How to do things
when living on a boat

    Galleon     Contact me.

This page updated:
April 2014

Articles, Books, Magazines
Bedding and Clothing
Buying Smartly
Communications And Mail
My Crew and Guests on a Boat page.
My Fishing for Dinner from Sailboat page.
My Boat Medical Information page
My Operating Lists page.
Paying Bills / Mail
Provisioning / Food / Cooking
My Sailing Techniques page.
Security / Theft

"The cure for anything is saltwater ... sweat, tears or the sea"
Isak Dinesen

Articles, Books, Magazines

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Ten Things We Wouldn't Cruise Without"
Yandina's "Hints and Projects"
George Day's "Comforts of a Floating Home"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "From Landlubber to Cruiser"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Basic Considerations for Cruisers"
Tom Neale's "Boating Tips"
See equipment-related articles near top of my Boat Equipment page

From Kevin Leary on YahooGroups liveaboards mailing list:
... I found the following to be prerequisites to living aboard happily (as opposed to toughing it out):
  • A complete absence of deck leaks.
  • An effective heating system [lives in Boston].
  • An uncluttered cabin.
  • A good mattress.
  • A good stereo.

  • Worth having on board:

    • "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken.
      Lots of tips about living, maintenance, etc.

    • "The Best Tips From Women Aboard" edited by Maria Russell.
      Lots of tips about living, guests, pets, etc.

  • Very good:

    • "Dragged Aboard" by Don Casey.
      Lots of tips about foods, medicine, living.

    • "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard.
      Covers just about every area of cruising, with an offshore/bluewater mindset.

  • Good:

    • "Cruising in a Nutshell" by Tony Gibbs.
      Cruiser-oriented chapters on sailing technique, navigation, planning, storm tactics, docking, maintenance.

    • "Safety Preparations for Cruising" by Jeremy R. Hood.
      General survey of equipment and parts of boat, with lots of anecdotes and tips about cruising and maintenance.

    • "Living Aboard" by Jan and Bill Moeller.
      Lots of anecdotes and tips about living on board and maintenance.

  • Worth reading:

    • "Sailing Tips" by William M. Burr, Jr.
      Lots of tips about maintenance, cleaning, etc.

    • "Yachtsman's Emergency Handbook" by Neil Hollander and Harald Mertes.
      Badly organized (alphabetically!), but lots of tips and ideas.

    • "Practical Boating" by W. S. Kals.
      Tips and anecdotes about piloting, maintenance, etc.

Memberships / subscriptions / magazines:
Trailer Sailor's "Publications" list

I've discontinued all of my subscriptions and memberships. The magazines get a bit repetitive after a while: a charging system article once a year, a rebedding-hardware article once a year, a latest-GPS's-and-charts article once a year. In each magazine. And tons of articles about brand-new $600K boats.

I'm told: eBay has several magazine subscriptions services available to buy subscriptions cheaply.

Yacht Club:
From Simon Buckley:
Here in Florida there is a council of Yacht Clubs. They all provide reciprocal privileges to each other. These include: reduced dock fees, can charge back to home account, bar privileges, mail drop, etc. Basically, you get all the privileges of local members. Sometimes there is a cap on how long you can stay, or how many times in a year. But it's a pretty good deal if you're going to be in the area for awhile. I would ask any Yacht Club I'm thinking of joining about who they reciprocate with.

Here in SF Bay, I've been told that none/few of the clubs extend privileges to each other, but will extend privileges to out-of-area clubs. I think they don't want local sailors joining one club and then using the facilities all around the whole Bay as one big "club".

From Colin Foster on SSCA discussion boards:
We have been cruising for about 12 years with yacht club membership. It has been handy twice. Once, a snooty club allowed us to tie our dinghy at their dock once we showed we had affiliation, and another allowed us to dock at their facility (but still charged us full transient rate).

My opinion is that it is not worth it. Ours is a large yacht so perhaps some of the opportunities for reciprocal docking were not as available to us as a small boat would have. But with annual fees and various other charges, we would have been much better off paying retail price at a number of commercial docks for what we spent on club membership.

However I am not being entirely truthful. We did stay at the yacht club with our boat for a year or two at very attractive dock rates so for non-cruising dockage it was a very good move.

From Steve Van Slyke on SSCA discussion boards:
We joined the Humboldt Yacht Club in Eureka on our way south. In 1990 in cost us a total of $45 for both initiation and prorated dues. For this we were able to stay in over a dozen yacht clubs for almost 30 days from San Francisco to San Diego.

So yes, it can pencil out if the cost is reasonable.

When joining:
  • Check out the club "personality" and "orientation". Meet a few members.
  • To race, skipper must be a club member.
  • Cruising: ask where you'll get reciprocal privileges.
  • Investment: do you own a piece of the club, or just pay dues ?
  • Traditions: formal functions.
  • Cost.

Bedding and Clothing

"Arthur Dent awoke and immediately regretted it."
-- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Bedding article in 7/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine.

  • Foam.
  • Futon.
  • Innerspring mattress.
  • Inflatable mattress.

  • Latex mattress better than inner-spring mattress (designed to sit on box-spring, may rust, too bouncy, heavier, more expensive).

  • foam mattress:
    • Want synthetic closed-cell foam, not natural rubber or open-cell.
    • Get medium-density latex mattress (or two-layer, with medium on top) instead of high density (too firm).
    • Example layering: 2" of 50-pound foam over 2" of 30-pound foam; 1" of 30-pound on top of 2" of memory foam on top of 3" of 50-pound foam.

  • Use a mattress pad.

  • 12-volt electric mattress pad to heat and dry the bed, such as from Kansas Wind Power or ElectroWarmth.

  • Use "Dry Bunk" under mattress to wick away moisture ?

  • Key to preventing moisture/mold buildup underneath cushion/futon/mattress on berth: ventilation. Use slats/mesh/grill/lattice/grid to support the cushion/futon/mattress, and have fan/heater/circulation underneath.

  • Turn over or air out cushion/futon/mattress on berth often (daily) to prevent moisture/mold.

  • Have custom mattress built in sections instead of one big piece (but make sure joint is in harmless place). Easier to get into boat, and to stow away.
    Want handles on all sides/ends.
    Standard size (twin, queen) would allow using standard sheets.

  • From Don Casey in 6/2003 issue of Sail magazine:
    • Use polyurethane foam.
    • The firmer the better. Compression rating of 40 to 50 pounds.
    • Highest density foam lasts longer; 2.5 pounds per cubic foot is typical.
    • Must be mildew-resistant.
    • Want fire-retardant.
    • Closed-cell doesn't absorb water, but recovers slowly from being compressed.
    • Cut foam with a long, very sharp kitchen knife. Don't saw or slice.

From Seabear on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
[Re: innerspring vs. latex foam:]

Personally, if I had a choice I would choose the latex. I have had both, and both are comfortable, but the latex offers more support normally ... depending on the quality. What most people don't understand or have never been told is that any mattress must be turned and rotated VERY often. V berth mattresses can only be flipped and not rotated but this should be done at least every two weeks, and once a week would be even better.

No mattress is made to stand up to people sitting on the edge a lot. There are some innerspring mattresses that have reinforced edges and the latex will do well, but sitting on the edge is going to break either one down eventually.

From Tom Bradley on SSCA discussion boards:
We had a custom-made mattress with springs made for our v-berth shortly after we moved aboard 8 years ago and it was the best investment that we have made in our boat! It is very comfortable and has held up well. It is covered with Sunbrella on the top and bottom, and has nylon netting on the sides, which allows air movement through the mattress. We have had only minor problems with moisture with this mattress, but were constantly fighting moisture with the foam mattress that was on the boat when we bought it.

From John Heinisch on The Live-Aboard List:
I too have a custom [innerspring] mattress for my aft berth. The previous owner had this made and it's absolutely wonderful! I think the cost was approximately $600. This is the best sleeping mattress ever! I cannot say enough good things about it.

If anyone decides to have a mattress made, I would suggest you try to have the mattress made symmetrical if possible. That way you can flip the mattress over periodically.

From Richard Goodwin on The Live-Aboard List:
A nice thick inflatable mattress is the most comfortable thing I've found to sleep on when camping, so I'll give it a try on the boat once it's in the water. It doesn't absorb moisture, is easy to deflate and stow away, and the 12v is always handy to inflate/deflate it quickly.
[but doesn't "breathe" ? maybe mattress pad fixes that ?]
From Pamela Benson on The Live-Aboard List:
Inflatable mattresses quite often have a condensation problem and really are NOT comfortable for the long run ... and remember, living on your boat is not camping. It is home. Get a decent mattress, either excellent foam or a custom spring. With any mattress I use the "dry tiles" and also the mattress moisture shield (can't remember the brand name! But West Marine carries it).

From Karl Jenkinson on The Live-Aboard List:
We have done two things. The first, which may not work, was to buy a full-size futon mattress from a furniture store. It has lasted two years so far. We turn it over every couple of months because I weigh 80 pounds more than my wife and I cause a depression to form {:)

Secondly, for our other, non-rectangular berth, we bought a 2-inch self-inflating air mattress from Cabela. It's wonderful. We have to trade off sides every night because the person not sleeping on it becomes jealous. We put it on top of the typical (useless) foam cushions that came with the boat ... when you open the air valve, it "uncompresses" itself in less than 3 minutes. I cannot imagine using the old kind ever again. I think it cost about US$80.

From Laed on Cruising World message board:
We installed a V-berth mattress last year made out of 5" firm latex foam. Very comfortable; better than home. We also looked at the box spring version: weighed over 100 lbs; too heavy. Hinged in the center, with a separate insert as before. They measured everything and delivered it in place for ~$615. Lots of local dealers; Handcraft Mattress Company.

From Doug Barnard on The Live-Aboard List:
Here's what I've done for my camper, and will install in my v-berth. I go to the local foam center, and purchase a 3" thick piece of "regular" open cell, and then get a dense 1" thick piece of closed-cell for underneath. You never hit bottom with this setup, but there is still plenty of support. I'm real nice to the foam guy, and he cuts my pieces to size with his nifty foam cutter saw while I wait for free. It's a good idea to bring in patterns; I cut mine out of scrap cardboard. The best place to get this is the local bike shop. Total cost should be well under $100.

From Philip Lange on The Live-Aboard List:
During the twenty-five years I have spent living aboard this is what I have learned about foam mattresses:

Foam mattresses come in different levels of firmness. A good-quality firm open-cell mattress is the ticket for us. Closed-cell will not absorb or allow moisture to pass through. We all sweat a lot when we sleep (about a pint a night if I remember what I read). Closed-cell will have you sweating and swearing.

Last mattress we made we used two densities of foam. 4" hard for the bottom with a 2" soft mattress topper bonded to it. It was 6 years old when we sold the boat and still in very good condition.

Airing out the underside on occasion is a good idea. We also kept a pad under the mattress to help evaporate accumulated moisture. We found hull liner, that gray fuzzy stuff, works great.

What else? Cutting foam with an electric knife or a power jig-saw works. Cutting the foam to fit the bottom of the bed platform and not trying to cut complex hull contours makes the bed easier to make up. Contact cement holds pieces together very well.

Oh, yeah, not a good idea to store charts or paper materials under the mattress.

Boat mattress stores:
Handcraft Mattress Company, 800-241-7751 (quote for 33" x 73" rectangular innerspring: $450 to $850!)
Marine Mattress, 800-749-3626 (quote for 33" x 73" rectangular innerspring: $189 to $289, plus $89 shipping to Marathon FL)
Bedmasters Outlet Store, 941-766-9122 (quote for 33" x 73" rectangular innerspring: $400)
Community Mattress, 925-798-9785 (quote for 33" x 73" rectangular innerspring: $400 to $500, plus $140 shipping to Marathon FL)
Florida Upholstery Supplies, Tarpon Springs FL, (727) 934-1350, Rick Blodgett

Non-boat mattress stores:, 800-999-8484 (smallest available is twin; $60 delivery to Marathon FL)
Advanced Comfort (800-233-7191)

Foam and foam mattress suppliers:
The Foam Source (805-964-2001)
"Rest Best" in Grenada

Soaring Heart Futons

"Standard" mattress sizes:
Cot30" x 75"
Single / Twin39" x 75"
Full / Double54" x 75"
Queen60" x 80"
King72" x 84"
Twin X-Long / Extra Long Single39" x 80"
Full extra long54" x 80"
Eastern King78" x 80"
California King or Western King72" x 84"
Three quarter48" x 75"
Note: some manufacturers are shaving inches off these "standard" sizes.
And the "finish" size (the final size) often differs from the "cut" size; make sure you know which is being quoted.

My experience:
I found that standard innerspring mattresses are being made so thick these days that they are too thick to use on a berth with a ceiling close above. I seem to recall that mattresses 10 or 20 years ago were 6-7 inches thick; now they're all 10+ inches thick. We bought two and had to return them both; even the cot-size bottom-of-the-line mattress was 10 inches thick.

Then we bought a king-size slab of latex foam from Tech Products and had them cut it into two mattresses for us (they were very nice to us). The foam is about 6.5 inches thick. They're firm and very nice to sleep on.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
> ... living aboard for our first winter in Boston, MA ...
> a lot of condensation under the mattress, especially down near the hull ...

The moisture under the mattress is caused by your body moisture in the mattress. The cold plywood under the mattress condenses the moisture making the bottom of the mattress dryer, thus drawing more moisture down there.

There are two ways of stopping this.

You can stop the moisture from entering the mattress by waterproofing the mattress with an impermeable covering and put three cotton mattress pads on top to absorb your body moisture during the night. Leave the bed open during the day so the moisture absorbed in the pads can dissipate. This is what we do and it works perfectly.

You can ventilate the bottom of the mattress somehow so that moisture migrating there can escape. There are various ways such as putting holes in the plywood and raising the mattress on a material that allows moisture to escape. The problem with this is that your mattress will have a high moisture content all the time as your body moisture slowly travels from the top to the bottom. You might have to use fans to get the moisture moving out.

From JeanneP on Cruising World message board:
[especially, for sheets:] Silk is, in my opinion, the perfect tropical fabric! Light, strong, easily stowed, easily washed, air dries very quickly. Nothing like it. [maybe buy from ]

Boat duffel bags tested in 7/15/2001 issue of Practical Sailor.

Buying Smartly

Buy 3 get 0 free coupon

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Marine Surplus and Consignment Shopping"

Used/cheap stuff:
Allen Machine Co (AKA "Boathouse Discount Marine"), Melbourne FL.
Boat Accessory Market USA, Annapolis MD.
Cast-Aways, Carmichael CA.
Dania Marine Flea Market, April 2000, near Fort Lauderdale FL.
Daytona Surplus Marine
Defender warehouse outlet
eBay Boating auctions
Grey Swan Marine, 215 SW 6th St Pompano Beach FL 33060, 954-785-8744.
Hornes Marine Salvage, St. Petersburg FL.
Marine Connection Liquidators, Ft Pierce FL.
Marine Consignment, Wickford RI.
Minney's Yacht Surplus, Costa Mesa CA.
Naples Ships Store, Naples FL.
Nautical Trader, Nokomis FL.
Newport Nautical Supply
Sailors Exchange, St Augustine FL.
Sailorman, Ft Lauderdale FL (State Road 84 just west of Federal Highway on the South side).
Skycraft Parts and Surplus, Winter Park FL.
Surplus Center (800-488-3407; includes hydraulics).
Surplus Unlimited, Daytona Beach FL.

On-line marine stores:
Aurora Marine Industries Boat Care Products (800-224-3937)
Boater's World
Boatman's I-Net Marine (800-680-2628; exhaust and cooling parts and engine accessories)
Dave's Marine Electronics
Hamilton Marine (Maine; catalog only, not on-line store; 800-639-2715)
Jamestown Distributors
Landfall Navigation
Land'N'Sea (800-432-7652; sells only to businesses)
Lewis Marine Supply (800-327-3792; unclear whether they sell to individuals) (directory / search engine / classifieds for engine/motor stuff)
Marine PartsFinders
Marine Supermart
Newport Nautical Supply
Online Marine
SailNet (also, subscribe to their email newsletter) (orders 800-234-3220; service 866-SAILNET; no sales tax except for SC)
West Marine

Other useful on-line stores:
Consolidated Plastics Company
FarmTek , 800-327-6835 (gauges, plumbing, lighting, etc), 888-361-8649
Harbor Freight Tools
Manufacturer's shop manuals: Mack Boring
McMaster-Carr Supply Company
Ronco Plastics (tanks)

Other useful suppliers:
Maritime Marketing Associates, Miami, 800-342-1640, distributor of ropes, chains, fittings, slings, nets, tie downs, wire ropes and cables. (Sunbrella, etc; 800-765-7011)

From John Dunsmoor:
> Saw this in a forum:
> "Fort Lauderdale ... you are talking one of the
> most expensive locations in the world for boat repair ..."
> Any truth to it ?

It is all relative: if you are in a yard for twice as long waiting for parts, and the yard costs half as much, then it is a wash.

If you are hiring work to be done, and the labor is costing you $35 an hour instead of $12, and the work is being completed in one third the time and properly, are you saving any money with the $12 an hour worker ?

I know of many who go to other places for cost reasons and are happy with their choice, and I know of others who come here [Fort Lauderdale] out of choice and happy also.

Less than an answer I know. I would say it would have to depend on what you doing in the yard and how much time you are spending.

If you are doing your own work, and time is important, cost of time that is. And you have spent the past months collecting all the material you need then I would find a yard, out of the way, where cost is minimal.

If on the other hand you want to get a boat out of the water, complete five projects and re-launch in two days then Fort Lauderdale might be the only place in the country where you can do this. This is our scenario at times and I have come out of the water, serviced a prop, shaft, pulled three thru hulls, prepped and painted the bottom and got back into the water in three days. Five workers and about a grand over the cost of the haul.

So once again there is no answer, only information.

Can create a Florida corporation (maybe $80 setup and then $150 per year after that) and use it to order parts (and get wholesale prices) ?
Or maybe just need to register a fictitious name (looks like $50/year) ?
But John Dunsmoor says:
Not worth it. If you are buying that much stuff you are in the wrong business. I can get as good a discount using EB, BoatU.S., Boatowners Warehouse and dozen other places, besides hunting deals. Everyone here [Florida] has a Lewis account, it just isn't worth it. Now if you are going to charter the boat or some such thing, that's different.
From Bob Clinkenbeard on The Live-Aboard List:
> If you really want deep discounted marine stuff, get a traders license
> and go into repairing boats as a business. You would then get
> "Port Supply" prices from West Marine's wholesale division which
> is nearly 50 percent off on some things like Ancor wire.
> Or work part-time at WM and get really good prices like 50 percent off ...

The discounts are not as great as you might think. There are few if any "deep discounts" at BoatU.S. or West. Employees get 20% and wholesale or port supply discounts vary based on the item purchased. Paints are discounted the most, and electronics the least. My experience has been from 2% to 30% for port supply or wholesale at BoatU.S. Employees at BoatU.S. get 20% on everything.


