Boat Life

11 Things We’ve Learned while Living on our Sailboat (so far)

We’ve now been lucky enough to have spent about 2 months total, living on board Traveller, counting last summer and this past fall. Whether it’s been purposefully or accidently, we’ve learned quite a lot so far—but we’re certain there’s much more to knowledge to be gained ahead of us…the next time we plot a course, pull up the anchor, sail to the next place, or explore a new port.  The learning curve’s been steep for both of us, so we’ve each contributed to a list of things that we hope may help others, whether they’re embarking on a sailing life, RV life, or maybe just life in general.

Boat dogs!

S/V Traveller at anchor on Marco Island, FL

  1. Time & Lists: Nearly every project or task you want to do that’s related to the boat will take not one, not two, but perhaps three four times longer than you think it will take. So, when beginning any task, even packing and moving on board, allow for much more time than you think it will take. If it takes less time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! For example, Hal has probably spent a total of two weeks putting up the safety netting all around the boat for the dogs. I don’t know if he is a perfectionist with it or not, but he claims it’s because he’s terrible at tying knots. He says it seems to have taken forever but we’re excited about having it ready to go because we want dogs to be safe. Lists: Make lists of EVERYTHING that you do to get  ready, whether the lists are for readying your house, your boat, groceries/provisions, spare boat parts,  your boat’s safety and paperwork,  everything you pack, even your passport, make and keep re-usable lists so you don’t have to go back and re-create those lists each time.  And you’ll also you know what’s on board for the next journey. It’s not important if it’s handwritten (take pics with your phone if it is!) or if it’s on Excel, make copious lists to be re-used each time you take a trip, this will save you tons of time in the future.
  2. Don’t buy cheap towels. Yep. Trying to save money by getting cheap bath towels, especially if you live in a small space, like a boat or RV, is a BAD idea. And no, this is not AT ALL saying that you should go all out and spend tons of money on luxury towels. Just know that it doesn’t pay, in the end, to buy really cheap ones like we did, to save a few bucks onboard. There’s no need to mention the brand name of these useless unabsorbent lint distributors, but just take my word for it, cheap towels will cost you time, and energy, and hours of your life you will waste on CLEANING UP LINT! (well, if you email me or comment below, I will share the brand name with you :-)) Yup, for two months now, we’ve been cleaning up blue fuzzy lint found on every surface, every floor, in every compartment, on two dogs, and on every wall in this boat. Some of it even clogged the shower drain! Please, save yourself some frustration and hours of cleaning time get a decent mid-priced towel. In fact, Hal, who is an wonderful man, but not very adept at noticing household goods of any kind, yelled the other night, “this towel doesn’t even absorb any water, it’s ridiculous!”…lesson learned. Listen to your mother and don’t skimp on towels.

Watching the MANY birds at Everglades National Park.

 3.  Older dogs really can learn new tricks! At age 6, Pilot has learned very quickly to become a boat dog, (meaning he’s willing to ‘go potty’ on the boat). So many folks have asked how we (meaning Bridget) trained the dogs for boat life, so I will definitely post on the process that we used to train both dogs, but admittedly it was much more challenging for Pilot because of his age. Just know that if you have an adult dog and want to potty train them for the boat, relax, it can be easily done!

Our portable vacuum, and the MAIN reason we need it!

4. A handheld vacuum that does its job, is worth its weight in gold! I never thought that one of my most yearned for items in life would be a fabulous portable vacuum. Anyone who knows me can attest to this fact. However, on a boat or RV, you will definitely need to use a vacuum at least 3 times a day. Yes, whether it’s crumbs, dog fur, or even lint from cheap towels, definitely get one that works well, that you’ve tested. We got ours at Amazon and it’s not expensive. They also sell it at Walmart if you want to see it in person before buying. It works as it’s supposed to, & it holds a charge for a long time. Don’t waste your time on ‘pretend dustbusters,’ go for the real McCoy, we highly recommend this one.

