Little things make a big difference in a life at sea! Here are a few products and gadgets we’ve found along the way that are taking a little of the hard edge off living aboard. To make this page easier to browse, the items are broken up into three categories. Below Decks is where you’ll find stuff for the galley (kitchen), staterooms (bedrooms) and heads (bathrooms); Underway is where you’ll find stuff that helps the boat move safely and successfully from place to place; and On The Hook is where you’ll find the fun stuff!
Oh, the “Get yourself” links after each entry take you to the item on amazon.com where you can, of course, get yourself one if the same item is still available there. Some of ’em even give us a little
kickback affiliate fee when you make a purchase! 🙂
Toadfish Non-Tipping Can/Cup Cooler
As you can imagine, getting anything with a smooth bottom to stay where you put it on a sailboat is tough. We have some clip-in holders for wine glasses and some pretty awesome coasters (the Barvino coasters below) for cups, but the best item for keeping beer cans or bottles EXACTLY where you put them is the Toadfish Can/Cup Cooler.
To illustrate how the Toadfish is easy to lift straight up, but WILL NOT tilt out of position, we shot a little video (below). We knew it worked great on perfectly flat surfaces, but were surprised to see it work this well on the curved Hypalon surface of Pepe’ – our RHIB dinghy.
If you have a boat, RV or any kind of recreational vehicle you frequently mix with beer, this is an absolute must-have. Get a couple of ’em so a guest doesn’t mess up your deck!
If you have small AC devices that you like to keep running when you’re not aboard – like a hydroponic garden, countertop ice maker or security camera – but you don’t like the battery drain that accompanies leaving the inverter on, this is for you!
Barbara’s hydroponic garden is the only AC device we leave on all the time. It works on a timed cycle, so it needs a constant energy supply. The problem is that it’s AC, and the boat’s primary power is DC. This little jewel, plugged into a nearby DC socket, supplies it with all it needs and does so for a fraction of the amps leaving our boat’s large inverter on would require.
With no cage around the blades, these fans are A LOT easier to clean than the ones the boat came with. They also put out a lot more wind with less noise than the older cage models.
Instead of three settings, these newer fans only have two settings, but that seems to work fine.
Oh, and don’t worry that the blades are exposed, they’re soft foam and non-lethal (they don’t even hurt, in fact)!
Dyson V7 cordless handheld vacuum
The power to do the job – inside and out – yet small enough to tuck away unobtrusively on the boat. It’s not cheap, of course, but it performs and it lasts. This baby will suck up anything! It’s also been resistant to moisture better than many other electric appliances we’ve tried.
Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar
At home you have a knife block … because home doesn’t rock and pitch like crazy! On a boat, having a place to secure cutlery is important for food prep, safety and convenience. Our knife bar is 22 inches, but they come in several lengths to fit your galley. The magnet if very strong, so it’s virtually impossible for a knife to get off without you actually pulling it off. In fact, you can even use these things for tools and other metal objects. Bonus – it’s stainless steel, so it’s really rust resistant and stays looking nice!
Barvino Drink Coasters
Sometimes it’s just as important to make sure your drinks don’t slide everywhere when your boat heels or bobs all over the place. Whether keeping hot stuff in the mug or cold stuff off the deck, these things are AWESOME! We use ’em for everything from insulated mugs to wine glasses. They grab the counter or table surface without any adhesive or sticky stuff and don’t slide at all! Definitely a must for any galley, salon or cockpit drinking!
Dish Soap Pump Dispenser / Sponge Holder
Easy access to your dish washing tools all in one place. Your sponge sits in the top of the pump tray where you can pump it a couple of times to fill it with just enough soap to do the trick. It sits right by the sink, so no mess and no fuss.
We put a rubber strip, like the kind that holds rugs in place, under ours and it sits tight in all conditions.
Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker
Coffee is an absolute must on a boat, sometimes with a splash of Mount Gay Rum, but that’ll be for another post. Sometimes it’s especially useful to make a single cup for yourself when topside by yourself on the mid-watch. We’ve tried percolators, pots and french presses, but hadn’t found a good coffee solution till we found the K-Mini. This baby has a little footprint, but a big quality of life impact for us! It takes standard K-cups too!