"Boat smell":
Can come from:
  • Water/oil/diesel in the bilge.
  • Letting head wastewater stand in permeable head hoses. Always flush head very thoroughly to get waste out of hoses.
  • Mold and mildew (in carpeting, in cushions, inside cabinets, behind interior woodwork, in bilge, etc).
  • Letting seawater stand in permeable hoses (including head intakes).
  • Diesel from the engine, from fuel line leaks, from fuel tank vent.
  • Oil from the engine (leaky seals, oil spills, crankcase vent).
  • Varnish and paint fumes.
  • Refrigerator slop.
  • Dirty shower sump, or shower draining into bilge.
  • Cooking odors, and failure to clean the galley after cooking.
  • Lack of ventilation.
  • Water from condensation and/or leaks.
  • Pets.
  • Dirty laundry.
  • Dirty anchor chain locker.
Tips from article by Peggie Hall in 5/2000 issue of PassageMaker magazine:
  • If odor from seawater in head intake, tee a sink drain to the intake line near the through-hull, and use it to insert vinegar or cleaner before leaving boat for a while. Or install an automotive radiator flush valve in the intake hose.
  • To check head outlet hose, soak a rag in very hot water, wring it, then wrap it around the lowest spot on the hose. After it cools, smell it.
  • Ways holding tank could be making odors inside boat: leaking fitting, leaking tank, or bad O-ring on inspection port.
  • At least once a year, bilge should be cleaned by scrubbing it like you'd scrub a bathtub.
  • Raritan's "C.P." cleaner contains enzymes that eat soap scum, grease, hair etc. Recommended for heads, bilge, sumps.

From Rick Smith on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
When I picked up my Gulfstar 43 last fall, it had a very strong odor that was bad enough to help in the price negotiations. Once I had emptied all the storage and cupboards on the boat, I went to work cleaning the inside of the hull. It took about three days of work to get to every area, removing panels, shelves and cupboards and then scrubbing the entire hull with a strong mildew remover and even a little bleach in the worst areas. The outcome was worth it though, the boat smells fresh and clean now and even the previous owner can't believe the difference. I live aboard in Toronto and now there is no "boat smell" on my clothes or gear. A simple effective solution but a bit of work.

From Peggie Hall on Cruising World message board:
There's a product I've been hearing about recently that, from what I've been hearing, seems to do an amazing job of cleaning bilges and eliminating odors: Capt. Chomp.

Btw ... clean your sumps and chain locker too. They're the most overlooked sources of odor on a boat.

SailNet - Kathy Barron's "Odor Control"

From Jim and Diane's "The Cruising Galley":
Wisk and Joy are the only two detergents that will suds up in salt water. Wisk not only washes clothes, it is great on decks, too.

Grease Relief is the best thing we ever found to clean up a diesel spill on the deck, or remove engine oil from the cabin sole after changing the oil filters.

Once you get out of the U.S. a product called Jif is the best all-purpose cleaner we found. It takes the place of Soft Scrub and Comet, for decks, dishes and heads.

From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
  • Baking soda is a great cleaner: sink, shower, thermos, cooler, refrigerator, stainless steel, vinyl, tough laundry, takes fish smell off hands. (Also good on minor stings/burns.)

  • "Simple Green" is a good universal cleaner.

  • Use non-scratching stuff to clean fiberglass: plastic or nylon net scrubbers, nylon scrub brushes.

  • For scrubbing bottom of boat, get a suction-grip handle [from a hardware store or a glass supplier] so you can hold on while you scrub. [Attach handle and scrubber to your wrist via lanyards, to keep them from disappearing.]

Summarized from "Complete Guide to Boat Maintenance and Repair" by David G. Brown:
To prevent mildew:
  • Ventilate.
  • Never put anything away wet.
  • Fabric items should not be stored in plastic bags.
  • Starch in clothes is food for mildew.
  • The ultraviolet in sunlight is a great mildew killer.

From Cruiser Log's "Cruising FAQ's":
Mildew: ... Since only direct sunlight actually inhibits mildew (and encourages algae), one tries all kinds of stuff to inhibit it. Lysol, vinegar, or chlorine bleach seem to work equally well (but vinegar and chlorine are harsh on stainless steel, and both vinegar and chlorine bleach attack dacron sails). To keep books mildew-free, gently wipe them with a rag soaked in undiluted Lysol (covers, inside and out, page edges), let them dry without rinsing. So long as they don't get wet, a semiannual repeat of this treatment works very well (one of the active ingredients in Lysol is the same as in the Mildew Preventive Spray that chandleries sell at an exorbitant price). But it will turn the edges of the book brown. Mothballs (naphtha) in clothes lockers will also keep mildew at bay (but it taints all food not in cans - even glass jars don't seem to be impervious to the fumes, though maybe I just imagined the nasty taste). ...

[To inhibit mildew, do your] cleaning with a dilute solution of citric acid or acetic acid; not too strong, and just leave it in place. Fungi, mildews, and molds just hate an acidic environment ... stops them dead. The problem with chlorine-based solutions is that the chlorine soon breaks down and goes away ... it does make the mold/mildew disappear, but it soon returns.

The reason to use USP citric or acetic acid is to avoid the odors of vinegar, which can vary depending on the particular vinegar.

Remember all, that even if you paint, it will mildew or mold given a bit of atmospheric dirt and dampness. The best solution is a slightly acidic surface and plenty of ventilation.

From The Live-Aboard List:
Cleaning up a major mold and mildew problem:
  • Fill the boat with a gas (chlorine dioxide ?) that kills all the spores and it dries to a powder that you vacuum up.

  • One thing I have heard NOT to do is to use detergents with phosphates and/or nitrates (used as grease cutters), as they act as fertlizers.

  • On vinyl headliner: Baking soda with bleach straight from the bottle. Made a thin paste and used a scrub brush and toothbrush for the corners and seams to apply it. We let it stand for a couple of hours, the longer the better, then rinsed off it off well, using a sponge and lots of fresh rinse water. Use rubber gloves, goggles, and clothes you don't mind ruining.

  • As for wood, wound up using a sharp scraper, 1 1/2" wood chisel held perpendicular to the surface, and took it down to the bare wood (careful here. We did not use sand paper, too easy to cut through the thin veneer). We then used a mild wood bleach, oxalic acid, to finish the job. Still a work in progress, but it looks quite promising.

  • An ozone generator. Place generator in boat, close up boat, give it a couple of days to kill mold and mildew. Major problem: ozone attacks rubber. Plan on replacing all rubber parts exposed to ozone.

  • Look at Sailrite catalog; they have a product that works. Also at Home Creepo you can find Zep mold and mildew remover.

  • For years, I've used old fashioned Windex, the kind without any additives, perfumes, extra cleaners, etc., to remove mildew and mold on interior wood. Spray it on, keep it wet and let it stand about 5 minutes, wipe it off. Repeat. Follow with wood treatment of your choice. Has always worked for us, is readily available, moderately non-toxic (contains ammonia), cheap. Requires elbow grease.

  • We have found that while Clorox works on the fiberglass, it is temporary and the mold will come back. Use a citrus cleaner.

From Tom on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
I am doing a complete restoration of a Gulfstar 43. When I first bought the boat there was a terrible odor when you went down below.

I removed all the hoses, the engine, scrubbed the sump, removed all the cushions, the heads and the lectra sans. The odor remained.

I then started to remove the plywood around the portholes. The ports had been leaking and there were water stains on the plywood in the area of the ports. I pulled the ports and the plywood - the backsides were totally covered in mildew that stunk to high heaven. I then pulled the perforated headliner - again the backside was black from mildew and the stench became quite noticeable once the fabric was pulled down. I pulled out the settee extension and under that was also mildew from leaks from the chainplates that ran down the hull to the back of the settee. I also removed the plywood that is above the settees and behind the small lockers. Now that all of the headliner and plywood around the ports has been removed the smells are completely gone. I did not use any additional ventilation or ozone generators.

These boats are known for leaks and if they have not been attended to in a timely fashion mildew begins to grow in places that no amount of ventilation is going to cure. You must stop the leaks and get rid of the existing mildew. This is a very time-consuming, and unless you do it yourself, expensive undertaking, however, if there is already mold and mildew on the backsides of these areas you will not conquer the odor issue without addressing this. You will only be trying to cover it up.

Summarized from "Sailing Tips" by William M Burr, Jr:
To clean:
  • Enamel-painted surface: use mixture of turpentine and bleach.
  • Varnish: use 20% vinegar and water.
  • Interior woodwork: lemon oil furniture polish.
  • Brass: use a lemon dipped in salt. Or ammonia and steel wool, and then brass polish.
  • Bronze: use a salt and vinegar solution. Or detergent and fine bronze wool.
  • Stainless steel: use window cleaner, or ammonia, or vinegar.
  • Chrome: very light WD-40.
  • Screens: scrub with kerosene and nylon mesh, then rinse with detergent and water.
  • Glass: use a mixture of hot water and a small amount of kerosene.

Cleaning dark and splotchy brass fixtures,
from Don Casey in 6/2000 issue of Sail magazine:
Remove old lacquer with furniture stripper, then rub with metal polish, then spray on new clear lacquer.

To clean glass windows/ports: use vinegar and a squeegee.
To clean acrylic-and-film ports: use vinegar and a paper towel.

From "Tips to Keep Your Boat in Top Shape" by Center for Marine Conservation and USCG:
Use alternative, more environment-friendly cleaners:
  • Instead of bleach, use borax or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Instead of scouring powder, use baking soda and "elbow grease".
  • Instead of fiberglass stain remover, use baking soda paste, scrub pad, and "elbow grease".
  • Instead of window cleaner, use vinegar and lemon juice in lukewarm water.
  • Instead of chrome cleaner, use apple cider vinegar to clean, and baby oil to polish.
  • Instead of copper cleaner, use lemon or lime juice, and salt.
  • Instead of lockertop cleaner, use white vinegar and water.
  • Instead of shower cleaner, use baking soda, scouring cloth, warm water, "elbow grease", and final wipe with lemon or lime juice.
  • Instead of drain opener, use boiling water and a plunger or snake.
  • Instead of wood polish, use olive oil or almond oil for interior wood.

From Brian King on The Live-Aboard List:
  • To clean aluminum, use 0.2 tablespoon of Cream of Tartar in 1 quart of hot water.
  • To clean brass, use Worchestershire sauce, or a paste of equal parts of vibegar, salt and water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Clean with soft cloth.
  • To clean fiberglass stain, use paste of baking soda and salt.
  • To clean Lexan, use 1 cup vinegar to 1 pint of water. Apply with a soft cloth and polish dry.
If a padlock gets stiff from salt water, soak in 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water for 30 minutes, then open, dry and spray with WD-40.

From 11/2001 issue of Women Aboard newsletter:
Use salt to:
  • Sprinkle on dropped egg; let sit 20 minutes and wipe up.
  • Wet bee-sting and cover with salt.
  • Smother a grease fire.
  • Sprinkle on a hot spill in the oven; wipe up when cool.
  • Keep windows from frosting over by wiping with salt water.
  • Keep cut potatoes and apples from turning brown by putting in cold salted water.
Use vinegar to:
  • Loosen a rusted screw or nut or lock.
  • Tenderize meat.
  • Soften a hard paintbrush: soak in very hot vinegar, then wash in soapy water.
  • Prevent a cat from digging in plants by misting with vinegar and water.
  • Preserve cut cheese by wrapping in vinegar-soaked cloth and putting in sealed container.
  • Remove soapy gunk from faucet by wrapping in vinegar-soaked paper towel for 10 minutes.
  • Remove cigarette smoke odor with bowls of vinegar.
  • Remove decals by sponging with vinegar for a few minutes, then scraping off.
  • Repel ants by washing counter with vinegar.

From 10/2003 issue of Boating magazine:
Use lemon juice to:
  • Remove black scuff marks from deck.
  • Polish stainless-steel hardware.
  • Remove rust stains from canvas.
  • Disinfect minor cuts and scrapes.
  • Remove mildew stains from Formica.
  • Brush on fruit to prevent browning.

From "Simply Shining" article by Lisa Marshall in 7/24/2004 issue of Naples Daily News:
Use alternative, more environment-friendly cleaners:
  • Baking soda: cleans and deodorizes; good scouring powder; removes scuffs from floors.
  • Baking soda with vinegar rinse: for stainless steel.
  • Borax: good disinfectant and deodorizer.
  • Soap: non-toxic and biodegradable.
  • White vinegar: cuts grease and soap buildup; absorbs odors.
  • Lemon: degreaser; removes tarnish and rust.
  • Club soda: good for window cleaner, shining fixtures, cleaning plants.
  • Tea tree oil: antimicrobial; good in toilet bowl or to get rid of mold.
  • Olive oil: furniture polish.
  • Lavender or peppermint: disinfectant; fragrant.
  • Salt, mixed into water: antibacterial.

Chris Caswell's "Easy Cleaning"
David Brown's "Preventing Mildew"
Chris Caswell's "Keeping Mildew at Bay"
BoatSafe's "Vessel Cleaning: Alternatives to Toxic Products"

From Ralph Ahseln on Yacht-L mailing list:
Re: Dri-Diver Bottom cleaning/brushing

I am in fresh water, high in nitrogen compounds (Columbia River in Oregon). Lots of algae, very quick-growing. I've had a Dri-Diver for a number of years. Long enough to have to replace the Closed Cell foam flotation (from a local foam shop) and to replace the abrasive pads (from West Marine). It does a fair job on the hull. Almost impossible to clean the keel and/or rudder (Catalina 27). A curved flotation on vertical surfaces just doesn't work. The abrasive pad is VERY rough and lots of ablative bottom paint comes off too, but it does get the algae.

Since most of the algae grows close to the surface (brighter sunlight) I most often use a stiff brush on a somewhat flexible mop handle. It takes longer than the "Diver" but is easy to set up and I can reach a lot of the vertical surfaces with the brush. A brush is a much smaller package to stow on board. The Diver takes a bunch of room.

Removing barnacles:
From Paul Martin on newsgroup:
A normal putty knife will do fine to knock off the main body of the barnacle but nothing but 80 grit wet/dry sandpaper is going to remove its 'glue' left on the hull. The bottom paint in the area where the buggers are holding on is dead anyway so don't worry about sanding off the paint.

From Rich Hampel on newsgroup:
Use a putty knife to knock off the barnacles. Then use full strength muriatic acid, take proper precautions for eyes and skin, etc. Use a long handled polymer brush and bucket, apply muriatic to the barnacle 'glue' ... just enough to dissolve the barnacle remains.

From D. Thomas on Cruising World message board:
I have used various concoctions to remove the remnants of barnacles. What works best is "Snobowl", a bathroom toilet bowl cleaner available at Walmart for about $1.75 !! But be careful with Snobowl, it's so powerful that you don't want to let it sit too long before rinsing or it might damage your gelcoat.

While boat is in the water, a dental probe removes small barnacles easily.

Subscrub ($111; wings/brushes thing you drag under hull, while underway, using lines from deck; but web site has disappeared).

Waterline stain removers tested in 1/1/2001 issue of Practical Sailor.
Waterline stain remover: "wood bleach" from hardware store, diluted with hot water.

Cleaning the hull (the sides above the waterline):
From John Viera:
I use oxalyic acid, found in hardware stores labeled 'wood bleach', to clean stains off my hull. It's the major ingredient in most hull cleaners such as On-Off. It comes in crystal form and you mix it with water to form a solution. I mix about 1 qt. and pour it into a spray bottle and add a squirt of dish detergent. The dish detergent helps it cling to the hull. I get in my dinghy and spray from bow to stern, then come back and wipe it off with a wet sponge. Works great!

From John / Lucy in Culebra:
Use Lysol oven-cleaner (which is hydrochloric acid, probably plus abrasives). Comes in a convenient spray-bottle.

From BoaterEd:
> How to clean cushion fabric ?
> The fabric unzips to allow removing the foam inside.

  • Remove the covers and take them to a dry cleaner that specializes in upholstery.

  • Wash them at home. Do Not use the dryer! Line dry only. Cover the foam with plastic bags to get them back in and to control mold.

  • I washed mine in the washer and laid them all out in the sun to dry and flipped them after a few hours. Smell fresh and look great. Dry cleaning has the "phew" smell that's hard to get rid of, especially in an enclosed environment such as a boat. To get them back in, purchase some really thin plastic sheeting to cover the foam.

  • Try a mix of two ounces of Bissel carpet cleaner (with whatever is Scotchguard now) to your regular laundry soap (no bleach) and wash on the gentlest setting. You can machine-dry to a damp condition on the knits/gentle/low setting; then air-dry. This is for the covers only.

    Just air out the foam innards. It's extremely hard to clean them without destroying them.

  • Not all upholstery fabrics can be washed ... some are dry-clean only.

    To get rid of odors in the foam, saturate 'em with Raritan K.O. and leave 'em out in the sun all day. It won't work on diesel and gas fumes, but it will on just about everything else.

From c. pen on Cruising World message board:
I had excellent success in removing diesel smell from cushions by spraying the foam with a very dilute solution of vanilla extract. The real stuff ($), not the artificial.

Mold/mildew in cushions:
From JeanneP on Cruising World message board:
Lysol is my solution to anything moldy.

First you might want to wash them in a mild vinegar solution, which will sweeten them a bit.

Then wash them in a mild solution of Lysol (the nasty brown stuff), let dry. Don't rinse the lysol out - it inhibits mold. Lysol is tough stuff, so you really ought to wear rubber gloves.
From KNoel on Cruising World message board:
A weak (1:10) bleach solution should get rid of the mold (where there's moldy smell, there's mold) and not degrade the foam. BUT, if you can replace the foam, I'd do that.
From Lauraine on Cruising World message board:
Strip the covers off and leave the foam in the sun and wind (and yep, rain, too) for a few days.
From RichardS on Cruising World message board:
Strip the covers, put the foam in a big plastic bag, hook up your shop vacuum to draw out as much air from the foam as you can. Then spray Lysol or Fabreeze into the disconnected vacuum hose as the foam refills with air. This should infuse the foam internally with the mold killer. Let air out in the sun a few days.
From Andiamo John on Cruising World message board:
Yeah, cool idea. I had problems with mildew under the berth cushions until I purchased some ENKAMAT. This is a construction product which is a geotechnical fabric designed for foundations. It looks like heavy, hard nylon fishline poured over a grid of nails at 1" o/c both ways. That creates a bunch of porous bumps which supports a lot of weight (up to 40' backfill) and provides great ventilation. I lived aboard for three years here in Seattle through "the great snow" and some very wet winters.

Cleaning stains off vinyl cushions, from BoaterEd:
  • Mineral spirits, then rinse with water.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (maybe followed by time in sun). Recommended by many people.
  • Aurora Boat Scrub.
  • Dow "Scrubbing Bubbles" (the bubbles fizz into the tiny grooves and loosen the dirt).
  • Oxy Clean (sodium percarbonate).
  • Krud Kutter sold at Lowes.

From Peggie Hall on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
I put a plastic dishpan full of water in my cockpit for foot rinsing; it's dumped and "refreshed" as needed when in use, and stowed when it's not needed. Keeps the mud and sand out of my cabin, and the small amount that ends up on my deck can be sluiced off with a bucket.

