What are the important things on a boat – easy to understand

Well, as I mentioned in this post about communication on a sailboat, I am not very good when it comes to technic stuff on the boat. But I do live on boats for two years now and I try my best to get better. In this post, I want to talk about stuff, devices and all the important things on a boat. And as I am not techy-techy, I write easy to understand. If you are a bit like me and have no clue but think about getting a boat, looking for advice without getting bored in the second sentence, you are in the right place.

We lived on two different boats so far. We started with a 34-foot steel boat, but we changed to a 44 foot Moody.

First was Faith.

Faith is a 34 foot steel boat, designed by Boehling, a rather not known brand. She was designed in Germany but welded in the Netherlands. She has a moderate long keel, back hung rudder and a weight of round about ten tons.

Sailing boat Faith
Faith sailing boat

We had a lot of stuff in her, as we did work on her for about three years on the hard stand before finally leaving. The most important parts to me were:

30l daily tank
The daily tank is good as it is higher than the engine, so the fuel can flow to the engine via gravity, means without a pump. That is good. Imagine an electric failure in the system, no more pump= no more fuel, no more engine running. So we pumped the fuel with and electric pump to the daily tank but made sure we have a manual pump as well. If anything would fail, we would still be able to use the 30l of fuel to get to a harbour or to a more secure place.
Standard Horizon DSC VHF with passive AIS

Nice thing to have, but we never used the passive AIS, only the VHF on its own. If you can manage to have also a handheld VHF, get one. We installed the VHF downstairs and when approaching a marina or talking to friends who were sailing alongside, we liked the handheld device much better.

Matsutec active AIS

See further down for more explanation.

Pactor and Short wave radio

Well, that’s a long story, but I try to make it short. We both have now the highest possible degree in short wave radio as we passed the German test. Unfortunately, we really have no clue how to use it. The pactor system needs a short wave radio to communicate. With a Pactor you can send text Emails via radio signals and get weather forcast anywhere in the world without additional costs. It took us half a year and lots of nerves to finally make it work. Honestly, a friend of us did it. It is the best thing ever when it works, but until then it is a pain in the a$$. My recommendation if you have no clue about electronics either, pay someone to set it up. It is really worth the money.

A nice story along the way: when we crossed the Biscay, the Pactor wasn’t working and the forecast we had when leaving England was total crap. So I called every day one of the Container Ships passing our way over the VHF and asked kindly for the weather forcast. First, all of them were quite grumpy, but only until they recognised that I am asking for the weather forcast and not wanting to annoy them in any way. Then everyone got super helpful and friendly, always providing us with the newest information they could get,

One salt water intake
As long as you don’t have a watermaker on board, fresh water is always a precious and very ending good on a boat. Especially on long distance trips, you want to save water. As we are surrounded by water, that is usually nice and clear, we installed also a salt water manual pump, that I used for cleaning my hands, washing the dishes and also cooking (pasta only one third salt water! Believe me!) How did we do it? We didn’t want to drill another hole in the hull, so we used the inlet from the toilet, installed a t-shaped valve, hose to the pump and there you go.
Tiller Pilot

Same as Autopilot, but working with the tiller. I actually liked to have a tiller as it gives you a very instant feedback about waves and current. You’ll always know, where the rudder is and no need for a device that tells you where the rudder points at. But still, I prefer a steering wheel.

Wind vane Aries, later Windpilot Pacific

Can’t say enough good things about the windvane system. The Aries worked perfectly, it just broke after being used for about 30 years and we couldn’t find anyone who could weld cast aluminum. But honestly, what were they thinking when putting aluminum and stainless steel together in salt water? Corrosion here we are. The Pacific did an awesome job until we decided to sell Faith.

Pacific self steering system on our sailing boat
Pacific self-steering system on Faith
Garmin Plotter

We only have a small plotter and Alex wishes every time to have a bigger screen, but I think it is enough. The plotter is the most crucial part when we go out. Telling us the direction, the speed, the depths and also showing the AIS signals around us. I love Garmin as we can use Homeport to set up the route on the computer and use it then. The charts are precise and full of information. Best thing ever.

