After living aboard our sailboat full time since 2014, we have some tried and tested kit that we refuse to live without. These are the items we use on a daily basis and make a massive impact on our lives. Before you set sail make sure you have these items or similar. They’ll surely make your experience easier, safer, and/or more enjoyable and comfortable!
We use our Leatherman non-stop around the boat. I use it to tighten the fittings on our reefing lines, lift up the windless anchor lock, unscrew halyard fittings, and more. We use this tool at least once a day. It’s always in the cockpit and it’s an essential bit of kit.
Safety Knife – A must-have kit item!
We have a range of different types of knives on the boat. With all the ropes and lines around there might come a time when we need to cut something quickly. For the most part, however, we use this type of knife to cut fishing line off our prop. I’d love to say that it doesn’t happen often, but that’s not the case. We’ve had a fishing line and/or fish netting around our prop more times than I’d like to count. Yes – we have a rope cutter on our prop and I’m sure that works well, but when you run over a whole net or a long floating line the rope cutter won’t get everything. Make sure you have a knife with a rope tied to the end (to slip over your wrist) handy at all times.
Mask & Snorkelling Kit
Speaking of having fishing lines along the prop…you’ll need at least a snorkel and mask to help see to get the line off. Having tanks, or mini-tanks, like those listed below, are even better. Most people have masks and snorkels to check out all the pretty fish. They’re great for that, but from a safety perspective, they’re imperative to have when the prop gets fouled, to examine all the anodes on the hull, and to simply inspect the state of the boat bottom. This set is a good one – you’ll want to get the dry top snorkel as it doesn’t allow water to get into the breaking pipe!
Dyson handheld vacuum
Dyson helps keep the boat looking good. We have to vacuum every day at least once. Even with screens on all the windows, dust, crumbs and foreign particles seem to fill the boat. I’m not sure where the mess comes from but it appears every day. This bit of kit would be dearly missed if we didn’t have it!
Magma Pots and Pans
These nested pots take up very little room and are the perfect size for our boat oven. With the removable handle, they easily fit in our cupboards leaving room for other items. We’ve now had our Magma pots/pans for over six years and they’re still in perfect shape.
The Cobb Grill
This grill is the most awesome grill we’ve ever had. We do have a Magma that hangs off our rail on the back of the boat which is great but the Cobb is something special. Whenever we go to the beach to have a potluck or drinks or whatever we light up the Cobb and place potatoes soaked in olive oil and rosemary wrapped in aluminum foil along with the coals. We then CARRY the Cobb in the holder to the beach while the potatoes are cooking. We then open the Cobb up and place our meat on the top to cook. When all is done, the potatoes are done too and we have a feast! The Cobb is awesome for so many reasons. We actually use it more than the Magama. Add this to your kit list!
A sailor without a waterproof backpack hasn’t been a sailor for very long. The number of times we’re caught in the rain or have a very wet dinghy ride are often. When transporting iPads, iPhones, and computers this kit is a necessity.
Headlamp or headtorch
We have several headlamps. They’re helpful when looking in the engine bay, down into the bilge, and throughout night sails and/or anchoring at night. We use a headlamp during the day and in the evening. It helps to see back into dark spaces and ensure that everything is looking as it should be. Our favorite headlamp is the Mantus Headlamp but we also use this one.
Rapid Hydration Drops
Dehydration is a big issue amongst sailors. It’s so easy to lose water and it can be hard to get all the good stuff back into you. We put a few of these drops in our water every day or every other day and haven’t had any reoccurrence of dehydration. If you’d like to find out what it’s like to be dehydrated, read my article on Dehydration.
Waterproof Solar Inflatable Lights
Every night before we leave the boat, I blow a couple of our four inflatable lights up and turn them on. It helps us to easily find our boat and when we’re in the cockpit we prefer these lights more than our boom lights. They’re inexpensive, run on solar power, and can be squashed up to take up very little space. I suppose it’s important to note that they won’t last more than a season if you keep them in the sun. They, like everything else, disintegrate. But for the price, they’re awesome kit way to light up your boat and use solar power.
Yeti Drinking Cups
Getting ice can be a difficult task. We have metal reusable ice cubes that we keep in our freezer but they warm up too fast. And ice melts too quickly. We’ve found that the best thing to do is to keep your beer or wine cold in the fridge and then use a Yeti as these cups will keep liquid cold for ages. The lid works well too when we’re out sailing.
The longer you live as a bluewater cruiser the more you rationalize treats. For us, we don’t have issues with rationalizing beer and wine but juice and pop are too much. There’s just not enough room, it’s not cheap AND there’s really no space in the fridge. Furthermore, sugar is bad for you! (And of course, the beer and wine are good for you…hehehehe).
