Sailing with Cats: Adopting a boat kitty

Our friends on Serendipity had been throwing around the idea of getting a boat cat for a while. So when they found out that Anthyllide got their sailing cat Allie from St. Marys last year, they decided to check out the local animal shelter to see if they had any kittens.

Sure enough, Georgiana, a 6-month-old gray-and-black tiger cat nudged and purred her way into Matt and Jessica’s heart and into the companionway of Serendipity. So naturally, being cat lovers, we offered to help out with any pet supplies they might need. And what it turned out Georgie needed was flea medicine. So Ryan and I hopped on our bikes and cycled a few miles down the road in search of a pet store.

After about 5 miles, we came across a boarded-up broken door on a storefront called “Pet Comics,” which appeared to sell dirty fish tanks, comic books, dolls, and used video games, amongst other oddities. Figuring we had the wrong shop, we turned to leave when a guy yelled from the parking lot that he was open and rushed over to insist that he had whatever we needed. And he was probably right because when he unlocked his shop, he opened the door to a bizarre world in which someone could buy fish food, plastic bracelets, Garbage Pail Kids cards, Sci-Fi paperbacks, plastic troll dolls and, it turns out, flea and tick spray…all in this one-stop shop for hoarders.

pet comic st marys ga

“Pet Comic Store,” where you can buy a Richard Nixon mask to go with your flea spray.

With flea spray in hand, we were thrilled to have thrown a few dollars at a guy who looked like he desperately needed to sell some stuff before he was buried alive under it, and to help out our furry friend Georgie by keeping her bug-free.

Not to mention all those kitty play-dates we could now start scheduling with our boat buddies, Serendipity.

matt and georgi

Georgie’s found a good home with Matt and Jessica.

Fishing for help in St. Marys, Georgia

We heard rumors of a local nautical swap meet near the town cemetery on Saturday, so we headed over to see what we could find. And the best thing there turned out to be Vonn, a local fisherman who was selling an array of used fishing rods and gear.

Ryan and I have been threatening to learn to fish for years, knowing how useful it would be to catch our own food while cruising. Only we’ve never had the guts to throw a line in the water – probably out of fear of actually catching something.

But Vonn turned out to be just the man we needed – he was incredibly patient and chatty, and didn’t mind at all that we knew nothing about fish, fishing rods, or how to get started. In fact, he seemed to get a kick out of taking us under his wing, explaining the difference between trawling and bottom fishing, how to tie fishing line to lures, what kind of lures work on what kind of fish, and showing us how to work a rod.

In the end, Vonn set us up with a trawling rod, which we can also use to bottom fish, for $35, and talked us through our new equipment. And though we thought we’d exhausted Vonn’s patience, he wasn’t going to just let us go there – he came back to see us the next day and bring us some lures he’d picked out from his collection, refusing any money and saying all he wanted was for us to send him a picture of our first catch. Which of course we promised to do.

It turned out Vonn once dreamed of sailing to the Caribbean on a 41′ Columbia sailboat that slipped through his fingers when it was sold to another buyer before he could close the deal. He told me that he ended up staying in St. Marys and made good money in property investment. But he always wondered in the back of his mind what might have happened if he’d bought that boat.

So, I think Vonn may have wanted to live vicariously through us for just a little while, and we were more than happy to let him do just that. The challenge now is to go catch a fish and make Vonn proud.

Ryan with his new rod

Ryan, showing off his new rod

Friday Night Lights: The Camden Wildcats

Black Friday found us running errands, rather than Christmas shopping, so we hired a local taxi to help us do things like get to the laundromat, get our hair cut and stock up at the liquor store. And during our trips around town, we got friendly enough with the driver, John, that we found ourselves later that night going with him to watch a local high school football game.

Ryan, who has converted from British rugby to American football with the zealousness of a born-again Christian, was positively giddy when John told him there was a “Friday Night Lights” playoffs game that night.

Now, when I say “high school football,” I don’t mean the brand of backyard football played at schools in my native upstate New York. In St. Marys, the local Camden Wildcats are as highly revered in Camden County as the NY Giants are in Manhattan. And the Wildcats’ stadium is only slightly smaller and less expensive (a slight exaggeration), attracting thousands of spectators and demanding $12 per ticket (not an exaggeration).

