8 essential items for beginning cruisers

All I had with me for the first night aboard the Karen Marie was a bottle of wine sans opener, a flannel blanket and a jar of peanut butter pretzels. Thankfully, during the course of my inaugural sailing season, I have acquired several simple items that have made a world of difference.  

Double-Sided Velcro ($5.27, Home Depot): Besides coming to the rescue when my mooring ball was bouncing up against my boat (check out: Things that go bump (bump-bump) in the night) this self adhesive has eliminated numerous rattles and vibrations throughout the Karen Marie. When the boat’s rocking caused the lid of our cooktop to continuously fall or when our sail cover clips broke off, Velcro saved the day.  Image

Super-sized zip ties ($12.07, Lowes): In the world of plastic ties, bigger is better. From a broken shroud to a missing oarlock to engine repairs, the uses for these have been many. They also double great as spare kill switches for the dinghy in case you happen to leave yours at home, which is something I know a lot about.  Image

Solar Shower ($15, West Marine): The Karen Marie’s fresh water tank is in need of repair to prevent bilge water from contaminating our water supply. Even if that were functional we don’t have an onboard shower. Paper-thin and easy to stow when not in use, a Solstice solar shower is capable of holding 5 gallons of clean drinking water. When hung from a halyard, the water was heated in just a couple hours on clear sunny days. You really can’t put a price on a hot shower after a salty swim, well, I guess West Marine can because they charge $15 for it. Without a slip and a proper wash-down-system the Solstice shower often provided emergency cleaning services to our salt-crusted decks.  Image

Go-Anywhere Seats ($89.99, West Marine): During the first few months with the boat, I don’t know which was harder, learning to sail or the wooden benches we were sitting on. Long days of resting on unforgiving teak was becoming a real pain in the a$$. That all changed when a pair of Go-Anywhere reclining seats came into my life. They lie flat to seat two guests at a time and recline to provide maximum comfort whether out sailing or taking a nap, thankfully never both at the same time.    

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Pillow Case Bags (priceless): This past year I made one of the most important investments someone can make: I bought new pillows. To quote comedian, Daniel Tosh, “We spend a third of our lives sleeping. That is one third of your life. Spend the money.”  The portable clouds, which I slept on, were outstanding, but what were even better than those were the plastic-zipper sealed cases that they came in. These plastic cases were the perfect receptacles for clothing was left aboard during the week. The kept everything organized but more importantly, they kept everything dry. Image

Instant Coffee ($11.99, Trader Joes): I should start by confessing that I’m not a huge coffee drinker. In fact, I have been known to turn my nose up at Starbucks and their vendi double frappe lattechinos with or without whipped cream. That said, after two nights of snoozing in an ever shrinking V-berth, I needed something to kick-start my day. Instantcoffee from Trader Joe’s provided that. Karen would fire up the stove and heat up some water then stir in a coffee packet with creamer and sugar already mixed in and all of a sudden all was right in the world.

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Forever flashlights ($2.90, amazon.com): The only thing I was losing faster than my hair while learning to sail was batteries. My AA powered lanterns and flashlights died on aweekly basis, leaving me alone in the dark with just my frustration. A coworker of mine gave me half a dozen cheap forever flashlights to try out. A natural skeptic, I though “there is no way these will work,” as I tossed them into my bag and set out to the boat. Upon arrival to the Karen Marie that night, my flashlights died and the forever flashlights were called into action. I was shocked when the flimsy lights ended up working great. It is said that fiveminutes of cranking it up will provide light for up to an hour. Because five minutes is a painfully long time for an impatient person like myself, I can attest that two minutes of cranking provides 20 minutes of uninterrupted light. I now keep them scattered throughout the boat.  Image   G-Project Waterproof Speaker ($59.99, Target): What is the point of sitting out in the cockpit with a frosty beverage if you don’t have a soundtrack? The gift from a family member of a G-Project Speaker, which connects wirelessly to a smart phone added countless hours of Bob Marley bliss to our day.

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