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Skipper’s Guide: First Day Of Charter

On the first day of a charter, your brain may be ready for vacation but just about nothing else is. It’s usually a long day full of hurry-up-and-wait and it can be very stressful. The best way to get through it successfully is to understand what’s coming, get yourself and your crew organized, manage expectations and then roll with it – because you’re about to have the time of your life!

Coming to the base prepared is your job as skipper. Put someone in charge of provisioning and if possible give them a list of must-have items. Find tasks for everyone in the crew because there’s much to be done and you want to keep your crew away from busy base personnel while you’re focused on the technical checkout and the chart briefing. When everyone is assembled back on the boat, conduct a safety briefing. Arriving with the right captain’s kit of items that you may need will make everything easier both on the first day and every day after.

1. Provisioning

If you’re good at meal planning and know your crew well, you should have no problems with provisioning. If you’re a captain who can live for a week on Dinty Moore stew, best leave it to someone else. You can order a partial provisioning from the charter base (which is easier but can be more expensive and less flexible) or you can go to the store and have an adventure (which takes energy, coordination and the ability to read labels in the local language, but will work best when there are people with specific dietary requirements in your group.)

For large parties, provisioning is always tricky. Share your partial list options with your crew before arriving at your destination so they have input.

Basics Items

Don’t forget items that are easily overlooked when you get to the store like matches, dishwashing detergent, condiments, sponges, trash bags, charcoal, and salt and pepper shakers.

It’s best to let the base provision weighty items like bottled water that will be delivered dockside. Alcohol, beer and wine is usually best left for your own shopping because you’ll probably find better prices on your own.

Eat Local

You may be chartering in a country where you don’t speak the language and won’t recognize the brands. Nevertheless, be adventurous and try the local brands yogurt, tuna, jam, peanut butter, snacks, etc. For example, French Polynesia is expensive and insisting on American brands is self-defeating, especially when there are so many local or French brands that are great. Why provision Budweiser when a delicious Tahitian Hinano is better at half the price? European brands of meats, cheeses and chocolate are excellent so forget Hershey’s and Velveeta and treat yourself because it will cost you less.

Most likely, you’ll be chartering somewhere hot. Think about how you’ll be eating and stock up on fresh local fruit and produce and skip the sandwich bread. Your body will thank you. Find out what’s in season and shop local produce markets that are educational, fun and cheap. When passion fruit and mangos are available, why pay for imported strawberries?

Less Is More

Whatever you think you’ll eat, cut it by a third. Shop small and often instead of loading up on a week’s worth of groceries at your point of departure. Your provisions will stay fresher and it’s fun to go into local markets and discover unexpected treats like Mahi mousse (a fish pate) which makes a great appetizer for sundowners. (Exception: in certain locations like Tonga and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, you won’t find much once you leave the base so stock up.)

In parts of the Caribbean, local vendors come out to your boat with fresh French bread and croissants every morning. It’s a terrific way to shop and will take care of your breakfast needs. Be flexible and enjoy these treats by having less aboard that must be consumed.

Give yourself the opportunity to eat out. Whether it’s a cheeseburger in paradise, curry in Moorea or cevapcici in Croatia, allow yourself the opportunity to explore the local dining scene.

Share Leftovers

Even if you dial in your provisioning well, you’ll have some leftovers. Ask a full-time cruiser if they’d like your unopened goods and water bottles. Sometimes the charter company staff is happy to take your extra goods even if the packages have been opened. If you overbought, you can at least feel better that it’s being used.

2. Keeping The Crew Busy

It’s best to corral your crew and assign tasks to keep everyone busy while you manage last minute payment details, do the technical checkout and attend the chart briefing. Not just busywork, these five jobs need doing and they give everyone a sense of purpose in getting the cruise under way.

Stowing And Storing

Ask someone to take charge in stowing provisions appropriately, including food, luggage and personal gear. Ask them to make a location list so you know where to find the pasta or toilet paper halfway through the cruise. Ask everyone to unpack their own gear and find a storage place for extra luggage or other larger items.

Self-Provisioning Options

If you opted to self-provision, send someone to the grocery store. Send enough people to manage multiple carts and lots of lifting but not too many or you’ll end up with provisioning by committee, which usually means overbuying.


Most likely, your base personnel will have already topped up fuel but assign someone to check on the water tanks and fill them if necessary. Water is precious on charter so make sure you leave with as much as possible.

Taking Inventory Of Toys And Equipment

Sometimes the base will provide supplementary toys or you’ll rent them so make sure someone checks that they’re aboard and are stowed properly. Among these items are kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, mask/snorkel/fins, crab or lobster traps, fishing gear, dinghy pump and oars, and a variety of floaty toys. Have someone lash the bigger items to the stanchions and wash and store your masks and snorkels.

Some charter companies will hand you a list of items that are supposed to be aboard like galley widgets, extra water hose, etc. Finding and checking off items on this list is a perfect task for crewmembers. Have someone check on the tools and the medical kit.


Finally, if you have kids on your charter, one person will need to babysit while everyone else attends to the boat and the tasks of the first day. Ask the base whether there’s a beach or playground or if kids can play games indoors.

3. Charter Safety Briefing

Once the crew is assembled and before departure, point out lifesaving equipment and review a few possible emergency scenarios and how to manage them.


Make sure everyone aboard knows where the lifejackets are stored and how to put them on. Make sure you have enough for all aboard and that the jackets are in good condition. If you have kids aboard, you’ll need to have special sizes.

Fire Extinguishers

Locate and discuss the correct use of fire extinguishers. Be sure to find every extinguisher aboard, check that it’s full, and discuss how to use one: pull the pin and aim at the base of the flames.

VHF Radio

Everyone, including kids, should know how to use the VHF to call for help if necessary. They should know the hailing and distress channel 16, how to change channels, and how to transmit and receive.