Communications And Mail     Mailbox  Telephone

Radio is free; see my Radio On A Boat page (also includes satellite phone and phone patches (Phone On Boat) and cyber-cafe (Web Access From Boat) info).

How Stuff Works' "How Cell Phone Services Work" (how to choose a service plan)

External antenna may improve performance. But use it offshore only; onshore it will pick up multiple cells and get confused and annoy the phone company.

From Mikael Wahlgren on newsgroup:
... normally it is technically impossible for a GSM/PCS cellular network to reach more than about 36km away from the closest base station (mast), regardless of how good the transmission conditions are, and regardless of antenna, booster or any such factors. This is because of the timing built into the TDMA protocol, which don't let the radiowave (at the speed of light) travel more than 36 km forth and back within the time frame it is has.

Therefore, if you are on the sea where radiowave transmission is quite good, you will reach this technical limit much quicker than the actual radiowave disappear. On some phones you can notice the difference between "no signal" and "outside the 36km limit".

If you are hit by the technical 36km limit, then there is nothing you can do, except talking to the network operator. There are techniques in the GSM/PCS system that allows at least double this range (72 km) with "extended range" technology, there each phone get 2 time frames. This half the capacity of the base station (is my assumption) but increase the range, so it is only used by a few operators in places there they want to reach more far for some reason.


From Ross Fleming on The Live-Aboard List:
Giving a cell phone number to an institution that runs a credit check can cause them to receive a fraud alert. When I opened a new bank account recently I filled out the form with my cell phone number and this was explained to me. They were fine once I gave then my dad's land line as my phone number.

From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
We bought a cell phone when we moved and were told that there was coverage here in the San Juan islands. We found that on our side of the island there is no coverage, so I called the company. The didn't want to cancel the contract, but said they could put it on hold with no charge and resume it once we left. This would have been OK, but they keep billing us and we have to call to re-explain and get them to take the charge off every time. I am going to try to get them to cancel and then I will resume it when we leave, but I don't know how it will go ...

From Don R on "Windaway":
Even a de-activated cell-phone is legally required to allow calls to 911; get a discarded cell-phone and keep it aboard as an emergency device.

Land-line phone calls:
Ways to call:
  • Hotel: outrageously expensive.

  • Collect: very expensive.

  • Direct-dial / phone bank: owner of phone may charge any rate.

  • Credit card to LD provider.

  • Calling card / rate plan: anywhere from expensive to reasonable.
    Compare rates at A Bell Tolls.
    Must set up account from USA ?
    AT&T won't bill to credit card.

  • International callback service.
    A Bell Tolls' "Call Back Service Providers"
    From Scott at A Bell Tolls:
    ... it is our understanding that several countries, particularly developing nations, are blocking access to callback numbers in the USA and some have even passed laws making it illegal to use such services. Bottom line is that you should check that any service you choose to use will be available where you are travelling.

  • Skype: cheap, but need solid internet connection.

From Susan / Caribbean Knight on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
We just [6/2000] returned from the Bahamas and were very frustrated in our efforts to "phone home" using their Batelco phone system. They only accept AT&T calling cards, Mastercard or their own card.

You purchase one of their cards in denominations of $5, 10 or 20. They charge $1 per minute and do not charge in partial minute increments. Meaning if you go over by even one second you get charged a full minute. The Batelco offices are few and far between and closed on the weekends and holidays. You ended up planning your next sail around Batelco's hours so you can get there in time to purchase a card.
From Mitch / Hetty Brace on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... a friend of ours had a relative flying into George Town and they brought a bunch of pre-paid AT&T calling cards they bought at Sam's. The cards were re-chargeable by dialing a Bahamas 800 number. I believe they ran approximately $.80 per minute. Of course you still had to find a working phone ... not always easy in the Out Islands ...

They weren't as easy to use as the Batelco cards but at least it provided an option.

Free voice mail is available from Yahoo. Callers leave messages (and you retrieve messages) by calling 1-800-MY-YAHOO and entering your 10-digit mailbox/account number. You also can retrieve voice messages through your Yahoo email account, using your computer's speakers. Limits: 20 voice messages total, each message has a maximum length of 60 seconds, each message is deleted after 30 days. Quality is mediocre, and occasionally the system doesn't answer.

PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding:
PO box typical rates: $75 to $100 per year.

Advantages of mail-forwarding services:
  • Stuff can be mailed to you (for extra charge) instead of you picking it up.
  • Can provide an address that doesn't look like a PO box (makes DMV and FCC and companies happier).
  • They filter out junk mail.
  • Some handle the (time-critical) annual renewal of your USCG documentation sticker.
  • Some will help order parts for the boat, and may get a discount.
  • Can provide additional services: telephone messages, bill-paying, emergency contact.

Mail-forwarding service prices as of 3/2000 - 10/2000:
Company Location Services and Rates
Voyager's Islamorada, FL Keys 33036 (Monroe county)
88005 Overseas Hwy
Sales tax is 7.5%.
Anchor in Cowpens anchorage,
use dock at Marker 88 restaurant.
Mail: $200/year.
Messages: $2 each.
Voice mail: $100/year.
St. Brendan's Isle Green Cove Springs, FL (Clay county)
Sales tax is 7%.
Mail: $168/year plus $2/bundle plus postage.
Messages: $2 each.
Voice mail: $24/year.
American Home Base Pensacola, FL (Escambia county)
Sales tax is 7.5%.
Mail: $162/year (Plan C).
Messages: none with Plan C.
Toll-free voice mail plus mail-forwarding: $270/year.
MCCA Palm City, FL (Martin county)
Sales tax is 7%.
Mail: $150/year.
Messages: $2 each.
Bill-paying: $2/check.
Fast Forward Remail
Longwood, FL (Seminole county)
Sales tax is 7%.
Mail: $140/year.
Messages: $2.50 each.

Some Mailboxes Etc stores will do mail-forwarding from the mailbox you rent from them; got this from a MBE:
Yes, we do mail forwarding. Ours is sent on Friday, regular post office mail. You'll need to set up an account with a minimum of $20 postage. We then deduct the amount of the postage (plus an envelope) from your account each week. When the account gets low in funds, we notify you to send another $20. We have mail forwarding labels that we make in advance. You just need to let us know when you will be returning to the area so we don't forward that week.

Location of the mail-forwarding service matters, because that will establish your legal residence, and sales tax can vary by county.
But got this from Kevin Brown at American Home Base:
... When you subscribe to our services we will give you a mailing address as well as a physical street address that you can use to establish residency, register your vehicles or boat, and so on. When you register your boat for the first time you would be required to pay Florida sales tax [unless you've paid equivalent tax in another state]; the state has a 6% tax and each county attaches its own percentage. Our county (Escambia) has a 1.5% tax, However this tax can't exceed $75 on any single purchase, so sales tax due would be 6% plus $75. ...

From Clifford Barcliff on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
I have lived aboard for three years now. I am currently cruising Florida. Well, my cell phone got wet and eventually, stopped working. I just purchased a new cell phone with a different provider. I ordered the phone online (using my Aircard enabled PC!) and had it shipped to me in Florida. Good so far. I was using the phone to contact head-hunters and partake in phone interviews (more on this in another email).

Three days later, between phone calls, the phone was inactivated. I called the provider, to learn that the phone was turned off by the fraud department. They told me that they could not verify my address! You see, I use a mail service, which means that I am not in any directory listing. The phone company wanted several proofs that I, in fact, lived at the address given. They wanted, preferably, very recent copies of utility bills. Since I live aboard, I have no electricity bills. I have used cell phones exclusively for several years so I have no local phone company bills. I have no rent agreements.

After getting that person's manager, and then that person's manager, I was able to get them to agree that a photocopy of my driver's license and car registration would be enough. It took a whole day to straighten out. While the phone was shut down I missed two phone interviews and countless call-backs from prospective employers. VERY FRUSTRATING!

I have had similar experiences with getting driver's license and insurance. I would recommend that one should establish a "stable" address with some history before moving aboard.

If in a foreign country, make sure the service sends mail/package to the exact name shown on your passport, and writes your name in block letters.

If in a foreign country, have mail sent to "John OR Jane Doe" instead of "John AND Jane Doe".

Have mail to remote places sent in distinctive envelopes (so you can find it in a pile), number the envelopes, send them first class, and mark them "hold for pickup".

As of 8/2000, the US Post Office no longer requires the letters "PMB" in the address of mail to a Personal Mail Box; use a pound sign instead. This should make various agencies/companies happier with such addresses. Mailboxes Etc will accept UPS deliveries to your mailbox; US Post Office won't.

US Post Office will do mail-forwarding to new address for free after you move; Mailboxes Etc won't.

Some agencies/companies can be fooled by giving your address as "123 Main St, Apt 999" instead of "123 Main St, PMB 999".

If living in a marina, don't just give out the marina's address as yours, without clearing it with the marina office. They may not appreciate getting your mail.

From Robbie on Cruising World message board:
I lived at a marina in South Florida for 2 years and used the marina address and no slip number for mail which I needed for ordering parts,etc. Also for UPS, FEDEX etc and proof of address for driver license, library card, and check cashing with no problem. My permanent address was with friends in NJ. I simply informed the dockmaster/office when I was expecting a package or important mail so it was expected and wouldn't be refused. They would even call me when it came in. I also informed them that I was using the marina address for place of residence when required so they would verify that I lived there. I guess it depends on the marina. It doesn't hurt to ask. They even forwarded some of my mail when I requested after I left.

From Midwest Sailor on Cruising World message board:
... The only problems we had with the PO box were (1) most delivery companies like FedEx and UPS won't deliver to a PO box and (2) registering to vote. We just have them ship USPS Priority mail for (1) and we used the marina address and slip number for (2). ...

From Bruce Bowman on the WorldCruising mailing list 12/2000:
I'm having good luck with St. Brendan's Isle. It's focused on cruisers and been around for a while.

They've recently changed owners and the new owners (so far, at least) have left the operation unchanged. You can also arrange bill-payment through them plus they have a discount purchasing service for marine and RV parts.

Mail Boxes Etc. can be good, but the quality of service depends on the individual who owns the franchise and not MBE as a corporation. You need to talk it over with the individual operator to see if they understand what your needs are.

Keep in mind that many insurance companies automatically set insurance rates and eligibility based upon your mailing address. They really don't want to hear about mail drops. This can significantly impact things like HMO membership if your plan is to make annual or emergency pilgrimages home for major medical needs or annual check ups while visiting family and friends. If this is the case, you probably should consider imposing on a friend/relative for at least that portion of your mail, or (assuming you have one available) plan on using a local mail drop like MBE.

US Post Office general delivery:
  • Not all branches accept General Delivery mail.
  • Not all branches have a listed phone number.
  • Call ahead to:
    • Verify address/location of the branch.
    • Verify how long they'll hold GD mail.
    • Give them your name and expected arrival time, and ask them to hold your mail.

In the USA, there is slow progress toward being able to vote over the internet. Circa 2012, some states allow you to fax or email some voter documents, but usually require that you also paper-mail the same document. And you can do a federal write-in ballot.

Federal Voting Assistance Program
Federal Voting Assistance Program's "Voting Assistance Guide"

From Cruiser Log's "Cruising FAQ's":
FAX - Some SSB and ham radios can be equipped with a modem to send faxes from a computer. If fast accurate communication is important to you, this is worthwhile investigating. The wonders of modern communication via FAX have reached the most unlikely places in the world, and are a reliable and fast method of long-distance communication. Where long distance telephone calls are used to subsidize local rates, the information transmitted by FAX or e-mail for a few dollars can cost $50 to $100 by telephone.

Galley (kitchen, utensils)

"God sends meat, but the Devil sends cooks"
- Thomas Deloney (16th century)

SailNet - Kathy Barron's "The Well-Equipped Galley"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Renovating the Galley"
SailNet - Joy Smith's "A Safe and Sound Galley"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Cooking On Board"
Long Passages' "Galley Tips"

From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
  • Use glass cutting board (from Corning) for fish.

  • Use nutcracker to open crabs and lobsters.

  • Square containers store better than round ones.

  • Use see-through containers.

  • Double-jar things that attract moisture: bouillon cubes, yeast.

  • Use squeeze bottles for mustard, ketchup, margarine.
    And they generally don't have to be refrigerated.

  • Make solar tea: dangle 4 teabags in top of 2-liter bottle of water in sun.

  • Write date-purchased on cans, use oldest first.

  • Use mesh bags for hanging fruits and vegetables, but don't let them bang into things as the boat moves.

  • Store breakable glass bottles in plastic dishpans so spills are contained.
    Put socks on bottles.

Garbage (trash, rubbish):
  • Dispose of extra packaging before bringing food onto boat.

  • Generate less garbage:
    • Use a sponge or thin "tea towels" instead of paper towels.
    • Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
    • Use cloth handkerchiefs instead of facial tissues.
    • Take cloth bags to the grocery store instead of getting their bags.
    • Don't buy any "one-use" plastic or glass.

  • If 40-foot or longer, need to have a garbage management plan

  • At sea:
    Food and paper garbage: shred and dump into the sea.
    Glass, metal and plastic garbage: separate, wash in seawater, compact and store for disposal ashore.

  • Many less-developed islands just dump garbage into the ocean; store your garbage until you can dispose of it in a developed country.

  • More marinas in USA are recycling; you may need multiple trash bins.

  • Re-use containers (e.g. put used motor oil in empty soda bottles).

  • Even biodegradable stuff takes a long time to degrade in colder climates.

  • Improve the environment: within reason, pick up garbage left by others and dispose of it properly.

  • On deserted island, burn trash below high tide line, leave ashes.

  • Do maintenance responsibly: don't dump solvents, sanding dust, paint, etc.
  • I haven't found recycling in operation anywhere since leaving the USA for the Caribbean.
    [By 2012, battery and used-oil collection facilities in many places; almost no bottle, can or paper recycling.]

Printable sample waste management plan

From "Dragged Aboard" by Don Casey:
  • Dishware: use mugs instead of teacups, deep straight-sided bowls instead of shallow bowls, and smooth stainless utensils.

  • Ceramic rod for sharpening knives.

Less-recommended food preparation method: image

See the Provisioning / Food / Cooking section of this page for related info.

SailNet - Joy Smith's "Pump it Out"
"Holding-Tank Protocols" article by Don Casey in 10/2001 issue of Sail magazine

From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
  • Flush some vegetable oil occasionally to keep system lubricated. (But Peggie Hall says no!) Flush used vegetable oil after cooking with it.

  • Flush some [white ?] vinegar occasionally to get rid of mineral deposits.

From "Holding-Tank Protocols" article by Don Casey in 10/2001 issue of Sail magazine:
  • Don't overfill the tank; monitor it's state by counting flushes, viewing side of translucent tank, or installing a gauge.

  • After pumping tank out, fill with water and pump again to rinse it.

  • Best to have two vents for holding tank, so you get good air-flow through the tank.

  • Most head odors come from the hoses and fittings, or maybe the toilet (joker valve). Rigid tanks are good at containing odors (but the inspection port could leak).

  • Anaerobic bacteria cause odors; aerobic bacteria are odorless. So provide plenty of oxygen with a short, straight, large, unblocked vent line (or two).

  • If you run lubricant through the system, do it just before pumping out the tank. Otherwise the lubricant could float on top in the tank and block oxygen.

  • Aluminum holding tanks get corroded; expect problems after 5 years or so.

  • Stainless steel holding tanks may have the welds fail after 2 years or so.

  • Flexible tanks are vulnerable to chafe and are not ventilated [or are not well-ventilated ?].

For cleaning mineral deposits out of head:
"Lime-a-way (found at your local Wal-Mart; phosphoric acid ?) is more effective than vinegar and not so harsh as muriatic - although muriatic is probably the thing to use for the Y-Valve"

From captkeywest on Cruising World message board:
To locate a pump-out location just call 800-ASK-FISH.
Also, pump-outs should be showing up on some newer edition NOAA charts.

From Gary Elder:
> I've heard that the Florida Keys are now a marine sanctuary, and the marine patrol
> (I think) checks boats and asks to see a pump-out receipt to prove that you
> haven't been dumping overboard in the sanctuary. Have you heard of this ?
> Not sure how reliable the source of this info was.

There are several sanctuaries within the Keys, and the marine patrol and other groups are very protective ... as they should be. I have never been asked to produce a pump-out receipt anywhere, and I have never heard of anyone else being asked either. I have never heard of a receipt being given for pump-out service, however I have not used pump-out services in the Keys. Generally, pump-out facilities are scarce in south Fla. and the Keys. In some south Fla. locations, mostly on the east coast, officials have been known to actually come aboard boats, close and lock holding tank sea cocks to prevent discharge. In the Dry Tortugas this was taken one step further ... Park Rangers were putting various colored dye into heads so that they could identify those who dumped, even after they left the anchorage. I believe that practice has been discontinued.

> How does this square with sailing out 3 miles to dump the holding tank ?

Most marine patrol people, regardless of what agency they work for, are very reasonable people; they tend to be boaters, sailors, fishermen, SCUBA divers, etc, and see the issues objectively. For example, if a Catalina 30 with a five gallon holding tank and four people aboard has been in a no discharge anchorage for six days, someone may wonder where the waste is going. However, a forty footer that might have a very large holding tank aboard would probably not attract any attention at all. In reality, I have never been boarded, even though I have been "checked out" by law enforcement (usually when I was towing an unregistered dinghy with an outboard motor installed). Also, I have had boat to boat conversations with marine patrol people, usually at my request, but holding tank issues have never been a topic.

> How can you show a receipt in that case ?

Obviously you can't. Generally, if you abide by the rules, and conduct yourself in a reasonable manner, this entire issue becomes almost moot. Just to put it in perspective, I am in the midst of installing a larger (20 gal) holding tank in my boat. Yes, that means losing some storage space ... another reason to get a boat that is not just big enough, but big enough in the right places.

From John Dunsmoor:
[I mentioned that I needed to install a lock on the Y-valve.]

Who wants you to lock the "Y" valve? The Coast Guard will accept something as simple as a Ty-Wrap. [I've been told the USCG prefers a tie-wrap; a lock can be unlocked and relocked.] The fact is: don't lock it. If you have to go a marina and pump out every three days it is a pain, and a tank full of sh*t is where the smell is coming from. Just make sure it is locked when you are boarded.

If you think anyone else is pumping their tanks full of feces at the anchorage you are delusional. Up till a few years ago there weren't any pump out facilities from Miami to Key West.

One smart guy I know just changed the tags on the "Y" valve. The Coast Guard never did figure it out. [Unless they do a dye test.]

Now there are some places that really do count, first is Lake Champlain, they make you pump the head, remove the "Y" valve and put a dye in your head and flush it to make sure it does not go overboard.

Here are the realities, salt water is a natural sterilization fluid. And the second best solution to pollution is dilution. One man, one dump per day, in open water is not going to appreciably effect the quality of the water, ever.

