This is a list of equipment items that we recommend.  We did a lot of research before leaving and this is a compilation of things we used and things we wish we had brought along.

  • Cruising Guides and Charts – I can’t believe some of the people we’ve met who either have really old charts or none at all!  We’re of the opinion that you can’t have enough information!  Here are the books we use:
    • The Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook (editors: John and Leslie Kettlewell)  Shows the actual charts of the waterway with bridge info and some anchorages marked.  We use this one extensively!
    • Managing the Waterway (Mark and Diana Doyle)  – Has marinas, anchorages, bridges and trouble spots listed in order by mile markers.  An easy reference with all of the info in one place.
    • Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway (Skipper Bob) – Very descriptive and helpful info about anchorages, bridges and shoaling.  Note that the shoaling spots change from year to year so I always check the cruiser’s net for the latest information.
    • Marinas Along the Intracoastal Waterway (Skipper Bob) – Helpful reference for marinas.
    • Dozier’s Waterway Guide – Mid-Atlantic and Southern – Marinas, anchorages, and navigation info along with chart views and photos.
    • Explorer Chart books – Essential for the Bahamas!  There are 3 separate books–Near Bahamas, Far Bahamas and Central Bahamas.
    • The Cruising Guide to Abaco Bahamas (Steve Dodge) – Detailed information about the Abacos.  Includes helpful diagrams of marinas with slip numbers.
    • The Exuma Guide (Stephen J. Pavlidas) – Good background and history information as well as navigation in the Exumas.
    • On and Off the Beaten Path: The Central and Southern Bahamas Guide (Stephen J. Pavildas) – Good background and history information as well as navigation in the islands.
    • Maptech Chartkit books – We also carry all of the relevant chart books.  They show the areas surrounding the waterway in case you want to make a detour.  Also, you need a fallback if your chartplotter fails!
  • Folding cart – We didn’t have one on board and ended up purchasing a cart in Marsh Harbor.  It’s very helpful for carting groceries, liquor and laundry.
  • Garmin NUVI – We bought an inexpensive NUVI in Florida and it was great for finding local businesses while traveling the ICW and getting around in a rental car.  You can use it in a car or just walking around.  Now that we both have iPhones, the Nuvi isn’t used very much.
  • Radio Headsets –  We bought a set of headsets at the boat show called ‘marriage savers‘. We used them for the first time on our New England trip and they worked great.  We had some issues with picking up background noise and found that sometimes we had to use them on the ‘low’ setting.  Also, if you have a lot of static, change the batteries!  (Stock up on 9 volt batteries.)
  •  Stand alone freezer – We discovered that it was difficult to keep frozen food in our ice box so we purchased a stand-alone freezer made by Waeco.  After 4 years, the Waeco stopped working right and it was too expensive to repair.  We replaced it with an Engel purchased from West Marine.   The new unit is taller and has the same footprint–more space! It’s so much better than the Waeco. The freezer is so consistent, I can keep a few ice cube trays on top and they stay frozen.  The freezer runs very efficiently on 12-volt power.  We were able to bring enough frozen food purchased in Florida to last all season.  You can get basic frozen meats in the Bahamas but not a very good selection and rather expensive.
Freezer fits nicely in our 'garage'
Freezer fits nicely in our ‘garage’
  • Wifi antenna – We upgraded to an external wifi antenna mounted on our davits.  It worked much better than the Engenious.  We bought it from Island Time.
  • Television/Antenna – We mounted a 19” flat panel TV and purchased a Hinckley Halo antenna (also called a SEA TV Antenna) for the top of the mast.  You can find out more about them from Annapolis Yacht Sales.  Getting good TV reception on the trip along the ICW made the evenings go by quickly.  The TV is useless in the Bahamas unless you also have a DVD player.  We didn’t have a DVD player but found a perfect one in Florida when we got back.  It’s a Coby, purchased from an electronics dealer.  We looked everywhere for a small footprint DVD player.  This one is small enough to fit in our cabinet.  It was supposed to be  ‘multi region’ so we can watch borrow DVDs from our UK friends but that feature didn’t work.    Bring lots of DVDs to watch and share with friends.  In 2010 we enjoyed watching several series including Prime Suspect, The Tudors and Wire in the Blood.  Our friends just mounted a new TV with a built in DVD player on the side–cool!
  • LED lights – They are the greatest invention ever!  Make sure you have plenty of LED flashlights—we only changed the batteries in ours once all season.  We also mounted a solar powered LED light on our stern which made the light configuration on our boat look unique in the dark—essential for finding your boat in a dark anchorage!  This one came from West Marine and although it lasted all season, it did corrode.  I found one at a home store to use with the mounting bracket that came with the old West Marine light.  It came in a box with 2 lights so now we have a spare.  Make sure you get one with a bright LED light.
  • Reflective Tape –A friend recommended putting reflective tape on our mast in a unique pattern to help find the boat in the dark.  It worked great!  I bought some reflective tape (red and white) used on trailers at a hardware store and cut it into squares.  I placed the squares in a checkerboard pattern on the mast above the sail cover.  We had no trouble finding our boat on many very dark nights.

