Top 15 Cruising Must Haves

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.


Rat was right. Messing about in boats is a life long passion for most of us and of the truly adventurous among us, we do it full time.

“Cruising” we call it. Living full time on the water and wandering around the warmer climates like the southern US, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

While which boat you use is almost as varied as the available destinations, there is one thing every cruising boat has in common – cruising supplies. Things every boat should have onboard regardless.

We left the dock with everything we thought we’d need from fire extinguishers to engine spares but once we got out here we found that there was a whole slew of stuff we never thought of.

This is our Top 15 Cruising Must Haves for 2019. We hope to save you some time and trouble as you get your boat ready to cruise.

#1 – Luci Lights

Luci Lights are relatively new on the market but in all honesty, we wouldn’t leave home again without at least four of them. They’re basically inflatable bubbles with LED lights inside. They have a little solar panel on top so they are a self sufficient, floating, weather proof, use anywhere anytime light. We hang one outside when we entertain guests. Use one in the dingy as a stern light. Hang one on the mast as a second anchor light. Carry them with us when exploring in the dark. They really can do just about anything!

Best of all, you can hang them on the lifelines or rail all day to charge and they’re ready to go again every night.

Price: $20 on Amazon, click here.

#2 – Fuel Filter Funnel

On the way down the ICW through South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida we were changing out diesel filters almost weekly. Clean fuel is hard to find, trust me. There is absolutely no way I would ever travel by boat again without one of these filter funnels.

This is the one we use and we haven’t had to change the onboard filters in four months and counting. It simply fits in the fuel filler on deck and we pump or pour fuel right into it. It’s cheap, simple, and very effective. It filters contaminates and water from any fuel you could use from diesel and gas to kerosene and other camping stove fuels. A real “must have”.

Price: $30 on Amazon. Click here.

#3 – Battery Monitor

A real Battery Monitor is something we simply could not live without and I could ramble on for hours about how amazing these things are, however it is the most expensive thing on this list today.

A lot of battery monitoring solutions exist but the cheap ones simply measure the battery voltage. This is fine when the batteries are sitting idle and not in use. 12.7 volts is full and 12.2 volts in empty. Easy peasy. However on a cruising boat your batteries are never “sitting idle”. There is always a charge or a draw present. For example, the fridge may be running drawing 6 amps which will make your voltage read low 12’s while the batteries are actually full. Or perhaps a solar panel is bringing in voltage making your batteries show 13.1 amps while they are actually almost empty.

Battery voltage is simply inaccurate and how much juice you have left will drive you crazy as you cruise around.

A proper battery monitor uses a shunt which goes between the batteries and every single electrical circuit on your boat. Nothing, and I mean nothing goes in or out of your batteries without the battery monitor knowing about it.

We use this Xantrex model and couldn’t live without it. Right now for example I know that my batteries are at 87% full. The solar is bringing in 27 amps, the fridge is taking out 5.5 amps. It knows I have a total of 450 amp hours in my batteries and I need 59 amp hours to get to 100%

It may sound complicated but they are very easy to wire in and use and will make a huge difference in your quality of life/stress while onboard the boat. Not having to guess is worth every penny.

Price: $240 on Amazon,. Click here.

#4 – Solar Shower Bag

You may already have a hot water heating system on your boat but as all things do in the cruising life, it will eventually break and you may be stuck without any way to have a shower for a few days while you try to fix it. Not a situation anyone wants to be in.

You may also be like us and not have any sort of water heater aboard. Either way, having at least two of these onboard will make your life so much better.

A solar show bag is basically a plastic bag that you fill with water that has a hose and manual shower head. Once full, you set it in the sun and after two to three hours the water as as hot as you could ever want. You then hang the bag up and stand under it to shower.

We fill our solar shower bag in the morning and set it on deck right away. By about 1:00pm the water inside is shower worthy hot. We hang the bag on the front of our mast about three feet above the deck and run the hose into the hatch in our head (bathroom). You then go in the bathroom and have a nice hot shower having used no electricity or fuel to heat the water at all. Two of us shower with the amount of water it holds without issue.

While you may not need one, it is a very good idea to have one or two on board just in case.

Price: $20 on Amazon. Click here.

#5 – Coffee Grinder

How would we live without coffee? No problem in a house right? Pop a pod in the Kurig and away you go. However on a boat things are a bit different. Having the room for a normal coffee making machine is rare and even more important to consider is the electricity the machine will use.

We buy whole coffee beans and use them in a french press and have never had better tasting coffee. Whole beans however need to be freshly ground for that perfect cup of coffee.

We’ve got two manual grinders on board and they are both this model. They hold up extremely well to the rigors of boat life and salt water environments and we use them everyday.

Grab one of these and you wont be disappointed.

Price: $26 on Amazon. Click here.

#6 – USB Ports

With so many devices onboard that need to charge, we found that the four USB ports we installed in strategic locations were simply not enough. These little round USB modules are simple to install by drilling the right sized hole and come with wires that already have an inline fuse. They work on 12v or 24v boats and have waterproof covers.

This is the best model we have found. Don’t be fooled by installing a cigarette lighter port and buying the little plug in USB port adapters. They corrode immediately and stop working. The product featured here is a solid one piece product and we stand behind it. It also displays the battery voltage which is a nice little feature.