The first biggest pollution problem in the Keys is run off. The first fifteen minutes of rain puts a tremendous about of fertilizer, oil, anti-freeze, transmission fluid, dirt, particulate matter and feces into the water. The second largest is sewage. Most sewage is treated only slightly and that is the way it has been forever. Biscayne Bay has a pipe about five feet in diameter that pumps nearly raw sewage into the ocean continuously from about a million toilets. Every once in a while they rupture this pipe, or one of two others and pollute the Bay and surrounding area to point that the coliform count is dangerous. But it usually clears to normal levels within three to five days once they fix the break or shut down the flow.

The third biggest factor in water pollution is lack of flow and aeration. It is stagnate water that causes the largest health concern, an open cesspool. We have one area here in Broward county that has had real problems.

When I was in college I participated in a six month water quality survey that took water samples from Crystal River to Fort Myers. I also worked in the hospital bacti lab doing cultures, looking for fecal contamination. So morally I can assure you that your minute amount of bio-mass added to the ecosystem is not going to cause harm to any one except maybe one of your guests who happens to being swimming next to an outlet.

The ideal fix for your head is a macerator pump that pumps the tanks clean, while running the head to evacuate the system. This way you can wait till it is dark and the tide is running and pump the tanks clean. The problem with a normal pumpout is that the accumulation is over weeks, so the solids have settled and you are in a bit of a hurry usually and you don't get a chance to really flush the tank. If you do flush and use fresh water, run some Clorox through the system. It is actually better to run saltwater I think.

Another problem is calcification. If the lines have any age, which I am sure they do. The interior diameter will be decreased by calcium depositing on the walls of the hoses. This decreases flow, makes it harder to pump, easier to plug up, and smells terrible. The extra pressure exerted to make up for the decreased flow causes leaks and also destroys the pump. Sooner or later this scale will break off in pieces and these chunks will clog the system like pieces of concrete.

The reason for the calcification is the chemical reaction between urine and saltwater, or so I have been told. It might also be just having saltwater sitting in the pipes. I found it helpful to pump a bit of vegetable oil through the head every couple of days. You can not do this while in a marina, it will make a slick which is a no-no.

Another idea I have heard about for those living in a marina with continuous sewage hookup is to plumb the head with fresh water and lots of it.

Obviously you know that a marine head is a minor miracle of engineering that will choke at the slightest hint of q-tips, sanitary napkins, tampons, paper towels, etc. But another problem is short stroking, you need to make sure everyone pumps vigorously to move a great deal of fluid through the system. It is short stroking that piles one turd on top of the previous one, to jam the system up.

One last piece of head advice, get a wet-dry vac. It is an amazing tool onboard any vessel and especially useful for working on heads.


Insect       Insect       Insect

SailNet - Liza Copeland's "The Dangers of Cruising, Part Two"

Summarized from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Boating and Sailing" by Frank Sargeant:
  • Anchor at distance from shore.
  • Anchor in windy areas.
  • Install screens on ports and hatches.
  • Mosquitoes: use something containing DEET.
  • "No-see-ums": use Avon's Skin So Soft or Johnson's Skintastic.
  • Little electronic keep-away devices do not work.

"No-see-ums" (sand flies):
  • Use something with DEET, plus a few drops of pennyroyal oil.
  • Mesh fine enough to keep out no-see-ums:
    ID# 111MN from Sailrite.
    Or (from Rich at Mangrove Marina): the lace used to make wedding veils.
    But really fine mesh gets deformed by breezes; use regular screen and spray insecticide on it.
  • Citronella oil or Screen Pruf on the screens.
  • Treat bites with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer.
From Colin Foster on Cruising World message board:
Best solution if working on deck where you can't shut them out is a box fan blowing on you.

The Avon Skin So Soft does work but you have to refresh it about every hour or two. We dilute it about 50% in a spray bottle - shake before spraying because it does settle out.

The stronger spray-can deep-woods type do work but they are really nasty. The perfumed or non-perfumed softener sheets don't work - well for us - some people swear by them.

Once bitten, the best anti-itch is an alcohol based roll on type perfume. The one we use is made by Healing Garden Div. of Coty, purchased at Kmart. It doesn't work instantly but a few minutes later you realize that the itch has gone.

Guy in Home Depot in Florida Keys says:
You can get a fine-mesh window screen (20 x 20 grid instead of typical 18 x 14) but it's so fine that any wind makes it stretch, ruining the way it looks. He recommends normal screen, sprayed with a sticky repellent, to keep no-see-ums out.

  • Very lightly sprinkle finely ground boric acid powder in your bilge and lockers. (Roaches will avoid piles of dust.)

  • "A paste of boric acid and sweetened condensed milk works like a charm".

  • "Mix [finely ground] boric acid powder 50-50 with powdered sugar" [or icing sugar].

  • Lay a cracker or piece of bread on a plastic plate or lid. Sprinkle water on it, then sugar and boric acid. Leave overnight.

  • The trick to using these acid-and-food poisons: lay out a lot of them, in all of the corners and other places, and leave them there for a long time. A couple of baits for a couple of nights won't do it.

  • Keep boric acid powder away from places where pets and kids might get at it.

  • Cheap substitute for boric acid: laundry borax (20 Mule Team Borax).

  • Trade name for boric acid: BORAXSO.

  • Other poisons: fipronil, hydramethylnon, diatomaceous earth (DE).

  • Maybe a "roach motel" is better, because you don't end with dead roaches everywhere, and the poison is confined to a small area.

  • Roaches like to travel along edges of objects: put traps/poison along edges of walls, cabinets, etc.

  • Put poison in cracks/crevices and under appliances.

  • Use a strong vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment to suck roaches from their hiding places.

  • You will have to set off several "bombs" at 3-4 week intervals, to kill the live bugs and then the ones that hatch from their eggs.

  • Before you set off a "bomb", remove all drawers, open all lockers, empty out contents/line/clothing/blankets, scrub off any egg clusters (look like sticky drops of syrup), spray lockers with handheld cans. Then set off the bomb.

  • Mosquitoes can be very localized; try moving the boat a couple of hundred yards.

  • Mosquito net tent (SC503DT $60 from Magellan's, or from Campmor) ? PermaNet mosquito netting with insecticide, ZeroFly plastic sheeting with insecticide.

  • Tie a "dryer sheet" (those things you put in a clothes-dryer) to your belt.

  • Use Autan.

  • From a message:
    Put some water in a white dinner plate and add a couple of drops of Lemon Fresh Joy dish detergent. Set the dish on your porch, patio, or other outdoor area. I'm not sure what attracts them, the lemon smell, the white plate color, or what, but mosquitoes flock to it, and drop dead shortly after drinking the Lemon Fresh Joy/water mixture, and usually within about 10 feet of the plate.

  • From C.Mc.B. in 11/2008 issue of Sail magazine:
    Squirt mosquitoes with very dilute solution of liquid dish detergent in a squirt-bottle; it eithers drowns them or weighs them down so much that you can squash them.

  • From Bob Brookes on Cruiser Log Forums:
    Mosquitoes hate vitamin B1. An overdose of B1 is dissipated by sweat and this keeps you bite-free. Buy B1 as 100 mg pills and take one with each meal. Sometimes B1 is marketed as Thiamin Hydrochloride.

  • From S/V Gilana: One teaspoon citronella oil, one cup olive oil, two cups rubbing alcohol, apply liberally.

  • Treat bites with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer.

  • From Ken on Facebook:
    "Generally speaking, mosquitos aren't usually much of a problem on the boat in most anchorages. Marinas, boatyards and shoreside restaurants and bars are where those pesky Aegypti mosquitoes are. They will silently get you under the table while you're playing dominoes in the afternoon or having sundowners and dinner ashore. Strong insect-repellent sprays such as DEET may help to minimize your risk of being bitten."

  • A big flyswatter.

  • Suck them up with a vacuum cleaner.

From Hap on Cruising World message board:
I live in Florida and we have ants that haven't been classified yet. I don't know where you are but we have an ant here that is itty bitty called a ghost ant. We have successfully eliminated them using baits. We use a liquid called Protexall for sweet eating ants. It comes under many names and can be found in hardware stores. Observe what the ants are eating. Sometimes they are taking sweet things and other times the same ants won't touch sweets. They are hauling off protein. You have to use a bait with a protein base. You can mix your own using peanut butter and borax. This process takes about two weeks to kill off the nest. Many times if you simply spray the ants, they divide the nest as a defense and then you have twice the problem. Personally, with such a small closed area as a boat, I would bomb them and be done with it.

From KNoel on Cruising World message board:
We use Terro Ant Killer -- it's sweet, they drink it, then croak. I haven't used it on the boat, just at home from time to time.

Rats (not an insect, but close enough):
  • With rat traps, tie the bait (banana, peanut butter, cheese) into the trap, and tie the trap down.

  • After catching a rat, check all of your wiring (they like to gnaw the insulation).

Birds (not an insect, but close enough):
About keeping birds off, from Don Beaufort on the Morgan mailing list:
For mast top a static dissipator might work ... not its intended purpose of course, but it acts as a landing barrier. For the spreaders there are manufactured items just for this purpose that are basically upside down bronze nails on a stick. But simply stretching monofilament would be cheaper, nicer looking, and safer to your sails. Think mechanical deterrent, not "scare" devices ... NO scare devices work long term. I tried every bird deterrent device on the market for over a year for an article I wrote for Practical Sailor magazine.
From Howard Keys on the Morgan mailing list:
I have a static dissipator and that doesn't stop them. I am told that something that moves, like a flag, is best.
From Norb on the Morgan mailing list:
We hang one of those big orange/yellow inflatable balls with silver "eyes" and Mylar "tail" in the rigging on our boat and it has done a wonderful job of keeping the birds away. In order to work effectively we move it around every week or so. We bought it from West Marine.
More from Don Beaufort on the Morgan mailing list:
Norb - I find that an amazing statement. Of all the devices I tried, the Scare Eyes and Terror Eyes were the most worthless, doing absolutely nothing to deter birds on my boats, no matter how they were moved around. After my article in PS, many folks wrote in with their experiences and not a single person protested my damnation of those things. Just expensive beach balls really. ...

From Jared Sherman on the Morgan mailing list:
If they are on the spreaders, you can string some nylon fishing line from the mast to the shrouds, just above the spreaders. It tangles their feet, blocks the perch, sends 'em next door. ...

If they are on the boom, you may need to spread nylon mesh (cheap cheap "camping" hammock made from fishing line type nylon) over the boom. ...
From Bob on the Morgan mailing list:
Easier yet, for the boom, is a line tied from mast to topping lift suspended about 4" to 6" above the sailcover. A 1/4" to 3/8" slack line works quite well and it seems to follow the curve of the cover nicely.

From Paul Sedwick on the Morgan mailing list:
My bird poop is gone. No more deck clean-up from bird crap. Our deck normally would look like a septic explosion by the end of the day. I applied the 4-The-Birds gel almost two weeks ago and No More Birds. This product is a godsend. I can't tell you how happy I am to walk down to the boat knowing the deck will be as clean as I left it last. It truly works. I applied to the main mast, anchor light top, wind speed support arm, triatic stay (far as I could reach), and spreader tops. Did not apply to the Mizzen but I think it is unnecessary as they seem to avoid the area like the plague.

From many people: hoist a flag or pole up on the main halyard, so it sticks up at the masthead.

From Nick on Cruising World message board:
All you need to do is attach strips of Mylar, similar to the "old CD Method", mentioned previously, since the "light reflectivity" is what scares "a majority" of the birds away! Plastic owls and snakes do NOT work, cats work only on "lower" areas. Attaching strips of mylar to lines that can be stowed easily/quickly aids in actually getting out on your vessel (don't want to see all that flapping around under sail!).

From Bev Clary on Cruising World message board:
Try some of the monofilament fishing line. Hard to see and when they run into it they soon learn to avoid the area. Could rig a spider-web type affair to boom and partially raised main halyard. Also across cockpit from lifeline to lifeline. May help.

From DBM on Cruising World message board:
1) Monofilament strung tight, three or four inches over the spreaders: confounded the ring-necked doves, my biggest avian problem in FLA.

2) Replaced my windex with the version that mounts directly to the VHF antenna. This made it impossible for my other nemesis, the Osprey, to sit on the mast, dropping fish bones and bird dookey on the decks, and also eliminated the eventual replacement of the unit due to "heavy" landings!

From Andrew Bebbington on Cruising World message board:
Gulls definitely do not like wind generators - both the flickering and the noise. Even though our generator is almost defunct, we still keep it up for that reason alone.

Some boats in my marina use CD Disks, spaced along monofil so as to just touch one another in a breeze, hoisted just above deck. This also seems effective. Thanks to AOL, Compuserve etc for providing us with an apparently endless supply. Or you could use your teenage kids' latest and loudest, to solve two problems at once.

Our local gulls have no problems with plastic owls, snakes, supermarket bags, strips of ribbon. They don't like monofil tripwires, but as they are inclined to sh*t the moment they touch one, it's a bit counterproductive.

From BillZ on Cruising World message board:
What's been working in Miami is a kite flown from the top of your mast. The kite can be purchased in the shape of and Osprey or a hawk (several others but those two seem to be working the best).

From Steve Honour on Cruising World message board:
... placed my fake owl as high as possible on the rig. There should be no place higher and it should appear as though the owl can drop down in any direction. To accomplish this, I used a "pigstick". This is where you have the halyard attached to the middle of a stick and also at the bottom for tethering. I stuck this stick up inside the fake owl and hoisted it to the masthead. The result is the owl sitting what appears to be on the top of the mast. Not hanging under it where it would be difficult for a real owl to spread its wings and swoop down.

The results have been quite noticeable. ...

At deck level: attach empty big plastic garbage bags, inflated, to the pulpits and lifelines; they blow around in the wind and scare birds away.


From Truelove on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Re: ... a very large mosquito or no-see-ums net, that will cover entire cockpit. ...

Sounds like you're talking about what brokers call a "Florida House," where the cockpit is completely enclosed with screen. With apologies to those who have them, it's like living in a bee-keeper's suit. I think they're unsightly, hot, and block almost all of the breeze.

We tried no-see-um screen on our ports and it blocked almost all the breeze. We have bronze screen in them and they work just fine for a small area such as a port. When in the ICW/coastal area, we used "Bug-Buster" (made by Sogeman) screens on our hatches and companionway to keep no-see-ums out; the weave is not as tight as no-see-um screen but seems to keep them out anyway while letting in plenty of fresh air. When ashore in infested areas, you'll need to use "heavy deet" repellants anyway unless you wear clothing which covers your entire body; we just put it on before going "outside" and enjoy the breeze in the cockpit.

From Gary Elder on the Morgan mailing list:
I have noticed that most 'tailored' netting leaks, allowing the little critters to sneak in through the little spaces where the fit is not quite perfect. Also nets with weights sewn in can make the whole thing hard to handle.

For our boat, we purchased "no see-um netting" from a camping equipment supplier, did a little cutting and sewing, and ended up with a 20' square piece of netting that really keeps mosquitoes and no see-ums out. We made it square so that it would not have a front or back, and can be 'thrown' over the bimini without concern for "is it facing the right way", and covers the entire cockpit. It is very much oversize on purpose so that we can bunch it up wherever there are irregularities in decks, cleats, lines, etc. There is no critical alignment anywhere. We simply throw coiled dock lines, etc on top of the bunched up netting where it lays on deck, and that very effectively closes all the spaces where the critters might find a space to get into the cockpit. We also have a few loops sewn into the edges that can be used as attach points for small stuff if we want to tie the netting in place. The whole thing folds up to to the size of a basketball - easy to store.

We have found this approach very effective, and can sit in the cockpit and watch no see-ums crawl around on the outside of the netting - unable to get inside.

  • Don't get DEET on plastic (such as the compass lens); it melts it.

  • REI's "Jungle Juice" is 100% DEET.

  • DEET can cause neurological damage and/or headaches.

"Easy-to-make Companionway Hatch Screens" by Steve Christensen in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine

From John Dunsmoor:
Bugs, they are relentless and what they lack in size they make up for in numbers. There is no escape. The Keys are basically mangrove swamp and there is a reason that for nearly a hundred years man ... white men, attempted to dredge, fill and eliminate every part of this ecosystem he could get his Army Corp of Engineers hands upon.

So now we plan to "invest" a few billion dollars in tax money on "fixing" the problem, but that is another soap box tirade.

Look at your chart, Biscayne Bay, approximately five miles across, I have anchored mid-point in the Bay, 2 1/2 miles from any shore and still been inundated with mosquitoes. There is no escape coastally. You need to get away from Florida. Now there are places that are worse than others. Elliot Key is dryer than most and they aerially spray Elliot and Key Largo, so the bugs are less. But offshore, and off to the Bahamas is recipe for escape. And so is dockside and air-conditioning.

Pics or is it Piks, you may have never heard of them. This is a green coil that burns like incense and keeps the bugs at bay pretty well, if you don't mind breathing insect repellant all night.

No-see-ums are tiny white gnats and can migrate through a normal screen. They come out at dusk and dawn, will not usually bother you during the day and amazingly enough usually not a bother at night.

Distance from shore can save you from yellow, black and deer flies. These guys are worse than almost any other insect, they actually take chunks of flesh like tiny piranhas with wings. You understand why Florida wasn't settled until someone invented screens and still did not have much population till the advent of air-conditioning.

From Paul Symes on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
I have excellent success with Glue Boards. They are about the only thing that will control spiders, especially Brown Recluse. Spiders don't lick the ends of their legs therefore poison dust doesn't work. You must spray poison directly on the spider in order to kill it. Glue boards will catch and hold everything from snakes to rats. Very effective.

From Steve Dion on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
For mice just about any type of trap works. We like the little sticky traps. If you use the standard squash'um trap, you should use peanut butter (better than cheese). It is sticky enough that they cannot get it off the unit without getting the big zap.

From Neal on The Live-Aboard List:
[For a mouse,] A trap would be fine. Poison would work, except that the mouse can spread it around the boat and he may die in a space that you cannot reach.

From Bob Wise on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
On the subject of "bug bombs" be very careful ... a few years ago we had a fatality when a local boat exploded. The reason apparently is some piece of electrical gear caused a spark which caused the gas-filled interior to explode. The crew of the boat were just departing by dinghy (the man killed was at the transom stepping into the dinghy when the explosion occurred).

The survivor spent several months in hospital as a result.

The explosion was powerful enough to blow the deck off the boat entirely.

Something to think about ...

From Desmond Smith on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Some of the bug bombs will soften or dissolve the varnish work inside your boat!

From MaggiLu Tucker on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
We hate critters on board. We have found that these are the best way to eliminate them altogether:

1. Stay away from docks.

2. When at a dock, spray Orange TKO on all docklines and cleats. It's the concentrated orange peel stuff they sell at boat shows. It really works against repelling and spot-killing critters.

3. If they do get on board, Raid roach and ant traps work great. They have eliminated our roach and ant population.

4. As for mice, I don't know, but we had a RAT on board and it was nasty. We tried everything. Peanut butter on traps, sticky glue boards, everything except poison. Nothing worked. It chewed through every plastic thing it could find in the pantry. We finally had a show down in a lazarette with pepper spray and an oar. The RAT lost.

