Moving Aboard—What Do You Really Need?

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I’ve always wanted to live on a sailboat and cruise to white sand beaches and aqua blue water destinations.  I wasn’t worried about the details of what to bring and what to leave behind because I am a “get rid of it” person.  My husband, not so much.  Compromise, compromise, compromise.

We’re newbie liveaboards so we’re learning as we go.


At first we had enough flatware to host a dinner party for 12, only our table only comfortably seats two; everyone else gets to eat in the cockpit.  We sat down and sorted through all of our galley drawers, got rid of a large box of redundant items and things just don’t work.  Like that baking pan that would never fit in our little force 10 oven or the silver plated pickle fork that aunt Mabel gave to us.  Pro Tip: If you have an electric kitchen knife keep it.  It’s really good for cutting foam for mattresses or cushions!


Brian insisted on bringing our huge flat screen from home on board despite my pleas to sell it because it was a power-sucker and took up a whole wall in our cabin, besides it would never last in the rough weather that tends to be prevalent around here in Morro Bay, California.  The thing lasted about three weeks and then came crashing down, despite the large mounting screws he had used, ruining the screen.  We now have a much smaller smart tv, that suffices quite well for the few movies we stream on it. It’s also easy to stow, thank God!

We have two bluetooth speaker systems for music.  Our GOAL ZERO is a solar unit that plugs in with a USB.  It is water resistant and we can hang it up in the cockpit and not worry about it getting damaged when banged around a bit and it only costs around $24 USD.  We also have a Bose Sound Mini Link for better quality sound and those romantic dinners by candlelight.  (I bring out my skort for these special occasions).


This can be a tough one, especially if you are used to having a huge and versatile wardrobe. There just isn’t the space in most boats for 60 pair of shoes!  Fortunately, I am a practical and casual dresser (note; not a fashionista, never have been.  Who can wear those high heels all day at work??? OW!)  My goal is to forget what closed toed shoes, long pants and sweaters were ever used for as we start our journey south to Baja, Mexico.  I’ve pared my wardrobe down to 1 pair of long dressy-ish long pants, 2 pair of cropped jeans, several pairs of yoga pants, 5? 6?, 1 skort–love these at my 60 year old age, (shorts just don’t cut it in public anymore as my “window of cuteness ” closed quite a while ago).  I’ve got two pair of Birkenstocks, (they float!) a pair of athletic shoes, a pair of slip on sneaks, and a pair of boat-ish shoes that I never wear.  Tops take up most of the room in my closet.  Fleece jackets are a must, best with a hood, and of course other foul weather gear, which I keep in a separate bag to break out when needed.

It’s important that most of your wardrobe is fast drying, (read lycra) as you will be hand laundering on your journey at some point.  Also, getting wet in the dinghy or rescuing a dog (if you have one) out of the water after they fall out of the dinghy;  lycra dries faster even if it’s salt water.  It’s happened to me more than once with our three pups.

Leather in a damp marine environment just isn’t a good idea unless it’s treated somehow for a specific use.  Brian does not believe me and is using his beloved leather jacket from 1992 to test this as it hangs forlornly in the closet.  (Results have yet to be determined–stay tuned!)  If you must have leather shoes, treat them regularly with a good leather product.  We love this company and all of their products:   Howard’s Leather Cleaning and Conditioning Kit

Or just wear boat shoes.


Or “Head” in boat talk.   We still have too many towels.  I just don’t know why I can’t get rid of some.  I guess I’m waiting for the  ones on the top of the stack to wear out and be turned into rags.  For now we have enough space, so I’m keeping them.

There is a shower in our head, although I’m not sure why one would want to shower in such a small place next to the toilet.  We currently are on a mooring and either shower at our yacht club facilities or in our cockpit with our Sterns Sun Shower   we just have to be discreet about it—–nobody wants to see that!  It’s a good idea to have a good portable toiletry bag to hold your essentials.  I love mine from LLBean I chose the medium sized one and it is just about right.

We have to keep our paper products to a minimum, that means buying smaller quantities more often.  No more Costco runs for that stuff!  I’m trying out tubeless toilet paper and it does save some room, just a thought.  I always keep wet wipes on the counter, because, you know, sometimes you just need them.

