14 Must Have Items For Sailboat Living

must have items for sailboat life

These top must have items for sailboat living are things that we thought we could live without, until we lived with them! These must have items will make living on a sailboat so much easier and more pleasant – in fact, you’ll wish you’d bought them years ago!

Adam and I were determined to live frugally and simply when we moved onto Hot Chocolate, our 38ft sailboat. When you live in a tiny floating home you don’t really have a choice but to keep things minimalistic.

the 14 must have items for sailboat living
14 must have items for sailboat living – this post contains affiliate links for products we recommend

Don’t get me wrong, you really don’t need a lot when you live on the water, but I wish I’d been a little kinder to myself and bought some of the items on this must have list straight off. Life on board would have been so much more enjoyable!

I’ve written this must have items for sailboat living list as a handy guide for anyone living on their sailboat or sailing for long periods of time. It’s intended to help make life a little easier for you – it’s not a safety gear list! There are many much more important items for sailing – this is just a handy list for anyone wanting to live on board!


Top Must Have Items For Sailboat Living

Here are our top 14 must have items for sailboat living!

a girl sat on top of a mountain thinking about must have items for sailboat living
These must have items for sailboat living should make life that little easier on board!

#1 Get A Laptop Or Tablet

Not only do these count as great backups for navigation and for checking the weather but we use our laptops all the time to keep in touch with family and friends back home via zoom or skype. If you have people you’re close to that you’re away from for long periods of time then having a way to communicate is so important.

We also use our laptops as TVs to watch films on in the evenings, and of course for work. Some kind of laptop or tablet definitely makes it to the top of the list for must have items for sailboat living!

Most cruisers we’ve met love their Apple tablets, but we actually prefer our laptops as they’re much easier to work from. If you don’t need too much grunt then my laptop is the perfect choice – cheap, capable and easy to use!


#2 The Internet Is A Must Have Item For Sailing

Even if you aren’t working from the boat internet has become a pretty essential part of sailboat living. We use the internet twice daily to check different weather and wind forecasts, we use it to look up information about the areas we’re sailing in or two and we use it to read other peoples reviews of anchorages or ports. We use the internet to research potential places we can stop to get certain work done on the boat or places we can stay for the winter.

a beautiful view on a greek sailing island
The internet has become an essential sailing item

It really has become a must have item in sailing and even though there are lots of people who will nonsense this – we know it is perfectly possible to sail without the internet – why would you when you can be so much safer with it?!? Surely the job of a capable skipper is to use all the tools at their disposal to make sensible and informed decisions.

Aside from being useful for sailing itself, the internet is a must have item for living on a sailboat. It enables liveaboards to stay in touch with family and friends and to keep up to date with the world news. You always have the option to completely disconnect if you want to, but we value having the internet and the opportunities it’s given us – in fact, we wouldn’t have the money to live this life without it!

Find out how to get the internet when sailing in our helpful guide.


#3 Foldable Water Carriers Make Sailboat Life Easier

a sailboat in a beautiful anchorage
Water carriers are a must have item for sailboat living

If you don’t have a water maker on board (or even if you do!) then grab yourself a few of these foldable water carriers. These are some of the most useful items for sailboat living that Adam and I have bought.

We like to spend long stretches of time at anchor and we only go onto a town quay when it looks like a nice place to be, or if the weather makes it absolutely necessary. We therefore hardly ever get the chance to top up on water.

Last season we were forced into town quays just to fill up, but this year we haven’t filled up from a hose all season, because we have these water carriers. We just top up from whatever water source we can find every now and again and we have enough to keep us going!

They’re pretty durable and with the handle they’re easy to carry to and from the dinghy. And once we’re done with them they fold super small and store out of the way (unlike the jerry cans we were constantly trying to find space for!)

If you have a water make on board then these would be great as a way of having some contingency water on board in case it broke. Two of these stores 40l of water, so they’re great to keep as a back up supply.


#4 A Must Have Item For Sailboat Living – A Decent BBQ

a decent bbq is a must have item for sailboat living - especially when living somewhere hot
A decent BBQ makes sailboat living a whole lot more pleasant!

I rave about our Cobb BBQ to anyone that will listen because it really has added a huge amount of value to our lives on board. Anyone that’s been sailing in hot countries will know that sinking feeling when dinner times comes around and you know you’ll be slaving away over a hot stove in an airless galley. We got so fed up of cooking last season that we’d fight over whose turn it was and sit and eat in silence as we tried to cool down!

This season we splashed out and bought a Cobb BBQ, and it’s been amazing. It’s free standing and the outside doesn’t get hot, so we can use it anywhere – on the teak, the bow, even take it to the beach. It cooks a whole variety of different foods, even bread (though we haven’t tried this yet!) and it barely uses any fuel.

This is a top must have item for sailboat living. You can read a more detailed review of all its features here.


#5 Get A Kindle – A Must Have Item For Sailing

For anyone that loves to read a kindle is a must have item for sailboat living. When you live in such a small space it simply isn’t possible to have lots of books, and when things get damp and mouldy so easily paper books really aren’t the best things to keep on a sailboat.