5. Even being at anchor is no deterrent against rats. We were at anchor when this one came aboard, swimming from the nearest island in Miami FL. We had been away from our boat for three weeks or so and when we came back we found droppings, hair and chewed-up stuff. The next time we were away for an extended period of time we bought two transistor radios and left them on, in the cockpit. When we came home four weeks later we found no RATS!


Taking laundry ashore to a laundromat is to be avoided:
from "Cruising The Caribees":
Then there's the joy of doing laundry while living on a boat. This is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime. It's bad enough that you have to load all your dirty laundry into the dinghy and ferry it to shore for the washing, but there's worse to come. The Laundromats are dirty, smelly and crowded, and sometimes it takes hours to do a washing and a drying. Then you take your freshly cleaned belongings and load them back in the dinghy for the long ride home. It never fails that one of three things happens before you get back to the safety of the boat. You get caught in a tropical shower, you get caught in choppy water, or you somehow manage to drop a few pieces of clothing into the dirty water of the harbor as you try to lift the laundry bag over the side of the boat ...

From Bob Bitchin on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
I have lived aboard for almost 30 years and cruised for the past 12. Laundry is a big problem when planning your cruise, and a very small one once underway. In reality, you don't wear a lot. Shorts and shirts. You swim in your shorts daily. Sheets and shirts are easy. We usually have them done ashore, as we like to cruise in areas like Mexico and the Caribbean. A batch of laundry, done by a local lady (who loves the extra income) costs $7-$15. When we are in places like the northern Cook Islands, and there are no locals, our trash can, washing in salt water, final rinse in fresh, does the trick. Believe me when I say, it is not a problem.

From Judy Gammon:
... on the 65' trimaran I had a great Italian washer/dryer that ended up being the linen closet after a short while. ...

[I asked why.]

... Well, as I said life becomes very basic for long time cruiser/liveaboards and the sound of the generator becomes more and more of an intrusion so we ran it less and less (for the watermaker) and we wore less and less, thus saving on laundry. Have you heard the saying "sail naked"? I'm semi-kidding, of course, but it's not far from the truth. It was actually easier to put it in the big laundry bag and take a taxi to the laundromat in all the places we were able. And when it was far between places like that I did fire up the washer or I used a toilet plunger in a 5 gallon bucket like most sailors. Diesel fuel is expensive most places so we did try not to use fuel exorbitantly. ...

From John / Truelove on The Live-Aboard List:
I wash my stuff in a bucket on the boat. There aren't many laundromats where I cruise, and the ones I've seen at marinas in the States are usually filthy, don't work, or are so busy that they must be used in the middle of the night.

From Pat Fowler on SSCA discussion boards:
We kept a covered Rubbermaid bucket under the dodger while we were in the Caribbean. When it was full (about 3-4 days) of T-shirts or shorts, one of us would do the wash. Small tub, not many clothes, made it easier. Once we gave our clothes to an island woman to wash - it literally was beat on with a stone and bleached to death, even the colored items. Laundromats were pretty expensive too.

From Janice Marois on Low-Cost Voyaging mailing list:
Doing laundry is not horrible, BUT, you must keep up with it or spend a lot of time hauling stuff to crummy Laundromats. Trust me when I suggest that shore-side places run the gamut from expensive to filthy, with most leaning toward a rather vile combination of the two. And hauling it to the laundry when at anchor is a pain in the posterior.

So, we need to wash the clothes. The thing is, as you may well recall when you go to the beach your suit takes forever to dry. That's the salt in the fabric. Washing clothes in salt water is great. The only trouble is rinsing out the salt takes FOREVER and wastes way more fresh water than you'd ever imagine. Salt on clothing, especially intimate apparel, is unpleasant.

The next alternative is to use fresh water -- simple, really. Use a touch of laundry detergent, swish, scrub and rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse. Have I mentioned how much water is used rinsing out the soap? And wearing clothing with soap on it causes rashes.

Many people find the use of a plunger effective as an agitator. Also, there are those small pressure-washer's we've all seen in the neighborhood of $50 from Lehman's and the like.

The easiest way to do the wash is to hire an island woman to do it for you. Alas, sometimes clothes fade, disappear, or it costs too much. So, we want to be self-sufficient. Right?! Therefore:

First, you'll want to use a bucket or even the galley sink -- I prefer the sink so I don't have to bend, but a bucket will work in a pinch. Please fill 2/3rds full of fresh water. Add ammonia (1/2 cup for bucket; 1/4 cup for sink) -- yes, the smelly stuff that you cannot mix with Clorox. Now, swish.

You'll want to start with your cleanest clothes and work your way through to the grubbiest.

Okay, here's the place where you have to try it to believe it: WRING OUT THE CLOTHES, towels, blue-jeans. That's it. DO NOT rinse. Sure, you're probably thinking there's a trick to this, that the clothes reek, et al. So, try it for yourself. Hang to dry.

From Patti White on SSCA discussion boards:
We had a 'wash whiz' equivalent that we used between Mexico and New Zealand. While it was easy to use and fairly efficient, we threw it out in NZ. The design flaw is that the base/stand that holds the tub was made of thin plastic and started cracking at each of the four supports. When you start spinning the load with water and clothes inside the tub it simply put too much strain on the supports. It also was a bit of a pain to store.

Now I use my double sinks in the galley. Wash in one and rinse in the other. I found washing in salt water needs way more rinsing than doing wash and rinse in fresh plus was gentler on the clothes. I have a hand wringer I bought from Lehmans (also sold by Downwind Marine in San Diego).

Several larger boats out here have the Splendide/Combomatic style washer/dryer. All seem reasonably happy with the washer but none I've met use the dryer function. Have said that the dryer takes too long and uses way too much power. Hanging clothes on the line seems to be the way to go. Note - on really windy days I run the clothes line through the sleeves of shirts and through legs or belt loops on pants.

From Rick Morel on The Live-Aboard List:
We started out with one of those [hand-tumble] washers, but wound up giving it to a Goodwill store. It did work fairly well, but the problem was the stowage space it took up. A small plunger and the galley sink or bucket works just as well, maybe better, is no more work and uses the same amount of detergent and water. I think the "less water and detergent" part in the ads are compared to a regular washing machine.

Store dirty laundry in a mesh bag or crate, with good air circulation.

  • Wash in salt water, rinse in fresh water.
    "Rinse twice in fresh water adding Downy liquid softener to the last rinse; it very effectively eliminates salt from clothes."
    From "Living Aboard" by Jan and Bill Moeller:
    Soak in salt water and detergent for a while, rinse in salt water, then rinse in fresh water with fabric softener.
    But Don Casey says never use salt water to wash clothes: you'll use more fresh water rinsing than if you just used fresh for wash and rinse.
    Theresa Fort in July/August 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine agrees with Don Casey.
    So does "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard.

  • Use liquid laundry detergent, not powder.

  • "Wisk and Joy are the only two detergents that will suds up in salt water."

  • Hand-washer from Real Goods.

  • From Susan Meckley on IRBS live-aboard mailing list: Using that hand-washer:
    "Using cold water I put an Alka-Seltzer table in each wash load to create the pressure (that would normally come from hot water) ... this seems to really wash the clothes good."

  • From Night Swimming on Cruising World message board:
    WonderClean hand-operated "washing machine": we used it in the Bahamas last winter, and I wasn't too impressed.

    The WonderClean didn't do as good a job as I hoped, and you really need to use more water than they advertise if you want the clothes to come clean. And you can't let the clothes get as dirty as we do and expect it to do a bangup job. I'll keep using the one we have, but I can't say that I would recommend it to a friend.
    Odyssey Super Wash Portable Washing Machine
    Laundry Alternative's Wonderwash $43

  • From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
    • Hang dirty laundry in a mesh bag to keep drier, and air out.

    • Use two 5-gallon buckets and a (clean) toilet plunger to do laundry. Wash in one bucket, rinse in other. When water gets dirty, dump wash water, use former rinse water as wash water, fill empty bucket with clean water.

  • Heat wash water with a sun-shower bag.

  • Black rubber buckets absorb heat, keep wash water warmer during soaking.

  • Don't wash rope/line with laundry detergent; it can remove coating that waterproofs and lubricates the line.

  • From George Geist on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
    ... simply toss your dirty socks etc into a mesh bag and tow it behind your boat for about an hour. Then wring out around a stanchion and dry on the lifelines. I've been doing this for three summers now and am rather pleased with the results. Of course if you are on salt water, there is one additional step: to give your laundry a final rinse in fresh water.

  • Use a (clean) toilet plunger to agitate clothes in the washing bucket.

  • Put clothes, water and detergent in a bucket, put a lid on the bucket, and leave it in the lazarette for a couple of hours to get agitated.

  • From Jack Tyler on SSCA discussion boards:
    "Soak time is important; don't be in a rush to do the wash and rinse if by hand - let soaking do its job."
    But from Pnina Greenstein's "The Liquid Laundry Room":
    "If clothes are left soaking for too long, especially in hot weather, they'll soon start to smell bad."

  • To clean mildewed clothes, wash with detergent, then put lemon juice and salt on mildewed areas and leave to bleach in the sun.

  • My experience with washing in a bucket:
    • Start washing first thing in morning, so clothes have all day to dry.
    • I use same bucket for wash and rinse.
    • I use fresh water for wash and rinse.
    • Be careful not to overheat your pressure-water pump.
    • I do multiple "wash cycles" on each load, agitating by hand.
    • I use very little liquid detergent (a few drops per gallon) in each wash.
    • Use bleach carefully; it weakens cloth.
    • Use wood clothespins; plastic ones can't handle sunlight.
    • Washing in a bucket gets things about 75% clean. Oils slowly build up in sheets and dishtowels; replace with new every year or so.

From Ethel on SSCA discussion boards:
When we are out cruising I have found finding a laundromat and hauling the laundry for the 4 of us tedious and not much fun. What works for me is doing the laundry in a tub of fresh water and Sudsy Ammonia. Leave it soaking for a while, wring it out (I'd love a handcrank wringer), and hang it out to dry on lifelines or laundry lines tied to the standing rigging. No rinse is needed ... the ammonia evaporates when hung out to dry ... which cuts down on the water used and the elbow grease of trying to rinse out the detergent. This is especially enjoyable at island anchorages that are too beautiful to leave just to find a machine.

  • Get a hand-wringer to wring out clothing after washing. Maybe wringing-bucket or item #63-412, both from Real Goods. Or stuff from Lehman's.

  • Wring out clothes by looping each item around a stanchion and then twisting it. But this wears clothes out faster; a hand-wringer is better.

  • Wipe salt off lifelines before hanging laundry on them.

  • Use wooden clothespins without metal springs.

  • "Thread clothesline through clothes to prevent them from blowing away."

  • "always hang colored clothes to dry inside out to retard fading of the color"

  • Don't hang clothes to dry on stanchions or stays; you'll get rust spots.

  • Some marinas object to the sight of boats with lots of laundry hung up to dry. Some have a "no laundry" clause in their rules.

My experience:
I do laundry in a bucket with fresh water (often rainwater) and liquid detergent, rinse with fresh water and hang on lifelines to dry. Gets clothes about 70% clean. I find the bottom bedsheet and pillowcase slowly get dirtier and dirtier, despite washing this way, and it's best to throw them away every 6 months or so.



From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
  • Put keys on floating key-rings.
  • Store videotapes in sealed container with dessiccant, to prevent mildew.
  • Use plastic or vinyl-coated clotheshangers; metal rusts.
  • After sun-shower heats up in afternoon, put it into an insulated bag to save it for evening.
  • Use thin bathtowels; thick ones are bulky and won't dry.

Avoid/handle fuel spills, recycle stuff: Tim Banse's "Green Principles"

SailNet - Don Casey's "All Quiet on Board" (stopping noise)



Twenty-dollar bill       Credit card     Credit card       Credit card

Debit card versus Credit card:
Debit card better:
  • Cheap cash advances.
  • Earn interest on money in your account.
Credit card better:
  • Much more protection in case of fraud.
  • Some cards pay interest on a positive balance.

From Jim and Diane:
I would strongly advise against using credit cards. You will be ripped off. You will be easy to spot as cruisers. A clerk will know that it will be weeks or more before you get your credit card bills and by then you will be many islands away. The temptation is just too great. My advice is to use cash. When we were on our sabbatical [1990 ?] ATMs were not common in the Caribbean, but I suspect they are now. I just got back from Australia and my ATM card worked just fine there. Most of the islands are ex-British and therefore have a Barclays Bank. Find out which ATM network Barclays uses and get an ATM card from a USA bank that uses the same. You can start by calling the bank that issued your current ATM card and asking them where you can use it in the Caribbean. They have directories that will tell.
But others disagree: as long as you keep receipts and examine credit card bills quickly and carefully, you can detect and challenge bad charges. And carrying bunches of cash is awkward and dangerous.

Assume that your credit card number will be stolen and misused somewhere along the line; figure out how you'll deal with that.

Make sure you have a backup in case your credit card expires or the bank changes the number and mails a new card.

From Gene Gruender on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... We went to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman and Mexico.

In Nassau, Bahamas and George Town, Grand Cayman there are ATM's. They work fine, dispensing cash in several currencies. They also charge no ATM fees. That seems to be a USA invention.

In places other than those we got cash on our credit cards - again, no fees at the bank. We never had a problem getting as much cash as we asked for within a few minutes. This ranged from $50 to $1000 at a time. Places of business accepting credit cards were not as common, and often there was a substantial fee to use them.

From Denece Vincent on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Watch out when using a debit card. They can be used by no-good-nicks to drain your account, and its overdraft. With a credit card you just report the fraud and its their problem, but with a debit card you have to prove you didn't make the charges.

Some cards charge a 1% to 3% fee on all foreign transactions.

Consider carrying a spare ATM card, in case a machine eats yours. Some machines, if you don't pull your card out promptly (within 10 seconds, say) when they slide it out to you, will slide it back in and you have to get someone to retrieve it for you.

Instead of paying a fee to get cash at an ATM, get cash back when using ATM card in a supermarket (no fee).

My ATM card, despite having all kinds of "network" logos all over it, only works in certain banks on some islands. Works in all banks in USA and Europe, as far as I can tell. Learn which banks your card works in, by trial and error.

Summarized from Tom and Mel Neale: In remoter parts of Caribbean, cash always accepted, sometimes a personal check, less often a credit card, and debit cards and travelers checks almost never.

From Cruiser Log's "Cruising FAQ's":
... It is helpful to have both a MasterCard and a VISA card - in some places one works, the other doesn't; or one works better than the other; or the distance to go for a MasterCard is hours away from the closest VISA place (or vice versa). Establish a good filing system right away to keep track of your charges because banks make mistakes. ...

Plan ahead: in some places (e.g. Dominican Republic), there is no way to get US dollars, and large fees imposed on credit-card transactions.

Bank that is used to transients: USAA

Hiding cash on board: put it in a normal empty food box inside a Tupperware container, in among the provisions.

"A new study claims that 1 in 10 Americans no longer carry cash. They're called English majors."
-- Seth Meyers

Bank of Zimbabwe 250 million dollar bill

Paying Bills / Mail

How to pay bills that come in the mail, when you're not receiving the mail regularly ?
  • Auto-pay from bank account.
    But have to watch out for fraudulent charges/bills.

  • Have the mail go to someone who will open bills and pay them from a special account.
    But this could be a big burden on that someone.
    And have to watch out for fraudulent charges/bills.

  • Track charges carefully and send payment to arrive about when the bill will be due.
    But delays in postal systems could make this tough.

  • Build up a positive balance with each company ? Some won't allow this.

  • Monitor bill balances over the Web (i.e. log into your credit card vendor's web site).

  • Pay bills over the Web: use Quicken, Schwab Access, ETradeBank or other services.
    My sense is that all of these on-line banks and brokers are changing rapidly, are still struggling to do customer support of on-line customers, and are composed of 6 or 8 different services pasted together (which means an uneven user interface, parts that crash separately, multiple registration/logon/support pieces, etc).
    [By 2006, this seems to work very well; I use the internet to pay my credit card from my checking account every month, and even can schedule a payment in advance.]

Set up and try out these mechanisms before you move onto the boat, and certainly before you start cruising. Any glitches will be easier to correct while you still have good phone and mail service and a non-PO-Box address.

From Jim and Diane:
Getting your mail is easy. When you get somewhere you are going to be for a few days you call home to whomever is collecting your mail. You have them send it to you via FedEx or International Express Mail. For FedEx you need an actual address (like a marina). For Express Mail you can have it sent to general delivery. Express Mail is also a good way to get spare parts.

Here is a story of how fast it can be: We were in Trinidad. A friend in Miami mailed us parts on his way to work Monday morning. The parts arrived in Trinidad that night. We got a post card Tuesday morning at the marina saying the parts were in and we could pick them up at the main post office. We got them Tuesday afternoon.

But from "Voyage of the S/V Paradox" in 1995:
A packet of mail, sent 2nd-day air from Marathon FL to Marsh Harbour Abacos, took 17 days to arrive. (But later, UPS to Hope Town Abacos took only 2 days.)

From my PO Box at Mailboxes Etc in Marathon FL, to Nassau, 2/2002:
The preferred method of shipping to the Bahamas is Fed Ex Intl Priority. It runs between $20-$27 based on how much mail you have and usually arrives overnight - 2 days on the outside. You could pick up from the local Federal Express office in the Bahamas or if your dockmaster will accept mail on your behalf you can have it sent to them. We usually send only first class mail - no catalogs, magazines, etc to keep costs down.

We would just need your instructions and a credit card and expiration date to bill the expense to.
My experience and what I hear:
Having mail shipped by post office depends mostly on the quality of the postal system of the foreign country you're in at the time. Some (e.g. Bahamas) are horrible. And postal "tracking" is useless; the tracking stops at the handoff between two countries. In 2013/2014, an envelope from Spain to Grenada took 1 week to get to the handoff point, then 2.5 months to arrive at destination.

Having parts shipped in: it may be better to have them shipped to some local business, instead of trying to have them shipped to you.

Provisioning / Food / Cooking

Apple       Banana       Burger and fries       Banana

"Red meat is not bad for you.
Now, blue-green meat, that's bad for you."
- Tommy Smothers

From "Second Thoughts" article by Tim Murphy in 6/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine:
Many first-time cruisers over-provision before starting out; food is available in other countries.

From Jan s/v Winterlude on Cruising World message board:
Before we left last winter, I freaked out about what we were going to eat and tried to stock up on everything we'd eat normally. As we cruised, we found that a BIG part of the fun was trying new stuff and shopping locally. It's important to look at it as part of the adventure tho' because some of what you try, you'll HATE and some you may like better than what you have at home! We have several things we MISS now that we're back in the States for hurricane season!

When we head back to the boat in late October, we won't take much in the way of foodstuffs. Even the red wine we get in Guatemala -- Chilean -- is good, and loads cheaper than if we stuck with American brands!

