How to Prepare for a Day, a Week, or a Month Afloat

By: Richard Crowder

Cruising and living aboard your boat is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of boat ownership. Living and travelling by water will open a new level of appreciation for this great country and its waterways. They are rightfully the envy of the world.


That being said, how you pack and provision for your time aboard can greatly enhance or detract from the experience. The general idea is to pack enough to take care of most expectations and emergency situations, but without over-packing, overloading, or overcrowding your living space.

So how do you assess your situation and your needs? Start by looking at the size of your boat, the available storage space, the number of people (and pets) aboard, and the duration of your cruise. These are the key factors that will all affect the quantity and selection items that we’ll discuss below. Where you stay overnight – at town docks or marinas where supplies are mostly readily available, or at anchor in secluded coves where nothing is readily available, will also affect quantity and selection of what you pack.

First things first- before you depart any port, always ensure your fresh water tank is full of fresh new water and your toilet holding tank is empty. Obvious items like spare clothing or foodstuffs may need to be reconsidered depending on size, space, persons and duration. Know where you can re-up obvious items on your route and plan accordingly. Know where to start before you depart.

We’ve all spent days aboard our boats where we amusingly (and often inadvertently) uncovered the tips and tricks of our own vessels. Things like which hatches fit which equipment the best, where to keep dry items and wet items, and learning what works and what doesn’t will have prepared you for your inevitable storage conundrums.


As always, check your mandatory safety equipment before you depart any trip of any duration to ensure it’s there, in working condition, in sufficient quantity, and stored in a location that’s easily accessible. Ensure you have enough PFD’s of the correct size for each person you anticipate having on board. . Ensure everyone on board knows where the PFD’s are stored along with all other safety equipment. Never overlook safety; it’s the easiest to prepare for and the hardest to overcome.

Other safety related items, depending on the duration of your trip, how remote the destination, and the distance away from home may include; cellphone and charger and/or portable VHF radio with fresh batteries, additional mooring, fenders, and tie lines, spare anchor with rode, hydrographic charts for your area of exploration (which you should have studied before your trip and planned fuel, provisioning, and overnight stops accordingly), portable GPS with fresh batteries, spare boat ignition and door keys on floaters, additional floating flashlight with spare batteries, torch/floodlight with spare batteries, AM/FM portable radio with fresh batteries, boat/engine manuals, calculator, heavy duty leather gloves, heavy duty sheathed knife or jackknife, battery charger, jumper cables, electrical extension cord, large hatchet or small axe, folding shovel, boat hook, deck mop, and plastic pail – preferably square for easier storage.

Even if you’re not a confident repair person, there are some repair/spare items you should always have aboard if you’re venturing far your home port. Consider having a decently stocked tool kit with at least plumber wrenches, regular and needle nose pliers, side cutters, screw drivers, crescent wrenches, a socket set, Allen screw set, vice grips, hammer, spark plug wrench, plus any specialized tools unique to your boat. Even if you’re not prepared to use these tools, if you have them available a passing boater who knows you’rein trouble is always more than willing to lend a hand.

Other spare items to include are oil and fuel filter(s), water pump impeller(s) and gaskets, and V and serpentine belt(s). Spare containers of engine, transmission, hydraulic steering, and lower unit oil, plus engine anti-freeze if you have a closed cooling system are always wise. Duct tape, electrical tape, and plastic tie wraps come in handy as do various sizes of hose clamps and tubes of silicone sealant. You may also want to include a spare propeller, spare spark plugs and/or ignition parts, water hoses of various diameters and purpose, a selection of stainless steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers, waxes and cleaners, and even a fibreglass repair kit. Your local marina or favourite repair facility is a great resource to double check which engine/mechanical spare parts are important depending on how your boat is powered.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed after reading the above paragraphs and looking at your twenty-four foot overnighter and wondering where you’ll possibly store all these items? Don’t despair. These lists are provided to be reasonably comprehensive and it’s up to you to choose what's best for you and your boat. Take your time to analyze the type of cruising you’ll be doing, prioritize your spare items based on expected usage, and do a test fit aboard your vessel before departing.