Ryan was like a kid at his first NFL game, asking John questions about the size of the team, the football culture and who the big players were. Even I thought the game was well worth $12, considering we got to nosh on some stellar southern BBQ, watch the fans pump their fists and scream at the field and, in the end, witness the Wildcats‘ win over East Coweta (an Atlanta, GA team) 34-14, putting them well on their way to becoming state champions.

If anything, it was a unique experience to see a game in action under the real-life “Friday Night Lights.”

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Camden Wildcats vs. East Coweta

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John and Ryan, engrossed in the game

Photo Essay: St. Marys, Georgia

How much I like a place seems to be directly proportionate to how warm the weather is and how often I get off the boat. By that criteria, St. Marys, Georgia is hands-down my favorite port so far.

Not only was the weather warm enough for me to run outside in shorts and a t-shirt, but the town of St. Marys itself was charming and understatedly beautiful. Though tiny and not at all a built-up tourist resort, St. Marys boasts quality food, a picturesque harbor with pelicans and sea otters, a few good museums, a waterfront snack shop with friendly clerks who are basically tourist information, an adorably sleepy main street, and stately trees dripping in Spanish moss.

But, really, above all, it’s the overwhelming hospitality of the people in St. Marys that makes you want to stay just a little bit longer.

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Walking along the waterfront is enjoyable in little St. Marys

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Cruisers can buy fudge and do laundry for $1/load at Market on the Square

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You’d be surprised to see any cars on the main street of St. Marys

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Residents drive around in some seriously souped-up golf carts!

no profanity st marys georgia

Watch your language here!

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Grace, standing under the Spanish moss

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Swinging on a porch swing by the waterfront

The sun setting over St. Marys' anchorage

The sun setting over St Marys Georgia

Cruisers’ Thanksgiving in St. Marys

With the anchor up at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning, we were back on our typically rushed schedule to cover 35 statute miles by a deadline: the 1:00 pm cruisers’ potluck Thanksgiving dinner in St. Marys, Georgia.

Luckily, the day’s journey wasn’t nearly as brutal on the ICW as the previous day’s trip on the ocean. The sun was out, there were dolphins swimming around the boat, the cats started looking happy again (even Celia made a rare venture out on deck), and we managed to eke into The St. Marys River at 12:45 pm with potatoes boiling on the stove and about 40 anchored boats in view.

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Bill, Grace and Charlie, on our way to St. Marys, Georgia

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Celia, bravely sitting in the cockpit

As the story goes, St. Marys’ Thanksgiving potluck tradition began 12 years ago when a group of cruisers pulled into the river to wait out a nor’easter. When they started looking for ways to celebrate Thanksgiving together, a local sailor named Charlie Jacobs offered to cook up a turkey for the cruisers, and the owners of the Riverview Hotel offered up their restaurant lounge so everyone could gather there.

And ever since, this tradition has continued, still hosted by the Riverview Hotel and its owners Jerry and Galia Brandon, bringing hundreds of cruisers from nearby and afar together each year to celebrate.

riverview hotel st marys georgia

Potluck Thanksgiving at the Riverview Hotel

For us, Thanksgiving was made particularly special not only because we got to meet so many cruisers in one place, but because we got to meet up with so many cruising couples our age, with whom we stretched the restaurant’s patience by staying long after clean-up, gabbing away about our experiences and our plans. And then, deciding we weren’t quite done with each others’ company, we created an impromptu, moving after-party that involved boat-hopping in our dinghies from shore to Rode Trip to Serendipity to Hideaway. In the process, we managed to empty all three boats’ liquor stashes, pick up Scott and Kim from Anthyllyde, convince Matt on Serendipity they should adopt a cat, make macaroni-and-cheese for 10 people and discover that our wee little Catalina 34 is actually a lot roomier than it looks.

And, funnily enough, at no point in the evening did anyone acknowledge that it was Thanksgiving or attempt to announce what they were thankful for on this day.

Maybe the holiday itself wasn’t important to note, or maybe, like me, those around me didn’t feel the need to remind themselves out loud what they had to be thankful for.

