A little while ago I met some fabulous people who lived on a sailing boat somewhat bigger and better equipped than my own (understatement of the century). They were shocked that I cruised without basic things like a fridge or shelter in the cockpit. They sent me this great article from Yachting World, where seasoned cruisers talk about their top onboard comforts. These included things like washing machines, freezers, an espresso machine, bread maker, soda stream, musical instruments (well in fairness my boat did come with an electric piano, and I carry my fiddle as a bit of an up-yours to wood rot), and a hand-cranked pasta machine used just once a year. My new friends wondered what my list would be, so in homage that article, here we go…
1. My washing machine (aka dirt re-distributor)
When I bought it, it came with lots of lofty promises like not using much water and cleaning clothes in 4 minutes. None of this is really true (especially the water consumption because of the amount of times you need to rinse the soap out), but it doesn’t matter because in the Caribbean apparently once something is actually dirty, it’ll never be clean again. I like laundrettes, but in low season when nothing’s open, me and my leaky green bag have become reacquainted.
2. I simply couldn’t live without my bilge fridge
At around 25-30°C water temperature, a bilge fridge is technically the coldest place in the boat. Perfect for storing those perishables (for a few hours) when you don’t have the luxury of an actual working fridge. It’s also a very efficient gatherer of hair and dirt.
This is a genius piece of engineering. It’s exactly the right size and sits at just the right angle to hold any kind of toilet roll you want. What’s more, there’s a hook just next to it ready-installed to hang a bag (I use old fruit and veg bags from the supermarket) to hold used toilet paper (just remember to change it once in a while, especially if expecting company).
4. My actual shower
This is the routine: a dip in the sea, climb out, soap up. Jump back in the sea. Climb out, pump the shower handle and rinse with a light, water-saving mist. Also works for rinsing dishes. The packaging says it’s for killing weeds, but you don’t actually need to put the chemicals in it for it to work just as well as a serviceable shower.
5. Bumper pack of nappies
I once mentioned that my bateau is like my baby, and as for any baby, nappies are a requirement. They are handy in any diesel- or oil-spilling situation, such as engine maintenance. They’ll also soak up the leaked diesel scum off the water in your bilge so you don’t pollute the environment. Unfortunately you then add to landfill. Diesel sucks, it’s lose-lose.
6. This murder/self-defence implement that has never been used for actual navigation
7. Cabin boy
Useful for a range of things including security decoy, wilful eccentricity, carnival costume, judgemental regards, and of course conversation. Sadly not useful for more important cabin boy duties (ahem) or actual crewing due to his lack of arms and legs. He’s called Flav, and you can find him on Instagram where he moans about how much he hates his life.
8. Solar oven
Very useful as an additional life raft for Flav – it takes up about the same amount of space. Less useful for actually cooking things as the solar reflectors blow away in the wind at anchor.
For Flav when he’s in decoy mode
10. My vacuum cleaner
It’s very good for taking up space, and while it makes noises which indicate it’s working, it sucks (literally nothing).
11. Solar-powered inflatable lights masquerading as anchor lights
No of course my boat doesn’t have actual working anchor lights. I couldn’t be bothered to photograph these, sorry.
12. Cruiser gifts (hand-powered blender, a Le Creuset kettle that matches my interior decor, a 12v slow cooker, a 12v hot plate and an electric outboard engine from the 1980s)
These are wonderful things for taking up space, and each one is a delight because I would never have thought to get one myself (plus receiving a gift is lovely, even though you know the giver is partly doing it to purge their own junk collection). In order to justify their presence on board I entertain myself try to find uses for them. I’m too scared to use the outboard, though. I like rowing.
13. A lifetime’s supply of out-of-date safety gear and emergency rations
Whilst doing my sea safety training at the fisherman’s college, we got to splash around in insulation suits and launch a life raft. Since I was the only non-fisherman on the course with a functioning boat, lots of the flares and things from the raft got passed on to me. I also have many small sachets of plastic-tasting water, and some biscuits which taste of nothing but apparently are full of life-saving calories. I think we have the makings of a great fireworks party (remember, remember the 5th of November).
14. A Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack
With a bateau called Anne Bonny and this accompanying soundtrack you may now call me Cliché of the Caribbean, but I don’t care. This music is majestic and was written to accompany a dramatic seascape. On my solo missions I’ve plugged it into my ears and felt invincible. It’s helped me through scary rough seas and made me feel like goddamn Jack-fucking-Sparrow.
So there you have it. I know it’s essentially all junk, but I call them luxuries because I’m a hoarder and don’t know how to get rid of it all. Send help!!