The Blue View - Having the Right Supplies Aboard

small supplies

“If the women don't find you handsome, at least let them find you handy”...Red Green

We've been staying with relatives for the past few months, primarily Marcie's sister, Lin, and my sister, Mary. Both are single, and while both are smart, competent ladies, there are always a number of house projects and repairs that they can use a little help with. I am more than happy to help where I can. I enjoy doing the projects and it helps assuage my guilt about being such a mooch.


fixing the brakes


The typical home project or repair involves making lists of all the supplies that will be needed, then hopping in the car and making the rounds of the local building supply and hardware stores to round everything up. At various stages through the project, I again hop in the car and run over to the local hardware to get the stuff I forgot or didn't know I needed. The last step, after the project is completed, is to make the rounds once again, returning all the items I didn't need or bought too much of. The convenience of having access to a car and a multitude of nearby hardware, paint and lumber suppliers is wonderful.


working with plasterboard


On Nine of Cups, making a repair or completing a project lacks this level of convenience. If we are at sea or in some remote part of the world and something breaks, our options are simple. We can either fix it if we have the parts and supplies, jury-rig something to get us through until the proper repairs can be made, or do without whatever it was that broke. Even in port, making trips to the local chandlery, lumber or hardware store often involves a wet dinghy ride followed by a very long walk and/or figuring out the local bus system. The time required to run out for that roll of PTFE thread tape or tube of silicone grease increases from 15 minutes to half a day. Thus, it is important to have not only the spares needed to repair something, but also to have all the various and sundry supplies aboard that we may need to complete most projects and repairs.

When we first moved aboard, I had a pretty good stock of many of the household repair supplies I'd used in the past, and some of these, like plumbing supplies (solder, paste, PTFE tape, pvc cleaner and cement...) and electrical supplies (electrical tape, solder, crimp terminals, shrink tubing...) could be used in a marine environment and were moved aboard. Other supplies, like all my bins of zinc plated nuts, bolts and screws, and non-marine grade hose clamps, had no use aboard. Then there was a whole host of supplies that I didn't have, like UV resistant sail thread, whipping twine, specialty adhesives, and stainless hardware.

Initially, to determine what things I should be buying, I did a lot of reading, and made a lot of lists of supplies I'd need. I talked to other more experienced cruisers and browsed the shelves of the chandleries I visited. We spent our first two years primarily coastal sailing along the U.S. East coast, which gave us ample opportunity to accumulate a good inventory of repair and maintenance supplies. When I did a repair and had to buy supplies, I would always try to buy extra to have on hand for the next time. Over the years, our stock of commonly used items, as well as a host of supplies that are used for those less common repairs, has grown. Much like the tools and spares I keep aboard, my many caches of supplies in various locations around the boat has contributed to our lowered waterline.

When I notice our stock of something is getting low, I make sure to add it to our ongoing “Need to Buy” list, as well as what I should be paying for the item. I have the world's worst memory, and if I don't write it down, not only will I forget what I needed, but I won't remember whether the local price is outrageously high or a bargain - should I grit my teeth and only buy the minimum to get by with or should I smile and stock up on the item?

A friend recently asked whether I had a list of all the repair and maintenance supplies we keep aboard Nine of Cups. I didn't, but I thought it was such a good idea, that I have started one. It is much too long to include as part of this blog, but we will happily send it to you. My only request is that you let me know what I've overlooked or forgotten so I can add to it. Send us an email and we (or actually Gentry, our very patient blog- meister ) will send you a copy in pdf format.