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Equipment Needed to Live on a Sailboat

I have a few months to work on our ‘wish list’ for our new boat, a 1993 Gemini 3400 Catamaran, that we bought in San Carlos, Mexico in June. Our crew list is expanding with a new baby expected in November, hence the need for a bigger boat, but that gives me some time to think about the upgrades we’ll want in order to live on a sailboat with a newborn in Mexico.

Our previous boat was a 33′ mono hull that we owned for 6 years. During that time we slowly upgraded and changed equipment to fit our needs for cruising on the east coast. Obviously your equipment needs will be different based on the climate and location of your cruising grounds. No need for solar panels if you cruise the Oregon coast line. By the time we sold our CSY 33 it was ‘almost’ perfect. I say that jokingly, working on a boat is a never ending list waiting to be checked off.

The 1993 Gemini 3400 that we purchased is very close to stock. Not a lot of equipment upgrades or add-ons. In a way, this is good news. You don’t have a lot of stuff to rip out or go behind and fix. Depending on your personality type, I’d rather install the equipment myself than be beholden to someone else when it breaks (and things always break). The Gemini is less dependent on electrical consumption that a lot of boats due to the propane refrigeration and water heater. This is good news because with an outboard gas engine, you don’t have a great source to generate power to recharge the battery bank.

This list of equipment does not include the obvious sail equipment like ground tackle, solid rigging, good sails, etc…These items are really the equipment we would want to make living aboard easier.

Here’s our short list of “Must Have’s”:

  1. Solar Panels. What better way to recharge the battery bank than to use the ever present sun in the Sea of Cortez?  I think about 240 watts should work great.
  2. Water Maker. There’s not too many ports in Mexico with potable water at the fuel docks like in the US. The water is also incredibly clear, making maintenance of the water maker simpler than in the brackish waters of the east coast.
  3. Composting Head. We had one on the CSY and it was GREAT. We could eliminate the holding tank, hoses, macerator pump, the thru-hulls, and most importantly the AWFUL smell.
  4. Xantex Link 20 battery monitor. This was an essential piece of equipment on the CSY. I could monitor battery use and determine the amperage draw for each piece of equipment on the boat.
  5. Bigger Battery Bank.  It now has a 120(?)Amp deep cycle battery.  We had 420 Amp hours on the CSY, I think 220 Amp hours or so should be fine on the Gemini.
  6. A 2000 watt inverter.  Having access to 110v is essential to use tools and appliances for living on the boat.  We wired it into the house outlets and could plug in computers and tools anywhere on the boat.

We have a few nice additions that are not really necessary but make life easier on the boat:

  1. A Wind Generator.  We had a KISS Wind Generator on the CSY and it worked wonderfully.  It was incredibly quiet as well.
  2. A dinghy davit on the stern.  Makes storing the dinghy a breeze.
  3. Cockpit Enclosure.  At least a sun screen would make life much more bearable in the early summer heat.
  4. Wind Chutes.  They attach to the hatches and duct air into the boat.  Good airflow is essential.
  5. Spinnaker poles.  Tough to keep the sails shaped when running downwind without spinnaker poles.

There’s a lot of work to be done on the Gemini to make her our own.  Inevitably you end up reworking things once or twice before you get them the way you want them.

There’s nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

My feelings exactly.

You know an ICE COLD draft beer in Mexico is a very affordable price of approximately $1.25! Click Here to Buy Us a Beer.

1 comment to Equipment Needed to Live on a Sailboat

  • Susan

    Helpful and impressive list. I’m just learning about sailboats and you’ve confirmed my thoughts as to the best items to have.