Sailing around the world doesn’t have to be a Spartan existence – Terysa Vanderloo explains her top onboard creature comforts
Cruising sailors who also call their boat their home usually give plenty of consideration to making life on board as comfortable as possible. The level of comfort cruisers and liveaboards choose is, of course, entirely personal and subjective. Some consider a watermaker to be a luxury item; others regard it to be utterly essential. Some may draw the line at a washing machine, but can’t contemplate life without their icemaker.
On larger boats with a high specification, the limitations of space and power generation may not be so restrictive. But for those who own smaller boats, perhaps contending with a more modest budget, some luxuries may have to be sacrificed or compromised.
Of course, living a simple and minimalist lifestyle is part of the fun (and, for many, the entire point) of cruising. That said, turning your yacht from a series of minor discomforts into a home with a few onboard creature comforts will make cruising far more enjoyable.
My partner Nick and I have been cruising Europe and the Caribbean for the past three years. We own a Southerly 38, the interior of which is given over mainly to living space rather than storage room: as such, we don’t have a generator or particularly large water and fuel tanks.
The knock-on effect is that we can’t have power-intensive items such as washing machines or separate freezers on board because we can’t power them, plus we don’t have anywhere to actually put them. Despite these limitations, we have a boat that is comfortable, homely and full of items that we love and wouldn’t want to be without.
Personally, neither of us could function without coffee in the morning and we love our espresso machine. Another item we bought just before we made our Atlantic crossing was a breadmaker. The power draw was less than we’d originally assumed, and we kept the batteries topped up by running the engine while the bread was in the baking stage.
Kim and Simon Brown from Britican are also firm breadmaker fans. In fact, Kim says: “This is mandatory if you’re sailing around the world. Nothing is more spirit-lifting and comforting than the smell and taste of fresh bread.”
I couldn’t agree more. Of course, it’s entirely possible to make bread by hand, and many sailors do. However, we try to avoid having the oven on for too long as it not only uses up propane but also heats the boat up, so a bread machine makes sense.
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Continuing on the premise that if we’re well-fed and caffeinated, we’d probably be quite content, we decided to buy a pressure-cooker. We didn’t purchase this until we’d been cruising for almost a year, but it was a game-changer.
It lowered our propane usage by reducing cooking time and also prevented the boat from getting too hot. Another benefit was that it cooked the frozen, often quite tough, meat we usually found on the Caribbean islands in a way that actually made it tender and delicious.
However, a pressure cooker isn’t the only option. Behan and Jamie Gifford from Totem use a far more self-sufficient alternative: a solar oven. Behan says: “Point it into the sun and during peak hours the oven heats up to 200-250°F (93-121°C). That’s kind of like having a crockpot on deck which slowly turns out a delicious meal over the course of the afternoon.”
It makes everything from slow-cooked meats, to cake, to sun-dried tomatoes. The only downside is its size. Behan says: “It’s a big box, it doesn’t collapse and it does take up a chunk of space. It’s got a special corner on deck where it lives, and we’d rather minimise what’s on deck, but there’s not another option.” However, they reckon it’s a reasonable compromise for a cooking method that not only makes delicious meals, but also uses no gas.
Behan has another trick up her sleeve for provisioning when in remote areas. She cans her own chicken, meat and pasta sauces, among other things, and maintains that homemade canned meat tastes far better than store-bought. “I’m a former vegetarian, but everyone else onboard Totem are die-hard carnivores. Heaven forbid we have too many meatless meals!” she says.
They also have what she calls a ‘ridiculous little luxury’ on board: a hand-cranked pasta machine. “We use it three or four times a year, usually for birthdays. It’s like a part of our family culture, so it justifies the space it takes up.”
Elena Manighetti and Ryan Osborn are currently sailing the Mediterranean on their catamaran Kittiwake and have a number of onboard creature comforts. In the galley their luxury is a set of ceramic knives.
“Ceramic knives are super sharp and simply cannot rust. All you need to do is handle them with care and keep them in a sheath so they’re always safe in their drawer on passage. Make sure the whole blade is 100 per cent ceramic and there is no iron. And don’t forget a sharpening stone,” Elena adds.
Another much loved item is Elena’s portable speakers. “We bought speakers that we charge via USB cable and connect to our phones via bluetooth or cable. Having portable speakers means we can listen to music or podcasts anywhere, even in our berth or on the beach.”
Matt and Jessica Johnson are cruising on a budget on their Trisalu 37 Elements of Life, but are still able to have a few onboard creature comforts. Jessica says, “We’ve learned to be pretty minimal and go without a lot of things due to space and cost.”
Enjoying some fizz
But sometimes it’s the small things that matter: “I just picked up a Sodastream,” Jessica says. “I really like carbonated beverages. I make a litre of sparkling water per day, and I love it!” Jessica also listed her Sport-A-Seat (an adjustable and portable cushioned chair) as a necessary luxury: “We use them as cockpit seats, but can also move them around the boat and even take them to the beach.”
For Mark and Jennifer Prince on Luna Sea (a Beneteau 393) good bedding is a top priority. They have a gel-infused memory foam mattresses in both their cabins, and say, “It’s like sleeping on a cloud. We bought a queen-sized mattress then modified it slightly to fit the berth. They’re not too expensive, easily cut and modified, and usually come with a cover. Sleep is crucial!”
The gel component is designed to disperse body heat, which makes it cooler than sleeping on traditional memory foam. It’s also possible to get pillows and mattress toppers made with this technology. Another option is a latex mattress, which is also very comfortable and cool. We have this type of mattress in our main cabin, and it gives us a very restful sleep even in the tropics.
Another key part of an enjoyable onboard lifestyle is keeping up with favourite hobbies. For us music is an important part of our cruising life. Nick plays the guitar daily, although he will bring out the banjo or harmonica when he’s feeling particularly jaunty. Some evenings have been quite memorable with people congregating in the cockpit with their instruments and impromptu concerts breaking out.
Yoga has been particularly popular amongst the sailing communities we’ve stayed in: you don’t need any equipment, anyone can do it no matter their level of experience, and it not only provides a physical workout, but is a chance to meditate or have some peaceful time alone. Many cruisers are early risers and practice yoga on deck as they watch dawn break. It’s hard to think of a better start to the day.
For more modern entertainment, internet connection is vital for many cruisers. Some feel that a lengthy break from technology and social media allows them to better enjoy all that the cruising lifestyle has to offer. On the other hand, cruising can be a lonely existence even in more popular grounds such as the Caribbean. Social media greatly helps to foster connections with other cruisers, which can ultimately result in close friendships on the water as you meet up with people you originally knew online.
Besides the practical requirements of keeping abreast of the latest weather forecasts, boating forums are also an excellent way of getting advice or information on all sorts of matters. For us, internet access is essential. We always buy a local SIM card with data, which we keep topped up until we leave the country.
To watch films or television; most cruisers have either a TV or laptop, along with a high-capacity hard-drive to store the movie files – which can be topped up whenever there’s free or fast wifi connection.
For many cruisers, part of the delight of living on board is to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle. Nick and I get a huge amount of satisfaction from living self-sufficiently and sustainably. So for us, living without some onboard creature comforts is actually part of the fun. That being said, a bit of luxury goes a long way to making life on board more enjoyable.