To outfit is to “select and procure a set of equipment for a particular purpose” and cruisers relentlessly pore over lists, read books, peruse internet posts and quiz their peers to find the right selection of gear to outfit their vessel to enable safe and comfortable cruising. Anchor gear, dinghies and their associated accoutrements, navigation tools, sails, engine spares, safety equipment, lines, bedding and galley gear – the list(s) seem endless. From the shackle for the eye of the bower anchor to the lure trailed behind in search of fish, research is done, choices are made and gear is procured and stored aboard. Space is always at a premium, so many try to follow the maxim that anything aboard should be good for at least two purposes.
Here is a list of some items that we have found valuable aboard Avant that don’t appear on most outfitting lists. Some do, but most do not, have multiple uses, yet they are small and valuable enough in their own niche-use that they justify the expense and space they use to us.
Most are inexpensive (several less than a dollar, most less than five) and many can be found in our favourite chandlery, the dollar store.
Protect Your Body
Cycling/Sport glasses (with interchangeable lenses)
When sailing in high winds or squalls, it’s darned uncomfortable on the eyes. When you venture forth on deck, the wind and salt spray make your eyes tear up, seeing is difficult, and keeping your eyes open painful, no matter what the time of day or night. Some styles of sunglasses help, but when it’s overcast or dark, they’re not optimal. Cycling glasses can be found with interchangeable lenses, allowing use in any light level and do a pretty good job of limiting the wind and spray. In extreme conditions a diving mask is better.
When sleeping off-watch in the daytime, it always seems the gyrations of the vessel swing a beam of bright sun over your eyes, making rest an impossibility. These beams of sunshine defy the ability of any curtains to subdue them. A set of eye shades eliminate the problem. (As a side note, would-be cruisers should engage in a strict training program of day-sleeping, as this is an important skill best mastered before it’s needed. An extended regime of afternoon naps is recommended pre-departure.)
You may have read of cruisers seeking out the errant wine bottle or jam jar clanking while the boat is underway, stacking provisions so they’re silent, moving things around to achieve a quiet ship while under way. While it’s worthwhile to seek a quiet ship, you will never actually achieve it, and wasting your off-watch sleep time re-stowing noisemakers only ensures you don’t get enough sleep. Ear plugs are very useful as an aid to sleep. Buy a few packets, as while they are reusable, they are not indefinitely so.
In hot and sunny conditions underway, with a steady wind, your lips will suffer. Get some lip balm. Also useful for treating zippers so they don’t stick.
Even if you wear sailing gloves, you hands will suffer on passage, as well as after weighing anchor and doing a million other tasks aboard. A dab of hand cream offers some mild relief. Get a few pocket sized ones (one for each crew member) and a big bottle to refill from.
Laser rangefinders are useful for one purpose, to measure distance – distance to shore, to a marker, to another anchored boat – all very useful to determine if you’re dragging at anchor. Unlike radar, they don’t have a ‘spin up time’ and work nearly instantly. They also don’t use ship’s power, relying on an internal battery (so they can also be used from a dinghy or when ashore). There are two broad categories: the ones made for golfers (which usually have a maximum range of ~600 yards/meters); and those made for hunters (which often have ranges up to or over a mile). The hunter ones are better due to their longer range. They frequently go on sale in the fall (deer season), and are often found advantageously priced on sale or clearance in big box outdoor stores or Canadian Tire. They usually take an unusual battery so grab a spare while you’re there.
A sewing measuring tape is very useful aboard. Where a metal tape is hard or impossible to use, this can measure the distance. Also great for measuring circumferences (no more C=2πR calculations) or lengths along an irregular surface. No, you can’t use the one out of the sewing kit in the engine room or bilge – blow the cash and grab another one for the toolbox.
Deal With Pests
Mosquito coils and mosquito coil holder
Mosquito coils are useful in reducing the clouds of mosquitoes some anchorages seem to have. However, the coils can be messy and inconvenient to use with the folding tin support they are supplied with. You light the coil, put it in the holder and put it on an aluminum pie plate or similar and five minutes later it’s knocked over by the breeze or a crew member, spilling the ash everywhere and threatening to burn a hole in what it has come to rest on. Camping outlets and dollar stores often have ‘mosquito coil holders’. These are tin containers, like old school movie film cans with one open side, which hold the burning coil between two layers of fiberglass screen and capture the ash in a tidy fashion. The containers come with a little string and clip, so can be hung up from their side and kept out of the way. As a bonus, you can break a coil into pieces and light multiple ends to make a denser cloud of mosquito-repelling smoke.