Another issue with being a bluewater cruiser is that you get sick of drinking water. A soda stream solves all problems. I use ours every single day and drink about two bottles of carbonated water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Sometimes I’ll add a Crystal Light or other flavor mix to spice things up a bit. I love my soda machine! In the Caribbean you can get tank refills on all the French Islands in and in Grenada there’s a guy that will collect them, have them filled and return them to your boat!
If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos you’ll see the quality of the videos I take with my camera. It’s fantastic -, especially at night. This camera has a handy screen that flips over so you can see yourself in the viewfinder making it perfect for vLoggers. The photographs it takes are also excellent. Magazines and newspapers often ask me if they can buy my photos! The reason I love this camera is that it’s not a pain to carry around. The SLR cameras are so large – I have one but I never use it. With the GX7 I pop it in my tiny handbag and pull it out whenever I need it. It’s a great bit of kit to have.
We use this handy device to download our weather reports, send and receive emails, and even tweet on Twitter when we’re out at sea. When paired with the Predict Wind service you can also get a cool map showing your location to put on your website. Note that speeds are very, very slow. Think 1980’s dial-up. But it’s affordable and provides you with a way to communicate outside of cell coverage. It also doubles as a safety device as there’s an SOS button. HOWEVER, while in the Caribbean we have ours turned off. It’s not really needed. You can get cell phone coverage almost everywhere – even between islands. You might go off-grid for a couple of hours here and there but that’s it. I do recommend the IridiumGo! for crossing oceans and going to more remote parts of the world.
We have this in most of our cupboards and we cut it up into placemats to put around the boat when we are sailing. We use a mat on our cockpit table, next to our plotter, on our saloon table and in the kitchen area. These mats really do a great job at reducing movement in the cupboards and keep things from flying around. Another must-have bit of kit on a sailboat.
Oil and/or Liquid extractor
We use this daily (unfortunately). What do we use it for? To suck out water from our bilge. After checking our strainers, cleaning the bilge, and/or working on the engine, generator or any one of our pumps water gets into the bilge. To avoid having our bilge pump go off automatically (and scare me!) in addition to eliminating the risk of mosquitos from laying eggs we get rid of all water from our bilge as often as it arrives.
There’s only so much space on a boat but if you can manage it, we use our little Shop-Vac often. It helps us to clean out the bilge after we service the engine, check the raw water strainers, replace something on the engine(s). Seawater gets into the bilge in areas where it doesn’t quickly drain out. With the Shop-Vac we can make sure the bilge is dry (so to spot leaks quickly if we have any!).
And another useful way that we use the Shop-Vac is to get the water out of the fridge/freezer and the freezer. When we defrost everything we can open a plug that leads to the bilge the but water is gross. You don’t want that in your bilge stinking up the boat! We just use the Shop-Vac to suck up the water.
Light Kit For Your Dinghy
For years I’ve used my iPhone flashlight to light us up when traveling from land to the boat. It’s really not good enough. A new product range that we’ve come across is the NaviSafe lights. You can get these lights with a magnetic base and mount them on the top of your outboard or get a pole pack system. We got the pole pack system with the magnetic light. When we arrive on land, we take the light off (so no one can steal it). It’s a fantastic system.
Light Pole Pack
And this is the pole pack system we use with our NaviSafe light. Simon has installed it at the back of the dinghy by the outboard.
The thing with sunglasses is that they last a couple of months – if that. They either fall overboard, are blown off your face, or simply break down due to UV damage. Don’t buy expensive glasses. Get a couple of cheap pairs and unbelievably they last for ages. Simon goes through a couple pairs of the Flying Fisherman Polarized sunglasses every year but for the price, it’s value for money.
Synthetic Drying Towel
At least a few times per month we pull into a marina to fill up with drinking water AND wash the saltwater off our deck, chrome and hull. In order to make the metal work shine like it’s new and quickly clean any water streaks off the windows we use these exact synthetic drying towels. We’ve had them on board for over five years and they’re still going strong!
Other Kit Items Worth Having
We may not use our Mantus mini Scuba tanks all the time, but when we need them we’re happy to have them. These have come in hand on multiple occasions to clear a fouled prop, check on our anchor, and even to add another anchor to an existing one while at the bottom of the sea. We also use these tanks to change our hull, prop and shaft anodes. The Mantus mini tanks only last about 10 minutes but they’re perfect for quick jobs like those mentioned. Furthermore, they’re small and take up very little space. We have two onboard and the whole pack fits easily under our forward berth. Check out the Mantus Pack here.