Sailors Need Food: How to Eat on A Sailboat

I know this topic seems obvious, however, a sailboat is very small.  If we were going to sail around lakes for weeks at a time, we needed a place as well as a way to keep food.

The Obvious A Refrigerator

If only it were that easy.  A refrigerator or 12 volt cooler takes up too much room and electric.  On a sailboat you can’t spare either.  Another problem is the heat they give off.  It is already hot in the cabin without air conditioning.

We needed a solution that didn’t take electricity.  The thought of chasing after ice everyday didn’t appeal to me.  I want to sail, not go hunting for ice.  Plus, there is the issue of what is left when the ice melts.

A Yeti type coolers seemed to be my dream come true. There were so many different coolers in this category.    I went shopping on “You Tube”  and watched all the videos that compared the different brands.  The three I was most interested in were the Yeti, Engel, and Orca.  My requirements were simple.  I was going to buy the one that kept the ice frozen the longest and didn’t weigh as much as a  small car. The Orca won on all counts.  It still had ice in it after 10 days in the sun.

We settled on the Orca Extra Heavy Duty 40 quart white cooler.                                                           

My Tricks for Keeping Food Cold

We have used it for two years now.  I have developed a  few tricks.  The night before a trip I put two frozen gallons of water in the cooler and close it up.  This way I start out with a cold cooler before I fill it with food.  Then I use frozen water bottles in between the items I want to keep cold.  Then the bags of ice go on top.

One of the things that just drives me crazy is when ice melts it makes everything soggy.  Even the food in Ziploc bags gets water in it.   If I put meat in my cooler, I don’t want it getting water mixed in with it.  Then you have bloody water in all your food.  Are you grossed out  yet?

Can’t  Give Up The Room

I can’t bring myself to give up any of the prime space in the Orca cooler for condiments.  So, I ordered packets that do not have to be refrigerated.  They are stored in with the dry food under the seat. 

My Love Affair With Food Saver

The food is put in Food Saver vacuum bags or in those cheap Rubbermaid disposable bowls.  The frozen water bottles go between the bowls. On top of the  food, I put Ziploc bags full of ice.  After 4 or 5 days the water bottles still have chunks of ice in them.  Once they thaw out we can drink them.

If I am putting hamburgers patties, spaghetti sauce or left over meals in the cooler, they are frozen first.  See what I am doing?  Everything stays cold and the ice lasts for almost a week.  If you put dry ice on the bottom first, you can go almost two weeks.  The best part is that at the end of the week, there is almost no water in the bottom of the cooler. If I want to add ice, I just dump the water out of the Ziploc bag and add more ice.

What Do We Take

What do I pack for our trips?  When I cook it is always large batches.  I will make spaghetti sauce, chili, all kinds of meals and then freeze the leftovers in 2 serving size Food Saver vacuum bags.  When I am packing the cooler, I pick some frozen meals to take.  In a few days they are thawed enough to heat up.

Another example,   I buy hamburger and make patties to freeze.  You can freeze steaks, pork chops even chicken in these bags.  There will be no bloody water in the cooler.

Eggs are too darn fragile.  I love these egg keeps.  You can buy them as a single holder or set of two.  Using them has kept my eggs crack free.

Under the seats there is a compartment that is supposed to serve as a cooler.  I could never figure out how it was supposed to keep anything cold.  So, I use it as a dry cooler.  I pack pastas, pancake mix and soup mixes (in  2 servicing size Fresh Seal bags).  Tuna, raisins, granola bars and other dry items can be stored in this compartment.

In one of the pull out drawers we store canned goods, applesauce and canned fruit.  We take chips and cookie type snacks in a store bag every trip. The best part about these storage areas is that I leave the food all summer.  I just replace what we use.

The table and the Cooler

The Orca cooler is stored under the table out of the way.  We just lift up the table to get in the cooler.  The table is attached with hooks. We will talk about how Dave made this table in another blog.

 Our Locker Cooler

Cold water is a must for me.  However, we didn’t want to use up all our cooler space to keep soda, water and Gatorade cold.

Dave wanted to make the locker more usable.  The bottom was shaped like the hull of the boat.  Everything slide down to the V.  He put a level floor in the locking using styrofoam.  I will explain how he did this in the blog on the locker.

The important thing is that he built in a cooler surrounded by styrofoam.  He put a drain in the cooler and attached a drain hose to our cockpit drain.  It keeps the beverages cold and out of my main cooler.  There is no need to keep opening the main cooler to get drinks and guess what? I never have a wet mess from the melting ice.  It melts and goes down the drain.

Life is good on a sailboat and our food is cold!

A 21st Century Sailing Girl Needs Electricity

After a few sailing trips we decided this sailing thing was perfect for us.   We now had to figure out how to make it work.  That sounds easier than it was. Oh sure you can recharge the boat’s battery, but not when you are out on a lake. Electricity was something I couldn’t pack to take with us.  Too many batteries equals too much weight.

