A comprehensive list of 17 essentials to help make your life easier as a full-time liveaboard.

After living aboard our boat, a 43 foot Bruce Roberts Mauritius ketch, full-time, for 5 years, I do feel educated enough to list the things that make my life a whole lot easier! So here are my top 17 or so items that I love. I started 5 years ago with a “necessity” list and a “wish list” for the more expensive items. Only you will know what you can and cannot live without on your own boat. we saved for ages to upgrade our solar panels and batteries so that we could have some of the more “luxurious” items without stressing about power.

  1. Watermaker – yes, we have one on board. I cannot imagine how we would cope without one, although we did for 2 years! While some may say it is a luxury item, I can honestly say it changed the way we live on board. No more lugging cases of bottled water (all that plastic!) on board, drinking water whenever we like, water for dishes, the odd HOT shower, the benefits are endless!
Part of our water stash for a Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town crossing with no watermaker.

We no longer have the stress of calculating how much water each person can drink over x amount of days passage. There is a lot of pressure amongst crew (or family) about who drank how much water, trust me, the fight is real! The weird thing is, once you know something is “limited” then subconsciously you want more of it!! No more worrying about staying another week or 2 at a glorious anchorage as you may run out of water…..Put it at the very top of your wish list.

2. Vacuum cleaner, preferably handheld – we have a huge round wet/dry vacuum cleaner, a bulky cumbersome thing just too big to fit into any space inside the boat with ease. She lives in the lazarette now and only gets hauled out when we need to remove water from the bilges. We have an efficient handheld number that works like a dream, is easy to store and makes keeping the boat free of crumbs, sand and dust a pleasure.

3. Fridge/freezer – this sounds obvious but I have heard so many potential cruisers say (admittedly before they do a long passage) that a “real” sailor doesn’t need a fridge and REALLY doesn’t need a freezer. You do! Your life is made a million times easier with a fridge. Measure your space, be creative, find a space where you can fit the largest fridge possible. We have a freezer plugged in in the passage leading from the salon to the aft cabin and the fridge tucked in on the galley floor under the crockery cupboard. The original fridge is about to become a storage locker.

4. Washing machine – yeah, yeah, I know, another “luxury” item but one that definitely needs to be considered. Usually, we do not have a huge amount of clothing to wash but the towels, bed linen and various other items on a boat need more regular washes as opposed to being on land. That nasty mould again……

Captain thinks he does a better job at washing than me, I let him think that too…….

It will pay for itself in no time as the expense of laundromats and the cost of transport to get to one in a new port adds up fast. We are no longer spring chickens and the thought of stamping on my washing in a tub of water and soap suds simply does not turn me on. We have our machine neatly stored in the lazarette with a custom made cover which alternates as a spare seat on deck. There is always a way to have a washing machine onboard – find it!

5. Icemaker – this is one the Captain and I disagree on at the moment. I think it is an absolute necessity as I must have ice with my drinks, he feels an icemaker is not going to be able to keep up with the amount of ice we need. He had one many moons ago and, according to him, it was not very productive. However, these have improved so much over the years and are very popular on yachts. As we have a fairly large deep freeze we use the old fashioned ice trays at the moment. However, this baby is on my wish list and I am sure she will be onboard soon!

6. Solar deck shower – another item that makes your life so much more pleasant when you climb back on board from the ocean, or anytime you feel the need to have a shower!

7. Oven – a seemingly obvious choice and one that varies from boat to boat as we all have different needs. Check out your space, ask yourself questions such as :

Do I bake a lot and need an oven or just a stovetop?

Gas or electric?

How many plates do I need, will I be cooking in a pressure cooker most of the time, do I need 3 pots on the stove at the same time?

We are operating on a 2 plate gas stove at the moment and a small 1000 watts oven that we love. However, previously had a gimballed oven which gave up the ghost a while back and we are looking to purchase a new one shortly. Much easier when doing crossings to have a gimballed stove with the added benefit of pots not being able to slide off which they would do with our current setup.

When we removed the useless oven we found this sign where the oven was. It reads “keep calm, we are going to braai (BBQ) now!” Very funny and how apt!!!

We are investigating the Wallas diesel oven as an option. Read about it here.

8. E-bikes – an absolute necessity. Makes life so much easier when you can use your own transport to get to the shops and sightsee. Fold up bikes are very popular, check out the weight,(of the bike and yourself!) size of your dinghy, where will you store them on board before you invest. They can rust fairly fast so a cover or into the lazarette if possible is a good option. (yes, we have a huge lazarette but the Captain doesn’t like me clogging it up as the emergency tiller is in there, it’s kinda become my “dumping ground”).

9. Go Pro – we love, love, love our Go Pro! Invaluable for underwater shots, we have used ours hanging over the side of the boat to check out the growth on the boat, as well as incredible underwater footage. A bit tricky initially, I’m not gonna lie, I did throw it overboard in a fit of rage once or twice but eventually got the hang of it! It is really nice to sit on board and watch on my laptop while the captain cleans underneath the boat or snorkels around.

Again, a luxury item and it took us a few years to get one with all the bits and pieces the boat needed first but one well worth putting on your “wish list”

10. Waterproof dinghy bag – indispensable. It should be able to accommodate laptops, chargers, phones, paperwork, passports etc in a COMPLETELY dry bag!

11. Stovetop coffee maker – I am not a coffee fan so this is way down on my list but almost every cruiser we have met over the years states that this could be their most important item onboard! So, here you go, this is the one most recommended by the cruisers we have met! Another item used by coffee lovers is a French press.

12. Proper towels – an absolute essential. Sand free, fast drying. Turkish towels are a great investment.

13. Odorless dishcloths – also highly recommended as the last thing you need in your galley are mouldy, smelly dish clothes. In the tropics, this happens FAST!

14. Mosquito and bug covers – these little goodies look like they could be a lifesaver. Captain Mike is always attacked by mosquitoes so this is on my “to buy” list. I really like the one for the companionway too. I think if I had numbered this list then this could possibly be my number one!

15. Instapot/ pressure cooker – a pressure cooker or Instapot is indispensable, in hot climates it keeps your boat much cooler as the whole boat does not heat up. Add ingredients in the morning and have a hot cooked dinner in the evening. No stress, no mess. There are so many easy recipes on the internet and once you get the hang of it you will wonder why you waited so long to invest in one!

16. Deck seats and chairs – find the most comfortable,” able to fold up into almost nothing” beach chairs or backrests. Along with this, I want to add that we find a floating “lilo” as we call them in South Africa, such fun when attached to the boat. Perfect for lazing on in warm waters!

Life’s a beach.

17. Printer – we have had a printer on board since day one and it is invaluable. Printing out documents is so much easier when you can do it from the comfort of your boat and trust me, there is always something that needs to be printed! We store ours under the captain’s chair at the nav station, it is out of the way but easy to reach. We are seriously considering buying a small laminating machine too so that we can keep important documents safe from water damage and mould.

So there you have it, our “wish we had thought of that” list as full-time liveaboards. I will do an “Essential items for your Galley” list soon and Captain Mike is working on an “Essential Tools for Cruisers” list. Feel free to send us any suggestions you may have! sailingandsunshine@gmail.com.

Stay safe, be happy, be kind.

Captain Mike and Nikki.

P.S. As a proudly South African (Nikki) with a Swiss/South African Captain, of course a “braai” or barbeque is absolutely indispensable! We like wood and hate a gas braai but there are some great gas options.We like the fact that ours is not mounted to the railing somewhere as we can move it out of the wind if necessary.

There is nothing better than a small braai fire and the African sunset at the end of a glorious day on the ocean. Nothing.

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