Every cruiser has a list of their favorite things. Things they wouldn’t want to be without on the water or dockside for safety, convenience, comfort or just plain indulgence. From time to time we’ll be posting some of the items, boat-specific and otherwise, that have really enhanced our life on board.
This set focuses on two items for safety and one for sanitation. We paid full price for these items and only write about them to share the love…
They’re often referred to as “marriage savers.” And for good reason. Typically, one of the most stressful parts of boating is the docking process. You are often pulling up to an unfamiliar marina and are subject to whatever the wind and current are doing to potentially make things more challenging. It is not uncommon to watch a boat pulling up to the dock with couples yelling at each other because it can be quite difficult to hear someone who’s at another end of the boat. And that yelling typically quickly escalates when things aren’t going well with the docking. When OLOH is pulling into a slip it is typically just the two of us (Jasper has proved to not be particularly helpful with docking). I’m at the helm or on deck with the Yacht Controller remote while Tim is at the stern ready to hand off a line or step off the boat to tie us up if no one is on the dock waiting for us. With our headsets on we are able to talk in our normal voices as if we are on the telephone. We use them every time we are docking or departing, even when it’s familiar or easy -in, easy-out as there is always the chance one of us will need to communicate with the other. As Tim is often out of sight during this process I often don’t have eyes on him so it’s also a safety consideration. We have walkie-talkies on board but because you have to hold them and push a button to talk they’re much less convenient as we both need our hands-free.
The headsets we had for several years on our last boat and for our first season with OLOH were the Eartec Simultalk 24G’s. They operate on a frequency not prone to interference and we found them to be generally reliable for the eight years we had them. They have a lightweight headset that keeps one ear open, an integrated adjustable “boom” microphone and a belt pack transceiver that houses the controls. Our biggest issue with them was that the belt pack could be a bit cumbersome and in one particular instance Tim’s pack fell off at exactly the wrong time (always the way it happens). After that incident and the malfunctioning of one of the headsets, we searched for a replacement. Technology has advanced since we bought these so surely there would have to be another viable product. Many headset manufacturers have gone to Bluetooth and we tried what seemed to be a well-rated, popular set that had been recommended to us. In theory, they were great – a small, lightweight headset without any other pack and purported great noise reduction, critical for operating in the wind. Unfortunately, in reality, they were terrible for us. Maybe we got a bad set but there was so much interference and wind noise that we found them to be simply unusable. Plus there is that ever-so-slight delay you may be familiar with from using your cell phone. It’s not terrible but it is an annoyance to us as we often are near each other with the headsets on as we move about the boat in preparation for departure or after arrival when we still want to use our headsets. As far as simply using our phones with a wireless earpiece, separate from the annoying delay, you never know when you’ll be in an area without a reliable cell signal. It’s good to have something purpose-specific for the way we use them. The particular system we used is no longer made, having been replaced by a similar setup with a much smaller pack. When we started to have issues with one of our headsets we were pleased to find that Eartec has replacement parts available at reasonable prices and took advantage of that to get us through the season. But it was time for something new.
At the beginning of our second season aboard OLOH we purchased Eartec’s UltraLITE UL2S headsets and have been absolutely thrilled with their functionality and performance. We thought having a much bigger headset would be cumbersome but they’re lightweight, very comfortable and having the earcup completely cover your ear (we have the style with a single earcup) we hear each other with great ease and clarity without interference from background noise. When you flip the mic boom up and away from your mouth it mutes which is very helpful when you need to speak with someone not on the other headset (although one of our friends says this stresses an internal wire and the boom should not be folded up). We have also found battery life to be excellent. Poor battery life seemed to be a common complaint with the earlier generation of this headset. So it is easy for us to recommend this product and yes, it may save your marriage.
One of the items I consider essential for maintaining good situational awareness is also one of the cheapest on board or something you could even make on your own for pennies. Yes, we spend tens of thousands of dollars on state-of-the-art navigation electronics which perform a multitude of functions but this little piece of plastic has one function and one function only and if it does its job wrong it is most likely due to operator error. As boaters know, the most basic rule of buoy navigation is “red, right, returning” meaning the position of the red buoy should be on the right side of the boat (starboard) when returning from sea or heading upstream or toward the origin or headwaters of a water body. It’s pretty simple to remember and easy to follow. But with everything that can be going on when you are underway it is easy for some people to have a moment where they don’t instantly recall which side of the boat a marker should be on. Most of our early boating was on the Hudson River where the rule was simple to apply… as you were heading north (returning from sea) red is to the right, green to the left and the opposite is true when heading south. But there was more than one occasion where we were approaching a buoy and the ability to quickly look down and confirm where that buoy should be in relation to us kept us out of trouble. In unfamiliar waters, it’s an even more important tool. The thing just sticks to your helm with a suction cup and you spin it depending on how the rule applies to your current course. As simple as it comes. We bought ours a long time ago and have moved it from boat to boat. I didn’t even think they were still out there but found the link below for a place in Canada that appears to sell em’ for around $12 (at the time of this posting). If you’re crafty it’s easy to make something that gets the job done. A friend of ours used magic marker caps. Of course one day I’ll design something with LED lights built into the helm, maybe tied into our chartplotter 😎.
Perhaps there is nothing less appealing to talk about than marine sanitation unless you’re our resident “Wench With A Wrench”. This product was covered in this terrific post where she wrote all about boat heads and treatments and odor control, but it deserves a mention in our Favorite Things section as well. It’s simple. When properly added to your holding tank it breaks down everything to liquid (even paper) so pumpouts are easier and your holding tank stays cleaner. It also helps with cleaning the sanitation hoses and eliminating odor. It is the only thing we add to our head and holding tank system and we have always been odor-free. It is not inexpensive but it is one of those rare products that just works as advertised so we find it to be well worth the cost. The link below is to the vendor we have reliably used for years for this item and there is a terrific explanation on their page of exactly how it works.
Got some favorite gear of your own? We love to know what other people love so please tell us about it.
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