Medical Kit

Locate the medical kit and inspect its contents. Most charter kits are woefully under-stocked and often contain items in poor condition and/or expired medications.

Galley Stove

There may be multiple cooks aboard so walk through the proper procedure for using the stove/oven. Locate the solenoid (if there is one), demonstrate how to light the stove/oven, and discuss how to manage a fire – e.g. don’t throw water on a grease fire, etc.

Head Use

Yes, knowing how to use the head is a safety tip for two reasons. First, you want to make sure improper use doesn’t cause breakage or flooding. Second, when underway, it’s best to use the head quickly since a prolonged stay in a small and enclosed space may lead to seasickness.

Emergency Procedures

You can’t prepare for everything but a brief discussion of what to do in case of a particular emergency could mean the difference between a small problem and a catastrophe.

Man Overboard

Discuss the value of keeping calm and designating a watch person who never takes their eyes of the MOB. Review how to stop the boat and return to the MOB, and how to get them back aboard. Find out who in your group doesn’t swim.

Engine Issues

Review the importance of keeping away from hot engine and genset exhaust water when swimming, and what to do in case of engine failure during a critical maneuver like docking – e.g. never use hands and feet as fenders.


Determine who will be working with the windlass when anchoring and show its proper use – e.g. keep hands, hair and clothing out of the way. Also discuss what to do in case you drag anchor or need to sit anchor watches.


Whether the boat hits a dock, a rock or another vessel, a quick discussion of what to do/not do will help lessen panic.

4. Captain’s Kit

To minimize surprises, the captain should pack two bags to come aboard with on the first day – one with personal items like sunscreen, sunglasses, clothes, etc., and one as captain with a bevy of backup essentials and supplementary items in case the boat or crew are under-prepared.

Tourist And Cruising Guides

Although cruising guides are often provided by the charter company, what you find aboard may be in a foreign language or not in great shape. Be sure to bring your own boating guides along in your carry-on so you can read them on the flight and have fresh knowledge or good questions for your chart briefing.

Smartphone Or Tablet

With a built-in camera, phones come in handy to take pictures during the chart briefing and technical checkouts. Record the chart briefing to remember hazards, weather conditions and highlights of the area. Also, a tablet or phone with a playlist is a nice substitute for a broken shipboard stereo. Finally, a smartphone with coverage is a great way to call the base or reach (call or text) crew who have gone ashore.


Just about every charter boat will supply binoculars. Unfortunately, they are usually of low quality, or can be damaged or covered in something sticky that you don’t want near your face. Bring small waterproof binoculars to use aboard and on land for sightseeing.

Flashlight And Headlamp

A headlamp comes in handy when you need both hands to fix equipment or will be grilling in the dark. Shipboard flashlights are rarely in good working order and typically have dead batteries.

Handheld VFH Radio And GPS

Most charter boats will have a fixed VHF but an additional handheld serves two purposes. First, it will be a backup if the boat radio fails. Second, if it’s waterproof, you can give it to anyone taking the dinghy out for exploration.

Chartplotters are pretty standard these days but a handheld GPS will be a backup if the shipboard plotter stops working. It will also be a foolproof way to get your lat/lon in case you have no idea how to work the brand of plotter that is aboard.


With so many handheld devices and flashlights, it’s good to bring along appropriately sized batteries. More often than not, it’s the crew who will need them and you’ll be a hero if you have extra.

Tape And String

A multi-tool like a Leatherman is critical for quick jobs or when the boat’s tool kit is sparse. Any kind of tape is good – electrical tape is fantastic for taping everything from loose wiring to shoes that are falling apart.

Charter boats are always short on spare line. Short bits of small diameter string can help tie up a broken sliding door on a catamaran or secure a dinghy on its davits. Three 5-foot lengths of 1/8 inch Dacron line are good and they can be used for a knot tying class. Cable ties, are great for securing a pirate flag to a halyard or to jury rig a kitchen item.


First aid kits are required on charter boats and some are good while others have expired meds and slimy Bandaids. Bring basics including seasickness and cold medicine, small packets of antibacterial and burn gels, and fresh Bandaids in assorted sizes.


To keep bored crew from getting unruly, bring along a deck of cards and a game kit. These kits are small, affordable and usually have multiple games including chess, checkers, backgammon, etc. It’s a good tool to sit out a rainy afternoon on the hook or just keep kids entertained. Watch for flying cards in a breeze.


Lessons On Isolation From A Long Distance Sea Traveler

Isolated Woman Looking Out At Sea Dealing with social isolation at sea. Photo by Tommoh29/Pond5.

Long before the unsinkable Titanic, before Cook or Columbus set off in their well-appointed vessels, before the Vikings landed in Newfoundland, the Polynesians populated a swath of the Pacific stretching from New Zealand to Hawai’i via double-hulled canoes. Setting off into the great unknown has fascinated humans since the dawn of time, but what is it like to be out there, totally surrounded by blue?

Properly conveying this aspect of sailing to land lubbers is something that I have struggled with for more than a decade. Readers could relate to stories about harsh weather or equipment breakages, and people who have spent some time on the road could relate to sudden changes in plans. But, few could understand how it feels to spend days and weeks cooped up in a small space, with the anxiety of the unknown sometimes crushing down upon you, cut off from family and friends, being responsible for your own scheduling and cooking every meal for yourself.

That is until now.

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that we are all suffering through at the moment is giving anyone who is healthy but stuck at home a chance to understand what long-distance sea travel on a small sailboat is like. Albeit with a little less fresh air and a whole lot more connectivity. Still, there are many parallels between the two experiences, especially in terms of the social isolation aspects.