FoodSaver Vacuum Storage System
Foods keep WAY longer in the bags and containers vacuum sealed with this gadget, and they also take up less of the precious space in your refrigerator/freezer. Sealing out the humidity from bags of chips, cookies, etc. also helps them stay crispy and fresh in a very damp environment. In fact, we use it for more than food – batteries, camera gear, electronics, power cords, etc. This is a must-have for your boat! If you already have one, check out the containers.
Hamilton Beach Digital Bread Maker
This has been a provisioning game-changer for us. Barbara has used it to make loaf bread, rolls, tortillas, brioche and pizza dough. We don’t ever pick these items up at the grocery anymore, shaving quite a bit off the provisioning budget, yet we always have them fresh and boat made! This is one investment that definitely pays for itself while upping your boat dining!
Lighted Makeup/Vanity Mirror
Barbara is really the expert on this one. She tells me the best things about this are its small footprint, light weight and USB power cord – which is especially nice on a boat, since it can be plugged into the 12 v DC system! The LED light is nice and bright, and cycles between warm, cool and daylight as you prefer.
Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser
This gizmo holds a roll of paper towels and hands one out to you when you wave your hand over the sensor! No matter what’s all over your hands, you can get to a paper town without gunking up the rest of the roll or any cabinet knobs.
It sits on our counter vertically, minimizing its footprint on your counter and eliminating the need to drill more holes into your boat to hang a rod horizontally (there’s not much room in most galleys to do this anyway).
Garmin InReach Mini
After our intense shakedown cruise to the Dry Tortugas (Christmas Shakedown in the Dry Tortugas), we became keenly aware of our limited ability to communicate beyond VHF range. The Garmin InReach Mini is compact, but gives us the capability to send and receive basic messages and get weather anywhere in the world. One of the coolest things, though, is how it tracks us every 10 minutes and allows others to follow us through a link on this blog and our Facebook page!
This little jewel is also an important part of our emergency preparedness, augmenting our boat and personal emergency beacons (EPIRB and PLBs respectively) in case the chips are down.
Mirage Eclipse from Hobie
Whether for fun or getting to shore and back, our two Mirage Eclipses have been everything we thought they’d be! Although they look like SUPs, they’re actually “peddleboards” that transform stair-stepper motion into forward motion through the water. Steering is done with the levers on the handlebars!
We have a 12 foot board for TD and a 10.5 foot board for Barbara. If we’re going to be staying anywhere for more than an overnighter, we break them out and tie them to the transom next to the dinghy.
One nice benefit of the Eclipses is the exercise we get on them. Buns of steel!
The boards themselves aren’t on Amazon, so you’ll need to locate a Hobie dealer to get yourself one. If you get these boards, consider also ordering the storage bags/covers below.
Personally, I think clipping generic drink holders onto the handles is a mandatory upgrade!
Cards Against Humanity
OK, you’ve probably played this game. If you haven’t, let me warn you – it’s not for the squeamish or prudish; but it is a great way to get to know your neighbors in the anchorage (maybe more than you are comfortable with), especially when mixed with generous amounts of alcohol!
There are several expansion sets, but you’ll definitely want to start with the original box. If you like it, you can add to your collections, and if you hate it you can cut your losses and pick up Scrabble or something.
Scrabble Deluxe Edition
Barbara loves word games; and she repeatedly kicks my butt in games like Scrabble. So, of course, we had to have it aboard.
There are several cool things about this version that make it especially suitable for boat use. The squares have raised edges, so tiles can’t slide or shift out of place (really nice for play underway); the board is plastic, rather than cardboard, so high humidity won’t warp it or cause delamination and the set folds up into its own compact self-storage case! It’s like it was made for a boat!
Oh yeah, it rotates like a lazy susan to simplify play around a table.
Mexican Train Dominoes
Barbara and I learned how to play Mexican Train Dominoes at her sister’s house over Thanksgiving. It’s a great game for the boat while at anchor, especially when hosting the crews of neighboring boats. If you have a table or countertop with at least 6 square feet of space, this game will provide hours of live-aboard fun and competition!
Get yourself a Mexican Train Set
BONUS! Whether you’re new to the game or an international expert (I guess there are some), you’ll appreciate this Excel spreadsheet Barbara created to make scorekeeping easier and cleaner. Enjoy the download, it’s free!