Living on a boat generally means a lot less space, less access to stores/easy fixes/supplys and parts. Plus, when you’re on a boat and away from your typical resources, sometimes you have to get creative to solve a problem. Read on to see how other cruisers make things work in creative ways as well as how they make the most of their small spaces!
What is an awesome “hack”/unique solution you’ve found for a problem you’ve had on the boat?
Abyni @AbynisInstagram Mine is of course music related. Since we always have everything open on the boat, my papers with song chords on them are always flying all over the place. We found a piece of plexiglass that my mom took off of a cabinet and I use that as my “paper weight”. I can put an entire song under it at once, so no need to turn pages or anything!
Barb @HartsatSea In the Azores, after 21 days at sea, I convinced EW to remove the very heavy teak lid from our chart station. We lay out charts on the dining table. This lid made it very uncomfortable to work at the computer for any length of time. We jury-rigged a system (probably not really a secure way to hold the laptop) and sailed that way until we got back to St. Thomas where EW was able to use his cousin’s tools and make a starboard platform for the laptop. We now have a nearly ergonomically correct computer station where I can write for hours without being at the dining table. The laptop has a secure tie-down, the millions of device power cords are (usually) neatly wrapped in a basket at my side, and there is space behind the laptop for future neat baskets to hold drives and other important bits. I’m considering a canvas cover to hide the area when we have gatherings, but really, when it’s neatened up that isn’t necessary.
Carla @SVMahi Rolling movement while at anchor is very uncomfortable to my body. The wind shifts slightly, allowing waves to wrap around a point or island, which can certainly make the boat roll. At this point, you may either choose to move the boat, deal with it, or make yourself a DIY flopper-stopper.
I decided to make my own flopper stopper after reading an article in Good Old Boat magazine. It is now completed and once I have tested it out, will finish my blog post. I made several adaptations from the basic instructions found in the article. Here is the original article that inspired me.
- Using a pressure cooker; I could kick myself for not using one before!
- Swim shirts: so much nicer and more effective than putting sunscreen all over. I always missed a spot with sunscreen, then I’d have weird sunburns and tan lines.
- Fermenting my own kombucha to sub for sodas – if you meet me and want a starter, just let me know! Also fermenting vegetables allows me to continue to eat veggies even when there aren’t many around.
- Making my own sunscreen and bug spray has also been successful and is better for the environment we all want to protect.
Duwan @MakeLikeanApeMan That first year when I was so seasick, I was craving brownies. Since we don’t have a usable oven, I tried to grill them. This works if you use lots of oil in your recipe – if not, they just get burnt. I have since learned that I can bake in a pressure cooker. We make bread, brownies, energy bars, etc. in the pressure cooker.
Jenny @SVRocketScience My DH had two brilliant fix-at-sea solutions that I’m especially proud of. The first one occurred when we had just left Costa Rica. They charge a steep price for the check out. We were about an hour out when the engine overheated. Turns out the salt water pump had quit. We didn’t want to check back into Golfito, pay all the fees again, and then find somebody there to fix the pump. So DH took the bilge pump out of our forward sail locker, rigged it to the engine and off we went. We motored ALL the way to Panama City and the thing never quit. A miracle! To read more about this, click here.
The other situation occurred when we crossed the North Atlantic this summer. We were about 24 hours out of St. John’s. When we started the engine to charge the batteries the belts were very squeaky. DH tightened them as much as he could, but it did not fix the problem. Turns out the big lower alternator bracket had snapped right in half. There was no way we were beating our way back to St. John’s. So he used a bicycle pedal wrench and a West Marine thru hull plug to fix it and it held all the way to England! If you want to read more about this, click here.
Katy @SVKlickitatII I learned to make stovetop granola from scratch (invented the recipe) so as to not use a ton of propane and/or heat the boat with the oven. Also, as we don’t have a watermaker, we pump our shower water into a bucket then reuse it for scrubbing the decks, wiping salt off our stainless rails, or other things that need fresh but not pristine water.
Kerry @YaNevaKnow Best life hack – using a piece of neoprene to make a hot water gasket, it still works so despite purchasing a new one. I also used to microwave or freeze all flour/rice/pasta/oats before storing dry products – keep the critters out!! These insects can eat through any plastic wrapper and infest all your provisions, buy strong plastic containers with screw on lids for all these products…..picking insects out of your breakfast cereal can be awful!!
Lea Pennicott @Tientos Have lots of epoxy on board…have filled water pump and heat exchanger to get mobile again…to be updated on blog.
Laura @FortunesAFloat My most helpful thing is my Samsung phone. I LOVE it for so many things, but rarely use it to make phone calls. (I have had so many different SIM cards in it, my kids call it my “drug dealer” phone.) I take all my photos with it. I do all my blogging with it. I use the maps feature like crazy even at sea. The Google satellite maps feature is GREAT for figuring out new harbors. I also do screenshots to show our locations; then I draw our last passage on it and post it to my blog.
Liza @SVInspiration My life is full of “Life Hacks” but they are likely all the same ones most cruisers use:
- In the cockpit, the garden sprayer filled with rain water is the shower – just remove the long wand.
- Keep your foaming hand soap dispensers and re-fill them with fresh water and about three tbsp of dish soap. (So many great scents to choose from these days. I keep one small bottle dedicated to hand soap and otherwise use Joy which works well in salt water when I am in crazy conservation mode.)
- Catching rain water: I plug the scuppers and simply scoop with a cup into a clean bucket with a lid. We use rain water for dishes, and showering.