I resisted for ages, being a big lover of actual books, but this waterproof kindle is actually a really amazing thing to have on a sailboat. I bought it as a present before I left and it’s become one of my absolute must have items on my sailboat. If I could I would go back in time and tell my old backpacking self to give in and get one, rather than lugging around 5 novels in my bag everywhere I went! I love that once I’ve finished a book I can immediately get another.


a girl relaxing in a hammock reading a kindle - a must have item for sailboat living
Relax with a good book on your sailboat

#6 Waterproof Bags Are A Must Have Item For Sailboat Living

A decent waterproof bag or three is a must have item for sailboat living. You end up needing them for just about everything on board!

We love the ones that can become rucksacks as they’re great for provision runs or anytime you want to work from an internet cafĂ©. We also use dry bags for our mobile phones, for our grab bag, for our medical kit and to store electrical items that easily damage in the damp, salty environment.


#7 Record Your Adventures With A Go Pro

This is such a nice must have sailboat item if you like to record your adventures. I was a little sceptical about how much we’d actually use it, as we both have decent cameras for photography. The difference with a go pro if that you can take it absolutely everywhere. We have got some amazing footage of our sailing and underwater adventures that we couldn’t have got with our standard cameras for fear of splashing them. If you’re looking for a real treat must have item then this is it!


#8 Get Audible Subscription And Headphones

If you’re sailing with others then headphones and a subscription to audible is an absolute must have item for sailing!

It’s hard to find your own space on a sailboat but sometimes you really, really need to be on your own. With audible you can tune everyone out and find your own little bit of headspace, even if you can’t get physical space. I honestly think audible has saved mine and Adam’s relationship on a number of occasions!

We would recommend going for wireless headphones so you can move around the boat as you listen. They’re also really handy for boat yard work as they free you up lots!


#9 A Must Have Item For Sailboat Living – A Blender

a meal cooked with a blender which is a must have item for sailboat living
A blender is a must have for sailboat living

This has been a great addition to the sailboat over winter or in the shoulder season. We’ve used it so many times for making warming soups for colder passages or for chilly nights at anchor and it’s amazing what a comfort it can be.

I have to admit that we haven’t had as much use for it over the summer – but we have used it rather a lot for cocktail making! So I guess that in itself makes it an essential must have item for sailboat life!


#10 Get Polarised Sunglasses For Sailing

These are an absolute must have for sailboat living. If you live on board then you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, and a lot of time staring at the sea. Polarised sunglasses protect your eyes, stop you from constantly squinting and make seeing into the water so much easier. In fact, I find it pretty hard to pick good spots to anchor in without my polarised sunglasses on!


#11 Buy A Bread Loaf Tin – A Must Have Item For Sailing

Having freshly baked bread cooking in the oven is one of life’s simple pleasures, and having it ready for you after a long and tiring sail is even better. We use our bread loaf tin at least every week. Baking your own bread is cheaper to do and actually much easier, as finding fresh bread in little villages or remote anchorages isn’t always possible! A bread loaf tin is a cheap way to ensure you’ll always have the means to make something simple and delicious when on board!

a bread baked in a bread loaf tin - a must have item for sailboat living
A must have item for sailboat living

#12 Foldable Bikes For Long Winters On Board

These have been so useful to have. We spent a long time questioning whether they were worth the extra space they took up but they have been one of our real must have sailing items and we couldn’t live without them now we have them!

We get the most use out of them over the winter, when we’re often a considerable distance from the supermarket or shower facilities. Over winter they can be stored off the boat as marinas and yards usually have places you can easily lock them up, so they can just stay unfolded and in constant use!

During the summer we use them less, but they’ve still been really handy for times when we can’t get the boat close to facilities that we need, or for times when we want to explore further than our legs will take us!


#13 Buy A Hot Water Bottle – A Must Have Item For Sailboat Living

a girl with a water bottle - a must have item for sailing
In winter a water bottle is a must have item for sailing

I guess where you’re cruising will help you decide whether this is a top must have sailing item or not. I absolutely love having a hot water bottle on board for winter and for overnight passages. When it’s my turn on watch Adam will always heat my water bottle along with a cup of tea and I can cuddle up to them while I’m outside in the chilly wind.


#14 Waterproof Speakers Are A Sailboat Must Have For Music Lovers

Our waterproof speaker has become a must have sailboat item

We use our waterproof speaker every day without fail! In fact, it’s one of the most used must have items on our sailboat. Having a rugged, waterproof speaker means we don’t have to worry about spray from the sea or sand from the beach, we can use it anywhere.

Although sailing is sometimes pretty all consuming and adventurous, there are certainly times when it’s just a bit boring. Sometimes you set the sails, the weather is calm and there’s nothing around but a still ocean. You need to keep a lookout but you aren’t busy adjusting sails, and this is where waterproof speakers are awesome.

We use ours to listen to podcasts from Audible (you can get a free months trial using this link). We don’t worry about the fact the speaker is in the cockpit and could get splashed or thrown around a bit, and it’s plenty loud enough to be heard over our noisy engine too!

To find the right speaker for you check out our detailed waterproof speaker review.


We hope this has given you some inspiration on how to make life on a sailboat even better. With these must have items for sailboat living you’ll never want to live on land again!

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