Rat and mouse traps
Channel your inner Boy Scout and be prepared. Grab a mouse and a rat trap (one of each should do) and put them in a zip lock bag aboard. Should you have unwanted crew joining the ship’s complement, you’re ready to deal with it / them, and not faced with an urgent shopping trip in an unfamiliar port. You don’t want to use poison as a dead rodent decomposing in an inaccessible spot is very off-putting. (As a side note, we have met a few cruisers who have faced this issue. None was prepared with traps aboard. The rule that you never have the tool or spare you need at hand, but you’re prepared for the emergencies that never happen, may apply here.)
Mothballs smell awful. No one likes the smell of them, including mice or rats. If faced with vermin aboard, break open your store of mothballs and slip them into the hidden spaces the rat or mouse is suspected to be hiding in, and give it time to vacate (best to get off the boat to allow them personal space). Just make sure you can get the smelly things out after the rat is gone (attach a ribbon of masking tape or similar to be able to get them out of the hidey-holes you slip them into).
Permethrin is an insect repellent you apply to clothing. It’s a synthetic rendering of chrysanthemum essence, and is widely considered harmless to humans and dogs, but is toxic to cats. If you’re going to be in a buggy place for long, you can apply it to some light lounging pants and a lightweight hoodie you slip on before ‘Mozzie-hour’. Keep the treated clothes in separate plastic bag. An application lasts a few weeks and will survive gentle washing (albeit with reduced potency). It is widely available in outdoor stores like Cabela’s, but not in Canada (although you can purchase permethrin-treated clothing).
More Useful Stuff
Astonishingly useful, amazingly cheap. Used to mark parts, crayons come in many colours, so you can use light ones to mark dark parts and vice versa. They will mark damp or oily parts. They can be used to wax screws before driving them. The wax can be used as a resist to prevent glues, epoxies or other sticky stuff from sticking where it’s not desired. Crayons are also useful for morale-building art projects.
A smallish white board can be useful for passage or local notes (noting community events, radio nets, hailing channels/frequencies, MMSI numbers, instructions or information for the watch, etc.) Make more permanent notes with a Sharpie ™ or other permanent marker (can be erased with alcohol if needed) and more temporary ones with a regular white board marker (wipes off with just about anything). Mount near the nav station, in the galley, or in the cockpit where it’s easy to reference. If you want a less permanent mounting, double sided foam tape can serve well and be removed later with alcohol or a similar solvent.
On many boats, off-watch crew ‘hot bunk’ to different berths and sleeping places when off watch, depending on the tack you’re sailing on and what other berths are occupied. Grab a few ‘bunk bags’, one for each crew member and put their personal supply of earplugs, eye shades, lip balm, hand cream, dry socks and any other useful off-watch bunk items in it. When they come below to turn in, they grab their bunk bag, head to the available berth and have all they need to settle in at hand, saving them roaming around to find the stuff they need. It is similar to the business class amenities kit airlines provide. After all, you want your crew to feel they’re travelling business class, don’t you?
Motion detector solar lights
Small, cheap motion detector lights, solar powered, are available at hardware stores, on eBay or Amazon. We use these on Avant, and have attached a small stick to the mount screw holes. The stick can be fastened to our mast steps or mast with a Velcro wrap, or slipped behind a handhold, etc. You will be able to find a place for them aboard your vessel with a small amount of cognitive exertion. We put these up when at the dock or at anchor for convenience and security, and find them very handy. When somebody comes close by, a nice bright light comes on. If the person is a friend, they can see what they’re doing, and if the person is unknown, the light alerts us and spotlights them. When we’re on passage, we slip the lights in between the towels in the linen cupboard.
In the Galley
The pineapple slicer/corer
We love pineapple. It’s widely available and cheap in warmer climes. We like it straight up, grilled on the BBQ, and in stir fries or sweet and sour dishes. In Costa Rica, it was the only food we could seem to afford, everything else being crazy expensive. But it’s messy to cut up and get ready to eat. It seems you could render a deer with less mess in the galley. The sticky sweet drippings get everywhere and are a fly magnet. Enter the pineapple slicer/corer! You lop the top off the pineapple and drill out the fruit like using a giant auger, removing the core and meat with this in a single long spiral. The skin of the pineapple remains intact, the juices are captured inside, and there’s no mess in the galley. There are expensive brand name versions available, but we have found the dollar store versions serve well. We consider its concept a modern industrial design miracle and it has earned it’s space in the galley drawer. By the time you add this unique single-use item to your provisioning, you’re surely near the end of the list.
What unusual or uncommonly mentioned items have you found useful aboard your vessel? Please chime in in the comments with your extras for the provisioning list!