Best Gear Picks for Liveaboard Cruising, Part 2
Cruisers are always looking for ways to make daily life aboard a little easier. Whether to reduce power consumption, improve communication, reduce the workload (there is always something to do on a boat), or increase safety, it all comes down to one word: freedom.
This post is the follow up to our first post on recommended cruising gear for 2023 and in this post we have a lot more proven gear suggestions. As in Part 1 of this series, many of these suggestions are useful not only for those cruising on boats, but those enjoying life on land yachts (RVs), off grid living, camping, hunting or fishing enthusiasts, etc.
As a reminder, the criteria for gear on this list:
Gets used everyday (or almost)
Is a game changer on some level for boat life
Has held up for a long time
We would purchase the item again
We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others
Is not limited to sailing applications or our specific boat
LUCI Solar powered LED string lights - we use these string lights to light up our cockpit area at night, whether we're just enjoying dinner in the cockpit, trying to see to board, or unpacking provisions from a grocery run. No batteries and four light settings. While these lights come in a variety of colors, the warm white is the most natural. The only thing to be aware of is the power cable is a bit fragile coming out of the unit, so be sure the housing is secured so there is no risk of the chord bearing any weight from a sudden shift or movement. We use Velcro to secure the main unit so that it is positioned in the sun and cant move around since the string of lights are semi-permanently strung with zip ties in the cockpit of the boat. At $45 US, these string lights seem a bit pricey, but the lack of dealing with batteries and the excellent lighting are worth it.
Vacuum Sealer Machine By Mueller - this little machine is something we have used far more than we ever imagined we would and it has saved us so much, not only in terms of space in our fridge and freezer, but also in what would otherwise be a ton of food waste. From resealing bags of chips, to vacuum sealing fresh caught fish and blocks of partially used cheese, to storing fresh herbs, and much more. Seriously, we use this thing all the time, multiple times a day and it has been flawless. It does take up a small amount of counter space, but it stows easily and draws minimal power. We highly recommend this vacuum sealer and have even given it as a gift to others. At <$40 US, it's a really great value.
Aeropress Original Coffee and Espresso Maker - Amber and I drink different coffee. I drink decaf because my heart doesn't like the caffeine, but Amber drinks regular. This little device is ingenius and makes a cup of coffee in <1 min (assuming you have the hot water ready). It makes delicious espresso or American coffee. Best of all, the clean up is nothing like a French press or pour over coffee filter. Simply unscrew the plastic strainer and push the plunger and out pops the filter and coffee grounds in the trash. It literally takes 10 seconds to empty and rinse off. No fuss, no mess. It's also super compact. No counter space occupied and nothing to fall or break since the entire device is plastic. We love it and use it every morning. These are also made in the USA, which we really like. This is another jewel that retails for <$40 US.
Waterdrop 10UA Under Sink Water Filter System - we realize the marine standard is the Seagull water filter system. And while they are really great, $700+ is pretty steep and it requires adding a separate mini faucet in the galley. Our compromise was an under sink filter system by Waterdrop, which is easy to install, works with our existing faucet, and allows us to replace the filters easily. Filters have a long life and usually last about 6-8 months on our boat. Just like other under counter filter solutions, this system filters the water coming out of our tanks and generally improves the taste while filtering out sediment, etc. This is another great addition to our boat and it retails for $40-50 US.
Headband style LED headlamp - you've probably seen these advertised and perhaps you were skeptical but these are the real deal. If you've ever worn the headlamps with a heavy flashlight type attachment on the front, you know how awkward, uncomfortable, heavy, and downright frustrating they can be to wear. In contrast, these headlamps are like wearing a lightweight sweat band, except with LED lights that are so insanely bright, no traditional headlamp even comes close. It has five light modes and a motion activation setting to turn the light on and off with a quick wave of your hand vs. hunting for the power button. They have a long battery life and USB Type-C for charging. When working in tight spaces on a boat, these are an absolute must have. I have been known, from time to time, to just wear it around because I forget I have it on. Super attractive. You can get a 2-pack of these lights for <$20 US, which is incredible. We have three on the boat for spares and to make sure I have several charged and ready.
Caframo Sirrocco II 12v fans - some of you may have seen the write up Caframo did about our family, but we can truthfully say our endorsement of this product came before that article was written. More than 3 years later, running almost non-stop during that time, we still love these fans because they move a ton of air, are super quiet, have extremely low power draw, are omnidirectional, are attractive looking, and are super easy to disassemble for cleaning. Not all of the fans we own are so easy to clean and it is one of the things we like best about these fans. Caframo seriously knocked it out of the park on this design! These fans retail for around $115 US.