On this particular Thanksgiving Day, we were living life as though we were nothing but thankful for every day we had. And it seemed as though we were all so obviously grateful to be together at that time, in that place, and at this time in our lives.

Perhaps “thanks” just didn’t need to be said. It was simply felt very deeply.

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rode trip st marys georgia

Brian (Rode Trip), Jessica & Matt (Serendipity) and Bill

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Jessica, Tasha, Grace, Bill and Stephanie on Rode Trip

Turkey Trot: Sailing from Charleston, SC to Lanier Island, GA

With two more New Yorkers on board Hideaway for the week, we attacked our mission to get south for Thanksgiving with double the fervor.

Having left charming Charleston (made slightly less charming for being unseasonably cold) with our friends Bill and Grace, we decided to take advantage of the temporary crew and do an overnight jump south on the Atlantic Ocean. The mission at hand, other than “get warm,” was to get to for their famed annual cruisers’ potluck Thanksgiving dinner, an event that has become a legend amongst sailors heading south each year.

With 4 competent crew on board, I think we all hoped that the burden of nighttime watches would be lessened. But, as it happened, with record low temperatures and rolling swells, that wasn’t the case. At one point, when my watch overlapped with Grace’s watch, she came up on deck wrapped in so much clothing that all I could see was her eyes. And after sitting in frozen silence for an hour, she said slowly, “I don’t think I ever really believed people when they said they were cold. Now I think I know what it feels like. It’s awful.” I would have laughed. But I was too cold. So instead I buried my face in my scarf.

grace atlantic ocean st marys thanksgiving

Grace at the helm on her first night watch.

We were all relieved to have a break on Wednesday night, when we pulled away from the seas towards the ICW and towards Lanier Island, Georgia, to anchor. We needed a hot meal and a full night’s sleep before taking on the last 35 statute miles to St. Marys, which we needed to get to by 1:00 pm to make Cruisers’ Thanksgiving.

Lanier Island turned out to be the perfect stop-off between Charleston and St. Marys. It offered a calm anchorage, hot showers at the rate of $25 per boat and an impressive menu at the Morningstar Marina’s Coastal Kitchen, where the owner Jeff must have judged us to be hearty enough to drink tequila, as he brought us several shots on the house. He wasn’t wrong.

jeff coastal kitchen georgia

Jeff, owner of Coastal Kitchen, with my hangover in hand

I cursed Jeff’s generosity just a little, though, when Ryan woke me up at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning to up anchor. And then I cursed myself when I remembered the night before I had insisted boldly that I should pull up our 44-pound Rocna and 120 feet of chain myself, just so I could prove to myself that I am capable. We don’t have a windlass on Hideaway (as Ryan says, “The anchor’s replaced my gym membership.”), so this was no small challenge.

Though I was half asleep when I climbed out onto the foredeck, I woke up quickly and with a lot of wheezing and grunting as I fought to pull up what felt like 1000 pounds of chain, inch-by-slow-and-painful inch. And then I got an additional boost to my early-morning cardio workout when the anchor was freed and Ryan shouted that we were drifting quickly in the 2-knot current, which meant I needed to pull up our chain even faster so we could drive forward without fear of dragging the anchor and chain back overboard again.

Though my arms and shoulders were sore, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting the anchor up, and I made a mental note to volunteer to pull up the anchor more often so I could keep up my strength. After all, it’s important that both Ryan and I know how to do all the jobs required to keep Hideaway afloat and safe. It isn’t sensible to have important jobs that only one of us knows how to do, if the other is also capable. What if Ryan hurt himself or was incapacitated and I didn’t know how to set the anchor or pull up the anchor?

By pulling up the anchor myself, I learned the intricacies of one more job on the boat and I gained confidence in myself as a sailor.

Next time, though, I might forgo the tequila the night before.

lanier island georgia anchorage

Anchorage between Lanier Island and St. Simons Island, GA

Anchorage between Lanier Island and St. Simons Island, Georgia

Lanier Island, Georgia

Photo Essay: Charleston, South Carolina

Tasha’s View

With our friends Bill and Grace from New York staying on board Hideaway with us for a week, we thought it was only fair to slow down the sailing a bit and finally see some of Charleston before rushing off to the next port.