Living In Confined Spaces

While underway the crew are restricted, not only by the size of the vessel, but also by the weather conditions, sleeping arrangements and watch schedule. This can be a very trying lifestyle. Adding to the confinement is the challenge of constantly shifting movement. A mono-hulled sailing boat naturally heels, or leans, toward the side that the sail is set. The degree of heel is directly related to the strength of the wind, size and direction of the sea and the point of sail of the vessel. On a calm day a slight heel feels good, it reminds you that you are sailing. During heavy weather, when the boat is moving erratically, it can be difficult to even take a few steps in the right direction.

A boat underway typically has the crew doing watches, or taking turns navigating, steering and sailing the boat. When not on watch each crewmember tries to get as much rest as possible as the watch roster runs day and night for the duration of the voyage. This means that there is always someone sleeping, so it is important to reduce unnecessary movement and noise within the cabin even further. As well, bunks on passage are often smaller and more confined to ensure that a sleeping crew person cannot fall out while sleeping.

The Need To Be Self-Sufficient

When you are days, or even weeks, from reaching your destination you cannot call for a service technician to fix a broken piece of equipment, or get Uber Eats to deliver dinner because you are too tired to cook. Long-distance sea travel and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand.

Before departure crew members spend days taking stock of spares and testing all equipment and systems onboard. An inspection of the sails and rigging is preformed, and repairs are made, if necessary. Sailing routes are carefully planned out on charts, customs and immigration entry requirement for the destination are researched. Crews perform safety drills and properly stow unnecessary items, so they don’t become hazards underway. The Captain and/or the Navigator follow weather forecasts and predictions obsessively as they try to decide when conditions are most favourable, both to depart and for the duration of the passage.

As there will be no opportunity to pop down to the shop to buy more bread, a lot of time and organization goes into meal planning and stocking the vessel for the voyage. The cook must buy enough food to provide three meals and snacks for the crew for the entire trip. Knowing precisely how long a passage may take is impossible, as the speed of a sailboat can be hampered by weather conditions, equipment failures and crew health. Knowing this, many cooks make sure to carry at least 50% more food than necessary. Provisioning also covers crew consumables like dish soap, shampoo, first aid items and toilet paper.

The Importance Of Routines

Keeping a routine while at sea is not only important it is necessary. The watch roster, or work schedule, is a large part of a sailor’s routine, but having a personal routine for down time is just as important. It can keep you stable and focused, not to mention sane.

A traditional watch roster, which is still in use by most professional seamen and Navel officers across the globe, breaks the day up into 4-hour segments, often starting at 1200. Crewmembers work for one, 4-hour segment, then have one or more of the following segments off. Of course, there are several variations of this schedule. Some sailors feel that a 6-hour on, 6-hour off watch schedule promotes better sleeping habits. Some like a staggered watch roster; each day duties are preformed at a different time, ensuring no one is stuck with the graveyard shift for the whole voyage. Regardless of what template used, the watch schedule runs 24/7 for the entire voyage.

During down time the first priority is usually sleep. Establishing your sleep routine is critical to ensure maximum hours of rest while off duty. Perhaps it means listening to some soothing music, sleeping with an eye mask during the day or using earplugs to block out the sounds of the wind and waves. Whatever the chosen pre-sleep activity, most sailors find that after a couple days they can fall asleep within minutes of hitting the bunk.

It can sometimes feel impossible, but it is important to establish other personal routines while underway. Fitting in daily exercise when conditions allow, writing in a journal, writing letters to loved ones ashore, making an effort to shower and change clothes (no easy feat when the boat is jumping around in heaving seas) are all important activities that help sailors cope and stay positive during long voyages.

Coping With Feelings of Isolation

When confined to a small space, separated from loved ones and with limited resources it is easy to feel isolated. But, how would you feel if you couldn’t FaceTime, Zoom or even call friends and family? Internet connection while away from land is getting more reliable and affordable, but it is still out of range for many sailors. Often the only connection the average crew has while at sea is the ability to send and receive basic and essential information, such as up-to-date weather reports and short, text only messages. Downloads, streaming, NetFlix, Facebook, Instagram, even emails are often inaccessible. Ship to ship radio contact is available, however it is not designed for general conversation. Not to mention that anyone tuned into the frequency you are chatting on can hear everything that you say.

On our most recent, long offshore passage I struggled with feelings of isolation and disconnect. Our planned 8-day voyage stretched out to a 21-day odyssey due to both stormy conditions and becoming becalmed. We spent an unplanned Christmas underway, which turned out to be a lovely celebration, but only after I spent a day sulking. Our only communication was an emergency satellite phone, so our calls to family were brief and very expensive.

During that passage I learned the importance of remembering that most situations are temporary, even if they seem to drag on forever while you are in the thick of things. And that taking joy in the small moments of connection can ease the intense feelings of isolation.

Dealing With Anxiety And Fear Of The Unknown

Many people respond to unfamiliar situations with fear and anxiety, and sailors are no different. In fact, it is quite easy to get caught in a worry loop when you are days from the nearest point of land and weather conditions are beginning to seriously deteriorate.

It is true that sailors have some idea of what to expect before they put to sea, after all they have spent a lot of hours preparing for the event. However, every trip has its own set of unique challenges and unknown variables. Being able to acknowledge and work through those fears and anxieties is the key.

There are many things you cannot control, and on a boat a big one is the weather. In fact, weather conditions are probably one of the biggest causes of anxiety onboard. To avoid feeling like the situation is spiraling out of control it is important to focus on the variables that you can control. For instance, instead of focusing on how bad the conditions are at the time, focus on sailing the boat safely so that no one gets hurt. As well, getting regular sleep and eating proper meals is key to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Respecting And Obeying Safety Protocols

Safety protocols and regulations are different while a vessel is moving. Crew members are usually required to wear an inflatable PFD while on deck, regardless of the weather conditions. As well, it may be necessary to don a harness, or to use the built-in harness on your PFD, and tether yourself to the vessel along secure lines or strong points. This procedure is to prevent a person from falling overboard if they slip or are knocked down.

