From the December 2020 issue of 48° North

If you’ve ever lived-aboard or spent much time on a boat, you probably know it’s the little things — that galley gadget, that tool you can’t do without — that make life afloat comfortable and functional.

It’s taken us years to get our boat dialed in the way we want it, and part of that process has been seeking out the items that make our sailboat feel like home during the months we’ve spent living-aboard. Below are a few of our favorite things we have on our Passport 40 Meridian — they’re not specifically boat items, but ones that make our life afloat a little better.

These could make good holiday gifts or stocking stuffers for the boater in your life, or perhaps just spark a little joy aboard your own boat.

Collapsible Salad Spinner

A salad spinner is a galley must-have for us, but the bulky size of most make them impractical to store on a boat. Progressive International’s collapsible spinners, available in 3-quart and 4-quart versions starting at around $20, have silicone sides that collapse down so they fit easily on a shelf and do double duty as a serving bowl. While some reviewers have mentioned issues with the silicone separating from the plastic surrounding it (possibly from washing it in a dishwasher), we’ve had ours for years and it’s still in great shape.

Another indispensable galley item is a small cutting board, also made by Progressive, that costs around $27 and has a collapsible colander and an extendable stainless steel arm. It fits over the sink and the colander easily pops out for cleaning and collecting food trimmings for disposal. We use it pretty much every time we’re prepping a meal onboard.

Stainless Steel Collapsible Toaster

Enjoying brunch in a beautiful anchorage is one of the great pleasures of boating, and it wouldn’t be complete without toast — toast and fried eggs, omelet and toast, avocado toast. For years we made toast in a frying pan, but it took a long time and the bread was never properly toasted. We tried one of those inexpensive camping toasters that the bread stands upright on, but it didn’t toast the bread evenly, and it was flimsy and quickly rusted.

We finally found a stainless steel collapsible toaster made by GSI Outdoors that costs around $13 and works perfectly. It’s light (6.3 oz) and tiny, measuring just 6.7 by 5.7 by 0.5 inches. The bread sits on a rack with a mesh screen below that evenly distributes heat and catches any stray crumbs. The toaster comes in a storage sleeve that’s so flat and compact it sometimes gets lost in a drawer or cupboard.

Turkish Towels

No one likes using a damp towel to dry off after a shower. But it can take quite a long time for a traditional towel to dry if hung up inside the boat. And in the Northwest, relying on the sun to help it dry doesn’t work for about nine months a year. We love the feel of a good, thick towel, but long ago realized they were more likely to get musty than dry.

We spent years trying different alternatives, including camping towels made of microfiber. And while they all did the trick, we just didn’t like how they felt against our skin. Then a good friend and seasoned cruiser suggested trying Turkish bath towels. These full-sized towels, made of cotton, are relatively thin and large. But they absorb a lot of water for their weight, dry out quickly and feel great. You can fold them up to get something closer to the feel of a more plush towel.

They have held up to years of use, are easy to find online or in stores, and at around $20, are relatively inexpensive. A variety of colors will match most boat décors — and provide an easy way to keep track of which towel is yours. They are also great to bring to the beach as both a towel and blanket and fold up fairly small, making them easy to take anywhere, including to that marina shower.

Quick-drying, Exfoliating Nylon Washcloth

Speaking of showering, we’re always conscious of saving water when showering onboard, and Lunatec’s quick-drying nylon washcloths, which cost around $9 for a two-pack, make it easy to do that.

Just lather it up with a little soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap), turn the water off and scrub away. The cloths lightly exfoliate, making you feel so clean you’ll think you just stepped out of a spa. Unlike cotton washcloths, they dry in minutes and don’t smell. And the elastic loop on one corner makes them easy to hang up. We love these so much we have a set at home too, and always take them with us when we travel.

Small 12-volt Clock Radio

In the age of smartphones, the clock radio is fast becoming obsolete as a bedside alarm for many folks. But we still appreciate the dedicated functionality of a clock and being able to just crack an eye open to see the time in the middle of the night without fumbling for our phones. So when I came across this compact clock radio, I was thrilled. The ANJANK clock radio (how’s that for an obscure brand?) ticks all the boxes for use on a boat and comes with a few features that we have since come to love, all for under $20.

The most important feature is that it can be powered by the boat’s 12-volt system with a simple USB cable — and by adding three AAA batteries, it will keep time even when our DC outlets are turned off. A nice addition is two auxiliary USB ports on the back of the radio so you can charge your phone or other devices. It’s also small, measuring a little shy of 4 inches across and 2.5 inches tall. The display dims nicely and in addition to the time also includes temperature, so I can see just how difficult it will be to crawl out from my nice warm bunk on a chilly morning.

The radio works well and the speaker is surprisingly good for such an inexpensive unit. But best of all — at least to our ears — is that one of the alarm sounds is chirping birds. Seriously, we never knew how pleasant it is to wake up onboard to a natural sound like birds chirping.

MPOWERD lights shine with joy

One of our favorite parts of cruising is just hanging out in our cockpit, enjoying the colorful Pacific Northwest light show as sunset gives way to twilight. But how do you keep the good times rolling when it finally gets too dark to see? Our solar-powered LED lights from MPOWERD do the trick.

Many other boaters and outdoor enthusiasts have already discovered these practical lights and lanterns. No need to run wires for cockpit lighting; just place these inflatable lanterns and string lights where you want them and enjoy hours of cozy lighting. Starting around $25, each light has a small solar panel that recharges the battery, and some models provide a source for charging phones or other devices. And you can choose between white and colored lights.

We have a soft white light lantern, along with two colored-light lanterns. To make our cockpit a little festive, we also bought MPOWERD’s Luci light strings, which we hang from the frame of our dodger and bimini. When not in use, the lantern lights deflate and the string lights pack away inside the powered base for easier storage, which is always welcome onboard.

YETI Tumbler

By now, just about every boater has seen a YETI product on a boat. The company is known for their rugged and efficient coolers. While we don’t need a separate cooler on Meridian, we have fallen in love with the company’s 10-oz. Lowball tumbler. For us, it has become our Swiss army knife of cups. Long ago we discovered that insulated coffee mugs can serve double duty when cocktail hour arrives. After all, why waste a precious resource like ice cubes by letting them melt while drinking from a glass? The size of the YETI Tumbler, which runs about $20, makes it great for a decent-sized cup of coffee in the morning and just right for a mixed drink in the evening. The well-insulated tumbler with lid keeps beverages warm or cold for quite some time. Added bonus: the tumblers come in a lot of different colors, making it easy to keep track of who’s using which cup.

While the squat shape of the tumbler might not appeal to everyone — or fit in smaller cup holders — we really like how it sits in the hand, and its low center of gravity makes it less prone to tip over by accident. YETI makes a whole line of different drinkware, with sizes and shapes that ought to appeal to everyone.