I would install at least three of these wherever I could to make sure we have room to charge devices and avoid clutter.

Price: $17 on Amazon. Click here.

#7 – Fast Dry Towels

We get wet while boating, get wet in the dinghy, water splashes on everything. Being able to dry ourselves after a swim or wherever else the water lands with something a bit more “boat worthy” than a typical bath towel is a must.

We love the fast dry microfiber products and these are our favorite. When we are done with them we just throw them over a life line or rail and they are dry in minutes. We’ve got four of them and we use them constantly. There is nothing worse that a soggy towel hanging in a locker collecting bad smells.

Price: $26 on Amazon. Click Here.

#8 – Boeshield T9

This stuff is magic and should be on every boat.

Boeshield T9 is what Boeing uses on all of their airplanes to protect computer circuit boards, wiring, and steel from corrosion in the salty air. We have used it to coat the motherboards of our computers, all of our wiring connections, and the stainless steel parts on our boat.

This is a corrosion inhibitor and anyone why has used it swears by it. One can will last you for a year. Very worthwhile.

Price: $20 on Amazon. Click here.

#9 – Spotlight

Another one of those “don’t leave home without it” safety items. A good reliable spot light.

With a million to chose from it’s hard to know which to buy but if you know what to look for it get’s a lot easier. We chose this FATMAX by Stanley for two reasons. First, it’s Lithium Ion which if you know anything about cordless power tools, you don’t buy anything unless it’s Lithium Ion. They hold a charge longer, last longer, and charge faster – period.

The second thing that makes this the one to buy is the USB charger. You don’t have to run the inverter to charge it off of a 120v house plug, just use the USB ports you already have (you ordered some, right?).

We also like the little kickstand on top for setting the light down and aiming at whatever we’re working on. It makes it easy to point the light exactly where you want it.

As a safety device, we have used ours many times to alert other boats of our presence miles away. It works like a charm.

Price: $50 on Amazon. Click here.

#10 – Grocery Trolley

As you cruise around from port to port you will inevitably find yourself walking more than a mile or two to the nearest grocery store and you’ll be severely limited on how much you can haul back to the boat with your bare hands and trusty backpack. Enter the grocery trolley.

These things are invaluable aboard a cruising boat. We use our for shopping, hauling garbage, and the great thing about this model is that the bag comes off and we can use it to haul our water, diesel, and gasoline cans. It even folds in half for easy storage in a locker!

We wouldn’t even try to cruise the Bahamas or Caribbean without one of these.

Price: $50 on Amazon. Click Here.

#11 – Handheld VHF

You likely already have a VHF base unit on the boat and that works well for ship to ship communications. However, what happens when a crew member takes the dinghy to the beach or into town while the big boat is out at anchor? If something goes wrong, the dinghy needs some form of communication.

Also, we use the handheld while at the helm to speak to bridge and lock masters. It’s much easier to use than the big base station and very good to have when some of the crew goes ashore and others stay on the boat.

We love this particular handheld because the range seems to be a lot better than other handhelds we have tried.

Price: $85 on Amazon. Click here.

#12 – Multimeter

Whether you know how to use it or not, every boat should have a basic multimeter onboard. We use ours at least once a week. This little device makes troubleshooting your electrical system possible.

We chose this one because it’s simple. There are a lot more sophisticated multimeters out there but they use more power and batteries can be hard to find as you travel the seas. Simple is simply more reliable for us.

When something goes wrong electrically, which is will constantly, a multimeter is an absolute requirement. It’s the first tool you’ll go for with anything electrical and when used in the right hands, can diagnose everything.

I get called over to a lot of other cruising boats having issues and the first thing I ask before heading over is whether or not they have a multimeter.

Price: $15 on Amazon. Click here.

#13 – Headlamps

You can’t imagine how often you’ll use these headlamps but the market is flooded with them and it’s hard to chose. We love this model for a few important reasons.

First, it’s rechargeable by USB and you know how much we love USB ports, right? Also it doesn’t use conventional batteries like “double A” so we don’t have to carry around a drawer full of batteries.

Some things to watch out for if you want to buy a different head lamp… don’t buy the ones with the battery pack that sits on the back of your head when wearing it. They corrode and don’t work.

Also, you get what you pay for. A quality product is going to be in the $30 area, not $10. There are many cheap options on Amazon and they just aren’t very good.

Buy two of these. You won’t regret it.

Price: $35 on Amazon. Click here.

#14 – Cargo Hammock

Two in the v-berth and one in the galley, these hanging gear hammocks save a lot of space and never spill their cargo.

We love these for storing light gear out of sight and for fruits and veggies in the galley. It swings with the motion of the boat and keeps things from getting cluttered. A must have for us.

Price: $11 on Amazon. Click here.

#15 – First Aid Kit

It may go without saying but a lot of people overlook this important item.

We bought this first aid kit because it came with a well rounded set of supplies for many situations and luckily we haven’t had to use it. We like the easy storing bag everything fits in and we even fit a few more things in it that we wanted. A good buy and you’ll be glad you have it but we hope you’ll never need it.

Price: $26 on Amazon. Click here.

That’s it for our top 15 cruising must haves. Hope it was helpful. If you can think of any others please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading our post.

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