    Reflective tape on the mast
    Reflective tape on the mast

 

  • Bahamian Cell Phone – We purchased a cheap cell phone in Marsh Harbor to use in the Bahamas.  You can easily buy phone cards (minutes) in most places.  We found that using the VHF was not always the best or easiest way of contacting local businesses/marinas.  We also used the Bahamian phone to call the States—I think it was around .33/minute.  We planned to use Skype but you can’t always get wifi and even when you do, there’s not enough bandwidth.  Many of the businesses offering wifi did not allow Skype usage because it interfered too much with other wifi users.  Note:  When we got back to the Bahamas this year, our SIM card was dead.  If you don’t add minutes every 90 days, they disable your card.  We purchased a new SIM card from BTCfor $15.  They now have a better web site where you can add minutes online.  Be aware that your credit card company make flag your card for fraudulent activity when you use the Bahamian web site (Mine did but once I told them that it was valid they allowed the transaction to go through.)

 

  • Macerator pump – We added a macerator pump to our holding tank along with a separate through-hull.  This allowed us to use the holding tank at anchorages and marinas and pump it out when offshore.  There are no pump-out facilities in the Bahamas and pumping out in anchorages is nastyAlso, make sure that your holding tank has a shut-off valve between it and the macerator pump.  If the pump fails and you have to service or replace it your holding tank may not be empty!  This happened to our friends and it was quite a nasty business.  In fact, have a spare macerator pump on board just in case…
  •  Dual Racor filters – We had a dual Racor diesel fuel filter system installed after hearing from most cruisers that they had issues with dirty fuel.  Many cruisers have problems with the gunk at the bottom of the fuel tank getting stirred up – especially if the boat has never been in offshore conditions.  Luckily we never had a problem but knew we could easily switch filters underway.

 

  • Dinghy Step – Looks like a wide nylon strap with a loop at one end.  It worked great for getting back in the dinghy when snorkeling.  I also practiced getting in without the step but it isn’t easy!

 

  • Dinghy Anchor – We never had use for a dinghy anchor in the Chesapeake but definitely needed one in the Bahamas.  When taking your dinghy to shore there is not always a place to tie up.  We used the anchor to keep the dinghy from floating away when the tide rises.  We had a small grappling anchor.  We saw lots of different kinds but a small Danforth seems to work best.
  • Dinghy Emergency Equipment –  After our first trip I thought a lot about ‘what if’ scenarios.  We had outboard engine problems (like most cruisers) and if we weren’t traveling in company of other boats, some situations could get pretty hairy.  It’s a good idea to carry emergency equipment in your dinghy including a hand-held VHF radio, signaling devices (flares), an emergency blanket, bailer, lights, flashlight, compass, horn and rain gear (ponchos.)
  • Dinghy Repair Kit – Make sure you have a way to repair holes, leaks and valves.  Our friend had his dinghy punctured in 2010 from a bolt at a dock.  It was tricky to repair.  A valve failed on our Caribe.  Luckily we were back in the US and could get parts shipped to us.
  • Covers for Jerry Cans –  I bought some sun resistant fabric from Sailrite and made covers for the jerry cans (color coordinated, of course!)  They weren’t real fancy.  I just pinned the fabric over the cans inside out (similar to doing upholstery) and stiched them.  We put grommets at the top for securing them with line.  Make sure you get good spur grommets from Sailrite or a canvas maker.  The brass ones from West Marine are not good.jerry cans

 

  • XM Radio – We were already using XM in the car and replaced our stereo on the boat with one that was XM-ready.  Music, news and sports wherever you are!  We even listened to the presidential inauguration while moored in the Exumas. In 2010, Skip hooked up the XM radio to our Garmin chartplotter so we could make our selections on the big screen.
  • XM Weather – Skip added a subscription to XM weather in 2010.  It displays marine forecasts and warnings (US only)  You can also see winds, sea state, fronts and percipitation.  Our Garmin didn’t display wind forecasts which would be very nice to have (although XM has this information.)

