While we were anchored in Port Ludlow nursing our wounds after the headsail fail we met a fella that owns a new-to-him big old boat and is dreaming of his own cruising future. He was interested in our story, we were interested in his, and we ended up visiting for a long time and getting a tour of his extremely cool circa 1970’s Monk 50 foot sailboat. It’s going to be just stunning when he’s finished with all the projects. We sure remember those days of unlimited projects, since they’ve actually never ended.
One of the things we talked about was what things made cruising/living on a boat better for us, especially since he wants his wife to be happy cruising and she’s not the experienced sailor he is. In other words, what things have we added or bought that have really turned out to be totally worth the effort or cost in terms of making living aboard and cruising more comfortable and satisfying. I’ve been giving this some thought and here’s my current list of the top ten things we love. I’m not going to include safety items on this list; only things that improve the liveabilty of a boat, reduce tension in otherwise anxiety-provoking situations, or make things easier on us as human beings in the autumn of our lives. After all, living on a boat is not always an easy thing. All things take more effort and small comforts make a huge difference to both of us.
- Sena bluetooth headsets. We have the SPH10 model. In terms of game changers, these are high on the list. We use them all the time and even with my hearing disability we can communicate clearly with each other from anywhere on the boat, or even when one of us is on the boat and the other on shore. Recently we avoided a grounding when pulling up to the crane to have our mizzen mast installed because I was on the dock and could relay information from shore to Mike at the helm. That day they might have paid for themselves. We bought ours used from other cruisers, but if we’d known how much we would love them we would have bought them years ago new. We wear them 100% of the time when anchoring or docking and it has made a huge difference. Sure, we can use hand signals, but sometimes it is hard to see the other person and these units make having a calm conversation a reality even in tense situations. Frankly, I just cannot say enough good things about them.
- Our aft cabin mattresses. Long time readers will remember that we perseverated over those mattresses for months. It was such a hard decision. In the end, we have hands down the most comfortable bed we’ve ever had. The biggest payoff was that 3″ latex top layer. Our berth is three layers starting with dense foam, then medium foam, then the latex. The mattress is 8″ high, which is high by boat standards. We chose natural latex from Sleep On Latex for the top layer. They have an excellent product at a very reasonable price. We will never go back to memory foam.
- The Food Saver heat sealer. We bought ours at Costco as they have the best price and frequently put them on sale. We use it not only to vacuum pack meat and fruit for the freezer, but also to store entire cases of things like toilet paper and paper towels in a fraction of the space usually required. Mike bought a case of oil absorbent pads that took up almost two square feet of space. The heat sealer stored packs of ten of these almost flat, meaning they can be stored under the sole and out of the way. In addition, I can use this with our small inverter at anchor. The sealing bags are re-useable, cutting down on trash.
- The latex seat cushions in the cockpit. Damn I hope these hold up to the heat in the tropics. I made these from the scraps of latex left over from the aft cabin mattresses. We have Bottom Sider type cushions in the cockpit, but I actually hate them. They are hard, hot, and do not add much to the comfort of the cockpit when we are at anchor or on an easy sail or motor trip. The latex cushions add a layer of luxury and keep my hind end from hurting at the end of the day. Of course, they must be stored below when we are sailing hard on the wind, but it’s a small price to pay for the comfort they provide the 90% of the time we can use them. Should they fail me in the tropics, because they are pieces of latex glued together, then I will be ordering a twin size topper and making new ones.
- The cockpit mat I made from an outdoor rug from World Market. One edge of this hasn’t held up that well over time, but if you have a walking foot machine you would be able to do a better job than I did. We still love it and it’s still making that cockpit cheerful and easy on the feet. We’ll take it up for ocean passages, but for coastal cruising, it’s great.
- The fold down countertop extension in the galley. This small project has paid huge dividends. We use this many times in a day. People who live on boats understand that to find what you’re looking for in the fridge, the rule is that you have to unload the entire thing because what you want will be on the bottom. This project offers us a place to unload the fridge without putting things on the stove or across the galley. Love at first use.
- Hot water at anchor. Need I say more? Having a hot shower at the end of a long day of travel, on your own boat, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
- The Engle freezer. We have ice at anchor. Do you? Because if you don’t, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s quiet, efficient, and I can pack a ton of frozen food in that thing by repackaging with my Food Saver food sealer. But really, the ice is the main thing.
- Our Magna Cart. We use this thing all the time. It made getting that heavy sail down to the dinghy from the sail loft dead easy. It makes grocery shopping a breeze.
- Our Nikon Prostaff 550 Range Finder. If I want to know, and I most assuredly DO want to know, how far our boat is from the next boat or from those crunchy rocks, I want an actual data point, not something like ‘far enough’. This little unit tells me exactly how many yards we are from the nearest boat eating object. We both love this. Our unit is no longer available, but there are others in the same line. If you live on a boat and travel, what things have you added that improve your comfort and ease of living? There’s a guy in Port Ludlow with a 50 foot Monk sailboat who wants to know!