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Liveaboard Sailboat Checklist (16 Must-Haves for Boat Life)

Living on a boat can be pretty uncomfortable if you don't have the right equipment.

Living on a boat can be pretty uncomfortable if you don't have the right equipment.

16 Things You Need to Live on a Boat

My husband and I are going to buy a sailboat. After browsing the internet extensively, we are researching not just the yachts but the equipment we want. If a yacht we like doesn't have some of these items, it means we will have the added expense of buying them after the purchase. If it does, this is an indication that the current owners have looked after their yacht and it becomes much more interesting to us.

The list of equipment a boat can have on it can be immense but in reality, some of the things people have are window dressing, nothing more. We aren't the type of people who care about a yacht having a flat-screen tv or a stereo system, but we do want a safe and well-equipped boat.

This article is a wish list of things we would like to have on a yacht and why they've made the cut for us.


1. Sonic Anti-Fouling

A sonic anti-fouling system will work on steel, aluminum and fiberglass hulls, but not on wooden hulls. This unit, which fits on the inside of the hull, pulses an ultrasonic frequency. This electronic system keeps the worst of marine growth off hulls, leaving a film of fine slime only. This will reduce the need for frequent cleanings and haulouts.

We have seen few yachts with this fitted but feel it is something we would like; anything that reduces work has got to be a good investment.


2. Cape Horn Wind Vane

As soon as my husband did his research into this wind vane, he knew it was for him. It was proven faultless by its South African designer when he used it to sail solo around the world. The wind vane uses no electricity and is fixed onto the stern.

We would want this in conjunction with an electronic autopilot as well. We have read that the wind vanes don't do well in light winds so it will be good to have a backup.

3. Rocna Anchor

I am under no illusion that we are going to be spending most of our time at anchor or in a fisherman's harbour. One of the biggest expenses in boating is the cost of marinas, therefore we will be anchoring as much as possible. Because of this we need to have a robust anchor which is up to the job.

My husband was so excited when he saw this Rocna anchor at work (see video above). We would like a Rocna on a 100-metre galvanised 12mm chain rode, plus spare.

This is probably the very best anchor for rapid gripping and staying in place. A discussion about anchors and anchoring can become a quite heated debate. To my way of thinking, an anchor which you have confidence in is one of the best insurances you can have.

4. Water Maker (aka Desalinator)

Although the filters can be expensive, a water maker and spare filters are a must for us. Although we are quite fit for our ages, I don't want to be carrying water from the shore in a dinghy and hoisting it on board. A continuous supply of fresh water is a requirement, and although we would be cautious with the quantities we used, we don't want to run out.

The water maker is a desalinator. It is necessary to test the water before using. The test kits check for particles including salt and minerals in the water which is produced. An ultraviolet sterilizing unit to kill any bacteria is also recommended for testing each batch of water.

5. Solar Panels

Solar panels have evolved to become more efficient, and flexible. To make us as independent as possible we estimate 600W–1000W of solar panels and a regulator will meet our requirements. This will be more than enough to run the systems that are energy-dependent and will save on running the engine to charge our equipment from the alternators.

We want to be liveaboards but we also want a level of comfort; we don't want to feel like we're camping.

6. Wind Generators

For powering the bow thruster and windlass batteries, we want two wind generators.

We have seen these on many cruising yachts which do more than sit in a marina connected to mains electricity. These are usually positioned on the rear davits. Although I have read they can be noisy we will do further research into specific models for those which are robust yet quiet. Other potential problems occur in strong winds and some which produce too much energy for the batteries.

7. Electric Windlass

I have watched videos of young men and women retrieving an anchor without an electric windlass or even a manual one. I now know, I don't want to do that. I want to enjoy sailing and if I have to retrieve 100 meters of 12mm chain from the bottom, this woman wants some help.

We have also considered having a manual lever which is a backup option if the electric windlass fails.

8. Bow Thruster

For those very tight marinas and mooring situations, I think this is a must. I know purest sailors think this bit of kit is for sailors who have weak sailing skills. I am all for an easy life and this is something which we feel would be useful.

We don't have to impress anyone, we just need to get our yacht into a mooring in the most efficient way possible.

9. Hard-Top Bimini

I want solid protection over the cockpit to keep the worst at bay. For me, this is something I have had to put my foot down about. I want to be on deck but I don't want to be in the scorching sun or pelted by rain. Give me protection and I will be a happy crew member.

I have seen some excellent examples and some which looked so rickety I don't know how they are still erect. I want a bimini which will help extend the living space of the yacht.

10. Macerating Heads (Toilets)

A macerating toilet should do away with blocked heads and the nasty job of unblocking them. We are seeing these listed more and more on yachts we are looking at. These chew up the waste and allow it to be dumped in areas where other waste is restricted.

Used in conjunction with the sewage treatment device it will kill all bacteria.

11. Waterproof Grab Bag for Yachts

This is a waterproof bag of emergency kit over and above what is found in a life raft. This will include:

  • Water
  • Personal effects such as passports, driving license, ship's documentation
  • VHF radio to communicate with rescuers
  • Flares
  • Any medication, food such as inhalers
  • High energy bars
  • Flashlight, GPS device with extra batteries
  • A knife (although one is already included in the life raft)
  • An EPIRB
  • Aa satellite phone will help pinpoint you and you can call the coastguard

12. Life Raft

The last resort if your vessel starts to break up and sink. For rescue purposes, it is best to stay with your boat, but if that isn't possible then your life raft is your only option. These have to be checked and certified periodically.

It amazes me the stories I read of people who don't carry one.


EPIRB stands for Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon. It automatically gives the satellite location of you/your boat if a disaster strikes. It's safety equipment you hope you'll never need, but if the worst happens, you have it.

14. Radar

Mainly for night use in areas where you might come across fishing boats who don't have AIS or may not have it switched on. Also useful in the fog. I have read that many people don't want to use a radar system because it uses up the battery power. If it is a case of safety versus more solar panels, wind generators or a diesel generator, the choice is a simple one.

15. Sewing Machine and Sail Repair Tape

A suitable sewing machine for repairing ripped and damaged sails. This is a case of better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. If you have a large tear in a sail, sewing by hand is going to be difficult and time-consuming.

Keeping a machine stored for this and other sewing needs is something we want. Not only that, it could prove a handy way to supplement the cruising budget if other sailors need cushions, sails or biminis mended.

Sail repair tape, a strong self-adhesive tape can be used for a temporary fix. Made of dacron, it should be applied over the small tear on both sides of a clean sail. We feel it is a good idea to have this as part of a spares and repair kit.

16. AIS Transponder

I personally see this as a crucial part of sailing equipment. This is positioned on the mast and transmits and receives a signal so you can see who is out there and likewise if the other ships have AIS they can see you.

Wish List of Yacht Gear

This is by no means a complete list of equipment we want on our yacht, but it makes a good starting point. Researching various models of each product is also important. This can be done on forums, and many of the sites have personal reviews from customers who have purchased the product.

© 2017 Meredith Davies


Captain Bob on September 18, 2020:

How about boat to shore, while at anchor?