My advice ... forget American brands and start experimenting. Try buying just one of something and if you find you like it, go back and buy more! But BE FLEXIBLE! You can't plan to go to the grocery store and simply buy items on a list to adhere to a menu plan. You have to do it in reverse -- oh look, these smoked pork chops look great, oh, they have blah, blah here -- I can make XXXXXXXXXXXXXX! Be flexible and creative!

We always have enough food aboard that we could last a week, probably more without having to supplement it. But it's mainly things like tuna, etc -- stuff that we don't usually touch -- and it makes useful trade items for local fishermen so it doesn't get outdated! When it's been on the boat for a season, I use it to trade and buy more before the next winter season. But we'll buy even our stock foodstuffs locally this year!

From Jim and Diane's "The Cruising Galley":
Like most Caribbean cruisers we did our big provisioning in Miami. There is a huge, warehouse-type store there called Xtra with good prices, open 24 hours a day.
and more from them:
You also should get one of those contraptions that squashes metal cans. We used the stomp-on-it-with-your-foot method, but the devices do a better job. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of garbage is a plus.

We also forgot to mention that we had a barbecue grill. You know, one of those round Magma jobs that clamps on the rail. We even rigged it to run off one of our large propane bottles so we would not have to fool with the little one pound cylinders. We didn't use it as much as we thought because there is so much wind you have trouble keeping the grill going.

In planning recipes for your trip you need to know what sort of fresh items will be available to you. [In Caribbean] You CAN get eggs, milk, cheese, bacon, chicken (usually frozen), beef (usually frozen), spices, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, green peppers, squash, tropical fruits, all sorts of root crops (like jicama and malanga) and bread. You CANNOT get lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, berries, apples. Basically any sort of cold weather crop is unavailable (surprise). Interestingly enough, you cannot buy fish many places except from fisherman who come to your boat. I guess everyone is supposed to catch their own.

A word of caution about fish. There is this nasty parasite called ciguatera you get from eating reef fish and their predators (like barracuda). You'll see the locals eating them, but I wouldn't. Stick with the groupers, bass and dolphin.

From Dave Richardson on the WorldCruising mailing list:
... don't try and take home to sea. Eat and live like the locals or you will be a very unhappy tourist.

... take lots of T Shirts and cartons of American cigarettes. These will accomplish much that persuasion can't.

... You will also eat a lot in the cockpit and probably have other cruisers on board for cocktail hour fairly often. Have little goodies that are easy to serve for these situations. On cooking we probably do 2/3 of our cooking on the BBQ when at anchor. Virtually everything gets cooked over the BBQ in either aluminum foil or stainless pots with removable handles. While underway it is stews etc. that get cooked in the pressure cooker. ...

Another hint. After finding the weevils had made homes in the flour, roaches were chewing on the pasta and salt water had eaten into the Coke cans (beer never lasts long enough) we have taken new precautions. We purchased a cryovac vacuum pump and sealing bags. I think the pump and heat sealer cost about $100 and the bags are reasonable. Secondly, we bought cases of ZipLoc FREEZER (not the thinner storage) bags. They are not available in most places other than North America so carry lots. Last, we purchased a dozen plastic dish pans that fit in the bilge.
  1. Flour and the like is packed and vacuum sealed. We then freeze it for 4 days before storing it. This keeps the weevils at bay. Rice and other dried food is treated the same way. Bay leaves added to this help.

  2. Even our clothes that aren't being used are sealed in the ZipLoc bags. Mold is endemic in the tropics and you won't be using your wool yacht club blazer anyway.

  3. Cans that are going into the bilge are put in the plastic dish pans. This keeps any water that might be in the bilge away from the cans and if one does happen to spring a leak then you don't have a bilge full of whatever was in the can.

SailNet - Kathy Barron's "Provisioning for the Caribbean"
SailNet - Tania Aebi's "Lessons from the Galley"
SailNet - Joy Smith's "The Art of Ice-ing" (fetching ice for ice-box)

Foods that will keep and are convenient:
  • Double-baked bread.
  • Dried soups.
  • "ships crackers" or "pilots crackers".
  • Instant pudding.
  • Canned anything.
    But many canned foods have a short shelf life in terms of food value ?
    Werling and Sons canned meats
  • Food in "Tetra Pak" packaging (juice cartons ?).
  • "Vacuum-packed tortillas will keep for months and are a good bread substitute."
  • Instant soups: Cup Of Soup, Cup Of Noodles, Ramen.
  • Packets of dried powdered gravy mixes.
"Cool Cruising Without a Fridge" article by Laura Hacker-Durbin in Mar 2002 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine

Keeping food without refrigeration, from SailNet - Doreen Gounard's "Keeping It Simple":
Packing butter in salt water, canning meats and jams, wrapping vegetables in newspaper and smothering hard cheeses in oil are but a few of the tricks we utilize to keep our food fresh and yummy. We have even transcended the need for cold beer by switching to Speight's dark ale, from New Zealand, which is perfect at room temperature.

Pressure cooker:
SailNet - Kathy Barron's "Cooking Under Pressure"

Pressure cooker is good:
  • Saves time and fuel.
  • Keeps food contained when cooking in rough seas.
  • Doesn't heat up the boat as much as normal pots.
  • Retains juices/vitamins.

From "The Cruising Life" by Jim Trefethen:
Pressure cooker is bad: makes vegetables overcooked and mushy and tasteless.

  • Maybe don't need a pressure cooker if you have an oven ?

  • Practice ashore before using it on the boat.

  • Bake bread in pressure cooker (without pressure):
    coat inside with oil and dust with cornmeal.

  • Bread: Use boiled seawater, sugar, yeast and flour.
    Knead the dough in a plastic bag.
    Remove from the bag, let rise in a warm place.
    Bake in pressure cooker (without pressure), turning the loaf over halfway through.

  • Can use pressure cooker (with pressure off), or frying pan with tight lid, for just about anything you'd use an oven for.

  • Bake turkey, ham or roast in pressure cooker with pressure off.

  • Can't cook rice or pasta in it; starch clogs up the vent.

  • Lubricate gasket with vegetable oil to avoid sticking ?

  • Want stainless steel instead of aluminum, because of problems with aluminum getting into food.

  • Stainless steel doesn't conduct heat evenly; want copper or aluminum cladding on bottom, or something else to even out the heat.

  • Want straight sides all the way to the rim (some have an inward-pointing flange) so you can bake bread and get the loaf out.

  • Want bigger than you think (maybe 8-quart), so you can cook an entire meal in one pot (meat, potatoes, veggies).

See article in 5/15/2000 issue of Practical Sailor. Says best design is spring-loaded pressure valve. Recommends Kuhn Rikon's Risotto ($140).

From LaDonna on Cruising World message board:
... I've tested Magafesa (which seems to be the popular boat show one), Fagor and Duromatic. Of all three, Duromatic was far and above the rest. The beautiful thing about it, is they have the same number of safety features but the thing doesn't make a sound! It's gorgeous! [No loose parts to get lost, too.] ... The others are fine but I've found problems getting the arm tight enough, or it makes too much noise or it's too bulky, etc. They're good units, don't get me wrong, but if you're in the market for one, invest in a Duromatic. ...
From Rex Browning on Cruising World message board:
This is another aspect in which the Duromatic shines. Most manufacturers recommend regular (some annual) replacement of the seals, which can be a problem with the fancy European-model-of-the-week brought in for a brief time by one of the "culinary equipment" stores.
From LaDonna on Cruising World message board:
What a great seal this [Duromatic] has. Completely removable and lasts forever! You can take it out and wash it with the cooker. Very nice feature.

From George Geist on The Live-Aboard List:
Get one with straight walls (not curving inward at the top). Then you can use it to bake bread in it.

From Marce Schulz on The Live-Aboard List:
I used the same Presto 6-qt. stainless steel pressure cooker for 30 years and was perfectly happy with it, but 2 years ago I got a Kuhn Rikon Duromatic 6 qt. as a gift. What joy! What gladness! It's fabulous. Very well made, perfect size for us -- soups, stews, regular cooking without pressure in a seaway, etc. And the really great thing is that it's quiet. My Presto maintained a constant sh-ch, sh-ch, sh-ch at the pressure regulator. This one is completely silent. It also comes up to pressure quickly and requires the tiniest flame to maintain pressure. A real fuel saver.

From Kate / Aquarius on The Live-Aboard List 12/2000:
We just purchased a Kuhn Rikon 4L Risotto Cooker from West Marine (the best price I found). This is the model that received the highest rating by Practical Sailor; however, I did do additional research. I checked Kuhn Rikon (and other sites) and also asked for Pressure Cooker recommendations at at least ten high-end kitchen shops in both Canada and the States. The Kuhn Rikon received unanimous number-one rating. The size you need depends upon your personal needs -- crew size, cooking for several days, etc. As we cook for two most often and the 4L Risotto is large enough to cook a meal for at least four, that is the one I chose. I'd recommend against aluminum as there are several studies that indicate cooking with aluminum may contribute to Alzheimer's Disease. Further, all of the experts I talked with recommended against using the Pressure Cooker for canning; there are special canners for that purpose.

From Louis on the Morgan mailing list:
The stories of Pressure Cookers exploding comes from the days before multiple safety systems were built in. Even if the top vent is clogged (has not happened to me yet), there are two other valves which will release pressure. They are very safe now.

You cannot open my pressure cooker if it is under pressure -- even if you force it. This was the other cause of scalds, people would open them up under pressure -- bad idea -- like taking the cap off a hot radiator.

Frankly, you stand a better chance of getting scalded from a pot flying off the galley stove. This will not happen with the pressure cooker which has a clamped-on lid. Just pick up the pot, and continue with dinner.

I cannot say enough about mine. I have more than halved my propane use, and cook much faster. Good fresh rice in 10 minutes! Real rice, not minute variety. There are so many uses, books have been written about them. Once you get used to it, you'll never give it up. However, there is a learning curve -- you have to get used to not seeing how everything is doing.

If you get one, read the directions cover to cover ...

From Doug Barnard on The Live-Aboard List:
I think the big trick is to saute everything at high heat (think wok) in the cooker before applying pressure. The food is tastier, too, as all of the flavor gets locked in.

Books recommended (by others):
"Pressure Cookery Perfected" by Roy A. De Groot
something by Lorna Sass

My experience: I started with a very cheap pressure-cooker, and I'm glad I did: I don't like pressure-cooking. It's kind of "blind" cooking: you dump everything in and then try to guess when it's done, you can't stir or taste or add ingredients while it's cooking, and it seems to take longer than normal cooking. But I haven't given it a fair shot yet. I suspect it's best for big roasts or whole chickens.

From "Voyaging on a Small Income" by Annie Hill:
... you can still save a lot on your meat bill by cooking the cheaper cuts in your pressure cooker. Even the toughest meat is reduced to edible texture, especially with the judicious addition of a glass of wine - a point worth knowing anyway, because in many countries when you come to buy a piece of meat, you won't have the foggiest idea of from whereabouts on the animal it came. ...


[15 pounds of pressure cooks faster than 10 pounds.]

Vacuum bagger / sealer:
Maybe FoodSaver brand, but requires special plastic bags.
Or Rival Vacuum Seal-A-Meal, $40.

But, from Mary Heckrotte in Living Aboard magazine:
You have to be careful using Ziploc-style bags. We find that most plastic bags are not really airtight or moisture-proof. Buy only excellent quality bags and think twice about what you store in them and where you store them. For example, rice stored even in a Ziploc-brand bag will, with the boat's motion, eventually poke tiny holes in the plastic. ...

We bought one of those vacuum/heat sealers and found most of the plastic bags designed for them to be pretty shabby as well. After some experimenting, I found we could take most any heavy-mil plastic, cut it to the size we wanted, seal each of the edges with the machine, and make our own bags as needed. ...

The sealers sold at K-mart, etc., for about $30 will not do what you need for storage on your boat -- they just don't have the power to create a real vacuum. The really good industrial machines are prohibitively expensive at about $300. After much shopping, we finally found one sold by J.C. Penney for about $90 that created enough vacuum inside to suffice. The first year cruising I used the machine to seal a zillion bags. Now, though, I use it for storing leather shoes, special books, and double-wrapping already well-sealed packets ... The machine barely justifies the space it occupies.

From Chuck / Jacaranda on Cruising World message board:
I've used a couple of different brands but the best I have found is the FoodSaver made by Tilia. But I was able to save about 35 bucks by buying the unit at Walmart.

I've used it to save boat parts, cold weather clothes and of course food, flour, nuts, etc. Anything you don't want air touching while cruising.

The FoodSaver does work very well and isn't too large.

From Sarah Tanburn on The Live-Aboard List:
We use them and find them really useful to compress clothes, bedding and even sails (our spare working jib lives in a vacuum bag).

Couple of words of warning - we are still experimenting but have already found that:
(i) Get small rather than large. Some are huge and you couldn't fit the resulting package into a locker.
(ii) Get ones which have a cap on, rather than the ones where you pull the vacuum tube out of the bit you seal. Then you can finish off the vacuuming with the bag in its storage hole, and shape it to fit. (Particularly good in bilges!)
(iii) The bags themselves aren't really very strong and can tear etc if you're too rough squidging them into place.

If you're going to open and close the bag repeatedly, leave extra unused material when you first seal it.'s "Vacuum Packers"

Baking with a propane oven:
From Don Cochrane on World-Cruising mailing list:
Use the middle rack, drop the temp 10-15 degrees, coat the pan with "Pam" and/or grease the pan depending on instructions/recipe, use non-stick pans -- toss the silicone cookware -- it will take practice. Each oven is individual.
From Randy Garrett on World-Cruising mailing list:
The wife says you you need to get the oven preheated first and to make sure the shelf is in the oven to cover the flame. She says there is a shelf between the open flame and the rack you are cooking on. The shelf is to distribute the heat evenly.
From Steve Dauzenroth on World-Cruising mailing list:
I've put in what was a round 16" pizza stone near the bottom that was cut to shape that allows air to pass on the sides 1" and corners more due to the roundness. My oven, a Force 10 has a s/s panel that the gas burner is underneath. Putting the stone directly on top of the s/s panel is too hot in the middle and cracked the pizza stone. Now I use a wire rack with very short legs on top of the s/s panel and put the two-piece pizza stone on top of the wire rack. This works pretty good but takes a while for the oven to heat up as the stone has mass to it.

My thoughts are an "insulated cookie sheet" of the right size would be way lighter and might do as well and still use a cake wire rack as a spacer on top of the s/s panel. Regular cookie sheets are known for their high warping when in an oven. My insulated cookie sheet doesn't warp when I've used it in the past but now I can't find it. I haven't gone to the expense of getting an extra Force 10 wire rack shelf to put the stone on. The stone disperses the heat good enough normally. Have the brownies or such on a rack at least two inches away if you can. I used an abrasive blade in a circular saw to cut the stone to shape.
From Dave Skolnick on World-Cruising mailing list:
[instead of pizza stone] You can get heat-resistant tiles at building stores for much less money than a pizza stone; they will be fine as long as you don't bake directly on them.

Additionally, avoid the temptation to keep opening the door. Letting all the hot air out will cause the burners to run more and result in burned bottoms. I sit on the floor in front of the oven and peer through the glass with a flashlight.
From Yvonne on World-Cruising mailing list:
Propane ovens are definitely individuals. And I can imagine that one on a boat is even smaller than a smaller appartment-type oven. The best purchase I ever made was to buy one of those cookie sheets that has those little waves in it. It's just a flat sheets, no edges, sort of double-layered with a layer of air between. It never burns any cookies! No matter if it's in a propane oven or if you forget about them and leave them in too long. They do get hard, but never burn. Great buy!

Another thing to remember about cookies and brownies, is to never listen to advice about the temperature or the length on how long to bake. Always! lower the temperature by 10 - 20 degrees. It might be helpful if you bought one of those magnetic oven temperature thermometers. That will also show you more precisely at what temp your oven runs. Anyway, lower the temp and bake half as long. Brownies: bake just until the edges start to harden and the middle comes out sort of unsticky when you put a toothpick in it. Cookies: just until the edges start to get a tad golden. Take them out of the oven and leave on cookies sheet for an additional 3-5 minutes, where they will finish baking. Then remove to cool. When making brownies, make sure you spray lots of oil into the corners and edges. Best to use glass.

With a propane oven, you're just going to have to play around with it and see how yours runs. It's almost like creating a friendship. You've got to speak to it nicely, praise it when it bakes well, be thankful when things taste yummy. Learn just how far to turn those buttons so things don't go sour.
From Judy / BeBe on World-Cruising mailing list:
Yvonne is right about each oven being different. We have a 4-burner Eno stove and the burner for the oven is not located on the bottom as it is in most ovens as other have described. Our oven burner is located on the rear panel of the oven. There is no way to insert a vertical heat diffuser to disperse the heat more evenly throughout the oven. Anything placed in the oven will have one side close to the flames.

This makes baking a real challenge because you must remember to turn everything around at least once about half-way through the baking time. And just hope that the center gets properly done before the edges are over done. Have found that baking on a boat does require more pre-heating than a normal home oven.

My experience with a Coleman campstove oven (aluminum cube that you put on top of propane stove):
Doesn't get hot enough to bake things.

Maybe try Omnia Oven ?

Specific foods:
  • Apples, Pears: wrap each in tissue paper and store in dark.
  • Bananas: store in dark.
  • Berries: eat immediately.
  • Butter, Margarine: buy in plastic tubs only.
    Butter stored in fresh water keeps for weeks.
  • Cabbage: store in cool and dark.
    Eat some by peeling off a couple of layers, not by cutting a wedge through to the heart.
  • Carrots spoil quickly.
  • Celery: wrap it in plastic or aluminum foil, refrigerate; eat quickly.
  • Cheese: wipe vinegar on cut end to prevent mold.
    Or store block cheese submerged in vegetable oil in a plastic container.
    Harder cheese lasts longer.
    Packaged in wax lasts indefinitely (someone else says 6 weeks), unless the wax cracks in the heat.
    Parmigiano-Reggiano lasts for years, tastes great, can boil and eat the rind.
  • Citrus: store suspended in net in cool and dark.
    [Or: wrap in aluminum foil.]
  • Lemons and limes last much longer if you store them in a glass jar with a thin layer of salt at the bottom.
  • Cucumber: store in cool and dark.
  • Garlic: suspend in net in dry place.
  • Grapes: soak them in a bowl of water for an hour, to hydrate the skins, then drain off the water and store them in the refrigerator.
  • Lettuce doesn't keep. Use cabbage instead.
  • Melons: store in cool.
  • Mushrooms spoil quickly.
  • Onions: suspend in net in dark. (But several others say light ?)
  • Peppers: store in cool.
  • Pineapples: store in cool.
  • Potatoes: store in cool, dark, dry, ventilated; not near onions.
    Sweet potatoes keep better.
  • Salami and smoked meats: store by hanging up.
    Wipe vinegar on cut end to prevent mold.
  • Spices: store in cool, dark.
  • Tomatoes: buy green, wrap each in tissue/newspaper, store in cool, take out to ripen for 2 days.
  • Wine ages quickly with the motion of the boat.
    Buy "boxes" of wine instead of bottles.