To prevent seawater from entering the vessel hatches and ports remained closed and locked, this also applies to the companionway boards or door during adverse conditions. And if sailing with a limited crew it may be necessary to inform someone if you need to leave the safe confines of the cockpit and go up on deck.

These safety measures sometimes seem extreme, and perhaps unnecessary. Especially when the weather is fine, and the boat is sailing along smoothly. However, it is important that all crew members respect and obey the safety protocols at all times. Safe practices build safe habits, and safe habits are the best way to prevent harm.

The Virtues Of Patience

Any vessel, regardless of its size, has a finite fuel capacity and motoring range. For smaller vessels that might be as little as 300-400 nautical miles. That means on a long haul, offshore trip it is necessary to ration fuel and engine run time. When the wind dies it may not be possible to motor for 2 or 3 days to find enough breeze to sail. Accepting that your trip will be extended is all part of being becalmed. Stressing about when it will be over is futile. It is over when it is over, you arrive when you arrive.

Of course, everyone’s experience is unique. With so many variables – your boat and experience level, the weather, the type and amount of communication tools you have, just to name a few – it is difficult to tell someone what to expect.

For most of us long-distance sea travel is not a sprint it is a marathon. One that requires patience and stamina and perseverance. It is rarely easy, but when it is over most sailors look back at what they have learned and are thankfully for how they have grown. As I recently read somewhere, we might not all be in the same boat, but we are weathering the same storm.


The Trawler-Life Trend

Whether the dream is crossing oceans and boldly exploring new places, or living simply and navigating familiar waterways, trawler life is the ultimate dream for many boaters. And from what I’ve heard, the lifestyle does not return void.

What is a Trawler?

2016 Kadey-Krogen 52 2016 Kadey-Krogen 52 Trawler. Photo by Kadey-Krogen Yachts.

Inspired by salty, seaworthy commercial fishing trawlers and shrimping boats, recreational trawlers were made popular in the 1970s and 80s by a handful of builders. Grand Banks, Willard, Kadey-Krogen and Marine Trader, to name a few.

Trawlers are known for their bluewater capability and have a solid reputation for being fuel-efficient. Typically, trawlers are equipped with a single inboard motor – the full displacement hull form is intentionally designed to only go a maximum speed of 10 to 12 knots.

Although trawler owners used to be a niche crowd of old salts and former sailors, this is no longer the case. These days, trawlers are again having more than a moment, they are having a resurgence.

Trawlers are Trending – A Resurgence

In recent years, the number of people open to the liveaboard lifestyle to achieve waterfront living on rivers, big lakes and on the coast, has exploded. So, too, has the number of boat builders introducing high-end, high-tech trawler designs, as well as new, faster models with a twist. More recent trawler manufacturers include Nordhavn, Selene, Beneteau, and North Pacific Yachts. A cousin to trawlers, tugs are growing in popularity, too, including models from builders such as Ranger Tugs, American Tugs and Nordic Tugs.

Ranger Tug R-25 Ranger Tug R-25. Photo by Ranger Tugs.

A peek at marketplace data shows that requests for more information about trawler listings are up 24 percent. And it’s no wonder Americans in the Pacific Northwest, New England and in the Southeast show tremendous interest for this type of boat. When there’s a lot of “ground to cover”, a capable yacht – with lots of built-in comfort – is required.

You could easily convince me to spend my summers on a home-y trawler in Alaska, the San Juan Islands, or in Seattle, then for some sunshine in the winter, chart a course to California or Mexico. Similarly, cruisers up in Maine and all throughout New England have thousands of miles of coastline to explore and it’s a fantastic cruise south to Florida or the Bahamas.

Other highly talked about routes like the Great Loop, which circumnavigates the Great Lakes and the connected waterways of the eastern half of the United States and Canada, are inspiring people to experience the world on their own terms. Trawler life has no rules and that’s part of the appeal.

Tech is Opening Trawler Life to More Boaters

For more insider knowledge about all that’s driving desire for trawlers, I spoke to trawler liveaboards and I connected with Larry Polster, the vice president of Kadey-Krogen Yachts, one of the first manufacturers of long-range trawlers. A liveaboard himself, he had the following feedback.

“There are two main factors that are currently driving the trawler lifestyle trend. The first factor is the sheer volume of people reaching retirement age. Baby Boomers are both savers and dreamers and their time is now. The second factor is technological advancements, and the one with the greatest impact on opening the liveaboard lifestyle to so many more people, is mobile data transmission speeds. With 4G, and now 5G, service, we have quite a few owners who do not plan to retire any time soon. And many work full-time from their boat – myself included. If you are able to telecommute from a house, there is no reason you can’t do it from a trawler.”

Larry’s Pro Tip: Any yacht can do two out of these three things really well: speed, seaworthiness, comfort. Pick your top two, and you will know more about what kind of boat you want.

Trawlers are Designed for Life at Sea

Again, thanks to the hull design of traditional trawlers, for any given length, a trawler will have a greater beam. Beam affords more living space on the interior, so there’s not only more room for closets and drawers, but there’s also more room for appliances. In fact, it’s not uncommon for trawlers to have the luxury of a washer and dryer for clothes and household-size galley appliances. Plus, multiple heads and staterooms make living aboard easy.

Additional key features people love about trawlers are the large picture windows that fill the interior with light, the dedicated pilothouse, and the easy-to-access outdoor spaces.

No doubt, if I had to choose I’d pick a trawler with a flybridge, accessed by a molded staircase, for open air cruising, dining, and entertaining.

Trawler Time

It’s already been said that there are no rules in cruising, but that doesn’t only apply to where you choose to take your boat. It also applies to how much you use it. Think you have to sell your house, your car, all your furniture to choose trawler life? Think again! While purging is freeing, some cruisers opt to keep a land-based home and only cruise part of the year.

