I recently did a piece to address the frequently asked questions about expedition yachts. One of the questions concerned what supplies are needed for a cruise on an expedition yacht. As I got into the details to answer that question, I realized this was not simply about cruising on an expedition yacht but relevant to anyone planning extended cruising on a boat.

While one can typically reprovision while cruising mainstream cruising grounds, what about when the journey takes you out of home waters? To new and perhaps remote areas where the necessities of your life are not available or are not what your crew know and are familiar with. Toilet paper comes to mind. In many parts of the world, the term “squeezably soft” is hardly a fitting description.

Probably the first step in this discussion is to address the most important. Can you identify the various single points of failure (SPOF) aboard your boat? A single point of failure, be it mechanical, electrical, or electronic, is an element in a system that, if it were to fail, it would take down the entire system. This is critical in a well-designed boat, having built-in redundancy to avoid SPOF, whether it is a wireless router in a computer network, or the fuel delivery system on a long-range cruiser.

The most common example of a single point of failure is the engine’s fuel filter. If it becomes clogged or filled with water, the engine won’t operate. Current diesel engine technology requires extremely clean fuel. The common rail fuel injection system specifies fuel be filtered down to two microns to avoid damage to the injectors.

So, in addition to having dual, switchable filters, it is important to carry a supply of filter elements to eliminate any issues. As Caterpillar states, 93 percent of engine problems are fuel related. Any cruising boat heading off into the sunset should have dual, switchable fuel filters.

(Seen below: An extremely dirty filter.)

dirty fuel filter

But it is not just about SPOFs in mechanical systems. I consider these to be the hard SPOFs. There are others, which I call soft SPOF. In my experience, breaking the unique glass carafe of a Mister Coffee coffeemaker meant we had instant coffee for the remainder of our Pacific crossing. Not a death blow, but not very pleasant either, for all of us except the owner. It took him back to his days in medical school.

Think about your daily routine in personal hygiene. If you were to run out of toothpaste, you could substitute baking soda, or sea salt dissolved in warm water, and there are several other healthy alternatives. But what if you lost your toothbrush? What could you possibly use in its place? I suppose you might have a nasty, well-worn toothbrush among your cleaning supplies, used to detail your boat. But having a spare toothbrush among your personal toiletries is a better bet. Not having a toothbrush shuts down your dental hygiene “system.”

Other items in this soft family of SPOF include a corkscrew, a can opener, even nail clippers (although I’ve used a Dremel tool in a pinch when I broken a nail). We once had a young crew member break a pair of scissors trying to pry open an old tin of rolled oats. A snapped blade made the scissors unusable. Thankfully one of us had a small scissors in her duffel bag.

Having a flip flop blow unnoticed off the deck is a pain for crew who live in them. I’m not a fan of these sandals as they tend to catch on cleats and steps, but if that is your primary footwear, you will be one unhappy cruiser. What was that Jimmy Buffett song?

Food is also on the list to consider when planning for extended or expedition cruising. I remember grocery shopping with Linda Dashew in Auckland, New Zealand, as she and Steve prepared to head off to Fiji on their new 83-foot Wind Horse. She made sure we bought several jars of peanut butter, as Steve is particularly fond of it. From their many years of world cruising, she knows peanut butter will be unavailable once they leave New Zealand until they reach the United States.

(Seen below: A stocked fridge on a boat cruising through the Bahamas. Link to story below.)

yacht fridge with groceries

When considering what consumables to have aboard, and in what quantity, it often helps to do your homework ahead of time. One couple documented their daily routine on a detailed spreadsheet over the course of six months, so they knew exactly how often they went through common things, such as toilet paper, paper towels, freezer bags, soap, shampoo...even eggs. If there are brands of cereal that make you feel at home, stock up so you will have enough for the expected time away from familiar resupply sources. Grey Poupon Dijon mustard isn’t on every grocery shelf.

Speaking of familiarity, are there personal things that one will miss if they are replaced with something that is not quite right, or doesn’t fit as well? Having tried lots of work gloves over the years, I now use 3M Comfort Grip gloves when I do maintenance in my engine room. They work really well for me, but it took awhile to find gloves I like this much. They are not expensive, but they are not going to be found in most stores in the islands, although I did see them in a most unusual general store in downtown Ketchikan, along with wedding dresses and hunting rifles.

comfort grip gloves for boat

Running out of postage stamps might be a big pain if you are of the postcard type, and email and online service may be unavailable where you travel. Not being able to stay in touch and share with family and friends can take away from the cruising experience. (As an aside, I see more and more people leaving social platforms, such as Facebook, over privacy concerns and an increasing distaste for intrusive data practices and harvesting of personal information. Perhaps the old postcard will make a comeback.)

Unless your boat has the luxury of a trash compactor, garbage will have to be dealt with, and it is no small matter, depending on where one cruises. The world is becoming increasingly aware of sustainable and lower impact on the environment, and most cruisers are now expected to embrace “green” boating practices. For the adventure cruising crowd, many isolated areas have strict restrictions on trash and sewage disposal, and recycling is nonexistent. Knowing this trend towards responsible cruising, prepare to have quantities of large garbage bags, and designate a section of the lazarette for storing garbage until it can be responsibly disposed of.

An experienced cruiser will have the right type and number of regular maintenance items, such as zincs, filters, and belts. And we’ve discussed the proper tool chest in previous articles. But there might be items overlooked. The water filter element of the Seagull filter at the galley sink is one of these. It is changed yearly but where will the boat be when it is time to change it?

Holiday decorations, birthdays, and other celebrations are more fun with a little advanced planning. I know lots of cruising families that keep a small Christmas tree carefully wrapped in the forepeak, along with garlands and other decorations to pull out to celebrate the holidays wherever they happen to be. There is no reason for children to miss these special occasions just because they are on a boat. The same goes for birthdays and other big events.

Probably none speaks more of cruising tradition than crossing the equator for the first time. This line-crossing ceremony celebrates Pollywogs (those who have not crossed before) becoming Shellbacks, sons of Neptune. Funny outfits and harmless pranks are all part of this age-old tradition.

(Seen below: This pollywog ceremony involved kissing a fish! Image from camelsandchocolate.com)

pollywog ceremony

Preparing one’s boat for a long adventure is almost as much fun as doing it, at least to me. Switching all lighting to LED, rebuilding the windlass to make sure it is in perfect shape, and generally doing my own sea trial and survey ensures that the boat is ready.

And with the essential stores on board, so am I.


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