Gecko Hydroner 20L Dry Bag Backpack - Amber and I initially purchased these bags at the Annapolis Sailboat Show over 5 years ago and they have been used hard ever since. They are very simple bags and may not seem special, when compared to all the other dry bags on the market, except for two important things: 1) they have nicely padded shoulder straps which makes them a lot more comfortable to wear, especially when they are full of stuff and 2) these bags have stood up to a lot of use and abuse and they are still going strong with no signs of stitches, seams failing, material cracking, and no leaks. We use these every time we go to the beach or go ashore, which is basically every day. They get tossed around, stepped on, banged into things...you get the idea. They are great bags and the perfect size for walking around ashore. These dry backpacks retail for $60 US.
Waterline Design | Mosquito Net/Bug Screens for Boats - we heard about these awesome bug screens from another boater and they are fantastic. Simple to install, easy to put up or take down and stow, these fine mesh bug screens even keep out all the vicious flying bugs, including "no see em's" (aka "sand flies"). The only negative to having bug screens in place is that they do reduce airflow. However, if you want to keep pesky biting insects outside of your boat, while getting increased airflow from opening your deck hatches, this is a great solution that has worked well for us. The screens come in different sizes and seem to be very well made. Waterline also makes screens for port lights as well as throw-over type screens. These inside mounted screens come in several sizes and retail for $35 - $40 US each.
Silicone Hot Pads/ Trivets - hot liquid and food items on a boat can be pretty dangerous. We also try to avoid putting hot items on our teak saloon table or on the countertops. Add to this the motion of a boat, and you need to make sure hot things will stay where you put them and not sliding around, if and when the boat moves. That's why we love these silicone hot pads/ trivets. They do the job perfectly, are easy to clean, and grip just about any surface extremely well. You can also get them in almost any color. A four pack usually costs $12-$15 US.
LUNATEC Hydration Spray Water Bottle - the first time we used this spray bottle, we thought it was the greatest thing ever. It's the same concept as an full sized manual pump sprayer, but miniature. We wash/ rinse dishes, clean, cool off in the heat, and even take hot showers (just add some hot water from the kettle). The amazing thing is that we can do all these things while using only a fraction of the water we would ordinarily use with our plumbed faucets and showers. Be careful not to overpressurize the bottle or it will cause the canister to bulge so the flat bottom is distorted, preventing it from being able to stand up. These bottles come in two sizes and several colors and cost $36 - $40 US.
Real Bamboo Bed Sheets - one of the things that sometimes made boat life feel a bit like camping instead of like the cozy home we wanted was the effect of the humid salt air on our favorite high thread count bed sheets. In a matter of a few days, fresh sheets would begin to feel damp. This was not just annoying, it made sleeping difficult at times. We decided there had to be a solution that didn't involve running a dehumidifier or AC all the time. After some reading and experimentation, we learned that real bamboo bed sheets eliminate this problem. They also feel amazing! The higher quality bamboo, the better, so it's best not to skimp. Bamboo fibers are basically like a natural form of rayon; naturally moisture wicking and cooling and very sustainable. This has definitely been one of the biggest game changers for life on our boat. If you aren't using bamboo sheets, give them a try for yourself; chances are pretty good that you'll never go back. Quality bamboo sheets typically run cost at least $80-$150 US per set but are worth every penny.
Cuban Yo Yo / Hand Lines - we have a tremendous amount of fishing gear (just ask Amber). In my defense, this is partly because it is a passion and partly because it's hard to beat having fresh fish on our table several times a week. While we have all kinds of expensive rods and reels, we also have inexpensive hand lines and we seriously use both. Actually, the somewhat embarrassing truth is: we catch almost as many fish on the dirt cheap hand lines as we do on the expensive stuff. Go figure! Rigging hand lines is relatively simple but there are some fundamental tricks that improve results and insure you can keep your gear from ending up in the drink (topic of a future post/ video). You can buy a basic plastic hand reel for a mere $10-15 US. In other parts of the world, these yo-yos are carved out of wood and can be something of an heirloom piece. To rig for trolling, you'll need a couple of carabiners, some shock chord, 50-100ft of backing line, 50-100ft of monofilament leader, terminal tackle, and a few lures. Believe it or not, you can land even big palegic offshore species on a shoestring budget for less than $50 US.
Again, these are gear items we own and have tested extensively on our boat and are part of daily life aboard "Koinonia." While we don't officially endorse any products, we have been really happy with the performance of the gear in this post and hope you find these recommendations useful.
Shameless Plug: If you, or anyone you know, is interested in learning more about how to get into boating and taking steps toward the freedom of taking the wheel of your own boat, whether part or full time liveaboard, we can help. We offer brokerage as well as hourly coaching services to help you successfully achieve your boating dreams. Ben is a licensed Yacht Broker who specializes in helping buyers find the right boat to meet their budget and meet their needs. We also enjoy coaching other boaters, whether you're just getting started or whether you just need to glean from our experience in some aspect of cruising life. We are patient and generous teachers with more than 25 years of sailing and boating experience, including 3 years living aboard full time, homeschooling our kids, working remotely, and crossing thousands of ocean miles. Contact us and let us help you get your cruising dreams underway!
Ben & Amber Ward