Top loaded fridge (!!) important
Especially in hot areas, the fridge is your best friend. Cool drinks, food and whatever you need to be chilled. Now there are two opportunities for fridges that I know. Front door open or top loaded, means the “door” opens on the top and not to the front as you are used from home. Okay, it is a bit more unconvienent to grab your stuff like this and not as easy to look in the fridge, but! With a door that opens to the front the cool air will fall out of the fridge every time you open it. Therefore the little compressor has to kick in basically every time you open the door and that uses a lot of precious energy on board. Energy on board is coming from batteries as long as you are not in a marina, this is a very soon ending resource. Solar panels will help you here, but if you don’t have your boat covered in solar panels it may not be enough. So if you can choose, go for a top loaded fridge.
Solar panels
I can’t recommend solar panels enough. Basically, every boat that goes out longer than for a weekend has solar energy and I know why. They are light, more or less easy to install and provide lots of energy. AND they are calm. We had both, wind and solar energy and I am not sure if a wind generator is something you need to have (it is loud, whatever the advertisement says) but solar power doesn’t make a noise at all. High energy output, you may want to think about a NPPT regulator.
Wind generator

We had a totally oversized wind generator and it’s the only benefit was to keep away the seagulls from pooping on the solar panels as it makes a hell of a noise. Whatever the advertisement tells you: don’t believe it. They all make noise. Some more, some less, but they all make noise and most of them start to vibrate and shake the boat at some point. Get solar power, much better output, less noise (no noise) and easy to use.


Sailing boat Assai in Sicily
Sailing boat Assai in Sicily


When we moved from Faith to Assai, we took quite a lot of devices with us. So, you’ll find some parts doubled here.
VHF with DSC but without passive AIS

We decided to change to a normal VHF, as we never used the passive one on Faith having the active AIS as a stand alone device on board. By the way, we decided against a bus system where all the devices are connected and talking to each other. For one part it is great, to see everything you want om one big screen or are able to plan a route on the plotter and then hitting one button and the Autopilot drives you there. On the other hand, these things are very likely to break or prone to errors. We had it once on a friends boat that the VHF radio had a problem and then no more GPS signal, without the signal no more Autopilot and so on. And what if the one screen brakes where all the information is shown? Without backup, you’re blind in one second to another.

Matsutec active AIS

If I would have to choose one on a good working boat, I’d go for the active AIS. We had really big fog when approaching Gibraltar. Highly unpredictable winds, loads of traffic, strong currents and I could barely see the bow of the boat because of the fog. I heard lots of fog horns from the big container ships all around, but hard to guess where the ships are in this nothingness. Without the AIS I wouldn’t have dared to approach Gibraltar. But on the screen, I could see our boat, our speed and all the other ships around us that also have an active AIS, their course, speed, CPA (closest point of approach) as well as the time to CPA, size of the boat etc.

Shortwave radio and Pactor II upgraded to III

See above for more information. So far, we can’t use it as our friend wasn’t here to set the whole thing up for us.

Autopilot autohelm 4000 broke after 600 nm

An Autopilot is the best thing until it brakes. Being a crew of two means one needs to rest for a few hours during the night and you don’t want to wake the other up just because you need a tea, a wee or a quick cookie. Without an Autopilot, someone ALWAYS has to steer. The other has to bring whatever is needed. And you can’t do any maneuver alone as you could with an Autopilot keeping the course, so you can reef the sails or do what’s needed.

Steering on a sailboat
Steering is nice thing until you have to do it days in a row
Garmin Plotter

See above.

Rolling Main and Furling Genua

On Faith we also had a furling Genua, but the rolling main is new to us. I just love it. It is not as fast to bring the sail in, I have to admit and that is what annoys Alex very much, but I think it is worth it. Now none of us needs to leave the Cockpit in any kind of weather to reef the sails, what is a big safety point in my eyes. Reefing to any point we wish for is possible. With the ‘normal’ system, we had three given reefs and that was it. Now, I can choose to reef half, a third, two thirds or just a tiny bit. Far better adjustable to the weather situation out there. And the best thing, I can handle it alone, I don’t have to wake Alex up during my watch for reefing. That means I reef far earlier than before and feel much more secure. Best advice about reefing anyway: When you think about reefing: reef.

If at any point we would need to abandon ship, I would rather jump overboard without a lifejacket, without the liferaft, but never without the EPIRB.
Okay, when you are deep into boats, you’ll know that this is a very shortened list. But for me, these are the most important parts.

One thing you should be aware of and I can’t stress it out enough is: everything that can break, will break. End of story. Sailing the world means repairing your ship at the most beautiful places on earth. Ever heard that saying? Probably yes, that’s because it’s true. Saltwater and sunshine will do damage to everything sooner or later.


When it comes to cleaning the boat, not the hull from barnacles, but cleaning inside the men usually are not very interested. Still, it is a topic that needs to be taken care of. Sure, a smaller space is faster to clean but some oil or fuel drops find its way sooner or later. Here I found now a perfect thing to use. White Stone from Beckstein helped me to clean Assai after being left alone for years. Not only tons of dust but also some nasty stains or the leather that used to be white once upon a time. It is easy to handle. Just use the sponge that comes with the package. Dip it in water, rub over the white stone, press it two or three times until you see the bubbles. Start cleaning, done. Yellow dirt from ages inside the boat and outside on the deck, in the cockpit and wherever I thought it could help. After a short time cleaning, the whole thing looked new. I can totally recommend it.
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