And this was what I saw with them:

king street charleston sc

The historic buildings of Charleston make you feel like you’re somewhere outside the U.S.

market charleston sc

The crafts and wares at the Charleston Market make for fun shopping.

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These little gems are found all over the city.

charleston sc mules

You know you’re in a tourist town when there are horses and carts.

tasha hacker charleston sc fountain

I’m not sure these two sailors are appropriately dressed for this swanky city.

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Even the gravestones are cute.

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Getting in some culture: touring the Powder Magazine Museum.

powder magazine 2 charleston sc

We learned a lot about the history of Charleston here.

Ryan’s View

While Bill, Grace, and I toured Charleston, Ryan stayed on board Hideaway at Pierside Boatworks on the Cooper River to oversee the installation of our new water heater, to discuss with a Raymarine technician what was going wrong with our auto-helm, and to figure out why our brand new electrics were shorting out on us.

So, while our guests and I were out exploring and learning that Charleston was once a walled city to protect itself from Spanish attack, Ryan learned that 1) there was nothing wrong with our auto-helm (we were just over-powered and should reduce our sails in gusty winds), and 2) our electrician back in New York, though a nice guy, was certifiably incompetent.

It turned out that all of our electrical problems led back to our Port Washington electrician — let’s call him Tony — who ran wiring for all our new boat gadgets (WiFi booster, chart plotter, anemometer, and lights) from the top of our mast down to our bilge and — rather than run wires to a connector box that was out of the water in a high and dry place, as common sense would have — he connected all our wires, unsealed, to a box that sat in our bilge…immersed in water. Now, I’m no electrician, but even I know water and electricity do not mix.

And, unfortunately, since Tony cut the wires short at the bilge, there was no way to extend the wires out of the bilge without replacing all the original wiring (which would require removing the mast again), and therefore Ryan needed to find a way to lift the wires out of the water and at least attempt to keep them dry in order to prevent more shorts and blown fuses.

The result of all this learning was 1) a makeshift solution using a piece of plastic (intended to be the cats’ food mat) to lift and hold our wires out of the depths of our bilge, and 2) a new-found determination to learn to do our own electrical wiring.

It turns out that paying someone to do a job doesn’t guarantee at all that they know what they’re doing.

So, because of all this, Ryan’s day in Charleston looked like this:

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Ryan and Bill, taking Hideaway up the Cooper River.

naval ships cooper river charleston sc

Naval Ships on the Cooper River, Charleston, SC.

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Raymarine Auto-helm, undergoing testing.

corroded connector box

Corroded connector box, removed from bilge.

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Ryan, discussing in-mast wiring problems with electrician.

hideaway bilge turf to surf

New solution – wires suspended out of bilge water by plastic

Sailing with Cats: 3 fun feline frills

Living on a boat, you get used to life without a car. We transport groceries on our bike handlebars and we frequent shops that are no further than walking distance from the port where we’re moored or anchored.

But anytime someone we know comes around with a car, we pounce on the opportunity like a frisky cat on a can of tuna. Which means that rather than treat our friends Bill and Grace to fruity cocktails on board Hideaway after their long drive to see us, instead we dragged them on a trip to Petco in Charleston, South Carolina.

Which is how our sailing cats, Charlie and Celia, came to benefit from these amazingly practical purchases:

1. The Litter Kwitter

litter-kwitter-toilet-training-system-2

I have coveted this Litter Kwitter kit (with DVD, shall I add) ever since I first saw this creepy cat’s face in a Skymall Magazine 5 years ago. As amused by the idea as I was, though, I could never actually bring myself to order a cat toilet training kit by mail. It just seemed wrong. I mean, does this cat not look like he’s thinking, “After I take this crap, I will get revenge by shredding your shoes”?

But, when I saw this box on the shelf at Petco, I knew it was meant to be. I could just see our cats peeing and pooping in the head, leaving our boat litter-free and smelling like a daisy. How amazing would that be?! So there you have it. You’re looking at Hideaway’s 8-week pet project for the Bahamas. I can’t wait to tell the cats.