Pro Tip: One thing you have to lose is a tight schedule. Because when a decent weather window opens, you are quick to get underway. Or the opposite, you might be stuck in paradise for a few more days!


Talking to grandparents who entertain their grandkids on board from time to time, and younger trawler owners raising families, I found it amazing to learn how much children have to learn while living aboard with their parents and siblings. Whether it’s a two-week vacation with grandma and grandpa, a summer spent cruising or a planned “gap year”, kids are educated by trying local cuisine, visiting historic coastal towns and absorbing culture. There’s a lesson at nearly every port.

Family time spent boating is incredible – there are high-highs and low-lows, but it’s the best kind of bonding there is. No matter what boat kind of boat is called home, what a gift to pass on to the next generation.

Pro Tip: Choose your boat cabin layouts wisely.

In closing, you’ll never be disappointed by choosing to fulfill your dreams. There’s something romantic about living life on the water with the ones you love, and a trawler is ready to take you wherever you want to go.

View trawler boats for sale on YachtWorld.


Best Boat Watermakers for Your Yacht

The marine industry has seen a recent surge in interest for trawlers and long-range live-aboard boats and yachts. It’s understandable why perhaps right now more than ever, a long-range, off-grid, on-the-water lifestyle would be increasingly appealing. However it’s important to consider the most sustainable options when outfitting your boat for the long haul – and having an ample supply of freshwater is often overlooked. While most vessels in this category have built in freshwater tanks, they are often severely limited by the tank’s capacity.

Ventura 150c and 200c watermakers Ventura 150c and 200c watermakers. Photo by Ventura and Katadyn Group.

Perhaps you are planning to stay close to docks, water lines, and shore power throughout your journey, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the added security of knowing you can make your own freshwater if necessary? Especially if you are interested in exploring areas that are a little more off the grid. Luckily, recent advancements in ever-evolving technology give you plenty of affordable options to outfit your boat with a watermaker that best suits your level of adventure. Here we’ll review the basics of how these systems work and take a look at some of the best products on the market right now.

The Basics of Marine Watermakers

Marine watermakers use the process of reverse osmosis to intake seawater and output clean, potable water suitable for any of your live-aboard needs. The newly made freshwater is then pumped into your vessel’s current water tank, while the leftover “brine” is thrown overboard. Most marine watermakers differ with regards to the method in which the water is pumped. Typically, the water can be either electrically driven (either AC or DC) or powered by your boat’s engine. Note that the colder and saltier the initial seawater is, the slower the purification process will be – so you hardy nor’east sailors may need to invest in a more high-powered system than those of us trawling down in the Carribean. Watermakers also come in all shapes and sizes, with modular options best suited for smaller boats, as the parts can be “stashed” in whatever precious extra cargo space is available.

Best Marine Watermakers

Let’s take a look at a roundup of some of the best boat watermakers on the market right now for your vessel.

The Ultra Whisper

The Ultra Whisper by Sea Recovery is best for small boats and sailboats, this super low power machine is specifically engineered for boaters with limited electrical options and can run on either AC or DC power, boasting a 75% reduction in power consumption over other models. It’s also very quiet (hence its name)so it won’t compete with your epic sound system, and operation is completely automatic with it’s simple start and stop controls. Sea Recovery also has another line with a wide variety of size and capacity options called Aqua Whisper – including a miniature version that measures only a mere 2-3 cubic feet, perfect for your day tripper vessel.

Village Marine – Little Wonder series

Village Marine also has a great line of watermakers targeted especially for trawlers and small sailboats, some with very impressive capacity, as well as considerable options for the mega-est of the mega yachts. The Little Wonder series weighs only 69 pounds yet has the ability to manufacture up to 180 gallons of freshwater per day. It also has a low RPM high pressure pump which is both economical and efficient, with the convenient modular design so you can store it in separate compartments if necessary – no “wonder” it’s so popular, right? We actually had the pleasure of adding one of these to our 38 foot family yacht on a journey down the ICW for the winter and it made such a difference for us because we had 5 people aboard and a limited freshwater supply. The installation was quick and painless, much to the relief of my father. Also, as it was peak tourist season over the holidays, there were definitely some times when it was difficult to find (or too expensive to stomach) an open slip for the night, and having the Little Wonder aboard enabled us to anchor where we pleased without having to worry.

Village Marine – LW Watermaker Series

Village Marine also has something for the big dogs – the LW Watermaker Series can accommodate boats up to 100 feet in length. A practical and reliable source for long fishing voyages or ocean charters, this feat of engineering can provide you with absolute water independence. Would you believe this series possess the capability to produce up to 1800 gallons of freshwater per day? It has a manual operating system that is both durable and fail safe, and also has a modular design which still gives you some flexibility in terms of installation options. This line is perfect for that person we know that always seems to be island hopping in Greece on their 96 foot super yacht yet never seems to invite us.

Spectra Katadyn PowerSurvivor

Titan of the industry Spectra Watermakers has a variety of great options ranging from a small hand powered pump, to commercial grade hi tech gear. The Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E/12 V is one of the smallest marine watermakers out there. It runs on a mere 4 amps at 12 volts DC, and is the only machine of its kind that can revert to manual power if necessary – making this one a great model to have aboard in case of emergencies. The PowerSurvivor pumps 1.5 gallons an hour, weighs in at only 25 pounds, and with it’s space saving design, can fit in even the tiniest of compartments.

Ventura 150 Watermaker

The Ventura 150 is one of the most versatile and popular watermakers on the market. Not only is it rigged for low power consumption, but it can also run on solar or wind power if you have the capability on your vessel. Like it’s name, this system can deliver up to 150 gallons of purified water per day, and possesses analog controls with an instrument panel containing a feed water pressure gauge and a product flow meter. This watermaker runs quiet, and is surprisingly compact and modular given it’s capacity. There’s also the Ventura 200T, which is the same size and configuration as the Ventura 150, but uses a higher displacement Clark Pump to produce more water, allowing it to operate in warm waters above 50F (wimps).


