When my husband suggested we sell everything and buy a boat to go cruising my initial reaction was HELL NO!! I am not going to spend the rest of my life camping on a boat! Sure, if you aren’t organized it can feel like you’re camping on a boat, with mess and chaos everywhere. Organization is key! Everything has its place and if it gets put back where it belongs, there is no need to feel like you’re camping.
Bring The Good Things From Home
When you move onto your boat think of it as your home. That’s what it is after all. Have the mindset that this is home. Add pictures, bring your lovely items (within reason) add your personality to your boat. So many of our cruising friends have done just that, turned their boats into lovely homes.
I brought the things I loved from home with me. I’m so glad I did. My boat certainly doesn’t feel like a camping trip. No nesting pots with detachable handles, blunt knives, or tin coffee cups for us.
We took a bit of time working out where everything was going to live in the beginning. Since then I must have re-arranged the galley four or five times. Each change brought incremental improvement and it has been worth it. Now everything has a home and can be neatly stowed away when we sail.
I’m glad I brought some nice things from home with me. My favorites include my good set of pots and frying pans. My good knives came with us in their block, all of my kitchen utensils. I even brought my big heavy granite mortar and pestle with me. Some of my good serving platters, bowls, and beautiful utensils are also on the boat. When I go back to land for a trip home I will go to my storage room and pick up more of my good serving platters. Take a look here for my ‘Must have galley Items’
Because water is a precious commodity when you first start living on a boat, especially if you don’t have a watermaker many new cruisers think that they should limit the number of showers they have to save water. Sure whittle down your showering to once a day, there is no need to walk around smelling like you have just come from the gym because you live on a boat. Learn to turn off the water, don’t just leave it constantly running. You will be amazed at how little water you can shower in.
Getting used to cold water showers is another thing I didn’t love when we moved onto the boat. Then I started taking my shower at the time of the day when I am sweltering hot. A cold shower is a welcome refreshing cool down. Although, if it is chilly we have no problem running the water heater to warm the water so we can enjoy a nice hot shower. This is our home after all. Deciding to shower every day, made living on the boat feel way less like a camping trip.
To flush or not to flush toilet paper, that is the question. In my opinion, flush away! I think not flushing your toilet paper is beyond gross. If you use single ply and flush the toilet paper away and then give 15 extra pumps of water once it is all gone, you will be just fine.
If you are interested in more details on flushing toilet paper, take a look at my post on ‘Can You Flush Toilet Paper On A Boat’. If you happen to block the toilet, take a look at my post on ‘How To Unblock A Toilet On A Boat’
Upgrades We Added To Avoid Camping On a Boat
One of the things that made a big difference when sorting out where to put things where the plastic storage containers I bought. I have a few of them, they store electronic charging cables, headlamps and Man Overboard devices, koozies, and hats. I also bought two extras which we call the “work in progress” boxes.
Often when working on a boat project you end up needing extra parts. Before we had work in progress boxes, all the bits and pieces for the project were left lying around the salon for days or weeks depending on how long it took to get the missing project parts. This drove me absolutely insane. Now all the loose project pieces go into the work in progress box. I don’t have to see the clutter and everyone knows where to find all the pieces for their project when they are ready to complete it.
I highly recommend having a “work in progress” box or drawer, where the little bits and pieces that are being used for a project or engine repair get put away temporarily for a night or two while a project is ongoing. Investing in the work in progress box has saved many an argument on our boat.
Our provisions are stored under the bunk in our master cabin. When the mattresses are lifted and the bed opened up there is not a lot of light under the bed. We added a LED light under there which has made a huge difference. Now we can easily find what we are looking for. For more about our boat take a look at our ‘Lagoon 380 review’.
Adding a watermaker has been a life-changer for us. Although we managed quite well while we were in the Caribbean. By either taking the boat to a dock or using jerry cans and doing water runs with the dinghy. We did almost run out of water one Christmas when we had some guests who weren’t boat trained. We managed to work it out though.
Before investing in a watermaker, we installed a rain catchment system and added a filter, so the rainwater was filtered before entering the tank. This worked very well and allowed us to spend 3 months in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama during the rainy season, without having to find extra water.
Just before we crossed from Panama to Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia we decided that it was finally time to get a watermaker. With the vast distances between the islands in French Polynesia, a water maker makes good sense. Especially, if you are planning on spending long periods of time in many of the deserted atolls, which in my opinion are some of the best spots in French Polynesia.
I take my hat off the cruisers that manage without a water maker in French Polynesia. I have no idea how they do it. Have a look at our post on ‘8 common watermaker problems’.
When we bought the boat, we had one 160w solar panel. We used to skimp and scrounge for power all day long. We had to be aware of exactly how much power we were using. Actually, that hasn’t changed much, we still know exactly what we are using and are power-conscious. BUT we aren’t skimping anymore.