2. Pet identification tags

charlie tag sailing with cats

charlie tag2 sailing with cats

Did you know you can purchase pet tags and get them engraved on the spot at Petco? No mailing involved. Genius! And since Charlie has recently taken to jumping off the boat and making a run for it whenever she sees land, it seemed like a good idea to get tags made with our contact info on them. Just in case one of our naughty kitties tries to run off with a tomcat.

3. Pet costumes

charlie hideaway sailing with cats

I know it was wrong, and I should not be sharing this abuse, but in my defense there was a Clearance Rack at Petco, which included some outdated Halloween costumes like this “Navy Sailor Cat” outfit. How could I resist when it was only $4?! Please send my apologies to PETA.

ABC…not as easy as 1-2-3

Cruisers often talk about provisioning for the Bahamas before leaving Florida, but no one ever mentions booze provisioning for the Carolinas when you’re in Virginia.

We’ve been plum out of rum, vodka and wine pretty much since Norfolk, Virginia, and it isn’t for lack of trying to find some. We’ve asked strangers all over North and South Carolina to point us to the nearest liquor store. And we always get, “You mean the ABC? It’s about 15 miles up the road. Take a left at the Hardee’s…”, and so it goes with the driving directions, which are of little help to us, as we wander around town on foot.

It turns out “ABC” isn’t some juvenile-sounding liquor store chain; it’s short for “Alcoholic Beverage Control,” which, apparently, is the product of an 1892 vote in favor of prohibition, after which the government set up a dispensary system in the form of state-owned, strictly controlled liquor stores. So the idea of controlling alcohol consumption in North and South Carolina is a historical institution, which adds to the quaint, colonial feel to the area. Unfortunately for cruisers, though, these ABC Liquor Stores are often nowhere near a town center.

But ABCs aren’t the only interesting relic of state government in the Carolinas, either. On this trip so far, we’ve learned that:

  1. Pump-outs aren’t subsidized in North Carolina. We paid $17.50 to get our holding tank pumped out, which was a surprise, since in New York and most other states, pump-outs are free.
  2. The NC Coast Guard requires boaters to keep a written record of the dates and locations of all pump-outs done in North Carolina. The USCG checks this any time they board your boat, which seems to happen often along the ICW.
  3. The Coast Guard requires that the valve on a boat’s macerator is not just closed, but has a wire tied around it. Eh? The presumption being that if someone were to accidentally disassemble our settee, then accidentally reach inside our locker and accidentally open the valve, expelling waste into the harbor, they would fail because of the wire so fastidiously tied around the valve? Really?

In any case, I blame bureaucracy for the fact that by the time we reached Charleston, we were pretty much a dry boat. And we were definitely in need of a drink after the previous day’s trio of fiascos: 1) we ran aground in the middle of the ICW channel at low tide, 2) the 31-foot Ben Sawyer Bridge was incorrectly listed in our guidebook as being 65 feet, which meant we got stuck for 2 hours waiting the bridge to open, and 3) since the bridge didn’t open until sunset, we had to navigate the 10 last miles to Charleston with a flashlight in the dark trying to steer clear of barges, unlit markers and bobbing lobster pots.

ryan horsnail hideaway turf to surf icw run aground

Ryan, frustrated by being stuck in the ICW channel

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View of our anchorage spot, while waiting for the Ben Sawyer Bridge to open

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Charlie, wondering how we could run aground here

But we persevered in the dark because were in a hurry to get to Charleston and prepare the boat for the arrival of our friends Bill and Grace, who were going to spend a week with us on Hidewaway sailing south. It took all of Saturday to get ready, scrubbing down the interior, doing the laundry, ordering a new hot water heater (ours broke in North Carolina), vacuuming the rugs, and converting our “junk room” back into the guest room it was originally intended to be.

There was just one, last, evasive chore on our list: stock up on liquor. And this was crucial because everyone knows it’s just plain impolite to have guests on board and not offer sun-downers.

So, the search was on. After a greasy brunch of fried flounder with fried oysters and French fries with a side of fried macaroni and cheese at The Variety Store, we were ready to take on prohibition. And, as it turned out, the Variety Store had a well-stocked ABC Liquor Store next door. So we checked off that last chore before Bill and Grace arrived to start their vacation in the adorable city of Charleston.

