Must have items

Today we will be talking about the things you NEED to get done before you set sail?  We’ll cover various lists and give you some ideas, but remember, everybody’s boat and lists are a little different.  First is the list of what you need to do before you cast off, including prepping the boat AND preparing the crew! Another list is the “NICE TO HAVE ITEMS”. And also there are the “MUST HAVE ITEMS”. Here’s a sample of the kinds of things we are talking about:

Must have items:

Sun Shades – Mexico is hot.  Central America is even hotter.  More than just a good bimini, you’ll want sun shades to cover as much of the boat as possible.


Flopper Stoppers – (boat stabilizers) Rolly anchorages destroy sleep.  Flopper stoppers won’t completely stop but will substantially dampen the rolling.

Spares – Maintenance under way is never ending and it’s nice to have spare parts at your finger tips.  But space is typically at a premium and most anything can be found in Mexico, though that’s less true in Central America  Alternators seem to be one of the more frequent problems for cruisers and finding one to fit your particular engine can be problematic so we suggest carrying  an extra.   You’ll quickly put hours on your engines looking for wind so lots of filters (oil and fuel) are a good idea.  Likewise, a spare valve cover gasket or two and a feeler gauge for valve adjustments are good ideas. Consider also taking spare fan belts, light bulbs to fit your fixtures, raw water pump impellers and engine hoses.


Fans – Take a good supply, even if you have air conditioning.  AC is usually too much of a power draw to use at anchor all the time.


Dinghy Wheels – You’ll kick yourselves if you go without them.  If possible, find a pair that slide into a track and lock themselves.  Those that need to be secured with pins become a pain after the 2nd or 3rd trip to the beach in a day.  The larger the tires, the better.


Long Range Communication – The ability to gather weather info and/or communicate long range in an emergency is a must.  The optimum would be to have both a satellite phone (SAT) and single side band (SSB) radio but that begs the question of expense.  SAT phones remain somewhat expensive to purchase and operate but can give internet access and the ability to communicate from a life raft if ever needed.  SSB’s are older technology but still serviceable and, with a Pactor modem, also offer e-mail capability through either Winlink or Sailmail.


Dinghy Lifts —  Have a way to get your dink out of the water at night (eg., tied to the side of the boat at deck level) and do it religiously. They do have a tendency to disappear if left in the water.  Davits are the method of choice but an added expense.

Boat Work –  Boat work is getting more expensive south of the border so don’t plan to wait till you get there for bargains.  Additional food for thought is that virtually all U. S. insurance policies we’ve seen exclude coverage for hauling boats in Mexico.


Chartplotters – Don’t leave home without at least one.  We also like to fully chart our passages before departure.  You’ll always know exactly where you are which is much different than trying to figure it out in zero visibility fog or as you enter a bay a bay at night.

Raise the waterline if you do new bottom paint.

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