5. An ice-making machine is an inexpensive and wonderful luxury. At first, when Hal bought an icemaker, I thought it  as a bit over-the-top and unnecessary. But, Hal said he knew how much I liked having a ton of ice in my drinks, and he also enjoys a good frozen margarita once in a while, so he splurged a little bit on this little slice of icy heaven. It’s phenomenal, and it makes so much ice so quickly, that we absolutely love this machine! If you’re living life on an RV or boat, it really comes in handy when it’s hot out.

Icemaker – We love you!

6.  Not every device sold online works as described, test it out BEFORE leaving on your trip! Hal bought a little metal toaster tray ‘device’ that is meant to make toast on top of a gas stove/burner. The intention was NOT to use the boat’s battery/electricity to make toast with the toaster. Do not waste your money on this failed piece of tin. We tried it twice and so far, on both attempts at making toast, it’s burned the toast or not made toast at all. More importantly, both times it has set off fire alarm on the boat and created a horrifying smell throughout the boat that took us two days to air out. How’s that for a relaxing way to start your day? While we are glad to know that Traveller’s fire alarms work, we didn’t want to find out by smoking up the boat! Of course, Hal loves the thing & wants to try using it one more time, before we bury it in a storage compartment somewhere. We’ll let you know how that third try turns out. In the meantime, here’s a pic of Skipper with the offending device: 

Skipper & the gas toaster/bread burner/smoke alarm tester.

 7.  Always Always Always test your windlass to make sure it’s in good working order before you leave on any outing, short or long. Two weeks ago, he changed out the anchor to a heavier one, and since then the windlass has been working fine and the anchor holding much better than the older lighter anchor. But last week, just as we were ready to take off for our journey to the Bahamas, Hal checked the windlass one more time. Picture this, we had both engines on, dogs in their crates, and all the dock lines were off except for the one that the Dockmaster was holding onto, as he was helping us cast off. (By the way, if you’re in the area, Craig is a wonderful helpful Dockmaster at the Marina at Factory Bay on Marco Island) So, as Craig was standing there, Hal did one last check of the windlass and realized it wasn’t working. Hal then set about trying to solve the mystery, which took another day or so to fix. He ended up having to replace the (not very old at 3 years) windlass controller box, and all the wiring that goes back-and-forth between the controller box and the windless, and the remote. This was an important safety lesson learned that we wanted to share with everyone.

8. Bagels grow mold much faster than you think they will. Especially cinnamon raisin ones from Costco, especially when you are really craving a cinnamon raisin bagel for breakfast, or lunch, or even for dinner. No, we did not take a picture of the sad moldy bagels. 

9. C-PAP machines, for sleep apnea, (even the small travel size ones), really do work amazingly well. They can and do entirely change the quality of life, both for the snoring person with sleep apnea, and for the person next to them that is trying to sleep. More on this later in another blog post to come.

10. If you decide to get underwater lights for your boat, whether  or safety, visibility, or fishing, be sure to research some sort of glaze or paint you can put over them that keeps fast-growing, light-covering organisms from growing on them! We are waiting to get to a spot with super-clear water to snorkel down and clean them off, and to clean the hull as well. (We are admittedly too chicken to snorkel below the boat in murky water!) We will post a video of the ‘fascinating’ light & hull cleaning procedure soon! Look for it, along with what will surely be a few laughs,  on our youTube channel here.

11. We both love our new Instant Pot cooker! Well, Hal loves the food that comes out of it and I like the ease of cooking with it and that it doesn’t heat up the salon, like stove-cooking does. I made 15 meals for the freezer in about 3 hours the other day. Now, those delicious meals are waiting in the freezer for us to have a hot homemade meal at various points during our journey. I will share more about the recipes, prep ideas, and cooking info in an upcoming blog post soon – I promise! (And yes, Hal was wise enough to make sure we actually tested it out before we left on this trip.) We are happy to report that this wonderful cooking contraption made the most delicious pot roast we’d ever had, in only 100 minutes!

Instant Pot ‘Pot Roast’—DELISH!

Love this new Instant Pot cooker.

We hoped you’ve learned something new from our list! We have a lot more to learn and will share as we go…Please feel free to leave us a new Instant Pot recipe, one you love or one you’d like to see us try,  in the comments below.

Fair Winds & Following Seas!

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