14 Items Under $50 that Make Life Aboard Better

We certainly got our money’s worth out of our Amazon Prime Membership back at the Regatta Pointe Marina in Florida. We spent two months there getting Kairos cruise-ready and we received packages daily for our journey. The UPS man knew my name and the marina ship store had my number on speed dial. Of all the things that we purchased, here are the top 14 items under $50 that make our lives better aboard.

1. Color Coded Tool Bags (4 pack for $32)

We quickly realized that rigid contains are not easy to store on board. We have lots of storage space on the boat, but those spaces are small and odd shaped. Soft, flexible bags are the way to go. Since we couldn’t use a toolbox to organize our boat tools, we needed a new solution. The color coded tool bags we purchased from Amazon are perfect. We organize the tools by type into each bag. Orange-electrical, Blue-box wrenches and sockets, Black-screw drivers and plyers, Yellow-engine tools. The bags fit easily into our storage space and we can quickly access the right tool using our color coded scheme.

2. Luci Lights ($15-25 each)

These inflatable solar lights are perfect for lighting up the cockpit in the evenings. We use them while we are eating dinner or when we invite other cruisers over for drinks. We’ve also used them as a stern light for our dinghy and even as a backup anchor light for our boat. You can never have too many solar lights on a boat and these are durable, weather proof, and fun.


3. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera ($52)

Okay, so this one sneaked in a few dollars over $50, but this little camera is certainly worth it. In addition to this blog, we’ve been keeping a scrap book of the wonderful places we visit and the amazing people we meet using our mini instant camera. The pictures are a nice small size (2” x 3”) and the camera is easy to carry around. As much as I love filling up my scrap book with polaroids, I love giving these pictures away just as much. In a word filled with digital images, there is something so charming about an instant polaroid pictures. The camera is a huge hit everywhere we go.

4. The Buddy Bowl ($15-25)

The Buddy Bowl is our favorite boat dog item. Keeping the pups hydrated is a must, but as you can imagine a water dish can be pretty messy while underway or in a rolling anchorage. Not to mention how many times the water dish gets kicked with four of us living in such a small space. The Buddy Bowl is the perfect solution. No spills! It’s also very sturdy and has held up very well over the last 6 months at sea.

5. Garmin BlueChart Mobile App with Active Captain for North America ($45)

I can’t imagine route planning without the Garmin BlueChart mobile app with Active Captain. We have it installed on both our iPhone and iPad. It is easy to zoom in and out on the iPad and plot our course. Many cruisers use an iPad with Garmin BlueChart as their primary chart plotter. For us it’s a great back up. Active Captain information is overlaid on the charts, providing updated information for marinas, anchorages, and sites. Other captains can add reviews, making it the Yelp of the boating world. Having all this information at our fingertips has made route planning a breeze.


6. 1.5 Gallon Shop-Vac ($10-$35)

A vacuum is a must on our boat. Dog hair quickly accumulates in our small space, which means we vacuum frequently. We picked up our 1.5 gallon shop-vac used for $10. I ordered vacuum attachments and it sucks up dog hair like a champ. In addition to keeping our floors and cushions clean, we’ve used our shop-vac for cleaning the bilge and water tanks. We even used it to dry out the engine when it flooded with water. This vacuum is so versatile and I can’t imagine boat life without it.

7. Lingerie Bags ($13)

In order to keep our fridge cold, we try to keep the door shut. Using lingerie bags to organize food helps reduce the amount of time we’re in the fridge. For example, we keep all of our sandwich food in one bag: mayo, mustards, deli meats, sliced cheese, etc. When it’s time to make sandwiches, we can quickly pull out all of these items by removing the lingerie bag instead of searching for the items individually. We also have bags for veggies, fruit, and cheeses/snacks.

8. GoPro Camera Filter ($30)

We love capturing underwater sea life on our GoPro camera. The places we visit are gorgeous, but many times the most magical sites are found below the surface of the water. At first we were disappointed in our footage. The bright colors we saw while snorkeling were washed out and dull. We ordered a red filter and it made all the difference. Now our underwater footage captures the beauty we see below.

9. The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South: The Thornless Path to Windward ($30)

A good guide book is worth its weight in gold. While traveling east, Bruce Van Sant’s book has been our bible. We’ve read and re-read the chapters before any passage. The itineraries, weather information, and suggested anchorages have been so valuable to our route planning. His writing style may be arrogant, but he has many years of experience cruising these waters. We were happy to soak up his knowledge.


10. Fishing Yo-Yo Hand Reel ($10)

We don’t have trolling rods or expensive fishing gear. All of the mahi mahi and tuna we’ve caught have been on yo-yo hand reels. Rob attaches a lure and we troll with the entire line out behind the boat. Sure it takes forever to reel in a fish. But on passages, time is something we have plenty of. For $10 each, we’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth out of these reels.

11. Soft Store Collapsible 30 lb Pet Food Storage Container ($30)

Rigid storage containers don’t work well for storing tools and they certainly don’t work well for storing dog food. With two large dogs on board, we carry about 60 lbs of dog food. These collapsible air tight containers keep the food fresh and are prefect for storing food in tight places.


12. Rescue Tape ($11)

It’s impossible to keep a spare for everything on the boat. We’d run out of space and money if we tried. So when our braided fuel line sprung a leak on our engine, we relied on rescue tape to seal it. This self-adhesive tape has a multitude of uses and is something every sailor should have handy. It held our fuel line leak for over a week until we were able to order the new part.

13. Suction Cup Handle ($17)

Cleaning the bottom of a boat is something that all boat owners must do on a regular basis. After two weeks in the Dominican Republic, our bottom was exceptionally dirty. This suction cup handle provides all the leverage Rob need’s when scrubbing off the sea growth and barnacles.

14. Mountain House Meals ($7)

We received a box of 40 Mountain House meals as a wedding present. We’re avid backpackers, so this was a perfect gift. It turns out that these freeze dried backpacking meals are also convenient on the boat. It’s very difficult to do anything while underway. These meals are a great option when you want a hot dinner, but don’t want to (or can’t) prepare it. Just add hot water and let it sit for 10 minutes. If we’re running our engine, the hot water from the boat is hot enough to “cook” the meal. No need to even boil water. Sometimes we add onions or carrots to spruce it up. Yum!


Boat life isn’t always drinking umbrella drinks on a white sandy beach. It can be a lot of hard work. Sometimes it’s the small things that make life better on board.

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