Of course,  we would need things like food and a way to cook it.  However if we wanted to stay out on the water for weeks we would also need a way to connect to the outside world. This chick needs her electronics… IPad, IPhone, Mp3, DVD player and Kindle. I needed electricity.

A 21st Century Girl Needs Electric

The electric in our boat had never been used.  The previous owner hadn’t even installed a battery.  He had no use for electricity.  We did research and decided we wanted to convert everything to LED.  Not only do LED lights last for years even decades but they take little to no electricity to run.  This is a plus in a sailboat.

Dave got ready to install LED lights and discovered our wiring was rotting and corroded.  He replaced all the wiring and installed new fuses.  We went to Menards and bought two Exide Marine batteries. They cost bought $80.00 each.  Dave placed them on rubberized shelf liners so they didn’t slid around in the compartments.

Dave understood my need for electricity, but he wanted to balance it with our safety.  For some reason, he was worried I would use all the power and we would be stuck in a shallow area because the depth finder didn’t work.  I guess he knows me pretty well after all.   It was decided that we would hook one battery to the depth finder, mast and running lights, GPS, and Marine Radio.  The other battery would be hooked to all the lights in the cabin, fans and electrical outlets for my toys.  This way if I got carried away with charging my laptop and watching videos we still had power for the essentials.

Now it was time to replace all the light fixtures with LED replacements. 

Navigation and mast lights were next.  We needed them to be energy efficient.  We ordered the mast lights and the running lights below. 

We had another board meeting and decided that we needed fans.  Of course, the cabin has no air conditioning and it can get pretty stuffy at night.

We put one on each end of the cabin.


We installed 12 volt fans and it made a huge difference.  Even during the day it can get pretty hot down below.


There was still the problem of my electronics.  12-Volt outlets were a must.   The end of the seats seemed to be the perfect place to install them.

We also put one on the back of the stair shelve to plug our DVD player in to.



We have 6 of these type plugs all around the boat.


So, we now had the boat more efficient.  The batteries could be 100% charged when we left for trip.  But,  what if we were going to be gone for weeks?  What if we didn’t have a dock with electric to recharge the batteries? These questions were why we decided on solar.

With the solar collectors installed we have gone for 9 days and returned with almost full batteries.  Remember, as far as sailors go, I am an energy hog.

We knew we needed to install them on the deck and that they needed to safe. Tripping over them while raising the sails was not a good option.  We decided to go with Ganz Solar panels because you can walk on them. It is recommended that you try not to place them in a high  traffic area.

It was hard to figure out what we needed so, we sort of based our decision on what would look better.  We could have easily met our needs with just one.  Dave wanted the meter so we could monitor our usage.  Since we were using two batteries we needed the controller. 

If you have one battery all you would really need is one solar panel.


Here is exactly what we installed.

Sailing in Comfort!

Blondes and Sailboats?

So, we had our leaks fixed.  Our next problem revolved around my being a fair skinned blonde.  With that said,  you can imagine  how fast I burn.  I have also suffered from heat exhaustion in the past and that affects my comfort level.

We went out sailing  one afternoon in July. The temperature was in the low to mid 80’s , but the sun was strong.  By the time we were ready to pack up and go home, I was burnt.  I do not mean red.  I mean sick to my stomach, dizzy, and giving off more heat than a furnace.  Yes, I had used sunscreen.

Dave had to figure out how to take down the mast alone.  I simply could not help at all.  All I could do was sit in air conditioned truck.  We stopped at a convenience store and purchased ice and aspirin.  I had to put the ice in plastic bags and lay it across my thighs. Dave had to figure out how to take down the mast alone.

If Burnt Try This!

Years ago,  a nurse friend taught me to  take 2 parts water and 1 part vinegar and keep wetting the sunburn with a washcloth until it cools.  If a large part of my body is burnt, I fill the tub with cool water and vinegar and soak.  It really does minimize the burn and keep you from peeling.  I also take two aspirin as soon as I realize I am burning.  The purpose for the aspirin is that it thins the blood and cools the body temperature.   It really does help.  I now keep vinegar and aspirin on the boat.

Yes, Let’s Get A Bimini

We realized that if we were going to spend sunny days on the boat, I would need some protection from the sun.  Researching  biminis  was not as easy as I thought it would be.  Most places that make them for boats, make them for power boats.  These are too high to work with the boom of a sailboat.   The boom is very low on a Macgregor so it is tricky to find one that will work.  I eventually found SoftTopper.  They make the perfect bimini for a Macgregor.  They shipped it fast and it was so easy to install.  You will not believe the difference it made in our comfort level.

