Karen’s Thoughts for New Boat Owners

Here is the kind of information that is rarely assembled anywhere. It is not glamorous, but it is important. Every new boat owner has to learn this stuff, and hopefully I can shorten your learning curve.

This is written with owners of Amel sailboat specifically in mind, but almost everything applies to any boat, anywhere. This is written from the perspective of someone who lives aboard a boat full time, and frequently travels long distances to remote places, but again, almost any sailor should find useful stuff in here.

Important online resources: 

Shopping and Bargains

If you are renting a car in Florida, don’t buy the tollpass from your rental car company. They charge $10 a day! Go to a Publix Grocery store and buy a toll transponder for $20. Create an account & put a little money in it. I leave $20 on ours, and use it whenever we are in Florida. Buy a bright colored usb cord to use in rental cars, ours is orange & easy to remember to take with us.

Cash is STILL King! Ask EVERYONE you do business with in person if they give a cash discount. Many service business will do 20% (including my dentist, most machine shops, and boat services).  Most others will at least cut you a break on the 3% or 4% bank charge they would pay on the credit card transaction, especially on larger bills. 

If you don’t know Defender Marine, learn. Join the Defender First program! Tell them you have a new boat and they will put you in their “Outfitting Program” then if you are going to spend $5k or more (and you will if the boat is new to you) placing ONE big order will save you an additional 10%. Things we have bought from Defender are pumps, nav lights, masthead instruments, Antal rigging parts (special orders but generally 1/2 the price of elsewhere). Safety gear, instruments, cockpit chart plotter, nav pod to keep chart plotter secure, Quick windlass remote, electric cords & replacement plugs, pretty much everything. If they do business with the manufacturer, they can special order a specific part from them even if they do not routinely stock that part.

West Marine will match Amazon prices!ine can be a convenient retail source when boating in the US, but on the expensive side. Pro Shopping Tip: West Mar

Use the Amazon app to scan things and show the Amazon prices at checkout.

Amel has excellent after sales service, even for older boats.  Maud Touillet runs this department and can be reached at SAV@amel.fr (SAV is the French acronym for “After Sales Service”).  It is best when contacting them if you can supply photos of what you are looking for, and the hull number of your boat.


I keep some things in “MY” drawer because when I want them, I know where to find them. Two screwdrivers, headlamp, charge cords for my devices,  Velcro wraps, a spool of Dyneema lashing cord. 

Frequently you’ll be storing canned food in floor lockers where you only see the tops of the cans as you look in. Label and date the tops of your cans so you don’t have to pick each one up to see what it is. I do not remove labels, or varnish the cans.

Date everything you use, so you can start to judge how long a package lasts. Deodorant, toothpaste, etc. then when you are ready to head out, you will know how much to provision. Do for anything you are particular about.

Set up a boat documents folder. Put everything you need to check in or out of a country in one place. Something at least water-resistant would be a good idea for the dinghy ride in to visit customs. This is the one we picked. Our passports, visa documents, insurance paperwork, registrations, vaccine cards, etc… all live in here all the time. We always know where they are.

We put Post-It notes inside the doors of the lockers, noting what is on each shelf. We have a “road map” taped under the deep galley locker lid. It’s written in pencil, and updated as things come, go, and move.

Walmart has small Sterilite bins size 8.25 x 12.25 x 5 that fit in our lockers. We have at least 15 on board. Medium Sterilite bins 6 x 10 x 14 3/8 are good for under the cabin sole. Closed bottoms contain spills & you won’t be playing 52 pick up with spice jars. You’ll want to keep things like soap, SewClean, cooking oil etc. in bins to contain possible leaks.  Anything you don’t want to clean up should be in a bin. Jugs do leak! These open side baskets are also great for organizing freezer space and allowing cold air to circulate.

A good vacuum sealer helps with food storage. We have a Foodsaver that has proven reliable. “Gamesaver” bags are heavy duty and are less likely to leak. Sealing your lobsters spiny sides together means they don’t puncture the bags. Lobster freezes well, so buy extra when you find it cheap! Fun to have later to celebrate with! Don’t forget to date & label your packages. Keeping all of your food in tightly sealed bags is much better for the food, and keeps frost off the inside of the freezer.

Debbie Meyer GreenBags really do make your produce last longer. Wash and reuse them.

Check with Uline.com for plastic protective netting to use for glass bottles to keep them from breaking. We bought a roll of the 2″-4″ size seven years ago, and we still have some left. Maybe you can find someone to split a big roll with!

Dyneema line (because it does not stretch) under the aft locker hatch with tie lines, allows you to easily hang dock lines.


PredictWind is our primary weather source when offshore. Iridium Go is our sat phone, You get get an Iridium subscription directly through through PredictWind.com with airtime, or if it makes sense you can get airtime through a third party and still use the PredictWind weather resources with a separate subscription. If you are a part-time cruiser, do not forget you can downgrade to a cheaper plan when you are ashore to save some money, then upgrade again when you shove off.

