Last week we arrived back in the US after eight months and some 7,000 miles exploring the Caribbean. During that time, we have used lots of different things to make life easier while cruising on our sailboat. Some of them have proved much more useful than others. Here are twenty that I think every cruiser should carry.
I should probably know how to tie a variety of knots that would make using bungee cords redundant. But just so you know, I don’t. We use bungee cord for all sorts of things. The ones with hooks are our staple for holding halyards away from the mast to prevent slap, and we have short lengths without hooks to hold various things down when heeling (for example, children).
These are the short, 6″ or so pieces of Velcro that can wrap and hold things. Again, some clever knot would probably work, but a Velcro wrap is a quick and easy to secure something to a rail.
With dyneema pricing the same, or less, than standard marine line, there is no reason to have a bunch of this wonder-rope aboard. It’s amazingly light, strong, and floats. A critical application is 80′ or the stronger stuff for an emergency stay (you do have an emergency stay don’t you?), but we use it for boom preventers, dinghy towlines and cockpit Jacklines.
A few space blocks are always useful. They can be quickly rigged to make out hauls, outboard lifts and all manner of spontaneous rigging needs.
Once you learn to make a soft shackle, you’ll find yourself using them everywhere. Combine one with a block and you have a crude snatch block (for a quarter of the price). I have also found that they make a great way to connect a rope anchor bridle to chain rode. It won’t slip off and is very strong.
With storage space always a premium, a few plastic crates are an easy way to store things that would clutter up down below. We have one for our keeps, one for docking lines and one that we use as a fish gutting tray.
Use them in each berth for extra storage and near the galley for fruit or chips (we call one of them “chip heaven”). You’ll also see a lot of cruisers hanging them from arches for outside storage.
Again, a noobie knot alternative, plastic twist ties find use almost constantly. I like using them on anchor shackles instead of wire seizing.
You might not have heard of these, but a Jiggler hose is a short length of tube with a one way valve at one end. We have one for fuel and one for water, and they make siphoning liquids from jerry cans so much easier, and less messy.
Use for covering hard corners to avoid bumping heads, over rope as an easy anti chafe and of course, to chill out in the water with.
Sarah and I have lost or broken so many sunglasses between us, we have started buying two pairs rather than one, so we have on extra.
Reusable mop up cloths, we have half a dozen that we rotate through. Draining dishes, cleaning up spills or wiping the sweat off yourself in the topical heat. A quick rinse in water and hang them to quickly dry on the lifelines.
Kid Crack. Nuff said.
Adult Crack. Adults play games too you know.
If you do night passages, a headlamp for each person is critical, one with a red light option. Apparently none of my family know it takes 45 minutes to get your night vision back after being douse with white light, despite how many times I told them.
More Kid Crack. If you doom your family to 8 hours of sailing boredom, make sure you have the toy that is never the same twice.
I don’t know why we didn’t really know of these before we left (we got NVCharts). If you are heading to the Caribbean, Explorer Charts seem to be the staple, and have so much richer information that others charts we have tried.
WD40 is not a lubricant, the WD stands for water displacement. But, many things need a quick spray every few days to keep from rusting. I use some on my leatherman and dinghy tie down straps.
Another very useful lubricant, a few dabs every week will keep things from rusting in the salt air.
Every single crew over the age of 8 should be carrying a knife and be shown how to use it. If the yogurt hits the fan, you might not be there to help free a child from being caught in a rope. Our boys have relatively cheap single blade pocket knives tucked in their lifejackets. For adults though, nothing beats the versatility of a multitool.
Having more than one handheld VHF is tremendously helpful. Many islands don’t really have cell service, so shore parties can split up and sill be able to hail each other to remind them to get more rum.
Are there any item’s YOU consider critical for cruising families?