From "Gardening Dockside" article by Andrea Singleton Schmidt in Jul/Aug 2001 issue of Living Aboard magazine:
  • Use potting soil and a "soil polymer" such as Soil-Moist.

  • Use slow-release fertilizer granules such as Osomocote.

  • Plastic containers are best.

  • Can protect plants from wind by keeping level of the soil 3 inches below rim of container.

First 3 items from "Woman's Guide to Boating and Cooking" by Lael Morgan.
  • Fish should be bright-eyed with firm/elastic flesh and pink gills; don't use if eyes are cloudy.

  • Most ocean fish can be eaten if they don't blow up or have spines or a parrot beak.

  • Remove fish odor from a pan by boiling vinegar.

  • Soak fish in lemon juice and water, or vinegar, or wine, to tenderize it before cooking.

  • Bake fish on top of a bed of parsley/onions/celery to keep it from sticking to the pan.

  • Fixings for sushi: wasabi, ginger, soy sauce, sticky rice.
    For true sushi, the rice is key; everything else is less important.

  • Preserve fish by salting, drying or smoking them.

  • To refrigerate fish: wash in cold running water, dry with paper towel, wrap with plastic or put in plastic container, put in coldest part of refrigerator.

  • If refrigeration not available, cook fish at once, then reheat for serving.

  • My experience: fish are very hard to catch, and very expensive to buy (everywhere).

Tropical fruits
  • Plantains:
    Plantains are bigger and have thicker skins than bananas. Banana is "guineo" in Spanish.
    From Jane Fuqua:
    Take a green plantain, cut off the ends and make a lengthwise slit in the peel. Pry off the peel, slice into 1 1/2 inch slices. Soak them in salt water for 15 minutes, then fry them in oil until they are yellow on both sides. Then put them on a paper bag and mash them flat by folding over the paper bag and mashing them with the palm of your hand, and then put them back in the pan and fry some more until they are dark yellow but not brown. And then salt them. You can do it with ripe plantains too, they just come out sweeter.
    Summarized from "A Gentleman's Guide to Passages South", by Bruce Van Sant:
    Use a plantain any way you would use a potato. But the taste is not exciting.

    Let them ripen until the peel is black; then the inside is like a ripe banana.

    To make French Fries, slice and fry a yellow plantain.

    Use more mature plantains for more sweetness, and slice them thinner for more taste.

  • Zapote:
    Looks like a brown football; tastes like strawberry.

  • Pineapple:
    "Pina" in Spanish.

  • Grapefruit:
    "Toronja" in Spanish.

  • Mango:
    Season is Nov/Dec ?

  • Fruit milkshake:
    Summarized from "A Gentleman's Guide to Passages South", by Bruce Van Sant:
    Combine two cups of fruit (such as papaya), 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of evaporated milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Blend until smooth. Add 2 cups of chopped ice and blend an extra-long time until thick and smooth and ice-free.

Harvesting and eating seaweed:
I haven't done this (yet).

Mostly adapted from "Sailing The Farm" by Ken Neumeyer:
  1. Two varieties should not be used (poisonous):
    • Desmarestia: tastes horribly of bitter lemons. Sulfuric acid in it will bleach anything it comes in contact with after a short while.
    • Lyngbya: extremely toxic, but easy to avoid: looks like fine, long hairs, and frequently matted around other seaweeds. Eat only leafy-type seaweeds.
  2. Don't harvest seaweed from polluted waters, or when "red tide" is present.
  3. Seaweed can grow floating or attached to the sea-bottom. Whether found on the beach or floating or cut free, they are good to eat as long as they are fresh and look good.
  4. It may be illegal to cut attached seaweed, or some kinds of seaweed, in some places.
  5. Preserve seaweed for later use by dangling it in the water in a net while at anchor, or by drying it.
  6. Cooking:
    1. Remove the tough root and the central fibrous "stipe"; keep only the leafy tender parts.
    2. Rinse/rub vigorously in clean salt water (seawater ?) to remove sand and debris.
    3. Rinse briefly in fresh water.
    4. Don't soak in fresh water for long; that will burst cells and nutrients will be lost in the discarded water.
    5. Eat raw or cooked.

Homer Simpson cooking, and managing to burn cornflakes

Substitutions while cooking:
First 4 items from "Woman's Guide to Boating and Cooking" by Lael Morgan.
  • 1 oz chocolate = 3 tbsp cocoa + 1.5 tsp oil.

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch for thickening = 2 tbsp flour.

  • 1 cup heavy sour cream = 1/3 cup butter + 2/3 cup milk.

  • 1 cup butter = 7/8 cup cooking oil.

  • From Jeanne Pockel's "Cruising Dictionary":
    For baking: in recipe calling for 1/3 cup oil + 2 eggs, can substitute 1/2 cup mayonnaise + 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Texture will be less firm than using fresh eggs, but will hold together better than with no egg product at all. Be careful, some mayonnaise includes mustard, and some Australian and New Zealand mayonnaise is so sweet that you might be advised to reduce sugar somewhat. But this substitution is a great use of that awful Australian mayonnaise that you bought by mistake and can't stomach.

  • "Textured vegetable protein" is a substitute for meat.

Substitute foods (to save money, or increase independence):
  • Crackers or tortillas instead of fresh bread.

  • Sun tea / solar tea instead of soda or coffee.

  • Cabbage instead of lettuce (cheaper, and keeps far longer).

Soylent green

No-bake recipes:
These seem to fall into several categories:
  • Cheesecake (based on cream cheese).

  • Cookies (usually peanut butter and/or chocoate, plus oatmeal).

  • Funnel cakes (fried dough, sprinkled with sugar).

  • Fillings you slather between layers of oven-baked cake.

Some no-bake recipes

Eating coconuts:
From "Woman's Guide to Boating and Cooking" by Lael Morgan:
  • Green: whack off stem and drink the liquid.
  • Yellow with patches: eat jelly-like contents like pudding.
  • Yellow with brown spots: eat chunks of meat as snacks.
  • Brown with hard dry husk: sweetest and best for desserts.
To loosen meat from shell, soak broken coconut in cold water for 10 minutes.

From "Beachcomber's Handbook" by Euell Gibbons:
  • Liquid inside is called coconut water (tourists call it coconut milk).
  • Creamy liquid pressed from meat is called coconut milk.

  • Coconut water: want "drinking nut" that is full-sized but immature, dark-green, no yellow. Best if still on tree, not fallen. Best if so filled with liquid that they don't slosh when shaken. Cut open at stem end. Or cut away some of husk to make stem end flat, then drill hole at pointy end and put in a straw.
  • After empty, split "drinking nut" in half and eat translucent "spoon-meat" out with a spoon.
  • Ripe nuts: either on tree or fallen. Shake to make sure there is liquid inside. Drain liquid, then husk the nut (very difficult). Use a potato peeler to peel the brown skin from the outside of the meat. Then grate or shred the meat. Use in pies, cakes, cookies, puddings.
  • Coconut milk: start with ripe nut. Husk it and extract the meat. Don't bother to peel off the brown skin. Shred the meat. Pour 2 cups of boiling water or coconut water over it. Press and mash it to extract the milk. Knead it with your hands when it gets cool enough. Let it stay in hot water at least 15 minutes, then squeeze and strain it through double layer of cheesecloth. Use on cereal, in drinks, in puddings, to make ice cream.

"Canning and Dehydrating" article by Pnina Greenstein in 6/2001 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
"Drying Food On Board" article by Theresa Fort in Jan/Feb 2002 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Beth Leonard's "Pressure Cooker Canning"

Freeze-dried meals tested in 3/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine (best were from Mountain House).

Various stores:
Frontier Natural Products Co-op (herbs and spices)

See the Galley section of this page for related info.

Recommended by Darrell Nicholson in Aug 2001 issue of Cruising World magazine:
"Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean" by Ken Neumeyer.

Security / Theft

Padlock       Safe

  • Theft of the entire boat.
  • Theft of contents of the boat, including the dinghy or outboard.
    Outboard motors are the prime target of thieves.
  • Damage to boat: fire, explosion, sinking.
  • Hazards to humans: deadly vapors.
  • Violence to humans.

BoatSafe's "Boat Ownership - Keeping It Yours"
SailNet - Liza Copeland's "Cruising Dangers, Part One - Security on Board"

Alarm system:
Article by John Payne in issue 2003-2 of DIY Boat Owner magazine

Radio Shack 49-425 motion detector ($20)

Can run fishing-line trip wire on deck, connected to a switch that sets off the alarm. Gives great flexibility.

Motion/ultrasonic/infrared detectors don't work on boats (false alarms) ?

Have alarm system squawk on an FRS radio, so you can hear it when on shore ?

Have alarm system connected to strobe light in rigging ?

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
I'm no fan of burglar alarms on boats, particularly if the owner is not a liveaboard. If you've never lived in a marina with a bunch of alarmed boats owned by folks who live hours away, you don't know what I mean. I've threatened to cut one chronic offender loose and let his boat float away with the tide if he didn't do something about his 3 AM false alarms.

The big problem with marine alarms are:

1. False alarms due to corrosion (most alarm components are not marine grade), and wind shaking sliding doors (on trawlers, particularly) and hatches. There's more stuff to go wrong with an alarm on a boat. Last year a fender rolled off a bunk and landed on the pressure sensitive mat of a neighbor's boat. The alarm cycled on for 5 minutes off for 10 on for 5 off for 10 from before midnight until midmorning.

2. But more importantly, what is a person to do when your boat is alarming at 2 am? Is it a bilge alarm? Your insurance company would reward someone who cracked the hatch to pump out your boat and kept it off the bottom. Is it a fire alarm? Your neighbors would call you a hero if you forced a port to fight the fire (or cut the boat out of the marina to save the others). Did the owner collapse due to illness during the night and set off the alarm to gain attention? Then some thanks would seem in order. Were you and your family tied up by your Colombian business associates and left to die? Ditto. Of course, if it's a burglar alarm and I crack a hatch to see what the deal is, then I might go to jail if the police come down and catch me on the boat.

So there is a moral dilemma for people who live near alarmed boats. And there is a physical risk from their cranky, sleepless neighbors for boat owners who have alarmed boats.
From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
> I installed a Radio Shack home alarm system on the boat with wired door
> sensors, pressure mats and one wired dual (Infrared/Ultrasonic) sensor and
> have never had it false alarm.

I think Rick is right about being very careful to avoid false alarms. I believe keeping the system as simple as possible is the key to that. If you use infared sensors, you will have false alarms.

I bought an old Amway wireless home alarm system, it was cheap and reliable. The wireless transmitters will operate for 2 to 3 years on a 9v battery. When we sold the house, I ripped the circuitry out of the main alarm box and shrinkwrapped the circuit board in plastic. This saved about 10 lbs, made it the size of a paper back book instead of a toaster and allowed me to mount it behind a cabinet with only the knob and LED's showing. I have run it from a 25w inverter, but I think I can bypass the transformer and run it from 12v. The switches are magnetic, so I don't have to worry about false alarms from motion detectors,(cats, seagulls) or other triggers that are prone to false alarm. The unit has an internal horn that is not real loud (designed for apartments).

It also has an external horn that will make your ears bleed. I am going to mount the external alarm next to the main hatch on the inside, so if anyone tries to get in, they will get the full blast. If it somehow does get a false alarm, it will be IN the boat and not as obnoxious. I am also planning to set up a relay to trigger a signal on either the VHF or a family band walkie talkie freq.

I installed alarms as a side line to doing audio/video work in the early 80's and the best systems were always the simple ones.

You can probably find a number of cheap wireless units. There are a few that are modular, so you can add whatever you want to them. They are very convenient, since there are no wires, you could put a sensor in your dock box, or on your outboard bracket, on the dinghy or whatever, it really opens up the possibilities. I use to have one on my truck and one on a trip thread across the back drive to my house.

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
The burglar alarm on my car is actually just a flashing LED I got from the box my Logitech Lightmouse came in (an advertising gimmick). It runs on two AA batteries. The LED is wired down my rearview mirror, like on BMWs (I wish!) and the battery pack is behind the sun visor. I slip the battery in when I feel the need to protect the car.

So the best low-cost burglar alarm is probably just a key plate or keypad with a red LED glowing next to it, connected to nothing else -- flashing is optional. People looking for an easy mark just move on down the way.

No horns, no sirens, no flashing strobes, no sensors, not much expense, just a little red light warning people off. Perhaps a placard next to the LED saying "If burglar alarm sounds, please notify 410-555-1212". Should work pretty good for Mom and Pop-type cruisers, provided you keep your mouth shut about it -- Loose Lips Sink Ships and all that.

If you have an alarm aboard, notify the dockmaster and nearby friends about how to disable it, and post your name and phone number prominently on the boat so you can be contacted if there is a false or real alarm.

I bought an $18 motion-detector alarm from Home Depot:
  • I mounted it inside my pilothouse (doghouse), covering the cockpit and main hatch. I turn it on when I go to bed.
  • I set it to "chime" mode; the 120-dB alarm probably would wake the entire anchorage.
  • It works by detecting rapid changes in infrared. So actual motion of the boat doesn't make it go off. If I leave it on in the morning, sometimes sunlight reflecting off the ripples in the water will set it off. I think you probably could mount one out on deck, such as to cover the stern deck or foredeck, and it would work fine at night. Although I doubt it's waterproof.
  • A set of 3 AA batteries lasts about 4 months, with detector not exposed to direct sunlight.

Perhaps to identify a thief after the fact: a motion-activated security camera.

Dinghy and outboard motor:
Chain-locks to prevent theft of dinghy, kayak, dinghy's outboard motor ? Have read lots of reports of thefts of these.

Dinghy/outboard theft is rampant in Miami, West Palm Beach, St Martin, probably elsewhere.

Use as alarm for dinghy theft at night: Angel Alert Child Distance Monitor

Add a secret switch that prevents a thief from starting the outboard ? Want it hidden, so they don't see you using it, and they can't find it quickly. Or make it a key-switch. But most kill-switches operate by grounding the ignition, and a semi-knowledgeable thief will just take off the cowling and cut any extra wires. And probably most outboards are stolen by towing away the whole dinghy and outboard, and examining it later.

Add a chain-lock that locks the outboard in a full-port or full-starboard position, so even if the thief starts the outboard, he can't motor the dinghy away. Might even make it hard to tow it away.

Someone makes a lock that prevents use of the starter pull-cord ?

It's a pain to have a big, heavy outboard such as my Mercury 20 (112 lbs), but there is one advantage: it would be hard for a thief to lift it off the dinghy and carry it away !

Secure motor to dinghy:
Mercury item #67-829245 is a similar bolt-locking thing.
Fulton also (but the small tack-welds on my Fulton bracket rusted apart).

In high-theft areas, don't leave dinghy in water overnight. Hoist it up or onboard, and remove its motor or lock the motor to the main boat.

From Tom S. on Cruising World message board:
I built a dinghy during the winter of 1992/93. I always rowed it, until last year when I moved the boat and the row got to be too long. I cut a 3" hole in the bottom and fitted a clear plastic screw-in inspection port. Whenever I left the dinghy on a beach, I unscrewed the plastic insert and took it with me. In eight years of cruising around Long Island Sound I never had a problem. Actually, many people commented on the ingeniousness of this idea. However, now that I have a little 2 HP engine which weighs only 25 lbs., I have to think of some way to protect it also.

From SailNet - Doreen Gounard's "Caring for the Cruising Outboard":
We padlock the motor to the dinghy and we remove the red-coiled emergency stop cord and carry that cord with us. The motor will not start without it. [Not true of my Mercury 20.]

My experience so far (12 years in USA and NE Caribbean):
I hoist the dinghy on davits at night.

Ashore, I always locked my dinghy and motor to the dock when in the Miami area, and almost never bothered anywhere else. But I rarely go ashore at night; I might lock it more often at night. And I might lock it more often now that I have a new outboard.


In 12/2010, in Vieux Fort St Lucia, in midafternoon someone came aboard my boat and stole some stuff. So, from now on, I always lock the boat when I leave it, and I often lock the dinghy to the dock.

Idea for outboard manufacturers: a key-lock integral to the electronic ignition, so a thief couldn't start the motor, and a thief who took the whole dinghy would have to replace the whole ignition before they could use the motor.

Security grates for hatches:
I had a welding shop make three sets of "security grates" for my hatches. I designed them so they (mostly) "clamp around" the woodwork instead of having to screw fittings into the wood, and the grates can be removed entirely and stored. With the grates in place, the hatches can be open or closed, and the screens can be on or off.

I had them made of 3/8" plain steel rod. Derusted them with phosphoric acid and painted them with Rustoleum (but they started rusting through the paint after 2 months). Lock them with a set of identically-keyed padlocks. I leave a key inside the boat near each hatch, in case of emergency (fire). And a key hidden on deck so I can get in if I lose the key I carry.

Unfortunately, the welding shop costs ballooned beyond my estimate. Added up to $565 by the time I was done. And the welding shop moaned that they lost money on the first few grates because they underestimated the time they would take. I thought it was pretty simple welding, but I'm no expert.

If I did it again, I think I'd make the grates out of 3/16" x 1" steel strap. I would have a machine-shop cut the lengths I needed, then I'd fit them in place, wire them together, and take them back to the shop to drill holes in the junctions. Bolt them together, and use thread-lock to lock the nuts (a thief probably wouldn't have the patience or tools to sit there and use wrenches to undo half a dozen thread-locked nuts, reaching through the grate to get at them). Should be a lot cheaper than welding, but heavier and a little uglier.

I don't think I'm being paranoid doing this: I'll be going to some pretty poor countries, everything I own (except bank accounts) is on this boat, and another cruiser told me of having his boat stripped while at a mooring in the USA. [And I was very happy I had them when I got to Miami; theft is rampant there.]

From letter from Chuck and Kathy Hall in 6/2000 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
... Our boat was boarded while we slept [in a marina in USVI] ... took checkbooks, wallets, credit cards, ...

Our advice to fellow cruisers, at least in this part of the Caribbean [especially in harbors in USVI], is to sleep aboard with the boat locked up, even at anchor. Especially when at a marina, sleep with the companionway locked. ... do not be ostentatious, do not wear jewelry or expensive watches ... ask the marina staff if they have had any recent incidents that you need to be aware of ... stock up on battery-operated motion detectors, pressure detectors, personal alarms and so forth ... lock the dinghies every time they are unattended ...

In 2014, at Bequia, a catamaran was boarded through a bow hatch by a thief, while the owners were sitting in the cockpit at the stern. They never heard a thing.

  • Weapons will cause hassles when entering/leaving countries.
  • Weapons may be impounded for the duration of your stay in a country. And you'll have to exit the country from the same port that you entered through, to reclaim your weapon.
  • If you don't declare your weapon when entering a country, and then it is found or stolen or you use it, you could be in big legal trouble.
  • Are you really prepared to use deadly force against another human being ?
  • You may misinterpret an innocent situation: sometimes locals drive straight toward your boat at high speed, eager to sell something.
  • Some criminals may out-gun you, or surprise you, no matter how big your weapon.
  • Criminals may be more likely to use their weapon if they see yours.
  • If you're heading to a place so dangerous that you need weapons, maybe you should turn around and go somewhere nicer.
  • Some common items (boat-hook, bleach, wasp-nest insecticide, air-horn, fire extinguisher, floodlight) can be used as makeshift weapons. Flare-gun may be intimidating, but ineffective. Bear-attack spray: 10x stronger than Mace.

