18 months later: our most useful pieces of gear. Yet
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“Do we need that?”
We had just sold the house and there was no turning back: we would really buy a boat and go out there. We would actually do it! The “Do we need that” question started popping in every conversation.
First when downsizing from a 2 story, 2200 square feet cottage to a mere 25 boxes. “Do we really need 2 sets of bedsheets? What about that garlic press. I mean, will we even find garlic?” We knew we needed to pay shipping for every one of those boxes. So their content needed to be worthwhile! Moreover; we would need to fit all of that on Pablo! For weeks, we would bring things in the basement in the “to sell/giveaway pile”. If one of us were not coming to pick it up 2 days after because we couldn’t live without, it was staying there. If not, the one needing it would argue to the other why it needed to be promoted to the “to bring” pile. Some items created some heated debates (who doesn’t remember the great citrus extractor debate!?). But if no argument was convincing enough, it would stay behind.. Things we could’t bring ourselves to put a price on could be promoted to the “in storage” pile. Mind you, we aren’t paying for storage and use corners of families’ basements. And the last thing we want is impose our project on others, so not a lot managed to make it to the storage pile…
Once everything was packed away, “Do we need that?” started creeping back in the discussions. Every blog post read or discussion with another sailor would highlight so little we had, and so much it seems we needed. “Everybody has a SUP! And what about a drone? Surely we’ll need these 1000$ foul weather pants? Wow; the raincoat is even more expensive!”. Thankfully, we waited. And aboard we moved with our 25 boxes.
Over the months, we obviously bought some gear. But surprisingly, very little. Here are some of our favorites that are seeing use every week, if not every day.
We upgraded our old BlackDiamond headlamps that had been on so many camping trip to the brand new model. The main reason; the added red light for night navigation. Truth be told, we haven’t use the red light much, the moon being more often than not all we need. But the powerful beam is great to find back your boat when you’re coming back from the beach too late. And the long battery life means it’s the only light I’m using when working. My headlamp as much more grease, fibreglass dust and bilge water stain than sea spray. It’s been holding up very well, and I wouldn’t change it for any other model in the world.
Fein oscillating tool
You might not agree with me on this, but I think it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be forced to face the hard truth: either you have a brand new boat, or you’ll need to rip yours apart! I cannot count the amount of time I needed to cut a piece of the fibreglass liner or cabinetry to access a wire, chase down a leak or make a clean cut in the deck. Bosch blades are good value and hold their edge for a long time, but are often too wide. So its worth getting a few different width. You got a brand new boat? You’ll need it just as well.. You might just fight the idea a bit more!
One of the last impulsive purchase we made before leaving; our cooler. Sure, we use it as a cooler when we need to defrost our fridge (something that needs to be done every 2 weeks on Pablo). But it’s so much more than that! It’s our dinghy seat so the rides are dry. It doubles up as our shoes storage, keeping the sand outside and assuring us we don’t forget our shoes when going to the grocery (something that happened way too much when we started). It’s also the place where we can put said grocery on our way back, keeping the flour protected from the waves. Every 3 days, it becomes our big-ass-load washing machine. It’s the bath private swimming pool for the kids. It’s our chair at the beach. Or the picnic table. All of that for a mere 60$. Best impulsive purchase we ever made!
Klein DC clamp meter
.We carry a lot of tools on Pablo. And unfortunately, all of them are proving themselves useful. But without doubt, that meter is the one that seems to be glued to my hands. Tracing down wires, chasing stray current, figuring out power draws, troubleshooting failed motors or faulty switches and breakers… Or just to validate the voltage polarity before hooking a brand new 3000$ autopilot that would melt down if you get the wiring wrong… For so many reason, it seems I never have the time to put it back at its place before I need it out again. So much that it unofficially earned its home on the chart table. Ours allows to record min/max voltage; which is useful when troubleshooting random low voltage alarms on your brand new vhf (faulty in-line fuse). It also has a built it LED light to see what your doing (because you’ll be using your headlamp so much that sometimes, you need to recharge the batteries) and has all the bell and whistles you could wish. They seem just that, bells and whistles but turns out I’ve used them all. Even the small adaptor to read temperature when troubleshooting our freezer. It’s not cheap, but it’s good quality and most of all, dependable. Enough so that other cruisers will start asking you to come validate the reading of their cheap meters… (yup, it happened more than once!)
