

  • Anita Moeder
    Posted at 27 May 2015 Reply

    Wonderful info, ❤️

  • Sandra Hall
    Posted at 27 May 2015 Reply

    I pretty much always wear some kind of footwear as you can hurt your feet when moving around the deck.

  • Sherri Jo McLemore
    Posted at 05 March 2016 Reply

    When we have tornado warnings I always put my shoes on and make sure they are right beside the bed before I go to sleep at night. Imagine trying to walk out of the rubble of a tornado with bare feet!

  • Eric Hendricks
    Posted at 05 March 2016 Reply

    don’t need a storm. never never be on deck without shoes or at least crocs on. broken toes are all too easy.

    Posted at 05 March 2016 Reply

    We drug anchor once. Fortunately we were going out to deeper water.

  • Florian Wolf
    Posted at 01 March 2017 Reply

    Having crewed on a variety of classical 12ers, Germania VI (Alfried Krupp’s phenomenal 1955 aluminium racing yawl) and now caretaking of our own 65 ft. classic gaff ketch I can only very strongly recommend to ALWAYS protect at least your toes by wearing shoes whenever out on deck (gloves in heavy weather conditions is also not a bad idea…). We were once sailing the Baltic Sea in a force 10 blow in the middle of the night (which was phenomenally fast sailing), one of us ‘forgot’ to put on his boat shoes when coming on deck from below and promply broke both (!) his big toes on one and the same cleat. Apart from him squealing like a pig we had to take care of his injuries in pitch-black storm conditions, and from the next day on the bosun (who practically was THE BOSS on board) showed no mercy at all with this poor chap until we arrived in Copenhagen, and then delivered one of his famous stern lectures to all of us about safety, stupidity and boats. You can bet your hat on it that none of us ever again wore no shoes on deck, and I keep it like this ever since :-). Might sometimes be a bit uncomfy and dumb-ass looking, but saves you a lot of trouble, pain, infections, and embarrassment with fellow crew members.

  • Eric Hendricks
    Posted at 06 October 2017 Reply

    better yet- never be on your feet on a boat without shoes, even if just crocks. trust me, broken toes hurt

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