Looks like we will finally be of. Hoping to catch the 2200 bridge opening and expecting nice beam/aft winds for most of the apprx. 50 hour journey to Sicily. While we are dancing the waves and finally filling our sails with wind again (hopefully), let me leave you with a list of a few things which have made a massive difference over the past three months. Live-aboard essentials, so to speak. Take part in the poll below also!
A small triangular piece of sail cloth rigged above the main hatch(es) traps the wind and funnels it through the boat. The best natural and free air-conditioning in the world and a no-brainer for cruising in warmer climates.
Cost: Approximately 40 Euros
Whether it is sun or rain you are trying to keep out, the cockpit becomes the equivalent to your living room – unless you don’t have a Bimini in which case you are seen wondering around like a restless dog looking for some shade. In warmer climates add a sun cover to further enlarge the area of liveable space in the midday sun. In rainier and windier areas, a dodger or spray-hood is a must for the same reason – enlarging your liveable space.
Cost: Anything from home-made to, well, no limits…
- Good large Sponges
For any boat owner, this will sound like a no-brainer. For any novice, this point might be discarded. Not righteously so. Whether it’s for cleaning the bilge, sucking water out of the remote engine bay or behind the water maker, cleaning the floor, wiping the stern or giving the deck a thorough clean, good and large sponges will make your life much easier on board. Don’t hold back on numbers as you don’ t want to have to use your bilge sponge for cleaning the floor boards.
Cost: Close to nothing, though make sure to get ones which can soak up lots of liquid.
Whether you need to check that tricky angle in the engine compartment, suss out something on the bow during a night sail or even just want to read a book in the cockpit after dusk, our Coleman head-torches get used every day. The battery they use is minimal and their red-light as well as different brightness functions allows to adjust the optimum light for best use any time. Did you know that eyes take up to an hour to adjust from bright yellow light to be able to properly see in the dark? This is why night vision on most navigation equipment is red.
Cost: Approximately 30 euros (from here for any good brands)
- Plenty of fenders
We have seen many avoidable accidents happen between charter boats in tightly packed harbours, because they generally only have three tiny fenders each side. With a bit of swell these are not enough to protect your hull from bashing against other boats or the town wall.
Aft-fenders are also a worth-while investment for less stress when parking in unknown spots under challenging conditions and a better night’s sleep on the dock.
Approximate cost per fender: 30 Euros
- Strong mooring-lines
Talk for themselves. Length and width and the proper material is what you are after. You don’t want to save 20$ on them only to potentially have to spend 1,000s on boat repairs if they chafe or break under a strong wind’s pull. While you are in the chandlery, stock up on quality ropes. They always come in handy, whether a sheet needs replacement, the dinghy tying down, a tangled anchor retrieving, the boom held in place, something or someone a tow…
Cost: Depends hugely where you are. In one place here in Greece you could buy 1kg for 20 Euros, though usually they are sold per meter.
- Big rigid bottom dinghy with reliable outboard
Admittedly neither a little, nor cheap thing. However, another item where you don’t want to go for second best. In some areas marinas are scarce or expensive. Even that aside, many cruisers prefer the privacy and beauty of dropping the hook in a pristine anchorage. Here, your dinghy becomes your connection with the rest of the world. You will use almost every day, to get ashore for provisioning, excursions, laundry, tavernas, cafes, dropping or retrieving an extra anchor or even just to visit your friends on another boat. If it’s tiny, uncomfortable, the bottom all wobbly, the outboard not working or even lets in water, you will regret having gone for second best. Happy Dancer’s Honwave (From Honda)dinghy is by far bigger than most dinghies we see on the way, but we are more than willing to pay the price of the extra storage it takes on the foredeck which is barely used for better purposes anyway.
Cost: Dinghy: 1000-2000 Euros Outboard: 600-1500 Euros
Admittedly a bit of a pain to store on most boats, but worth all the effort it takes to transport them more or less rust free from place to place. While most other cruisers are confined to the marine mile along the promenade, bicycles not only allow you to get to the much cheaper provisioning places like the local hinterland supermarkets, but also to truly explore the region getting to places no other cruiser or tourist normally gets to. Best is allowing yourself to get lost and one of the most unexpected highlights of your trip like the perfect sunset bay, most peaceful monastery or most remote and ancient ruins might just lie around the next corner.
Cost: 100 – 1,000 Euros
- Walkie Talkies
Communicating with one another when one is ashore and the other one on board (or somewhere else) is an extremely helpful ability. Not only can mobile phone charges turn out expensive in some remote locations, but often they are simply not available. Communicating via handheld VHF is illegal and can be overheard by all sailors in the area. Walkie Talkies communicate on a different frequency and allow you to communicate for free within a x mile range.
Cost: Approximately 40 Euros
- Boat business Cards
Meeting all sort of characters on the way is one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of cruising life. Some of those you might want to stay in touch with, whether for practical reasons (eg they might want to purchase your second life-raft; their mechanical skills by far exceed your’s; they know your next destination inside out) or social and emotional ones. Having a card handy to pass on your details proves invaluable in growing your cruising network. The business card format should include your boat’s name, your names, your email and phone, your website/blog (if you have) and possibly your boat’s call sign and MMSI.
Cost: Close to nothing.