Sewing machine. 8 years ago, we decided to invest in a better winter cover for Sputnik, our previous sailboat. We wanted something that would better protect and would be faster to install than having every year to build a cover made with cheap tarps that would end up teared up and trashed the next spring. After getting some quotes, the cheapest being +2500$, I decided to buy a Sailrite sewing machine. A few weeks worth of work and 1500$ later, we had a shiny new winter cover. Mpost importantly, it was a speed course to gain a WHOLE lot of experience in designing, patterning and sewing. A Sailrite isn’t cheap and I’m not sure I would recommend purchasing one. After all, big projects that require an industrial machine are so much more of a challenge when working from the boat. But ours earned it’s place, allowing us to make in the last 18 months:
- Exterior cushions
- Shading panels all around the cockpit
- Storage bags and cockpit organizers
- Lego playing mats
- Dinghy chaps
- Kids plush (homemade birthday gifts when you’re far from shops!)
- Halloween disguises
- Deck awnings for friends’ boats
- Tethers for the kids when on passage, helping them to stay cool and INSIDE the cockpit, no matter what happen
- Get a few more months out of so many courtesy flags!
Up next; re-upholster all the interior cushions. We got rid of the old heavily stained covers when we bought the boat, creating an “all piece of fabric” on deck situation! So we’ve been living with a collection of fitter sheets, table naps, towels and blankets ever since. We could have done without all of these. But it sure made our environment nicer and better organized. Best of all, most of these have been made with scrap material, the total costs being ridiculously low.
Low friction rings
Low friction rings are exactly what their name indicates: a ring with very low friction. They’re used like blocks when you only need to deflect a line, or in relatively static application. Professional racers love them for their sturdiness to weight ratio. I love them because nothing can go wrong with them; it’s just an aluminium ring. And most of all, they’re cheap! A single block for Pablo cost between 150$ to 800$ depending of the application. Low friction ring will set you back by 20$. Sure, they aren’t as efficient as a 800$, full race dual ball bearing blocks. But as a backup in case one break, it cannot be beaten. We bought a few, just in case, before leaving and sure enough, the massive sheave on the genoa car exploded on our way to St-Martin. A quick tack and 5 minutes later, I had rigged a low friction ring in its place. It proved to work so well, it’s only when we reached Grenada 4 months later that we got to fix back the original block. Our passage to Bonaire was our first time downwind sailing on Pablo. So we finally had for the first time the occasion to use our whisker pole; only to realize that Pablo had never been rigged for it. Fear not! Thanks to 5 low friction rings keeping everything in check, we were gliding in some glorious downwind sailing one hour later. Dyneema and low friction rings: one should never wander at sea without them!
Our newest addition on Pablo after arguing the case to Cass for the past 6 months; a small el-cheapo food processor. Since we bought it, it seems that most of our lunchs are a few cucumbers with homemade hummus or Sam’s world famous 22-seconds-salsa and some tortillas. Better yet; the chocolate mousse made with chickpeas, cocoa and honey that is as good and filling as healthy! It brought our chickpea game to the next level, which means we can go longer without hitting the grocery. It already paid for itself!
Do I need to say more? The ONE toy kids cannot get bored with. Or the parents for what it’s worth. Our collection of beat-up lego (most of them were Cass legos when she was young) allowed us more time to work together without being interrupted than 8000$ worth of baby sitter would have gave us. Sure, there are downsides; like stepping on a few of them barefoot while tacking on passage, but it’s a small price to pay to keep your sanity. And you can alleviate most of the frustration with a home-made lego playing mat, made with your old house curtains, a teared-up towel and that Sailrite I was talking about! 😉
And what’s the most expensive purchase we made that has never even been used one? Our liferaft. But weirdly enough, I’m ok with that! 🙂