With all of the recent trends in boating leaning toward self sufficiency and sustainability, it’s easy to see why adding a marine watermaker is an intelligent investment for your vessel. Modern advancements in technology and modular parts have made these systems easy to install and incorporate into any on board setup – it’s all about deciding what is right for you and your particular boat. Consider how much time you spend on your live-aboard, where you spend your time, and where you wish you spent more time. Working to create a completely independent boat system will ultimately give you more freedom. Additionally, when coupled with solar panels or power, you have the ability to not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also to remain off the grid indefinitely – no longer having to rely on shore power or water. Imagine the possibilities.


Stocking Up: Provisioning Shopping List

Pro Tips For Packing Your Onboard Cupboards

Are your boat cupboards bare? Are your staples stale? Any good, safe boater knows it is best practice to keep dry goods onboard at all times, perhaps now more than ever. But let’s face it, are we realistically ever going to eat all that top ramen?

Previously, on most long-range boat journeys, the canned goods were seen as a last resort – to eat only after all of our fresh food got gobbled up. Or they existed merely in case of an unexpected turn of events or emergency. However, in recent days our need for stockpiling has become more prevalent. Yet that doesn’t mean our reserves have to be lacking in the taste department! Today, there are so many options out there for cupboard-worthy, healthy boat food that can store well and taste great.

Here are a few ideas to spice up the flavor department in your galley for the long road ahead.

Boat Dining Room and Galley

Photo: Pixabay (Licensed under Creative Commons Zero License – CCO)


Warm, comforting, easy to reheat and full of possibilities, soup will always be a necessity on your live-aboard boat. Probably the most common go-to canned good there is, yet it might be time to ditch your canned chicken noodle for some fresher flavors. Pacifica makes some great boxed soups which are lighter-weight when you’re trying not to overload your boat for safety and fuel efficiency reasons (our favorite is the roasted red pepper tomato bisque).

For something more exotic, Amy’s, the famous organic brand, has a Tom Kha Phak (thai coconut soup) that will certainly spice up your shelf and make you feel like you are in a faraway land (if you aren’t already there, that is.) For those of you craving something a bit more hearty, famed Californian Anderson’s split pea with bacon soup is the real thing, just like the restaurant. It’ll warm you up from the inside out and makes a great quarantine dinner.


Often overlooked as essentials (arguable fact – depends on how much you value flavor), add some pizzazz to your basic salt and pepper with these precious kitchen gems. Classic Old Bay may seem like an obvious choice, but be honest, do you have some in your galley right now? We all should, especially if we’re lucky enough to get a fresh catch while out at sea on an offshore fishing boat excursion.

Montreal Steak seasoning is another great option for spicing up your catch of the day. Harrissa, pesto, artichoke bruschetta, Justin’s vanilla almond butter, Frontera salsa, and real Tahini will also add a ton of flavor options to your staple profile, to put alongside jars of your favorite classic spaghetti sauce and condiments. Consider stocking up on regular or panko breadcrumbs for some heart-warming, traditional fish-and-chips. When properly stored dried breadcrumbs will keep for 8-10 months.


Ditch that corn syrup-y, underwhelming fruit cocktail with those maraschino cherries for some simple Dole Pineapple Slices in a can (bonus: they also happen to be great in pina coladas if the mood strikes you). Dried fruit is actually best to stock up on, particularly the organic dried mangos from Trader Joe’s. A lot of dried fruits and veggies can easily be rehydrated, which can be a blessing aboard once you run out of fresh groceries onboard.

Crispy organic sweet canned corn remains a classic staple that everyone can agree on. Sweet and robust canned carrots are surprisingly versatile and a delicious add on to a variety of dry good recipes. And don’t forget to spice up your regular stash of canned beans by adding a can or two of diced green chiles, or those famous canned chipotles in adobo sauce.


Many of us tend to have a big bag of Carolina white rice, and/or several packs of classic Barilla spaghetti or ziti on hand at all times. But, ever notice that those items seem to stay in the cupboard rather than ever getting eaten? They’re often our last resort – along with that jar of Prince pasta sauce. To add some variety, we love Near East garlic mediterranean couscous, mushroom wild rice pilaf, and spanish rice (don’t forget to add a can or two of diced tomatoes – which can liven up any recipe.) Add a bag of wide egg noodles, a more exciting pasta shape, like orecchiette or cavatelli, and some ready made polenta to your stores to go with your favorite pasta sauce to make things a little more exciting.


Probably the toughest areas for dry goods to replace the real thing are the meat and dairy department. If you like Spam, great, but unfortunately for the rest of us, our options are limited. Canned tuna and chicken (look for the kind that is packed in its own juices or water, vs oil/added preservatives) provide the healthiest alternatives. Try storing preserved lemon juice and olive oil for a simple fresh tuna salad, and Red Hot classic buffalo sauce can turn bland canned chicken into one of the most popular party dips ever made.

Because almond, soy, oat and other non-dairy milks have become so popular over the last few years, there are a plethora of fresh milk substitutes out there that come in lightweight cardboard boxes that can last a long time on your vessel. While many varieties are flavored and sweetened (there’s nothing quite like vanilla almond milk in coffee or cereal), make sure to keep some unsweetened plain options for cooking as an easy substitute for milk, cream, and butter in recipes.


For those of you that have ever eaten addictive goodies like Trader Joe’s Truffle Potato Chips, Parmesan Cheese Crisps, or those infamous Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, you are probably just as aware as we are of how easy it is to find delicious snack foods for your dry cupboard, but simultaneously how difficult it is to keep them around for when you need them. Our advice? Lock them up with the wine bottles if you have to – whatever it takes to keep you from gobbling up your reserves before it’s time.

