Well, it has almost been five years living aboard and we have learned some things over this time period. I will try to organize them into categories.
- Don’t load the boat with things that the books tell you are good to carry. If you don’t eat it at home, why will you suddenly develop a taste for it on the tossing waters? That can of corned beef may last forever in the locker, but that is where it will stay if you don’t like the taste.
- An amazing number of items do not need refrigeration. Miracle Whip – just always use a clean knife; eggs – turn daily and will last several weeks; condiments like catsup and mustard; vegetables such as tomatoes, green peppers; citrus fruits – wrap in tin foil and will last for weeks.
- Bay leaves in your flour will keep the weevils away.
- Bring lots of snack foods as they are expensive in the islands and you will entertain a lot more than you expect.
- Bring all your pop or mix and beer if going to the Bahamas. All are very expensive – pop $14 US per case and beer around $36 US. Further into the Caribbean, the beer prices are more reasonable.
- Cabbage will last a very long time aboard, as will sweet potatoes.
- Don’t leave carbonated beverages aboard, if stored during the hot summer months. They will burst during freezing temperatures up north, or hot temperatures down south. And make a mess in your lockers.
- No seeums are terrible. Tiny with the teeth of sharks. Their bites often become infected. Normal screens are no barrier and special no seeum screen must be used. When the winds die, or if you are on the beach at sundown, be prepared with sprays or screens.
- Roaches are inevitable, I guess. We have been very careful to restrict corrugated cardboard from the boat, but in tropical climates, it is just a matter of time. Bug bombs help as does boric acid powder. Mix the boric acid powder with sweetened condensed milk to make little ” pills ” for the critters to eat. Place the pills in lockers and near produce. The powder does no damage to humans but is deadly to cockroaches.
- Mice and rats are also a problem that can arrive aboard while at a dock. We carry traps for both, but hope never to have to use them. Avoiding marinas is our major strategy for prevention.
Cleaning Boat & You:
- Diluted shampoo of any kind will suds in salt water and can be used as a body wash. Many people use Joy dish detergent.
- Vinegar is very useful aboard. Added to laundry rinse water, it will help remove residual soap and soften clothes. Diluted, it will prevent mold and mildew and is used to wipe down teak etc below decks. Pour it down toilet to help keep pipes clear and the head smelling fresh.
- Once each month, we pour diluted muriatic acid into the toilet bowl. This will help remove the scale that forms on all of the pipes and connections.
- A string mop, dampened with the morning dew, will remove salt from your decks. Fresh water rinses are a luxury for marina stays, but a few days in a row with a mop can have the same result.
- The dinghy is your car and, just like at home, some people drive luxury models and others have old jalopies. But, buy the best and biggest that you can afford with an appropriately sized motor. When heading to windward into a large chop, you will be very happy that you spent those extra dollars. Our dinghy has been very serviceable, but now, after five years, we are facing the need to replace both it and the motor. Hard bottom dinghies are more rugged for beach landing and give a better ride for the passengers.
- Four stroke engine has been very reliable and fuel efficient.
Sun and Sea Protection:
- Dodgers and biminis are indispensable, as protection from both the sun and waves. Another large shade-making canvas that will cover most of the boat will act as your air-conditioner in the hot summer months. Also, a means of getting air circulation below is important. At anchor, the bow will usually face the breeze, but, at a dock, this will not happen. Our problem, still unsolved, is getting some air below during rainstorms.
- Lee cloths on your lifeline will give you more privacy in a crowded anchorage, but will restrict air flow. Some vessels are using screening dropped from the bimini. This has the same effect with the advantage of more air movement.
- Getting cash is becoming easier, with bank cards and ATM’s. But, many of the out-islands do not have these conveniences. Telephone service is often sporadic. Arrange for bills to be paid automatically or have someone at home do it for you. Carry enough cash to get by, just in case the ATM’s won’t accept your card. Banks will give you a cash advance on your credit card. In order to save the interest charge that this will entail, have a credit balance on your account.
- Getting news of the stock market is difficult. If this is important to you, perhaps a satellite TV system should be aboard.
- Most marina sell water, either R/O or cistern. The price varies, from island to island. Some uninhabited ones have wells that cruisers can find and use. Taste the water first, before putting it in your tanks.
- Watermakers are expensive ( purchase price plus vessel upgrades to provide the energy ), but certainly make it easier to stay ‘off the beaten path’. Also saves the captain’s back from the job of lugging 5 gallon containers of water. We have enjoyed ours very much.
I am not sure what else to tell you, except “if it is your dream, go sooner rather than later”. The islands are changing , year by year. More and more boats are out here. And our lives can change so much at the drop of a hat, the screech of a tire, or the words of a physician. Your dream may be modified while underway. Our original plan was too live-aboard all of the time. Now, we spend 6 months aboard and six months ashore, working for a few of those months. So, be flexible and find your own comfort level. Hope to see you out here.
Murray & Heather
aboard Windswept IV