And what better way to see Charleston than to go out on the town with a group of sailors on a Saturday night to celebrate 3 milestones: Ryan’s 40th birthday, our 1-month cruising anniversary, and 1000 miles of travel on Hideaway?

With Matt and Jessica from s/v Serendipity and our friends Bill and Grace, we hit up the Southend Brewery for drinks and carried on the evening to Magnolia, a white tablecloth restaurant with stellar food where we got looked up and down with disdain because, though our scruffy foul-weather jackets were acceptable casual-wear in every port we’d been to so far, they were anything but acceptable in swanky Charleston. Women, despite the cold, were decked out in short skirts, sequins, big hair and high heels. And men wore freshly pressed shirts, chinos, leather belts and hair gel.

We stuck out so much that when we asked a stranger on the street if she could recommend a nice wine bar, her response was, “Well, you could try Bin 152 around the corner.” Then, looking us up and down, she said, “But not dressed like that.”

So we drank until our presence got as loud and unclassy as our clothing. Then we dragged ourselves back to Hideaway, where a nightcap turned into a dozen and the evening wrapped up sometime around 4 am with me hugging Jessica with drunken affection, Grace psychoanalyzing cruising couples, the guys smoking cigars up on deck and, most likely, our live-aboard neighbors grumbling about the noise…with the exception of a lone college kid live-aboard named Steve who came over and joined in the shenanigans.

If partying with 20 and 30-somethings is the proven method for fending off your 40s, then I can say for sure that Ryan had a good run at preserving his youth this weekend.

Meanwhile, classy, traditional Charleston may have learned the lesson that owning a yacht doesn’t necessarily make you fancy, or even classy.

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Jessica, Matt, Bill and Grace at Southend Brewery, Charleston, SC

The Variety Store Jessica, Matt, Ryan, Grace and Bill at Magnolia, Charleston, SC

magnolia restaurant charleston south carolina

Tasha, Grace, Ryan, Jessica, Bill and Matt celebrating Ryan’s birthday at Magnolia

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Celia and Jessica on Hideaway

5 best boat gadgets not made for boating

It occurred to me the other day that the best boat gadgets we have on Hideaway are not actually marine specialty items. And it made me wonder what other handy tools and toys might be out there, lurking on boats or in backpacks, waiting for me to discover them.

The boat business is kind of like the wedding business in that as soon as you add the word “marine” or “wedding” to words like “dishes” or “lighting,” the price triples. So, if I can find what I’m looking for in Walmart or online for a fraction of the “marine” price, I’m all over it. After all, plastic dishes are plastic dishes…they don’t need to be “marine” plastic dishes to be used on a boat!

If you have any favorite boat gadgets to share, please do! I’m always looking for great ideas. In the meantime, here is a list of my five favorite “non-marine” boat gadgets:

1) Coleman propane camping heater

coleman catalytic heaterThis one is at the top of my list right now because I’m cold. Simple as that. With temperatures getting down to the low thirties (Fahrenheit) at night, I’m ready to marry this thing, I’m so in love with it.

What’s so great about it? Let me count the ways…

  • It runs on camping stove propane, which is cheap and easy to find.
  • It’s small and easy to stow.
  • It heats up our entire 34′ boat.
  • There’s no open flame, so I don’t have to worry about it catching the boat on fire.
  • One can of propane lasts about 20 hours and costs about $2.

Concerns? My father insisted we get a carbon monoxide detector for inside the boat because he was worried the propane fumes would kill us. The $30 detector we bought in Home Depot takes a digital reading of carbon monoxide levels, rather than just sound an alarm when levels are high. And so far it’s shown absolutely no traces of carbon monoxide in the air as a result of using our propane heater. Zilch.

How much does it cost? $46.90 on Amazon.com. During our five freezing days on board in Hurricane Sandy, I would have paid double this price.

2) Cobb portable BBQ grill and smoker

cobb grillDesigned for camping and BBQ picnics in the park, this grill uses charcoal rather than gas and can be placed anywhere on the boat – the cockpit, the cabin (though not recommended because of smoke), the deck, etc.

What’s so great about it?