Other, more health-conscious staples to consider are your favorite nuts – we recommend cashew halves and pieces – as they taste just as good as the whole varietal but are considerably lower in price. Peanuts and almonds are also a good idea for munching, and double as added crunch or flavor on top of a rice or noodle dish. Mary’s Gone Crackers has some great nutritious cracker options, which can go great with peanut or almond butter as well.


Nothing eases the anxiety of being stuck aboard like a bar of 85% cacao smooth dark chocolate – a must have comfort food for any sailor in it for the long haul. Brownie mixes often call for eggs, but with long-range trips and the recent surge in vegan options – coconut oil and almond milk can make a great substitute in many recipes. Comfort shortbread or gingersnaps are also great with a cup of tea or cognac, making those long nights holed up in the cabin much more cozy and enjoyable. Especially in times like today, it’s important to cherish the little things, and have plenty of sweet goodies on hand for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions About Provisioning:

What food should I bring on a boat?

You’ll want to bring as much fresh water as you can store, along with all the regular, essential staples (although some more sophisticated boats are equipped with compact, onboard marine seawater desalination “watermakers” that can safely convert seawater to drinking water). And as any experienced boater knows, it’s wise to bring dramamine (or another type of motion sickness medicine) to help prevent nausea between or after meals when the boat is moving.

How do you cook on a boat?

As we outlined above, it’s best to plan your meals ahead of time based on the capability of your ship’s galley, taking into consideration whether or not you have a microwave, stove, griddle, refrigerator, freezer, etc. You should also keep in mind space management when stocking up. If you’re planning to catch and eat fish, be ready to improvise given your catch of the day – and be sure to have backup options for those unlucky days (we all have them).

What snacks to bring on a boat?

Some of the staple boating snacks include trail mix, popcorn, granola bars, cured meats, nuts, dried fruits and frozen food such as hot dogs, microwavable TV dinners and packaged burritos.


Long Distance Boat Owning, for Beginners

The re-christened Corisande waits for her owners to return.

“Would you mind opening your case for me sir?” The stern expression on the security officer’s face at Gatwick Airport warns of trouble ahead. I’d already suggested to my husband Richard that attempting to take a digital safe through security in his hand luggage was insane. “It’s heavy, it’s got a dial and a digital display; they’ll think it’s a bomb,” I opine. But he is adamant; the safe he’d bought on eBay to install on our boat in Florida would sail through security without a problem.

As Richard unzips his wheelie case, I hold my breath, imagining all sorts of potential consequences. The officer, peering at the compact iron grey safe, stares, scratches his head and inquires, “What the heck is that?” I imagine him slipping on latex gloves.

“It’s a safe – like the ones you get in hotel rooms,” says Richard opening its door to display the interior void. “We’re taking it out for our boat; they’re just so much cheaper here than in the States.”

“Well, I’ve seen some bizarre things packed in people’s hand luggage but never a safe! Go on,” he laughs, waving us through, “off you go.” Zipping up the case, Richard turns to me and whispers, “See I told you it would be okay. I just hope he’ll be here next time – when I bring the radar scanner dome over!”

A new name is applied

Having bought a 44 ft Marine Trader Trawler yacht (as described in the October edition of Yachtworld Magazine) and found a home for her in Fort Myers, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, we were now confronted with the realities of long distance ownership. In comparison to what we would have paid for a similar boat in Europe, she was an undoubted bargain. But, although basically sound, she was in need of a facelift and there were some fairly major jobs to tackle before we could take her out on her maiden voyage. With budgets in mind, we were now confronted with the reality of renovating and maintaining a boat moored over three thousand miles away.

During our first visit to Florida as new boat owners, we stood on the dock staring up at our purchase with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Moored alongside the long, sleek, perfectly polished vessels at Legacy Harbour Marina, Lock Key Lady as she was then called, looked like a sad pre-fairy godmother Cinderella. Slightly shabby with a teak deck which had been painted with a shocking orange brown protective treatment, tatty hand rails, shattered side vents and rust-spotted stainless steel, her down at heel demeanour was attracting pitiful glances from our high-end neighbours. That she was also grimy and covered with seagull excrement that had hardened in the sun during the weeks in between purchase and our initial proprietorial visit, was obviously not helping foster entente cordial in the marina.

The teak-lined interior, despite suffering from a nostril-twitching mildewy odour, was in slightly better condition. Having come complete with a fully-fitted galley and furnished saloon, the cabins were well equipped, but in places water leaks had caused some timber damage. As far as making her comfortable inside, I knew a few trips in the hire car to the local Wal-Mart, Target and Richard’s new favourite, Home Depot would easily provide us with practical yet cozy accommodation. My main concern was who was going to tackle the big jobs like sanding down and restoring the deck? Given my previous experience of boating with my husband, I couldn’t help thinking it was likely to involve me!

Twenty years previously Richard, an extremely capable craftsman who can turn his hand to all but the most specialist boating challenges, had cajoled me into helping him epoxy coat and anti-foul the hull of our boat in the UK. I’d spent a week supine on the hard applying multiple coatings of glutinous green epoxy to her beamy hull. It was tedious, wrist wrenching hard work – and she was only a thirty footer! How on earth would I cope with this forty-four-foot deep-keeled behemoth?

And what about keeping her clean in between visits? With visions of me flying to Florida and spending my leisure time hacking off small mountains of dried-on seagull cack, I wondered if buying a boat so far away was going to be practical. But my misgiving came to nought as I discovered Blighty and Florida are separated by far more than a common language and the Atlantic Ocean.