- Conserving water: I reuse water. For example, I catch the water that I use to wash my face in the morning, and reuse it when doing the first wash of the dishes. Oh, washing dishes is a whole process…but I bet I only use a few ounces of fresh water! Bathing is the same idea. The ocean is truly our bathtub. I’d say that we both only use about 16-20oz of fresh water. We only carry about 65-70 gallons of water and we can make that last for six weeks if we have to. (That does NOT include drinking water – I always have a 5 gallon jug on the go.)
Melinda @BurnettsAhoy For those with newer boats with air conditioning – find out where your temp sensor is for your aircon and move it into your berth. Then close the door or sew a curtain (which is what I did) to close every night and make sure the only vent open is the one in your berth. It’s surprising how often the temp sensor is in an illogical place — our aircon temp sensor was originally by our bathroom. Moving it into our berth made it three times more efficient.
Melinda Taylor Keep your spare lines or ropes in clear plastic bags. It stops them getting messy and moving around in the lazaret but more importantly, if you need a line quickly it’s easy to see which one to grab.
- Washcloths – big pack of cheap all cotton ones – use a different colors for bath or kitchen (or different people), but a big stack for each reason. So much easier than sponges or dish towels for clean up, wipe down, window rags etc, and easy size for laundry and line drying on the boat too. The different colors mean mine for washing my face don’t end up smelling like lanocote or worse!
- Insulating the boat with camping matts (cheap source of closed cell foam) – Our Cal 29 was acquired in a state that meant doing anything was an improvement, so we tried insulating her to stop condensation/mold problems. It was lots of work, but every wall got covered, then we added acoustical fabric on top as a headliner and to look better that the shocking blue of the foam, and it’s fantastic. No condensation problems anywhere we did this, and she’s very cozy!
Stacey @SVSmitty The two “life hacks” that I use most often are:
- Baby Wipes. When we are in places that we really need to stretch our water supplies and I cannot use fresh water to rinse off after a salt water bath, I will take what I refer to as a “whore’s bath”. Freshens me up so I can at least go in public without being smelly and salty. These are also used in placed of toilet paper.
- Garden Pressure Pump Sprayer. This is the same sort of 2-gallon pump that you would normally use to put chemicals in to spray on your lawn. We fill ours with salt water and use to to wash dishes, reducing our fresh water usage. We then final rinse with fresh water. I have also used it to clean the cockpit – the sprayer has strong enough pressure to loosen the dirt out of the non-skid decking.
- Have small tubs of rice, pulses and pasta in a handy galley locker rather than trying to deal with big packs in a seaway.
- When provisioning for long passage start by making a rough menu for a week, work out the quantities required from that then multiply up for the number of days/weeks at sea, add a contingency of say 50% and hey presto you have your shopping list!
- Remove all cardboard and other extra packaging before your provisions come on board to reduce the amount of waste you have to carry around.
- Wrap everything in a ziplock type bag as they prevent infestations spreading – quite a lot of the pasta we purchased before crossing the Atlantic contained weevil eggs unbeknown to us but because it was double wrapped it didn’t spread to the other packs.
Byn @OhSailYes As others have mentioned, I learned that I could indeed bake on the grill. I used the grill for weekly breads/rolls or pizzas. I even made Jaedin’s 20th birthday cake on the grill and homemade fudge for the frosting (YUM).
You might also want to check out my Pinterest Board on Organization Hacks for your Boat
Our biggest “hack”, or at least the first one off the top of my head was when our sail fell off when we were on our way from Allen’s Cay to Staniel Cay in the Bahamas. We were stranded at Warderick Wells after we had The Whole Big Adventure and we were safe, but had no way to get parts. Our starter had failed in Allen’s Cay and the Sail… well, the stitching had come completely undone on the top of the jib. We had no way to fix it the “right” way where we were, so we had to come up with a temporary solution. This is what we did:
Other Blog Posts to Check out:
Sailing Totem post about using a pressure cooker to Can Your Own Meat Onboard and Best Gifts for Cruisers have more info on using a pressure cooker (that I plan to to this winter!) as well as a timely gift giving guide with a pressure cooker recommendation.
Sailing Chance 9 Organizational Hacks for Your Boat
Get Wet Sailing 7 Life Hacks You’ll Need on a Sailboat
The Monkeys Fist A collection of Cruisers Life Hacks for the Cruising Sailing Life
Life Afloat Life Hacks that Make Boat Life Better
A lot of cruising women were awesome enough to contribute to this blog series about women who are living/lived the cruising life. Whether they’ve been cruising for 6 months or 30 years, these are the perspectives of various women from different parts of the world. I know I’m already learning from their stories, I hope you can learn something new as well! I’ll be posting a question from this series every Wednesday and Friday for the 10 week series, so keep an eye out for our posts! The topics range in topic from typical cruising questions, to more personal anonymous stories that might make you feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit.
If you are a current or former cruising woman and would like to contribute to future posts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Cruising Questions from Byn” and I’ll send you the list of questions. Answer as many as you like and return with a few photos and I’ll add your contribution as we go
See the other posts in this series:
Part 1: What Makes it Worth it?
Part 2: What Would You do Differently?
Part 4: Where Would You Revisit?
Part 10: Budget Friendly Tips?
Part 11: Best Social Media Tips?
Part 12: Your Best Life Hacks for the Boat
Part 13: Your Favorite Photo
Part 15: Let’s Talk About Sex