Sailing enthusiasts and bluewater cruisers know that having the right gadgets on board can make a world of difference in both convenience and safety. Whether you’re sailing solo or with a crew, these gadgets can enhance your sailing experience and make life aboard easier and more comfortable. In this article, we’ll review 11 essential, nice-to-have, and/or non-essential gadgets that we believe every sailor should consider having on their vessel. These are subjective picks: we have these items on board Fortitude X, and they have proven valuable throughout the last three liveaboard seasons. Our boat and her crew are currently cruising in the Sea of Cortez.
Fluke 325 Clamp Meter with Frequency, Temperature, and Capacitance Measurements, $420*
A clamp meter is not a gadget but a must-have; there are some days we use it multiple times. This meter is an indispensable tool for long-distance sailors, serving critical roles in both AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current) electrical systems aboard a vessel.
In AC systems, the meter accurately measures current flow through wires without the need to interrupt the circuit, making it easier to assess power usage and diagnose potential issues, like overloaded circuits or faulty appliances. For DC systems, such as those found in battery banks, clamp meters help monitor battery health, ensuring that there is sufficient power for navigation and equipment.
A clamp meter helps with troubleshooting because it can pinpoint the source of electrical problems, like short circuits or loose connections. Its non-contact capability also minimizes safety risks in wet or unstable conditions at sea. Its versatility, safety features, and reliability make it an essential tool for ensuring that electrical systems remain operational and safe on long-distance voyages.
Rangefinder, AOFAR HX-700N, $97
This gadget was previously recommended by fellow BCA member and veteran cruiser, Rob Murray. A rangefinder enhances both convenience and safety during a voyage. This tool can play a crucial role in determining the distance between the boat and nearby objects, helping sailors navigate coastal waters with precision. By accurately measuring distances to shorelines, other vessels, or potential obstacles, it allows sailors to make informed decisions, avoid collisions, and chart the safest course. Anchoring in small or crowded bays is much easier when you can use the rangefinder to measure distances to other boats and to the shore. This is what we mostly use it for.
Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop (1800W), $88
As a liveaboard, it is sometimes very inconvenient to get to a propane tank filling station, whereas many marinas provide access to shore power as part of their mooring fees. An electric induction cooktop can be plugged into marina power, allowing you to cook without depleting your onboard propane resources. This convenience is especially appreciated when you have access to shore power for extended periods. Be aware that the induction cooker requires compatible cookware, typically made of ferrous materials like cast iron or stainless steel. Ensure you have the right pots and pans on board before you purchase a cooktop.
Portable Compact Countertop Automatic Ice Maker, $179
While not a necessity, an ice maker offers undeniable convenience onboard. It enhances life on the water by providing a consistent source of ice cubes and removing the need to purchase bags of ice or manually refill ice trays. This not only saves time and effort, but also ensures that you always have ice readily available for refreshing beverages and to preserve perishables. While it does come with a power requirement for the electrical converter, we find that the benefits it brings in terms of convenience – especially during hot weather or remote travels – makes an ice maker a valuable addition for those who prioritize comfort and efficiency in their adventures.
Manual Coffee Grinder, $436
A manual coffee grinder offers a multitude of advantages for coffee enthusiasts. First, it is an Eco-friendly choice: it requires no electricity, contributes to power-saving onboard, and reduces your carbon footprint. Additionally, the manual process allows for precise control over grind size, ensuring a consistent and tailored coffee experience – and don’t underestimate the workout for your biceps. This particular grinder has 48mm Swiss Conical Steel Burrs to ensure a perfect grind. A grinder also preserves the freshness and aroma of the coffee beans, as grinding just before brewing prevents oxidation and flavor loss. The result is a cup of coffee bursting with intense flavors and enticing aromas, far superior to pre-ground alternatives. Manual coffee grinders enhance both your environmental consciousness and your morning coffee ritual – provided you are a coffee snob, like we are. This model (Lido 3 Manual Coffee Grinder) comes with a Neoprene Travel Case which is convenient for storage.
Advanced Elements Solar Shower, $47
A solar shower is a practical gadget for staying clean and refreshed during extended sailing trips. Its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and Eco-friendly nature make it a valuable addition to any sailor’s equipment list. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can enjoy warm showers wherever your adventures take you, while reducing your impact on the boat’s power consumption and on the planet. On Fortitude X, we used a few models before ending up with this one. It is more expensive than other models, but it appears to be more durable.
Cockpit Carpet: vinyl loop unbacked matting, approx. $7 per sq ft
Beyond aesthetics, a cockpit carpet has several practical advantages. It provides a comfortable and long-lasting surface for your cockpit space, prevents carabiners and other gear from damaging the deck, and helps keep your cockpit clean by allowing dust and dirt to pass through it. A cushy carpet offers unparalleled comfort, both by reducing foot fatigue and discomfort during prolonged standing at the wheel, and by minimizing noise transfer to the cabin below, where other crew members may be sleeping.
When it comes to cockpit carpets, it’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about enhancing comfort, longevity, and functionality. The vinyl loop product that we have chosen comes in different color choices and is made with UV resistant material.
HP Office Jet 250 All-in-one Printer, $499
For cruising sailboats that require a reliable onboard printing solution, a portable printer with a lithium battery and USB charger can be a game-changer. This versatile device allows sailors to print, scan and copy essential documents such as passports, visas, and boat registration papers, while anchored in remote destinations, or during check-in and check-out processes in foreign countries.
With the cost of printing in marinas or onshore facilities, having your own printer is a cost-effective choice. It eliminates the need to hunt for printing services, saving both time and money. The USB charger ensures that the printer remains available for use even when sailing for extended periods, so that important documents are always accessible.
The compact size of this printer makes it ideal for limited onboard space. It is compatible with various paper types – including water-resistant options – ensuring that your documents remain intact even in challenging maritime conditions. In the long run, an ink printer with USB charger proves to be an invaluable tool for cruising sailboats, offering convenience, cost savings, and peace of mind during international travel.
Apple Pen (2nd Generation), $169
On a sailboat, the Apple Pen proves invaluable for reducing paper clutter and streamlining tasks. You can effortlessly sign and annotate digital documents on your Apple devices, eliminating the need for printing and scanning documents. This Eco-conscious choice not only simplifies your sailing experience but also contributes to a greener, more sustainable voyage.
Beachmaster Dinghy Wheels, $427
Dinghy wheels are a must for long distance cruising. The wheels allow you to bring the dinghy onto the beach and back into the water with minimal effort. We like the Beachmaster wheels because they easily lift up out of the water to self-lock when upright, and drop down and click into the auto-locking position for recovery from the water. They are available in either a fixed-installation, or a removable mount version. The crew on Fortitude X opted for the removable option so that we can remove the wheels for seasonal storage. This option also makes it easier when you need to change a tube or tire.
Self-Priming Hand Pump, $87
A self-priming hand pump is a versatile and reliable tool designed to efficiently transfer a variety of liquids, including oils, fuel, and water. A high-quality pump will have corrosion-resistant components and will be built to withstand exposure to water, salt, and other harsh marine conditions. This type of pump is very portable and can be used where power sources may be limited or unavailable.
This selection of items is based on our personal sailing experiences. We understand that we all travel differently, with distinct needs and desires, but hope you find some of these ideas useful.
*Editor’s Note: All prices are in Canadian Dollars and were current at time of writing (November 2023).