Now let’s address personal items. In addition to your normal seasonal (preferably loose-fitting and/or stretchy) clothing, consider the following for on-board apparel: flat, preferably cloth-type clothes (for quick drying), rubber-soled /running shoes (preferably not sandals-too loose fitting and little protection), raincoat and rubber boots, sweatshirt(s), long pants and jacket for evenings, sun hat for everyone on board, UVA and UVB-protected sunglasses (preferably two pairs), spare eyeglasses/contact lenses, personal hygiene and toiletry items, and specific personal medical requirements.


Other personal items to possibly include are: swimwear plus mask, fins, snorkel, diving gear, towable tube/raft, windsurfer, kayak, fishing gear, board games,, books, magazines, movies, music, and entertainment, children’s toys (if needed), pens, pencils, pads, paper, camera with fully charged and/or spare batteries, hiking boots and hand compass, personal snacks and beverages, and the ever-important mosquito, bug, hornet, and ant spray/repellents.

Speaking of pests, all clothing should be as light coloured as possible so as not to attract mosquitoes, and refrain from perfumed toiletries like after-shave, perfume, scented shampoo, and body spray as they attract mosquitoes and flies. Choose biodegradable shampoo, Ivory (or equivalent) hand soap as it floats, marine quality spare toilet paper, spare toothbrushes and toothpaste, ear drops and eye drops, nose plugs and ear plugs, a disinfectant spray for outdoor toilets, , and poison ivy and sea sickness remedies.

If you’re unlucky enough to have an on-shore misadventure with poison ivy, remember that the oil will stay on clothing and shoes for long durations, even an entire winter if not addressed immediately. Wash clothes and body immediately with Sunlight or equivalent soap and scrub thoroughly. With regard to motion sickness, over the counter options are readily available at most pharmacies. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication. One specific remedy for boating is an expandable bracelet that fits on a person’s wrist. A pea-sized button on the bracelet when placed against a specific pressure point on the wrist will stop the feeling of nausea. The biggest benefit to these sea bands is that there are no side effects.. Children and adults in almost any state of health can use them and they can be put on at any time before or during the period of nausea. . To prevent motion sickness before it can even begin stay on an open deck in fresh air where you can see the horizon at all times. It’s also wise to avoid reading, avoid small compartments, and lie down and close your eyes at the first onset of symptoms.

As with all of life’s great adventures, accidents can happen. To be prepared for the inevitable bumps and scrapes, some or all of the following should be high on your “must take” first aid list; a well equipped First Aid kit with instruction booklet, all sizes of band-aids plus a triangular bandage or equivalent, needles (for slivers), safety pins, sharp scissors, anti-septic such as hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, water purification tablets, your favourite form of acetaminophen or pain reliever, skin cream and burn cream, insect itching lotion such as calamine or After-Bite, and lots of waterproof UVA and UVB protective sunscreen of SPF 30 or more.

Since space is always at a premium, remember to take only that you realistically could use, plus a small safety margin. Some items can be considerably reduced in packaging size by purchasing smaller sizes or repackaging in re-sealable plastic bags. Remember to label any repackaged containers with their content to avoid confusion. Ensure everyone on board knows where all first aid items are stored. Choose only bio-degradable and environmentally friendly liquids if they are likely to come in contact with your environment.

If you’ve avoided seasickness or any first aid issues, now it’s time to eat! If you plan to eat and/or cook on board, you will need; knives, forks, tea and table spoons, reusable plastic plates, cups, bowls, and plastic glasses, table cloth(s), can, bottle and corkscrew openers, one big and one small sharp knife, tongs, spatula, small whip, frying pan, a large and small pot with lids, plastic cutting board, wire camp stove or open fire type toaster, pot holders, light metal coffee percolator (boiling the water purifies it), aluminum pie plates (for cooking, eating, warming, etc.), aluminum foil, re-sealable plastic baggies, plastic wrap, paper and wooden matches, barbeque lighter, dish detergent, scouring pads, dish cloths, tea towels, recycle and regular garbage bags with ties, paper towels, collapsible fresh water container with pouring and closing spout, clothes pins, and a small whisk and dustpan.

