Sunday, August 11, 2013


Annapolis, MD

... that crossover for use on a boat.

Now you're probably wondering why there's a picture of a Nerf football there. Who would guess it's a valuable tool on the boat?

There are a lot of things we use that are not technically marine products. Here are my Top Ten.

1. Nerf football

The Coast Guard actually gave us this tip. Instead of spending $20+ on a TruPlug, just get a Nerf football to plug any unwanted, gaping hole in the hull. (Note to self: Never make a hole in the boat large than a Nerf football.) Fortunately, we've never used it for its secondary purpose, but we've found yet another. When it's cold out, and we want to keep the warm air inside the boat, we use it to stuff the dorade vent:

2. Nylon Climbing Ladder

Our boat is hard to get onto from the water. We have a transom ladder, but when the dinghy is on its davits, the ladder can't be lowered. I bought this as an emergency ladder in case on of us went overboard, and thankfully have never used it for that secondary purpose. We keep it right at hand under the companionway door, just in case. Instead, we use it often for guests boarding from the side deck. If our dinghy is raised, and thus no ladder, we just throw this ladder over a wench and wanted guests climb aboard.

We also enlisted it once after a hurricane when the water was too high for us to climb aboard from the dock. Great to have -- and in perfect boat style, it collapses down to a small package.

Oh, and if you have trouble climbing into the dinghy from the water, it's great for that too!

3. Pickup/Car Straps

It took me an entire year to figure out how to secure our dinghy to the davits satisfactorily. Drove me crazy. Then I learned to shop in auto parts stores. They have a great array of straps that are heavy duty and somewhat weather resistant. Me = happy. (They have some good cigarette-lighter light options too -- and spray paints for various materials.)

4. Climbing Carabiners

I bought these at REI. I don't really know their strength or weight specs, so I don't use them for anything critical -- like strapping anyone I like to anything. However, they have come in handy for many things, including a quick, easy way to secure the anchor on deck. (Our windlass locks it in place, but I use the carabiner on a line as a backup.) Mine has been in full-on sun and saltwater(!) for over a year and shows no wear. That hinged closure is good for attaching a lanyard lest it go for a swim. I admit to donating one to Neptune before I figured this out...

5. Plastic Clip-On Clothespins

I know it sounds extreme, but I don't know how I'd get by without these little treasures. They are made to snap onto plastic hangers, but that little inside bracket that attaches to hangers fits perfectly on lifelines. YES! I try not to leave them out in the sun, because the sun takes a toll. We clip them under the Bimini, so they're close at hand.

I have found them at Walmart, at hardware stores and once at the Container Store.

6. Solar Lawn Lights

Most cruisers have discovered the many applications of solar lawn lights. We keep some lashed to the back of the boat for easy identification in a dark, crowded anchorage. I do have to put socks over them on night passages, because they kill my night vision. Amazing how much light they emit.

Lots of us use them as makeshift 'navigation lights' for the dinghy in Florida, where they require an all-around light after dark. Just hold it over your head like the Statue of Liberty. Here's a funny blog post about that.

7. Insecticide Sprayer

This treasure came with our boat. It took me a long time to learn why. I now use it for lots of things: bleaching the mildew out of the anchor locker; washing anything when I need to conserve water; cleaning up the deck after a muddy anchor raising; holding an extra few gallons of water in places where it's scarce. LOVE THIS THING.

8. Egg Timer

The old fashioned, turn the knob kind. No batteries required. Yes, we use it for cooking, but it reminds me that my laundry is ready to switch to the dryer at marinas. It wakes me at regular intervals on tough night watches. It makes me stir around every hour when I've been sitting for too long. It is my friend.

9. Locking Bins

The entire contents of our boat are contained in these things, food, tools, spare parts, paperwork, etc. I have tried every brand -- every one -- and I like the Lock & Lock brand the best, because, 1. They last and don't break. 2. They come in a lot of practical sizes -- and even an egg holder. 3. They have squarish bottoms unlike the Rubbermaid brand. This means you can get a lot more in them, and they stack more efficiently. Just remember the mantra: It's round, put it down!

10. Headlamp

Yes, you can look foolish too. Just get one -- or two. We've only had to anchor at night two times, but how could I have managed without my headlamp? It's also great for nighttime dinghy rides -- as long as you don't turn to look back at the driver. LOL

On night passages, we keep it handy for any potential need to go forward. It's impossible on a pitching boat to dedicate one hand to a flashlight. Of course, the foredeck light on our boat works for most things, but if you don't have time to run down there and turn it on ....

We use it for working on things in hard to reach places (and isn't everything on a boat?). Another valuable opportunity to blind your mate here. Night bike rides.

My favorite use of the headlamp: Our Norwegian friends on s/v To Be use the blinking feature for their weekly, onboard disco night.

Hi Norwegians! Hope to dance with you again soon...

What are your crossover products? TELL ME!

See also: TAMMY'S TOP TEN THINGS ... that make my life onboard better.

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