Having a gun aboard, from BrilliantStar on Cruising World message board:
This breaks down into five questions.
  1. Whether to own a gun -- don't unless you are trained to use it and are prepared to kill someone on purpose or by accident (including you).

  2. Whether to carry a gun aboard -- don't unless you are willing to comply with the laws of the countries you visit and are prepared to never see it again.

  3. Whether to brandish a gun -- don't unless you are prepared to draw fire to yourself or someone you care about.

  4. Whether to fire a gun -- don't unless you are confident of a quick and complete up close and personal kill of all the threatening people involved regardless of age or gender.

  5. Whether to dump all the evidence and run like hell -- do, "due process" (American Style) doesn't exist anywhere in the world.
One other thought. Be prepared to throw up afterwards. Close range gunfights blow a lot of blood and guts around -- this ain't TV.

Summarized from letter by Wayne Lenoir in 3/2008 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
When entering US Virgin Islands, Customs form and officers say nothing about declaring guns.

And the law sets up a Catch-22: you're required to register guns locally within 24 hours, but you can't register and get a permit unless you have a residence or place of business in the USVI and local character references. And processing of registration and permits can take weeks.

Permits from other states not valid in USVI.

So, when undeclared and unregistered guns were found aboard, massive legal trouble ensued: several days of jail, $100K bail, several months forced to stay in USVI, court appearances, $10K of legal fees, $18K of fines, guns confiscated.

Keeping stuff safe when on the beach: fake lotion bottle


From "Good Boatkeeping" by Zora and David Aiken:
  • Use liquid soap pump dispenser instead of bar soap.
  • For suds in salt water, use: Joy dish detergent, sun shower soap, "Aqua Lather".
  • Seventh Generation sells environment-friendly products.

From Peggie Hall on BoaterEd:
> What is the best way to clean the gunk that
> grows in a shower sump pump ?

Prevention is easier than cure. A weekly dose of Raritan C.P. in the sump when it can stand at least overnight will keep your sump and sump pump clean as a whistle AND sweet smelling. Although it's positioned as a toilet bowl cleaner, it's also the best sump and drain cleaner around. The enzymes in it not only destroy odors on contact, but also "eat" hair, soap scum, body oils, etc -- all the stuff that leaves a ring in the bathtub and gunks up a sump pump. It needs a little time to work, so the best time to use it is at the end of the weekend. Put some water down the drain into the sump, add a healthy squirt of C.P. Run the pump just long enough to get the solution into it ... then go away. Just be sure you've put enough water and C.P. in the sump to leave at least a 1/2".

If it's too late for prevention, you can clean out the sump and pump with a strong solution of detergent and water. Turn on the pump long enough to get the solution into it and let it sit for a couple of hours ... then rinse and flush it out. If it's really bad, you may have to do it a couple of times. Once you've flushed ALL the detergent out, follow with the C.P. treatment.

Sun Shower:
"A sun shower will give you a VERY HOT shower as long as you are in the south ..."

From "Voyage of the S/V Paradox":
The six-gallon Sun Shower we carry does get hot enough for a good shower, but the water pressure is necessarily limited and the nozzle is not high-volume. We keep it strapped onto the deck, so that it's usually hot enough after noon.

The most virtuous way to do it is to jump into the ocean and soap up, wash, climb up the swim ladder at the stern, and then rinse in fresh water in the cockpit. There is not a great level of privacy to this cockpit showering, but that's what stretchy bathing suits are for. Ostensibly we have our engine-driven hot water heater and a hookup to the shower in the head, but it's a little tight in there for showering, and we didn't want to use it because the bilge would eventually get smelly from the sump overflow, etc. Besides, the Sun Shower is a good way to monitor the rate at which we use fresh water.

From Mark Sienkiewicz on The Live-Aboard List:
I use a "Sun Shower" from time to time. It works exactly like leaving the hose in the sun. One side of the bag is transparent and the inside of the other side is black. It even has one of those thermometers where the numbers change color with temperature.

I generally fill it not quite all the way full, then leave it on deck it in the sun until it gets pretty hot. Then I bring it inside and hang it in the head for my shower. I add a little cold water to get a more comfortable temperature. Sometimes I use up some of the hot water and then add more cold water to get a still more comfortable temperature.

I bring it inside for the convenience of having all my shower stuff right there. When I use the sun shower, I don't actually use the built-in shower except as a source of cold water to mix into the bag. I wouldn't expect any problems using it on deck, except that some power boats don't have any convenient place to hang it where the water level will be above your head.

Once you fill it with water, it will be wet inside forever. I always have chlorinated water from the city water supply, so no interesting biology experiments have shown up after more than a year of intermittent use. (I sort of wondered what would happen the first time I put it away for 2 weeks with traces of water left inside.)

  • Consider modifying the sun-shower with a longer hose and a better nozzle.

  • Adding a longer hose and raising the bag higher gives more pressure.

  • Shield from the wind for best heating.

  • A new, unused, multi-gallon insecticide spray tank makes a great shower on deck.

  • After the sun-shower heats up, put it in an insulated cooler or wrap it in a blanket to keep it hot until you want to use it.

  • Boil water in teapot, add to cold water in sun-shower or sprayer, to get a hot shower.

From Foxtrot Oscar on Cruising World message board:
I have used a low tech pressure shower made up of a garden sprayer, only with the nozzle replaced by a shower head with a push button on/off switch. Fill up with warm water and ten pumps is enough to keep it up to pressure for a full shower. You can buy ready made ones - even stainless steel ones that sit on your stove to heat up before use. But making your own is simple and seriously cheap.

From Mike / LaVida on The Live-Aboard List:
We use a bug sprayer from Sears for our showers. Sounds silly, but it really works great! You can use it on deck in warm weather or in the head in cold weather.

The 3-gallon size works best: one gallon hot water, two parts cold and pump it up.

The adjustable nozzle gives a fine mist or a concentrated spray.

Summarized from letter in Jul/Aug 2001 issue of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine:
Take clear plastic storage container that holds 2 gallons.
In lid, install two rubber-coated exterior 120 volt light sockets.
Use two 12 volt 50 watt light bulbs.
Connect hose to bottom.
Fill with water until lights are immersed.
Run lights for 10 minutes to heat water.
Take shower.

From Stuart James:
... Want to get clean? Jump in. Get out. Lather up with diluted Dawn. Jump back in to rinse off. Then get out and towel off to get the salt off you and onto the towel. You end up surprisingly fresh! And, if you are lucky and leave the towel out on the rail, the afternoon rain will rinse out the towel and leave it good for next time. ...

Zodi portable hot showers
Zodi's "Extreme Series" shower: you heat on a stove or propane burner.


From Peggie Hall:
[Use bleach in the water tank] only to recommission the system annually (or in the event it becomes contaminated, requiring sanitizing). Adding a little to each fill is a very bad idea ... so is too much or too little, left in too long or not long enough.


The cumulative effect of carrying chlorinated water is far more damaging over time than the occasional shock treatment. And it's that cumulative effect that makes it a VERY bad idea to add a little bleach to each fill. Not only does it damage the system, but unless you add enough to make your water taste and smell like a laundry, it's not enough to do any good. Even if it were, any purifying properties in chlorine evaporate within 24 hours, leaving behind only the corrosive properties.

From Larry DeMers on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Water purifiers: We use the Omni Filter, made for under-sink mounting in the home. They run around $30. If you have pressure water, then use the activated carbon block filters ... if you have foot pumps (like us), then use the activated charcoal paper filters ... works great, with a single filter change every year ... at around $5.

From West Advisor's "Eating Well at Sea":
... Although we filled our water tanks before leaving, all of our drinking water came from one and two-gallon spring water jugs purchased at a supermarket. ... Water in disposable jugs tastes much better and there is less chance of contamination due to the safety provided by several small containers. It is also easy to inventory your water supplies since you can simply count the remaining jugs. Dehydration, especially when crewmembers are seasick, is a common voyaging malady, so water consumption should be encouraged for health reasons. We used tank water for clean-up, personal washing, and an occasional shower. ...

From Winston Gribb on Cruising World message board:
Ahh for God's sake. Where do you think you are going ... Timbuctu?

Wherever you find people, you will find food. And water. If you are going to go cruising you had better get past the bottled water thing. Any time you eat out you will have a salad ... rinsed in local water, dishes washed in local water, ice in your drinks made from local water and all foods cooked ... in local water.

The biggest pain in the **badword** I ever ran into while cruising was a couple in Venezuela (actually only 'she' was the problem) who insisted on buying only bottled water for 'everything'. The poor shmuck of a husband had to cart hundreds of individual gallon jugs of water to fill their tanks everywhere they went.

Watermakers are okay I suppose but what are you going to do when it breaks down? ... they always break down ... everything breaks down. What could be worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere and having to drink the local water? ... Being stuck in the middle of nowhere and having to drink the local water ... without ever having your body build up immunity to the various grades and quality of 'local' water where you have been traveling.

Unless you have some rare disease that requires nothing but the purest of water entering your body, you should break yourself into the acceptance of drinking local water ... wherever you go.

My experience so far (4.5 years in USA and NE Caribbean): free water is available in many places, such as Key West, Nassau, Black Point Exumas, Georgetown Exumas, Luperon DR, La Parguera PR. And most fuel docks, when you buy some fuel. And you can catch rainwater and use it for showering and dishwashing at least. If you have enough tankage and jugs to carry you through the places where water is not free (such as Marathon, the Abacoes, the Turks and Caicos, all of the Virgin Islands), you'll never have to pay for water.

Water conservation:
Fresh water use and how to reduce it, from "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard:
  • Drinking: don't conserve.

  • Laundry: minimize clothing; pre-treat stains; don't wash using salt water; minimize detergent use; soak and scrub dirty areas.

  • Cooking and dishes: wash dishes with salt water; use manual pumps everywhere.

  • Showers: use tea-kettle or solar shower, not pressurized water.

  • Boat cleaning: use salt water on exterior, fresh on interior. Strong cleaners require lots of rinsing water, so use vinegar, baking soda, Joy instead.

To wash dishes: use one spray/squirt bottle of soapy water to wash, another spray/squirt bottle of water to rinse.

Using salt water to wash dishes or shave tends to cause corrosion of sinks and faucets.

Loading water into tanks or jugs:
  • Before filling water tank from shore water, pour water into a clear glass, and examine and taste it.

  • Don't run good municipal shore water through a carbon filter before it goes into the water tank; that will remove the chlorine and make it go bad faster in the tank.

[I asked how to load contaminated water, in the Dominican Republic, for example:]
From RichH on Cruising World message board:
Not a good idea to put known possibly contaminated water into your tankage. Filter it BEFORE it enters the tank. Chlorine is NOT a good disinfectant for such water.

What you need to consider is to use a certified biological-grade (expensive) retention filter (either 0,2uM or 0,45uM absolute {HIMA certified}) whose sealing system consists of double O-rings that fits into a 'piston' cup inside the filter housing. Select a housing and filter that uses "222" O-rings so you can choose filters from the common manufacturers. Flat-gasket sealing systems are unsuitable for sealing vs. bacteria, etc. Sanitize the filter EVERY time BEFORE you use it.

West Marine, etc. offers an *in-line* filter that is placed onto the end of the charging hose, is nominally rated for bacteria, *cryptosporidium* and Giardia Lamdia cysts. Bring your wallet and change out every six months. If the supply pressure from the source is low, you will need to 'assist' pump the water through the filter (pump on the pressure side, not vacuum side), as such filters are very 'tight' and require a bit of pressure to get adequate flow. Install/add a 2 or 5uM 'prefilter' upstream to protect the 'final' filter.

Chlorine sanitization and disinfection is UNSUITABLE for many harmful species. Consider performing a disinfection (not sanitization) periodically and especially if you get the 'trots' from your water. Consider selecting commercial sanitization/disinfection compounds that contain: per-acetic acid (and hydrogen peroxide as a "mixture").
From Al Schober on Cruising World message board:
I agree with filtering before the water hits your tank. Two other treatments to consider are Reverse Osmosis and Ultra Violet, although neither are particularly high-flow-rate at reasonable cost. But places like Home Depot do offer 'under the sink' RO units that should be suitable for processing the water in the non-potable tank for addition to the potable tank. Do not run chlorinated water through the RO membrane.
From Greg Kozlowski on Cruising World message board:
We were in the DR about 3 years ago or so and the water was fine as it was pretty well everywhere else in the Carib and Venezuela. A few places like the Bahamas had brackish water which we took on for washing and showering anyway, and a few places in the USA had overchlorinated water which you could sort of take out with a household filter.

If you're worried about water quality, why not get one of those Seagull filter units and install it. It's a bit pricey but cheaper than a watermaker, and in the end you won't have to buy the bottled stuff which can get expensive, too.

So far, at least in the Carib and all thru the Med, we have not had any problem with getting good water, even in the Southern Aegean where you can buy RO water from tanker trucks for 5 to 10 bucks to fill your tanks.

In five years we've spent probably a grand total of less than a couple hundred bucks on water when we had to pay for it. Watermakers, like a lot of boat stuff, have been hyped to the max. Half the guys who have them on board here in the Med will need to buy new membranes for lack of use and improper storage.

Water tank maintenance:
Peggie Hall's "Freshen Your Water Tank" (fresh water system problems -- foul odor or taste)
"How to keep water potable" article in 7/2000 issue of Cruising World magazine

  • "A sulphur smell [in fresh water supply] almost always means only one thing: corrosion."

From Denece Vincent on The Live-Aboard List:
[To clean water tank,] ... use spa shock (bromine) to kill any leftover creatures. Let it sit for a day. Siphon and rinse at least twice. Bromine tends to leave a lot less stink in the tank but is as effective in killing bugs and algae. ... We have fiberglass tanks and chlorine tends to hang in there forever!

From Randy on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
[Re: water woes (water filter rapidly becomes clogged, feels slimy):]

Sounds like it may be an algae bloom. We have aluminum tanks and get those periodically ... usually in the spring. I suspect it is related to the warming of the water after the cool/cold of winter. We used to run bleach in our tanks to provide an extra measure of chlorination (approx 1 oz per 50 gal) but that takes its toll on the charcoal brick we have inline, so we switched to 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide about 3 years ago. It is as effective with the bacteria killing, and not as hard on the charcoal filter ... in fact it is odourless and tasteless. Unfortunately we have noticed that the algae blooms are a regular annual occurrence since going to the H2O2, where they were much more infrequent when using bleach. Still puzzling it over, we may go back to a chlorine-based solution.

Having said all that, when you do get a bloom, you need to "shock" the tanks. That means high dosage of chlorine. I use approx 1 litre of normal household bleach per tank (approx 55 imperial gallons). Fill the tanks with water and let sit for an hour or so. Drain tanks, fill with water and drain again, add 1 litre vinegar to tank and fill with water, let sit a bit, drain, rinse once more with pure water, and you're done. It goes without saying that while all this is going on you want your water pump turned off. Or pull your filters and allow the high concentrate water to flow through the system, shocking the whole works. Just keep in mind you'll then need to flush the whole system with water/water-vinegar/water. BTW, the vinegar is to kill the residual bleach. I've done it without, but man-o-man, you can rinse for hours and the water still tastes/smells strongly.

Sanitize water system:
  1. Use chlorine (bleach) solution for 3 hours.
  2. Flush with fresh water.
  3. Clean the filters.
  4. Use vinegar solution for a day or more.
  5. Flush with fresh water.
  6. Clean the filters.

From Jerry Donofrio on The Live-Aboard List:
... Be sure to add the bleach so that it gets into each tank and mixes well. Generally I put the bleach in about halfway through the fill cycle. After it have the tanks filled to the top be sure to run the mixture through the lines and out the hot and cold water taps everywhere on the boat. The odor should be a very strong bleach smell. Let the bleach mixture stay in the lines for 24 hours and then empty and refill twice. The bleach smell should be gone. If not - use a little white vinegar to sweeten the water or use baking soda. I have used both and prefer the vinegar. ...

Summarized from article in issue 2003-3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
Two problems with water from boat tank:
  • Swamp water: bacterial or algae growth: drain and disinfect the tank with bleach. Scrub tank if there is access. Consider replacing flexible hoses.

  • Plastic taste: use a charcoal filter when drawing water from tank.

Water from a watermaker is essentially sterile, pure, and has a long storage life.

From Bruce Bowman:
Re: jerry jugging water ... if you carry water aboard, you'll probably chlorinate the water as a safety precaution. If you have stainless tanks, the chlorine will corrode the tanks until it dissipates. In a dark tank which has no air blowing across the water, it takes a long time to dissipate. Pinholes won't appear overnight, but the corrosion does measurably reduce the service life in the area of the welds.

> So, what's the solution ?
> Vent the jerry-jugs for a while before pouring them into the tanks ?

Chlorine dissipates quickly in sunshine and with exposure to the air (a la swimming pools). Hard to emulate in a water tank. So if you have stainless tanks, you have to either not use chlorine, or pump it out after using it as you would if you used it to occasionally clean a tank.

Keep in mind that domestic tap water in most of the USA is treated with chlorine. Many folks that live aboard for a few years getting ready to cruise are leaving with tanks that are already on their last legs if their stainless tanks were built with thin-gauge stainless sheet.

A few alternatives come to mind:

- I suspect translucent polyethylene collapsible jerry jugs ought to allow more rapid dissipation if left in the sun with the cap off. Pool supply stores may have chlorine test kits to measure this, but I don't know how sensitive they are. You can experiment at the dock to satisfy yourself it's going to work.

- fill the tanks through activated charcoal filters, though I don't know how much chlorine this actually removes. They certainly make the water *taste* OK.

- find an alternative to using chlorine to treat suspect water. I have no idea if iodine is a reasonable alternative or if it has the same corrosive effects or is perhaps too costly. You might try the Center for Disease Control to see what they suggest.

- if you're replacing tanks, go for a plastic tank fab'ed with 1/2" polyethylene. I've seen ads for custom tanks using this material. Usually intended for industrial use.

- if the tanks are fairly new, coat the interior of the tanks with a protective epoxy coating. A caution here ... it takes a long time for all the volatiles to dissipate. I pumped a *lot* of water through the tanks for a year and I still had evidence of the volatiles (I may have used the wrong product).

- use a watermaker, which (depending on tank capacity) doesn't address the issue of using tap water at the dock nor having to treat water carried aboard in a dirty harbor.

It's my understanding that certain grades of stainless are less susceptible, e.g. 316 stainless, because they are passive. I believe there is still an issue at the weld because the passivation is damaged in that area. Not 100% sure about this. A metallurgist would have to tell you for sure.

See my Boat Watermaker page.