We added 3 x 375w LG solar panels, and the wonderful thing about them is they generally put out full power. In conjunction with the upgrade to Lithium Batteries, we don’t often have to be overly concerned with our power usage. We use 4 laptops most of the day and run our water maker off the power we bring in through our solar panels.
It is liberating not to be worrying about power… that is until we have an overcast week. Overcast weather just reminds us of how great it is not to worry about power.
The change to lithium batteries was amazing. From nearly dead lead acid batteries to lithium was so worth every penny we spent. All I can say is I love, love, love having lithium batteries. We have two teenagers who are enrolled in on-line school, my husband and I on our laptops makes for four laptops being used most of the day. Plus the NAS server, TV’s, induction stove top, freezer, washing machine, watermaker. Our original lead acid batteries would not have been able to manage.
If you’re looking for more information on ‘Switching To Lithium Batteries’ take a look at this post.
We spent our first two years in the Caribbean, either going to laundromats or bucket washing. Neither of these options is great.
The Laundromat is a whole day affair. Often the driers don’t work properly, or only work if you dry half a load at a time. The machines are usually busy, or you get dirty looks from the patrons because you brought three weeks of washing. Because why go to the laundromat until you absolutely have to? The only up side of the laundromat is you get to meet many of the locals and other cruisers. After a long day at the laundromat you may have a new friend or two.
Bucket washing SUCKS! I have sensitive hands, so I have to wear rubber gloves, which leave my hands stinky. It is really hard to rinse all the soap out of the clothes. Bucket washing uses at least three times as much water as a washing machine does, and it is about a million times more effort.
When we got to Nuku Hiva after our pacific passage, I took only the bed linen in to get washed. The bill was US $150, I was shocked. Thank goodness I didn’t take my clothes there too. Thinking Tahiti would be cheaper, I took four loads in there for US $120 – ouch!
We decided if we were going to stay in French Polynesia for a year, it was time to give in and buy a washing machine. I’m so so glad we did. We paid for it in about 5 loads, and now I do all my washing easily on my own schedule.
If I can give you any advice, don’t wait until you arrive in expensive French Polynesia before investing in a washing machine. Buy one where they are reasonably priced, and you have a wider range of small washing machines that fit nicely in small places.
We bought a stand alone fridge freezer with a 60/40 split. You can choose either fridge or freezer for both sides. This is one of the things that has changed our lives dramatically. Not only do we have a freezer, but we have a beer fridge which allows us to always serve beastly cold beers.
We removed the nav station chair and now the freezer/fridge doubles up as an extra seat. It is next to one of our chart-plotters and when we are under way in bad weather it is my favorite spot to sit. Actually I sit on it most days when I’m writing posts too.
We normally leave the bigger side as a freezer and the smaller side as a beer fridge, unless we know we’re going to be entertaining like in December (my son’s birthday is the day after Christmas) we are all fridge. When we are headed out to places where there is expensive or not much provisioning we forego the beer fridge and fill the freezer to the brim.
We bought a Snomaster fridge/freezer, but the most common marine brands are Engel or Dometic.
Buying a good BBQ has been one of our favorite upgrades to the boat. We went without a BBQ for a while but really missed having one. Some friends recommended a Weber Q1000 BBQ. We bought one and have not regretted it at all. It works the first time every time. We’ve had it for more than three years, there is no rust or damage at all.
It lives outside on our back transom and only has a Sunbrella cover for protection. I wrote a review on the Weber Q1000, take a look at it here. We take it to the beach when we want to have a beach BBQ where they don’t allow fires. If you want more Beach BBQ information take a look at my Ultimate Beach BBQ Checklist.
Down Time and Entertainment
Downtime and entertainment, are some of the things I never thought I would miss living on a boat. Aren’t we cruisers always having downtime? Not as much as you would like to think. It is worth thinking of entertainment while you are still in the planning stages to become a cruiser.
Often you find yourselves in a perfect, deserted anchorage. It is the most amazing experience to be truly alone with just the people who came with you. When you are all alone and away from wifi you will be happy you thought of entertainment before you left.
If you love reading take a look at my post ‘Finding books to read while sailing’. In our Lagoon 380, we don’t have a good spot to put a TV in the salon. So we added a TV to three of our cabins. We have a Synology NAS Media Server which streams our movies and TV shows to our TV’s.
You absolutely don’t have to live like you’re camping on a boat. When you move onto your boat bring the nice things you loved using at home that you think you would like to have on the boat. Make the boat your home. Just because you are moving onto a boat doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to be dis-organized chaotic and uncomfortable. All the cruisers I know have made their boats into comfortable homes that work for them.