Simply Indispensable: The Best Boat Equipment
After four years of full-time cruising, the Clarkes share the gear and equipment that have been worth their salt aboard Osprey. 'Hands-On Sailor' Seamanship from the January 2013 issue of Cruising World.
When we were preparing Osprey, our Adams 45 steel cutter, for full-time cruising and living aboard by a family of four, we did what so many other soon-to-be-cruisers do: We read and researched. And talked and listened. And read and researched some more. Though we’d been sailing all our lives, liveaboard cruising would be an entirely new thing for us. And while we had some pretty firm ideas about what we did and didn’t want, much of the new equipment and even some new systems on Osprey were more or less experiments, based more on how they’d worked for other boats and people than for us.
This is the leap of faith that, to one extent or another, we all must make, whether we’re placing that faith in our own judgment and capabilities or in those of an experienced boatyard staff or other pros. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. When that’s happened, we’ve had to suck it up, financially and emotionally, and find something that does work. (And it’s often far more than just a financial issue when something fails. It’s no fun to have one’s confidence shaken in one’s judgment, and it’s almost invariably a logistical challenge as well.)
Sometimes, though, things work really well, even better than we’d hoped. So we’ve come up with a list of the ideas and gear that have consistently proven themselves—both on passage and hanging out on the anchor—over the four years we’ve cruised aboard Osprey in the hopes that it might provide food for thought for those of you chewing over similar issues.
One caveat: These have worked for us, on our boat, in the places we’ve sailed. They might not work the same way for others. You still have to make the choices that seem best for your own boat and for the type of cruising you want to do.
Wind generators: Our pair of Eclectic Energy D400s, while complicated and expensive to install, have been worth every penny. We’re happiest on those windy days at anchor, since they work best when we have winds of at least 15 knots, even better with a little more. Their production falls off sharply at low wind speeds. What we love most about them—and what constantly draws other cruisers to ask questions—is how quietly they operate. Even in 20 knots of wind, we barely notice them. Interestingly, when we first came out here, we rarely saw D400s, and then mostly on European boats. Now we’re seeing them everywhere, and on more American boats.
Solar panels: Our four panels—two Shell 85s and two Kyocera 135s—and the controller have worked extremely well. The only thing we’d change would be to add more of them, and to build movable brackets so that the panels—ours are presently fixed in place—can be angled to capture more sun throughout the day. When we were prepping for cruising, a good friend who’d been out already for two years recommended a combination of wind and solar power. We listened, and we’re passing on the advice here. Many times we’ve been under way or at anchor on cloudy but windy days or on windless but sunny days and still able to make plenty of juice in either situation, while friends with only solar or only wind power—or, worse still, neither at all—had to resort to a genset or the main engine to keep their batteries up.