  • It’s engineered to stay cool on the bottom and on all sides, apart from the lid. So, while the charcoal is burning, you can actually pick up the entire grill with your bare hands and not get burnt.
  • Food tastes better when grilled on charcoal rather than gas (in my opinion).
  • There are accessories for the grill, which allow you to steam food, make pizza and do other neat culinary things I have yet to try.
  • All parts can be bought separately. So when you accidentally dump the charcoal rack in the ocean along with the charcoal (ahem…yes, that was me), you can buy the rack on its own, for a small price.

How much does it cost? $139.21 on Amazon.com.

3) Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner with DC charger

dyson hand-held vacuumRyan is kind of a neat freak, so without this handy little tool, he would be a much more difficult person to live with. But with our Dyson, most of our messes can be cleaned up in a jiffy. Cat litter on the floor? No problem. Bread crumbs in the galley? No problem. Cat hair on the cushions? No problem.

What’s so great about it?

  • A lot of hand-held vacuums don’t have enough suction power to clean up a large mess. The Dyson does. We even vacuum our floor rugs with it.
  • There are no vacuum bags to replace. You just empty the body of the vacuum and you’re good to go.
  • It comes with different attachments, both long and short, so it’s very versatile. It even has a bendy attachment, so you can get into those hard-to-reach places, like the back corners of storage lockers.
  • It’s rechargeable.
  • You can get a DC (cigarette lighter) charger, so you don’t need to use an inverter to plug it in on your boat. (Note: we had to contact Dyson in the UK to get a DC plug because they don’t sell them in the U.S.)
  • It’s small and easy to stow.

How much does it cost? Here’s the kicker – this one doesn’t fit into the “cheap non-marine” category, since it’s expensive at $329.00 on Amazon.com. But it’s an item that never dies and has a 5-year warrantee (which we’ve never had to use). And if you’re at all OCD in the cleaning department, or you have a partner who is, this tool can be used to divert many a bad mood. Just sayin’.

4) Collapsible bowls with lids

Progressive International collapsible bowlsRyan thought these were gimmicky and pointless when I first bought them, but in reality, we rarely use any of our other dishes now because these bowls are so great for everything: eating meals, feeding cats, storing leftovers (they have lids), prepping meals (which is actually what they were designed for) and serving snacks. Plus, they collapse down to the width of a plate, so they don’t take up much room, which is always a plus on any boat.

How much do they cost? $14.88 on Amazon.com for a set of 3 (1 big, 1 medium, 1 small). They’re not as cheap as your run-of-the-mill plastic bowls, but they’re much more versatile and take up much less space.

5) Nesting pots and pans

tuff gear camping pots sailingtuff gear pots nestedtuff gear camping potsI bought this set of pots and pans in Russia over ten years ago, when I was living there teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer, so I had these loooong before I ever stepped foot on a boat. But they’re the one item in my collection that I’ve kept through all my travels and would not dream of backpacking without. And now it turns out this little set is our main cookery set on the boat. Talk about long-lasting!

I can’t find this exact make of camping pots online, which isn’t a surprise since I bought these in Nakhodka, Russia from a shop we volunteers used to call “the mafia store” because everything in it was so fancy and expensive that only the Russian mafia could afford it. I had coveted this set of pots for 2 years while I lived in Nakhodka, so when I was about to leave and go hiking through Siberia, I splurged and paid a whopping $100 for them. Bear in mind, I only got a $220-a-month stipend from the Peace Corps to live on, so this was a colossal splurge. And so worth it.

What’s so great about them?

  • You get three different size pots (one of them a rice pot) with two different lids, a frying pan and a strainer.
  • They’re lightweight and indestructible – these pots have been carried halfway around the world in a backpack, thrown into the backs of buses, bashed around a boat, and there’s not a single dent to show for it.
  • They pack up to the size of a single large pot, which saves a lot of space in our tiny galley.

How much do they cost? Well, it depends on the quality of pots you go for. I couldn’t find this exact set, but I did find a similar, high quality set made by GSI on Amazon.com for $98.96. I also found a cheap set made by Texsport for only $20.58 on Amazon.com.

So, there you have it. Five of my favorite things on board Hideaway. (Other than Charlie and Celia, of course. And maybe Ryan.)

What are your favorite items (on your boat, in your backpack, or in your suitcase)?