Our Essentials   Leave a comment

There is an expanding list of things that Lee and I consider indispensable for life on the boat. We came by these things through trial and error, research, and recommendations. I’m including everything from sailing gear to kitchen equipment! Feel free to email me with any questions about specific items and their usefulness! (gear@muffinegg.com)

Clothing

Vibram Five Fingers shoes: Yes, these are those funny shoes with toes you see weirdos wearing (especially if you live in Denver or Boulder). They’re made by Vibram, which makes the grippy soles for hiking boots, and come in a variety of styles for me and women. Lee and I each got a pair before we left Denver and we are very, very impressed with how good they are for sailing. They grip the deck like nothing else while allowing your feet to flex enough for balance and agility. I don’t like wearing shoes while I sail but the Five Fingers are a great compromise between barefoot and shoes.

Downsides: It’s hard to find the perfect size, since toes are so irregular. They can be tricky to get on and they don’t keep your feet warm. In the Caribbean that will be an asset since we won’t want our feet getting hot! Also, there’s no cushion on the sole to protect you from bruising your foot and toes are still vulnerable to stubbing. These are kinda pricey but I’m sure there are deals out there.

Grundens Foul Weather Gear: I had a hard time picking out a foul weather jacket last winter but I’m glad I ended up with this one! My dad got me a Grundens Brigg 44 parka, size small, in orange. It’s PVC coated cotton, very thick, durable, heavy, and totally waterproof. I can fit plenty of insulation underneath and I love the snap closures. One of the best features is the inner neoprene cuffs that keep water from trickling down your wrist. At around $100, this jacket is a much better value than fancy sailing foulies if you ask me.

Downsides: the hood is a bit funky. It doesn’t turn with my head so I have to move my whole body to look around. This jacket is definitely on the bulky side and it makes me look like a fisherman : )

Bellingham Gloves: These are hands down the best cold weather sailing gloves I’ve used. By best, I mean best value for their performance. Fisherman really know how to take care of their hands while working. These gloves are insulated (warm and fuzzy on the inside). They have a clear, rubbery coating on the palms and fingers so they’re very grippy and give you good tactile abilities (push buttons, operate shackles, zippers etc.). The back of the hand and wrist are woven fabric with a water-repellent coating. My dad discovered this by sticking the pair I sent him under the tap. Of course he would think to do that! Overall, these gloves, my hands stay warm in these as long as I’m using them.

Downsides: not particularly durable, although I haven’t worn my pair out yet. The rubber has worn through in little spots so it seems like they won’t last forever. At about 5 bucks a pair, though, how can you go wrong?

XTRATUF Boots: I love my boots!  Along with the jacket and gloves, these were another great Hamilton Marine purchase. They are warm, waterproof, indestructible, and not overly bulky. I can get around on the boat without tripping and they have good soles for the deck. I got the insulated variety, which have extra-thick foot areas. This makes them insanely warm and provides some extra padding. Paying $90 for these from Hamilton made me very happy.

Downsides: Not breathable; not terribly stylish (but better than the other industrial boots).

General Gear

MSR Dromederies: After seeing my brother’s dromedery a few years ago I wanted to get one for hiking. In case you haven’t seen one, a dromedery is a bag for holding water. The MSR variety have tough, fabric-coated exteriors, straps for carrying and hanging along the edges, wide mouths for filling, and smaller sub-caps that unscrew for pouring. I finally picked a couple of these up with my REI dividend last year. They have been indispensable on the for getting drinking water from shore. We avoid drinking the tank water on the boat unless we have to, since it tastes a little tanky and we can make it last longer by drinking other water. The dromederies flatten out when they’re empty to they’re easy to stuff in a backpack to take ashore. They come in a few sizes. I got the biggest (10 liters) and second biggest (6 liters). That’s a lot of water!

Downsides: none so far. It will eventually be necessary to clean the inside of the bags, which might be tricky. These are a bit expensive, but worth it in my opinion.

My kindle: I love my kindle. I sing it’s praises to anyone who will listen. On the boat, it means I don’t have a ton of books floating around and I can download a new book whenever I want (as long as we’re not in the middle of the ocean). I get a newspaper subscription, which I enjoy reading in the morning while I eat breakfast. The battery life is awesome. Download speeds are great even outside the 3G coverage area. I should get coverage in the Caribbean and worldwide! The screen is easy to read. The kindle is light and I love being able to hold it with one hand while I read in bed (so I can keep as much of me as possible warm under the covers!). Amazon has all the books I could possibly want and I can read PDF’s or my own documents from my computer on the kindle.

Downsides: I’m pretty paranoid about getting it wet. Slipping it in a ziploc bag to read on deck when there’s spray works pretty well, though.

Computers: What are Lee and I doing right now? Sitting in front of our computers. We spend an embarrassing amount of time hooked to them. I love blogging and it requires a lot of computer time! Lee, of course, has his own crazy computer activities and projects. He also looks at weather reports and electronic charts with his big monitor at the chart table. His computer is actually encased in the wall of the boat, while I have a laptop. I like being able to take my computer withe me to cafes and anyplace else I can find free wifi onshore.What can I say? Computers are our favorite tools and most indispensable connections to civilization, our friends, and family.