Since we are talking about toilet paper, heads on boats are notoriously clogging and causing backups and stinky issues.  No toilet paper or feminine products in the toilet!  Provide a lidded bin for that.  To avoid the aforementioned issues with a typical marine head, we got rid of ours when we bought the boat and installed a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet We love ours after 3 years of use.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a learning curve and that will come in another article, but for the most part it eliminates the clogging and stink issues.  You still have to empty the pee and poo, and that is a hands on experience not for the squeamish.

We keep our first aid kit in the cabinet under the sink (where you normally might find a mad and swearing like a sailor captain/plumber unclogging the head hoses and thru hull but we don’t have any of that so we have more space now.) and you do want to have an extensive first aid kit or three if you’re out cruising.  You never know if you’ll have to take a stitch or two.

Also in this cabinet are our plugs.  Those wooden cone things of all sizes. In case the boat gets a hole in it. I don’t know why they are there, but they were there when we bought the boat.  If I move them to a more “convenient” place I will surely forget where they are and a “hole in your boat” needs quick action not trying to remember where you put the *^%$* plugs.  So in the bathroom cabinet they shall stay.


Cleaning Supplies

I have a whole closet dedicated to brooms, mops, bleach bottles, bottles of white vinegar, Bar Keeper’s Friend and other cleaning products.  It seems that I use white vinegar, more often than not.   As I write this I am supposed to be using said materials to clean the boat today….I’ll try to get to it later. I don’t know how other people store their pots and pans and lids, but we have ours hanging on hooks in our broom cleaning closet.  Hey, it works. At least until we hit some rough weather and all those pots and pans are clanking away while the person not on watch is trying to sleep.  We shall see.  Perhaps I should have first consulted Carolyn Sherlock’s  The Boat Galley

One invaluable tool, although a bit pricey, is a Dyson Cordless Vacuum Honestly I probably wouldn’t have purchased this just for the boat, but I had it when we were land based and it has proven to be one of the handiest tools for cleaning tight spots. (Did I say tight spots?) There are a lot of them on the boat.  I’ve found it to be a great tool to  vacuum up saw dust and dog hair that finds its way into our engine compartment.

Computer Stuff

2 laptops, 2 Iphones, 1 Ipad, and a jetpack hotspot.  All need charging as they serve us for work, entertainment, and navigation among a million other things.  We have water proof cases for our phones and the laptop.  Lifeproof or more recently, RedPepper have worked well for us.  We did have an iphone fatality when Brian’s plugged in iphone took a dive into the deep dark bilge when a friend tripped over the cord.  Since the charger door was in the open position the water proof case was moot. A lesson for all.  Our ipad is attached to a blue tooth keyboard for work mode, but underway it is our handy-dandy navigational tool and is put into a lifeproof waterproof, albeit, scratched to hell case.  Finding a safe place for these items is essential when underway, but the rest of the time they are strewn throughout the cabin, in different states of use.

Art and Knickknacks

When we were ground-bound and as former Home Consignment and Art Gallery owners, we had a lot of “favorite” pieces.  Out of all the art that adorned our home based walls I could only take one. I chose a calming original oil painting that measures about 8″ x 12″. I enjoy it more here on the boat since it’s my only one.  I also brought aboard my very special pieces of sea glass that is sandwiched between two pieces of plexiglass in a rustic barnwood frame.  I had to store the other gabizillion pieces.  I guess you just have to let the ever changing scenery of the ocean be your art, and I am OK with that.

Fishing Poles

We have our fishing poles (rods?) lashed flush to our ceiling hand holds in the main salon.  This works fine as long as you take the hooks off. ’nuff said.

That Damned Storage Unit Bill

Every time we pay the $81 monthly storage unit bill I cringe.  What is STILL in there?  *sigh*  My answer is always the same.  The stuff we couldn’t part with that our kids will have to parse through when we are dead and gone.  We just don’t need it anymore.

I’m sure we will gather more items and get rid of excess.  I think it all boils down to what makes YOU comfortable but still having enough space to breathe.  For me, I am absolutely loving the simpleness of paring down on everything in our lives…like a mortgage, car payments, expensive new decorations; you get the picture.  This life isn’t for everyone, and that’s just fine by me.  Just remember to always take it with a GRIN of salt.


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