04 April 2010 | Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas
A.K.A. Would Not Leave The Dock For Cruising Without These Things
Ok, so for those of you who are reading our blog and preparing for cruising yourself, this list is for you. Everyone has an opinion on gear and favorite gadgets that make their lives easier while afloat...so here is ours.
These are by no means in a ranking order because when the one thing you need at that special time shines in performance, all others fall in it's shadow, until, the next item comes to the plate.
#1 ROCNA Anchor. Our ROCNA has been, and continues to be, the BEST anchor ever! It sets on the first try, 99.9% of the time, it holds masterfully and releases reluctantly when coaxed by our manual windlass once all of it's connecting chain has been collected. We went large, 55lbs, for our 35' boat but we see that as extra insurance. We use 3/8" chain as well. All of this helps us to sleep that much deeper while dreaming of other things. It is a bit expensive, but go ahead, it is worth it.
#2 Seagull Water Filter. We purchased our Seagull Water filter by suggestion of other cruising friends. While cruising we have learned that water is a hot commodity. When you find it, it may not always be treated, or drinkable. But it is free...and free is good. And when you need 80-100 gallons of it, free gets better! I remember when we were in Black Point, Exuma and found water from a random spout along the street. We saw other Cruisers with their blue 5 gallon jugs filling up. It took us no time at all to gather our jugs and be the next in line. Now, back in the States when I was a Non-Cruiser, you wouldn't catch me gathering our drinking water from a spout on the street. And still, I wouldn't want to drink this water except out of desperate thirst. That is where our trusty Seagull filter steps into play. I do believe that we could fill our tanks with puddle water and proudly have crystal clear, tasty drinking water from the conveniently mounted counter spout. Chatting with friends I find that many do not drink water from their onboard tanks. Instead they buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. Over time, that will far outweigh the investment of this filter.
#3 Head Light. Yes that is right, a simple flashlight that is strapped to your forehead! Invaluable! In fact, have two or three placed around the cabin, always within reach. We use ours nearly every day. Whether it is in the dinghy at night, working on the engine or simply reading, this tool is a must. Simply a must. And, inexpensive enough to have many. I promise you will use them all!
#4 Headsets. We wear our headsets every time we anchor. Some people use hand signals, some simply yell back and forth, we speak normally and calmly into a microphone to communicate all the while having our hands free to drive the boat and release the anchor. They are advertised as "marriage savers" and I can see why. There is nothing worse than entering a crowded anchorage and announcing your frustrations to your partner loud enough for all to hear. We may look silly like we are guiding in the space shuttle or something but we do not care. Our conversation is completely private and "top secret." The brand we have is "RV Headsets," although there are others.
#5 Wind Vane. Self-steering is a great thing in and of itself. But when your boat will self-steer without power consumption, it gets better. We have a WINDPILOT wind vane made in Germany. This unit came already attached to Anastasia when we purchased her. The only drawback to this manufacture of wind vane is that the company is foreign to us and thus we pay more on shipping should we need parts. And we did. We chose to disassemble the unit and rebuild some parts because of galvanic corrosion from lack of use with the previous owner. Our wind vane, dubbed Johann, is a member of the crew happy to take the wheel should you get tired of steering.
#6 A.I.S. Stands for Automated Identification System. For us this system was a good move. We have a Class B AIS Transponder that is wired into our chart plotter at the helm. This AIS system sends and receives surrounding vessel traffic data. Basically announcing our identity, position, speed and course over ground to oncoming traffic all the while giving us the same information on those vessels as well. We have found that all large commercial traffic, like tankers and cruise ships, are equipped with this technology which makes picking out the tiny lights 8 miles away a little easier. While crossing the Gulf Stream at night this equipment proved very handy. We are able to call vessels by name, course and even MMSI number instead of by description and rough location. And with the Class B, they can see us as well.
#7 Baby Mattress Pads I know this sounds silly but they are great. This was another suggestion from a cruising friend. The baby mattress pad is absorbent and lined inside with plastic. If we have a leak underway or need to set wet foul weather gear somewhere inside, I always pull a mattress pad out to protect the surface from moisture. They store easily and accessibly beneath a cushion in the main salon. I have two but four is not too many.
#8 Zip Loc Bags All sizes, extra large to tiny, any brand and lots of them! Collect as many as you think you will need and double that. For me, moisture is the enemy in life afloat. It is just in the air! I have found that plastic zipper bags work very well. From fresh sheets and towels to new packages of flour and sugar to stinky shells collected on the beach, the bags are priceless. Bring many and surprise yourself with all of their uses.
#9 Solar Panels and Wind Generator Combo This suggestion is kind of like the wind vane. To me the brand does not matter too much. The beauty is in the combination. Where one lacks, the other steps in and together, they really pack a "power-full" punch. Do the research on how much you need for your power consumption and you will find that running the engine to charge the batteries is something you hear about but rarely have to do yourself.
#10 Refrigeration Cruisers can become divided on this subject. For us, it just makes our life more enjoyable. We can handle the power draw and really like ice in our iced tea. This is something we added to Anastasia before leaving for the Bahamas. You may have read about the installation back in the Fall. While still in Florida we stocked up on cheeses and sealed meats like sausage and bacon that we are enjoying now. If you are adding refrigeration, do your research. It can be expensive and not all units perform the best. We know some people who do have refrigeration but cannot make ice. And who wants a sun-downer without a little chinkity-chink in the glass?
#11 Staysail I know some of you say that a staysail is standard equipment on a cutter-rigged sailboat but we find that many cruising cutters do not use this valuable sail. Whenever we are going to windward our staysail is always flying and Anastasia comes to life with a well-balanced rig.
#12 Mustang Life Jackets We purchased two Mustang Hydrostatic Release Life Jackets before leaving. To them we added a waterproof strobe light as well. These are high on the list of sailing gear. Not only are they a PFD, but they are a harness as well. While underway at night we can "clip in" using a tether and jack lines to go forward, all the while being safely attached to the boat at all times. We have not found them to be uncomfortable or heavy in any way. Whenever we sail, we wear our life jackets.
#13 SSB The Single Sideband Radio is another item that came already installed on Anastasia when we purchased her. In fact, it was a major plus. We have an ICOM 802 with a Pactor modem. With which we can stay in touch with other cruisers out of VHF range, listen to weather reports, and listen to AFN radio (NPR!!). Soon, once we have the software installed on our computer and the subscriptions we will be able to receive weather faxes and also send and receive email. All through the SSB radio. We use it daily and would be lost without it.
If you want to know more about any of these things or any other equipment, just send us an email and we are happy to share our opinion and experiences.
So there you go our Top Thirteen. I know that I said Top Twelve in the title, just consider it a "Baker's Dozen."