Most cruisers today have a stern-mounted propane barbeque. Virtually all of your cooking can be accomplished here, plus it’s a great hub for activities. You may also want to pack a portable propane camp stove since its burners are more efficient for heating cookware and boiling water. Don’t forget to bring along replacement propane bottles (Quick tip- Never store propane in the bilge of your boat, only store it in a well ventilated area on the topside of your boat). Open-fire cooking on shore in a designated fire pit can be most gratifying, and a great night of fun too. Remember to source only dead wood for this purpose, not only is live wood bad for burning it’s also generally illegal to cut down. Newspapers are great for starting fires , but never use flammable liquids – matches or a lighter are just as easy and they’re safer. Coat the outsides and bottoms of your pots or pans with hand soap beforehand, it’ll allow you to easily clean off the soot that will accumulate on them. This all assumes you have no source of AC power when you are overnighting, of course, but if you have a generator on your boat you can bring electrical appliances too. Let the cookout begin!

Your choice of foodstuffs is also important when overnighting. Staples you may need include coffee (instant or perc), teabags, whitener, sugar cubes (and/or granular white and brown), salt and pepper (uncooked rice in the saltshaker will absorb moisture and prevent caking), your favourite spices, sauces, and marinades, mustard, relish, ketchup, spaghetti, rice, potatoes (in paper bag), powdered or sterilized milk, flour (in a shaker container), honey, peanut butter, jam , cheese, onions (in a mesh bag), cooking oil, pancake mix, maple syrup, hot dog and hamburger buns, hot and cold breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, and bread. Keeping cereal, crackers, and cookies in extra plastic bags help keep them from getting soggy.


As you battle with the inevitable challenge of storage and fitting, it’s always smart put everything you can into square (for easier storage) plastic sealing containers. Sealable plastic bags are super handy and reusable for sandwiches, leftovers, damp clothing, personal garbage, caught fish, toys, tourism literature, and more. Masking tape is great for labeling plastic bags. The less space wasted by packaging (and air), the better.

Canned goods are also great as they store easily and don’t require refrigeration; pork and beans, kidney beans (a great filler for any hash/stew), spaghetti sauce, large and small canned ham, juices and juice boxes, mushroom and tomato soup (great for sauces/gravies), canned vegetables (corn, beans, peas, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.), salmon, tuna, sardines, mayonnaise and salad dressing (both require refrigeration after opening though), canned peaches, pears, oranges, pineapple, apple sauce, puddings, and other desserts.

Let’s not forget about the liquids either. Soda pop and bottled water take up an enormous amount of refrigerated room, and as vital as they are you’ll need to plan for their necessary volume. Only refrigerate what you will immediately need, save that prized refrigeration space for tonight’s dinner. Water temperatures in Canada generally allow you to put several of these cans/bottles into a mesh bag and hang overboard as deep as possible to keep cool while you are at anchor, so don’t hesitate to be resourceful. However, remember to put a note at the helm to remind you to retrieve the bag before motoring on!

Perishable foods must generally be kept refrigerated or on ice and therefore be chosen carefully according to your on-board cooling capacity. The following meats should be pre-frozen and packaged in meal-size packages wrapped in newspaper (for insulation) and placed in re-sealable plastic bags: fish, chicken, hamburger, pork chops or ribs, steak, pre-cooked ham. They should also be consumed in the order shown for best preserving characteristics (i.e. fish first, ham last).

You may also want eggs, milk, and protein like bacon (pre-frozen in usable quantity and packed in newspaper), butter or margarine pre-frozen in small quantities in individual containers, and fresh fruit and vegetables stored in paper bags in a plastic container. A handy trick is to cover your food cooler(s) with an old quilt for insulation and set on newspaper to absorb condensation. Buy hard block ice as much as possible as it lasts longer than cubed ice Buy as little perishable food and fresh pastries as you know you’ll need until your next opportunity to re-supply (which you should know, since you’ve already planned where and when your next stop will be).

Got all that down? Great. You are going to be living in a confined space so remember to respect and be patient with everyone as best you can. There are going to be hard days, but remember that you all want to enjoy the experience together. Now go have fun and enjoy one of the most adventurous and satisfying experiences of your life with your friends and loved ones. #tips #searay #bostonwhaler #regal

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