The Little Things

Here's a quick look at some things that have definitely earned their keep aboard Lyra.

Lyra sunset

Jen Brett

I've lived aboard boats for almost eight years now, first a 32-foot Pearson Vanguard, and now our 44-foot Reliance ketch, and I've learned quite a bit about how to make a boat liveable and not go crazy—even with kids aboard. As I was changing the sheets in the V-berth yesterday, it occurred to me how useful—of all things—the mattress protector has been (I'll explain) and that other boat-dwellers might want to know about it. Which got me thinking about what other inexpensive, easily obtainable, non-"marine" gear I use every day that make life aboard better—here are a few things I've come up with. This list doesn't include baby/kid gear, because that's a whole 'nother post.

In no particular order:

IKEA mattress protector
It sounds silly, but this mattress protector is awesome and it's totally saved my mattress. Basically, it's a thin, terry-cloth cover that's backed by a waterproof membrane, and it works really, really well. It earned its keep when we were out for a nice daysail around Conanicut Island here in R.I., and upon re-entereing Narragansett Bay's East Passage (where the water can get really choppy), we took a decent sized wave over the bow, and being a nice calm day, the forward hatch wasn't dogged down. My mistake. The water poured in and soaked all our bedding, but thanks to this mattress protector, our awesome latex mattress (if you're gonna live on your boat, you need a comfy mattress) was bone dry. Thank God, because I have no idea how I would have rinsed and dried it, and it probably would then have always felt dank. The best part is that this protector is less that $30 for the king size, which fits my v-berth almost perfectly.

• Silicone bakeware
When we went cruising aboard Egret, our Vanguard, we were in the tropics, and if something could rust, it did. And that included all of our baking pans. Now silicone bakeware is easy to find and pretty inexpensive. It doesn't rust, it's quite non-stick (easy to clean), doesn't rattle when we're under way, and can be somewhat smooshed into tight lockers. Lots of items are collapsible too, which is great for space savings- think things like measuring cups and colanders. As far as bread pans go though, I've invested in some high quality metal pans, even though I know the rust is inevitable, because the crust comes out better.

Coffee press
This coffee press is awesome—we've been using it for years, even when we lived ashore. It makes great coffee, uses no electricity, keeps the coffee fairly hot for a while, and is not glass. You can find it for around $30 or less and replacement parts are easy to get online (we've only had to replace the screen twice).

• Label maker
Even if you aren't an organized neat freak now, you will become one on a boat eventually. After all these years the biggest piece of advice I can tell people is have a home for everything. If you're moving aboard from a house, get rid of as much stuff as possible and then get rid of some more. With two kids aboard who seem to constantly acquire things, it's a daily battle for me. But it's necessary for my sanity. Labeling things just seems to bring a level of clarity aboard that's really refreshing. I think that I picked up ours for about $20 at an office supply store.

Shower head
Here's another thing that sounds silly, but is totally necessary. Being able to take a nice shower onboard is huge for morale, and this shower head is great. It's cheap (less than $20), easy to get (Walmart), and most importantly, it has an on/off switch so you can easily turn the water off while you lather up.

• e-reader and iPod
So neither of these happen to be inexpensive, but they probably represent the biggest change in onboard entertainment since my husband and I first went cruising in 2003. Waaaay back then, we had to keep tons of books and CDs onboard which takes up an amazing amount of space- not to mention that CDs scratch easily and books can get moldy. Another great addition to onboard living is Netflix. As long as you have a decent internet connection, you can have an almost unlimited collection of movies to watch on your computer (again, fewer things to find homes aboard for).

So that's my quick list! (I'm sure I'll think of some more things to add on....) What are your favorite inexpensive finds?