 

  • SSB Receiver – Getting good weather information is essential in the Bahamas.  The first year we didn’t have a single sideband radio (SSB) but planned to install one at some time.  We used an SSB receiver made by Grundig (model G5).  It didn’t work very well using just the antenna so Skip made an antenna from 14 gauge wire and a connector at the end.  He attached it to a spare line and hoisted it up on a halyard.  In 2010, he improved the antenna by attaching the wire directly to our backstay with a clamp.  That way we could have it available whenever we needed it.  We were able to listen to weather broadcasted by Chris Parker.  Without an SSB and a subscription, you can only listen and not ask specific questions. He is the definitive source for accurate weather information in the Bahamas.

 

  • Heat – It was really cold heading down the ICW in the fall.  We only had an electric heater on board.  When anchored out or staying at a free dock (i.e., no electricity) we froze.  Ambient heat from the engine helped for a little while.  We also had a Weems and Plath lantern that used lamp oil which offered a small amount of warmth.  We now have a small catalytic heater on board that uses a small propane canister for those really chilly nights at anchor!  Note:  I sent all of the cold weather clothes and heaters home before leaving Florida in 2009 and regretted it.  We needed a heater in the Abacos!  I also needed more long pants!!
  • Batteries – Bring plenty of different sizes.  They are very expensive in the Bahamas.  We didn’t have enough AA or AAA to last the season.

 

  • Head lamp – Savvy cruisers used headlamps for grilling at night, getting back to your boat after having a few drinks ashore, and reading in the cockpit.

 

  • Wet Suit – Some snorkeling conditions were on the chilly side.  I bought a  ‘shortie’ wet suit for our second trip and needed it the few times I went snorkeling.
  • Ice cube bags – When our refrigeration had issues and I couldn’t get ice to freeze, a friend gave me some ice cube bags made by Cadie.  She found them in an RV supply store. They work great!  I put several in our stand-alone freezer and always had enough ice for happy hour!
  • Vegetable containers – I used a hanging net to store fresh fruit and vegetables.  I also used green bags made by Hefty.  They really did keep romaine lettuce, bananas, carrots, celery, etc. much longer than usual.  I haven’t found the best storage spot for potatoes and onions.  In 2010, I used a storage compartment under the V-berth but had difficulty remembering to use them!
  • Mouse traps – We didn’t have mice but a few friends did.  Maybe the dog kept them away!

 

  • Insect Repellant – You have never seen such a menace as the green deer flies in the South along the ICW!  After doing some research, I discovered that insect repellant with DEET is essential.  None of that DEET-free stuff works!  Also, some fine netting helps when no-see-ums are about.  We didn’t have much of a problem with insects in the Bahamas.
  • Cockpit lights – You spend a lot of time in the cockpit in the evenings so good lighting is a must.  It’s not buggy most places in the Bahamas.  We used an LED lantern but a friend had a string of LED lights that worked well although you need to plug them into AC power.
  • Cabin lights – We replaced some of our cabin lights with LED bulbs to save on energy use but found them not bright enough for entertaining or reading.  After our first trip, we  installed lights from Alpenglow.  They worked great (and look good too!)
  • Anchor –   We use a Delta 44 with 150′ of 3/8″ chain. The Delta works great for us. We had a smaller one that came with the boat and upgraded to a larger anchor. We also have a Fortress as a secondary anchor. We only took it out once last year when strong squalls were predicted but we didn’t have to use it.   Most places have a good sandy bottom. When there’s grass, we look for a clear spot to anchor. We also use the ‘look’ bucket to check the anchor and make sure it’s set. The other boats we travel with use a Manson supreme anchor which they swear by.   A boat that had difficulty last year with their CQR switched to a Manson this year.  You’ll need a good snubber as the anchorages are rarely as tranquil as the Bay. You’ll also need 2 stong lines to loop through a mooring pennant (to avoid chafing the pennant.)
  • White Vinegar – Pour it into the head once a week to combat calcium deposits.  I also used a vinegar/water solution to clean our plastic windows.
  • Metric Tools –  You may not always travel with folks from England who usually have metric tools!
  • AIS – On our 2010 trip we had AIS and it really made a difference.  Ships with transponders are displayed on our chartplotter.  You can see all the commercial traffic on the waterway and offshore — boat names, speed, direction, etc.  It makes it so much easier to contact them to either make them aware of your position or ask if we need to change course.  Most large yachts also seem to have AIS transponders.
  • Smaller headsail – We switched from a 135% headsail to a 100% headsail on our second trip to the Bahamas.  It was much better for the wind conditions in the Bahamas.
  • Fender Holders – They look hideous but getting the fenders out of our cockpit lockers gave us so much more storage space.  We put one on each side of our foredeck.  They were a bit of a hazard when tacking but we learned how to keep the sheets from getting fouled.

Stay tuned…if I think of anything else, I’ll add it to the list!