“I think we’ll get the boat detailed,” said Richard proudly trying out his newly acquired American vocabulary. Before coming to Florida, I’d never heard the term “detailing”, or valeting as we call it in the UK, but here it’s a big bucks business. All round the marina, beavering boat cleaners busily apply floppy mops, sanding machines and polish to the dream machines moored around us. Also, I’d never heard of Richard paying anyone to perform anything but the most extreme marine tasks. But, as he pointed out, as long-distance boat owners we were bound to delegate certain duties that had already been factored into the budget prior to purchase. However, who could we trust to perform tasks that would often have to be completed in our absence?

Hiring subcontractors gives Beverly and her husband Richard time to work on fun upgrades, like new electronics.

The first lesson we learned was: listen to the locals. Our neighbours in the marina turned out to be friendly, welcoming and keen to give us the benefit of their experience. Local advice unanimously confirmed that the assistant harbourmaster at the marina was a much consulted oracle who could suggest the right man for each job. A detailer was soon on board spring cleaning the boat inside and out and restoring the previously malodorous interior to mint fresh status.

List making also proved essential. Knowing what needed to be done and establishing a firm time frame left us feeling in control of proceedings especially when leaving the boat for fair periods of time. During that first visit, Richard drew up an exhaustive list of essential work to be completed in order of urgency. Naturally, the more time spent on board revealed further previously unforeseen problems, ranging from difficulties with the pumpout to an erratic air conditioning unit. As the list grew, so did our address list of specialists.

Top of our “jobs to be done” had to be the teak deck. Judging by everyone’s horrified reaction to our offensively coloured deck, it was obvious we’d better do something about it – and quickly. The “oracle” recommended two brothers from New England who’d been brought up on boats and were considered by other boat owners to be the local timber experts. A complete refurbishment of the teak including sanding down and re-caulking was required. A quote was supplied, a price agreed and by the time we arrived for our second visit, the tufty orange brown surface had been replaced by lengths of beautiful silver teak.

This transformation led to much discussion on the dock. Men wearing baseball caps clustered about our boat exchanging opinions on what should be done now that the teak had been restored to its former glory. To varnish or not to varnish; to Cetol or not to Cetol, to teak oil or not, those were the questions on everyone’s lips. Richard, preferring the look of virgin teak, sought the advice of those who had laboured for days to get it into this superb condition. The brothers, employing enviable diplomatic skills, refused to be drawn and so their beautiful handiwork remains unadulterated with unctions. The restored teak also brought out the maternal detailing instincts in me since I discovered scrubbing decks in bare feet beneath a hot Florida winter sun certainly beats doing it in the depths of a grim British summer.

During subsequent visits, our positive experiences with various marine craftspeople brought further comparisons between boat owning in Britain and America. For those of us accustomed to the average British craftsmen who suck through their teeth, shake their head at the proposed task and offer a start date some time in the next millennium, the American modus operandi came as a welcome treat. Without exception, the people we’ve employed, from the two young women who expertly fitted our window covers and flyscreens to the eternally cheerful and hard working diver who every month cleans the entire hull of the boat, exude a real “can do” attitude which puts the average British workman to shame. What also gladdens the heart is that many of the jobs have been completed to the letter, on time and often in our absence.

This attitude has been perfectly exemplified by Doug, a good natured ex-merchant marine Chief Engineer who is not only a jack of all trades, but master of them, too. Initially contracted to re-seal a hatch in the never-ending quest to secure the boat against leaks, Doug has turned out to be worth his weight in greenbacks. Richard could discuss a problem with Doug who would then bring his diverse skills and ingenuity to the issue. Having left him with a list of jobs (from engines to electrics to plumbing) to be completed whilst we were back in Britain, we were astonished when, via email, he continued to keep us updated daily, conducted diagnostic discussions and solutions with Richard and emailed photographs of work as it was completed. On our most recent visit, Richard acted as assistant whilst Doug connected up various new items of electronic equipment and antennas. Surveying his handiwork, Doug observed, “Tell you what Richard, I reckon you gotten more antennas than a Russian trawler!”

Beverly at the steering station

Having found our boat via the internet, the web has continued to be instrumental in our quest to turn a floating ugly duckling into a fully-fledged swan. Everything from a replacement head electric pump to a new radar and anchor windlass have been purchased either new or secondhand via eBay or other companies. Items sourced from across the world have allowed her to be kitted out with all the marine toys and electronics Richard could only have dreamed of as a British boat owner all those years ago. Now re-christened Corisande after our original boat, even the hardwood engraved name boards for each side and the transom name lettering were sourced via the internet, made inexpensively in Britain, and flown over to the US in our luggage.

The many hours spent surfing the internet have proved providential. Whilst most items of equipment were generally less expensive to purchase in the US, some (like the aforementioned safe and, most surprisingly, a complete used Raymarine 4kw twin display radar and chart plotter system) were purchased on eBay very cheaply. Although this was a daunting challenge logistically, we still managed, rather remarkably, to ship these items in our normal luggage without any problems. Registering our marina with eBay as an alternative delivery address has proved very successful, enabling goods to be bought on US eBay from the UK and shipped directly to the boat, where the helpful marina staff looks after our goods until we arrive, or indeed put them onboard for us.

We have discovered however, that fabrication costs in the US can be expensive, as labour charges are generally higher than in the UK. As a result, we use a local engineer in the UK who can create precision stainless steel items far more economically than in the US. By carefully comparing and contrasting prices, Corisande has been renovated and equipped on a budget whilst permitting professionals to complete the more specialised tasks.

So now, a year on, we have a clean, well equipped, smart and safe boat which would have been impossible to either buy or keep up to scratch in Europe without spending a fortune. The internet has not only revolutionized world wide boat buying and renovation, but also permits the long distance boat owner to remain in communication and control. The only thing left to do now is start up those engines, leave the marina behind and start exploring Florida’s Sunshine Coast. But that will be another story.

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Yachtworld Magazine.