Downsides: Wasting time. We get sucked in and can’t drag ourselves away sometimes. I’m sure someday the harsh marine environment will do in our devices. Oh well.

 

In the Galley

Presto Pressure Cooker (4 quart): I may not have had my pressure cooker for very long but I can already tell it’s going to be a key item for the rest of our voyage. Being able to cook things fast is useful on or off a boat but it’s especially nice when propane supplies are limited and dinner is often a hurried production. I cook a lot of grains and my aim is to cook even more, along with more dried beans. The pressure cooker cuts cooking times for these foods way, way down. I’m hoping that makes preparing meals from raw ingredients easy enough that I can cut way, way down on our processed food consumption (not that we eat a lot of processed food anyway). The 4 quart cooker is small and remarkably storable. It’s also quality stainless steel so hopefully it lasts. You need a metal bowl to go inside in order to cook grains (I got a round cake pan so now I can make round cakes too!). You can cook so much stuff in a pressure cooker, from main course to dessert.

Downsides: a lot of people including myself before I tried one, are afraid of pressure cookers. There’s no need to be! The modern ones are very safe.

Mori No Tofu: Yes, we eat a lot of tofu. This particular brand is packed in cardboard through some kind of process that makes refrigeration unnecessary. I ordered a box of Mori-Nu from Amazon before we left last spring and used them all up for various tasty dishes. Silken tofu is very versatile. I blend it up with spices and tomatoes to make creamy, protein-packed pasta sauce. You can stir fry it, scramble it like an egg, blend it into pudding or pie filling, put it in a smoothie, layer it in lasagna or enchiladas, and put it on pizza. I love that this stuff doesn’t have to go in the fridge.

Downsides: Silken tofu isn’t as firm as regular tofu so it’s not idea for grilling or stir frying. As long as you don’t mind it falling apart it’s great!

Canned Tomatoes: I’m trying to minimize canned food on the boat but these are something I can’t live without. I bought a 12-pack of diced tomatoes from Costco last spring and they quickly disappeared in pasta dishes, casseroles, and chile. Canned, diced tomatoes are worth their weight in gold!

Downsides: I can’t think of any…unless you really, really don’t want to eat canned food but it’s hard to avoid on a boat!


Sailing Stuff

The Solent Stay: Some kind of inner forestay was always part of the plan when Lee and I set out to find and outfit a boat. My dad sang the praises of having a separate stay for your storm jib that could be pulled back out of the way when not in use. Our sail guy from Hood brought the solent stay into the picture. He suggested a removable spectra stay that attached just behind the roller furling for our working jib. That stay would accommodate a solent (small headsail that attaches slightly aft on the bow) as well as a light downwind sail. That way we would never have to take our working jib of the roller furling and could switch gears easily with the other stay.

What we ended up with from Hall Spars was a beefy Ultrawire (spectra used for standing rigging) stay that tensions with a 4 to 1 vertical purchase. Part of the purchase system unclips so the whole thing can be pulled back to the mast and secured out of the way when we’re using our working jib. That way we can also hook the solent sail up to the stay while at the mast and pull it forward with the purchase system when things get rough.

The system has been working really well, with only a few minor glitches related the hank size on the sails. We used the MPG (light downwind multi-purpose-genoa) a lot in Chesapeake bay and we used the solent all the way from Maine to Newport. The solent even has a reef, which we’ve been experimenting with.

Downsides: Sometimes the purchase system twists up when we pull the stay forward. Our sail guys suggested adding a swivel shackle to dissipate the twists so we’re giving that a try.


Posted October 23, 2010 by Rachel

0 responses to Our Essentials

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  1. This is a new part of your blog, isn’t it? Very interesting. I do think you omitted something essential, though. You have each other.

  2. Rachel,

    I am sitting here at Kate’s house recuperating from a very bad bug.
    kate read your latest blog..WOW!!!

    You write so wonderfully, your blog is the beginning of a great book.
    I just read ” Half Broken Horses”,a historic/novel. A great read and your blog is equally wonderful to read..
    So glad you both are safe and a lesson learned regarding wearing
    life vest.

    I hear that there is a wedding planned in the future, Congratulations.

    Keep up the great blog…it takes time I hand wrote in a journal on the ttip last summer with your Mom!!

    Cheers to you & Lee.

    Celia

    • Thank you so much Celia! I’m glad you and Kate are enjoying the blog and honored that you like my writing. Life on the boat certainly gives me plenty to write about!
      You might also like my cooking blog, MuffinEgg.
      I’ll keep up my writing in both places! I really helps me process everything that’s going on. And yes, there is a wedding in St. John, USVI in the works!

  3. Kate is going to go get clam chowder!! Yummm and what great food such as Sweet Potatos!!

    Singing off,

    Celia

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