Cockpit Seating Hurts My Butt

Next, came the cockpit seats.  I originally made seat cushions from foam and outdoor material.  They looked nice but they got wet and stayed wet.  One of the issues with a sailboat is dew.  We had to take the seats inside the cabin every night or they would be soaked in the morning.  You can only imagine how much space in the small cabin those cushions took up.

We attended the Chicago Strictly Sailing Show and found a booth called C-Cushions.  They sold cushions made from closed cell foam.  They also make cushions for medical equipment.  The cushions are made with a  unique vinyl coating process that makes them durable and comfortable.  You can even use them as a float.  People have commented that they are comfortable enough to sleep on.

Now, we just take an old towel and wipe the dew and dead bugs off every morning.  When the grandkids enter the cockpit after swimming, no problem.  Even Dave’s dripping fishing pole goo doesn’t bother me.  You just have to wipe the mess off.  This was one of the best investments we made in our boat.

To order from C-cushions you just have to trace your seats.  They make them to fit any boat.  They recommend you use the brown shipping paper you can buy at Wal-mart and a marker.  Once you trace the seats you send that pattern to them.  They make your seats in about 2 weeks.   You can also see that we purchased the L cushions for the back of the seats.  The L-cushions come with snaps to attach them to your boat.

First Things First: Seabreeze Had A Leak or Two!!!!!!

We Can Fix The Leak?

When we purchased Seabreeze the previous owner was honest in telling us that she had a leak or two.  She leaked water in the seat compartment areas.  He told us it came in when sailing and when it rained.  He had no idea where it was coming in.

Dave looked over the outside and he  couldn’t come up with an defect that would be a real problem.  Dave’s first thought was that it probably was leaking around the rub rail.  He thought that wouldn’t be too hard to replace.

After we purchased Seabreeze it rained and we had about 2-3 inches of water in the compartments.  After pumping that out,  we took our first sailing less on  Lake Clinton  with an instructor.   We ended up getting about an inch or two of water in the compartments again.  In all fairness we did get a pretty strong rain storm while we were anchored out at the lake. The water was probably more from that storm than from sailing.

The Leak is A Hose?

When we arrived home, Dave started his brain storming.  He discovered that a hose going from the cockpit drain to the outside of the boat had a huge crack in it.   The hose was leaking under the boat into the  seat compartment area.  Menards sold the hose by the foot in their plumbing section.  Replacing that hose made a big difference, but we still got really damp when it rained.  It wasn’t 2 or 3 inches but it was enough water we needed to use a sponge to clean it up.

Our Rub rail was faded and cracked from being out in the elements for years.  We call all around about getting a rub rail for a Macgregor 265D.  Nobody had the same rub rail.  We even traced it and sent it to a few suppliers.  Finally, we contacted West Marine and after sending them our traced pattern they could special order it.   We ordered the rub rail thinking it wouldn’t be too hard to put on.  We were so wrong.

After finally getting the old one off.  One purpose of the rub rail is seal off the seam  to keep water out.  We decided it would be beneficial to loosen all the screws connecting the boat seams, apply marine sealer under each screw and then tighten them back down.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of screws under that rub rail.

Easy Rub Rail Replacement? Not!!!

When we finished sealing all the screws, we needed to start the rub rail installation.  The instructions that came with it said to wait for a hot day.  It didn’t mention how miserable you were going to be doing this on a hot day.  It was 90 degrees in Illinois and  miserable.  The directions said to use a heat gun to heat only about 6 inches at a time to make it pliable enough to squeeze it into the frame. We had to work fast or it hardened up again and couldn’t be squeezed into the frame.  This ended up being an all day project.

Seabreeze with new rub rail.

After we finished this tedious project we waited for a rain storm.  In Illinois during the summer you don’t have to wait long.  After the storm, we opened up the compartments to find water. No, there wasn’t as much.  Each time we fixed something we got less water.



We decided we were never going to replace that rub rail again.  So, a couple of times during  the summer and before we put the boat away for the winter we treat the rub rail with Starbrite Rub Rail Restorer.  It keeps the rub rail shiny and also pliable.

We Need More Silicone

Dave decided  to go inside the sailboat and look for leaks while I sprayed the outside with a pressure washer.  Actually, we were worried that the windows were leaking.  That would be costly to fix.

So, while I gave the boat a bath, Dave tried to trace where the water was coming from.  Success, he discovered that the water was coming in around the lifeline stanchions.  We loosened all the screws and removed the plates.  We sealed the around the screws and under the plates with marine silicone and then screwed them down again.

This is where you insert prayer.  We were running out of ideas.   The other option was to live with moisture in the compartments under the seats, right?

Success, we waited for the silicone to dry and tried the pressure washer test again.  It was a miracle.  Well, maybe not a miracle, but it felt like one.  We didn’t get a drop inside and everything stayed dry.

Dave and I have been sailing for two years with no leaks and dry compartments.