Get some old firehose! Makes great chafe protection for lines.  We picked up ours for free when a marina was replacing all the firehoses on the docks. It has been a great help.

Treat yourself to an Edson Boarding step, you won’t buy another. YES, it is frustratingly expensive, but we have spent more on other alternatives trying to save money that either weren’t as good, or just didn’t last.

Seattle Sports makes a great welded collapsible bucket– ours lives in the mizzen cockpit locker. We added a line so it’s easy to scoop seawater while standing on deck.

Get a Quick (or Imtra, same product) brand hand held remote for the anchor windlass. If you are feeling fancy get the one with the built in flashlight. It allows the person working the bow to actually watch what is happening as you retrieve the anchor, and lets you lean over and use the hose to wash the chain before it brings the mud up on the deck. We MUCH prefer the remote to the buttons on the windlass housing that were an Amel modification to the original Lofrans windlass used on the Super Maramus. On the Amel 54 and later models, Amel moved to deck mounted switches, better, but we still prefer the flexibility offered by the handheld remote.

Personal Care

This might seem silly, but I have 12 bras on board. Hard to find good ones and expensive. They are something I don’t want to be without! You probably have things you feel the same way about, so stock up!

Try different boat shoes while you have good access to variety. In general, it is a good idea to avoid leather shoes on a boat. They mildew very quickly.

Try different sunscreens now. If you like it, it’s easier to wear EVERY DAY! I like mineral based ones, because they form a physical block and have a long shelf life.

Sheet grippers with lingerie style clips (not metal jaw clips, they rust) make your bed sheets fit better & stay put even on the odd shaped mattresses that are typical of boats.

Keep a few rolls of quarters on board for doing laundry on shore. Many Bahamas laundries use US quarters.


Washing lines? Put them in a junk pillowcase to keep them from tangling. This might sound odd, but some types of lines can pick up a lot of salt over time and get really stiff.  Washing the salt out can make them much better to handle. Add some fabric softener and they’ll relax even more. And you’ll have the best smelling jib sheets in the anchorage!

KrudKutter is amazing! It does everything you ever wanted 409 to do. We use it on everything from the galley stove after a messy food prep, to degreasing the engine, to cleaning the bilge. It just works.

For cleaning BarKeeper’s Friend is excellent for stubborn deck stains and it won’t scratch (be sure to rinse well.) Buy the powder, not liquid.  For us this is the go-to product for removing rust from metal, or rust stains from just about anything, including gelcoat, and for general metal polishing.

Starbrite Deck Cleaner with PTEF adds sunscreen for your deck and is easy to use. If you follow the directions, and let it soak, it will lift most stains so they can just be rinsed away. Be sure to rinse well, or it keeps working until it dries, and makes a “super clean” spot that then doesn’t blend in with the rest of the boat!

Use WoodyWax on everything on the boat that is gelcoat, metal or plastic (including the heads!). Just be VERY careful when it’s wet!!! So slippery, don’t walk on it! Once dry, it is anti-slip. This stuff really does preserve your stuff that is exposed in the weather, and makes it much easier to keep clean. Even dried fish blood just rinses off. Really! It’s not cheap, but it is easy to use, and a little goes a long way.

Save your old toothbrushes. They make cleaning the rig, lifelines, and many things, a lot easier.

IKEA has 21 x 35 beige cotton rugs for $4.99. I have at least 6 because keeping the dirt outside the cabin is easier than cleaning it up. Wash like they are white with bleach. Big blue plastic tote bags for $2 let you haul everything from laundry up to an outboard. I have at least a half dozen. Also small knitted plastic bags hang and don’t scratch wood. Also useful to run a phone up the mast for cell coverage. Ikea also makes nice bath towels and pillows. Their sheets are strange sizes, but boat berths are usually strange sizes too, so there just might be a match to be made!

SewClean and Barnacle Buster are must haves for routine boat maintenance! We keep 1-2 gallons of each. A vacuum oil hand pump makes it easy to recirculate. You can read about how, and why, we use SewClean in this post from our blog archive.

One product that we use as little of as possible onboard is chlorine bleach. It is very corrosive to boat parts, and is just NOT needed for almost anything. If we have laundry that really needs bleaching, that happens in a shore side facility. OxiClean is an oxygen bleach that does almost everything chlorine bleach does, and does most of it better.


Have a few portable battery banks to charge your phones, and other portable electronics.

Get a used Go Pro from EBay, you’ll have fun with it!

Mantus Marine makes a fantastic USB rechargeable headlamp. We have five onboard so there is always a charged one close at hand. Their anchors & anchor gear are all great. 

West Marine carries a rubber T-latch ( looks like the latch on a Yeti cooler) that is good to hold hatches open when the rubber mushrooms Amel originally installed fail from age.

Treat yourself to new mattresses. Use somebody who specializes in custom mattresses for boats or RVs. They usually have a showroom that you can go try out the softness, or see them at a major boat show. If possible, get them to come to the boat and measure, that way, it’s on them if it’s not a good fit. They will also customize a mattress cover and make your flat sheets into custom fitted ones. 

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