Every object we buy is a potential burden, in terms of the physical and mental space the item occupies. Even when it passes out of our hands, whether it is sold, passed down, donated or discarded, the object still exists, while many more are manufactured. In his book The Long Way, Moitessier talks about the need to stop satisfying false needs and false joys, to instead focus on preserving nature. Preserving nature is our most worthy responsibility, and isn't compatible with an economy of "full consumption".

We have contributed our share of waste in the past, we have burdened others with objects when we reduced our own lives to fit onto a boat. Now, we do our best to avoid new items, and spend time seeking existing alternatives, or repairing broken items whenever possible. It is a challenge, our for-profit economy doesn't encourage thrift and care, it promotes off-the-shelf solutions, while making repair and thrift difficult, and unattractive.

Time is necessary to practice thrift and care, but it is a scarce resource. Work takes an ever-larger chunk out of the average person's day. Time did not used to be compartmentalized into work and non-work, "work" was once more intertwined with family, community and play. Now, "work" pays for outside entertainment, and life outside of work has lost vitality and meaning, it has ceased being a means to an end and become an end in itself. An economy that glorifies "work" and "infinite consumption" preaches that leisure is a commodity that people can consume rather than it being free time that they can enjoy. Today's pleasures are debited to the future, paid not in money, but in waste and misery. A purchase that was easy to make today, will be an inconvenience to someone, somewhere, later. Our membership in this world is never free.

We have to cherish nature, to foster its renewal, and to prioritize thrift and care rather than waste and excess. Maintenance and stewardship require something of us, we have responsibilities that lie beyond ourselves and our own profit. The farming phrase, “eyes to acres,” by Wes Jackson, says that in order to run a farm well, one has to be familiar with the environment, to be in touch with the little changes that occur every day. Only when we see land as a community, to which we belong, can we begin to use it with respect and love. This was an excerpt from Busy Doing Nothing, which we thought was worth re-printing here.

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. Land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.
— Aldo Leopold

Repair, reuse.

Doing maintenance and repairs yourself will bring the cost down. Offloading work to professionals if you can afford it is fine, but it's good to know how to take care of your boat. You may not always have access to workers if sailing to far-flung islands.

A failure to maintain items regularly will cost more later. We recommend keeping a log of the repairs, part replacements that is done to your boat. Many parts have a limited lifespan, so knowing when they were replaced last will help prevent breakages. If leaving for a big sailing trip with spares, install the spare and keep the other one as the spare. If you do this, you'll learn how to change the part and what tools you need to do the job.

When doing repairs, use quality materials and products, research them thoroughly before a project instead of relying on brand names.

maintenance checklist

Short list:

Long list:

effect of combining dissimilar metals

Take care when choosing hardware and fasteners for your boat. When dissimilar metals are placed in contact with each other, introducing an electrolyte(like fresh or saltwater) will trigger corrosion.

When water(electrolyte) is introduced onto metals that are very galvanically incompatible(ex: stainless steel and galvanized steel), one metal becomes a negatively-charged cathode, and the other a positively-charged anode. Electrons flow from the one to the other by way of the electrolyte. The two metals act as a battery and transfer electrons from one(the cathode) to the other(the anode). [Source]

When selecting hardware aim for metals that are white(safe) in the following chart, do not mix metals intersecting at red(very problematic) or yellow(problematic).

Author and source of above chart unknown

cleaning products

When it comes to cleaning, polishing or abrading, you don't need a crazy arsenal of products. Below is a list of recommendations for household cleaning, or maintenance aboard a boat. If you must use a commercial cleaner, look for products that contain citrus-based solvents instead of more toxic petroleum distillates.

All purpose cleaner Mix of 500 ml hydrogen peroxide(3%) with 2.5 ml(40 drops) of lavender and lemon essential oils, and 0.6 ml(10 drops) of peppermint essential oil. Leave on surface for several minutes before wiping clean. Store in a dark-coloured bottle.
Chrome Apply apple cider vinegar on a soft cotton cloth to rub it clean. Then, use a fresh cloth with a dab of baby oil to make it shine.
Copper Make a paste of either lemon or lime juice and salt. Rub gently to clean.
Aluminum Cream of tartar and hot water. In a dish, add a few spoonfuls of cream of tartar, and stir in water to create a thick paste. Rub over the aluminum surface with a soft cloth.
Acrylic Use a mild dish soap. Mix about 1 L of water with a few drops of dish soap in a bowl, agitate to create suds. Dip cloth into mix, clean acrylic gently. Wipe with a clean, damp rag, and follow up with a soft, dry rag to collect leftover moisture.
Plastic Use a mixture of 1:2 white vinegar and warm water.
Brass Coat the cut half of the lemon with table salt and rub it over the surface, re-coating the lemon with salt as needed. Buff to a shine with a clean, dry cloth.
Cast iron Immediately after use, clean with plain hot water and a sponge. Stuck on food can be removed with a paste made of coarse salt and water. Dry with a towel, or over the oven at a low flame, and coat with a layer of oil.
Stainless steel Wipe down with freshwater, or use a water/baking soda solution for tough stains.
Fibreglass Dislodge debris with a scrubbing brush, rinse off with fresh water. For rust stains, make a paste of baking soda and water. Use a soft cloth and gently rub mixture onto the stain. Leave for 1 hour. For heavy yellow waterline and rust stains try Grunt emer-gel, a phosphoric acid-based product. Wear gloves while using it, as it is an irritant.
Wood dishes Wash with mild soap and warm water. Dry immediately after washing. Never soak in water or put it away wet. Every month or so, apply a coat of food-grade oil (we use mineral oil, not ideal, there are alternatives though) to keep the wood moisturized.
Wood cutting boards Same basic treatment as wood dishes. Before adding oil, scrub clean with lemon and salt. Sprinkle board with coarse salt. Using a lemon half, cut side down, scour the surface. Let sit for 5 minutes, scrape mixture away, rinse clean and let air dry.
Sails Wash with cool water mixed with dishwashing liquid. Let dry thoroughly before storing.
Mildew Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength. Apply with a sponge or scrubby.
Head Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, scrub with a brush.
Sink clog Try a plunger first. If that doesn't clear it, pour 120 ml or more of baking soda down the drain, then add 250 ml of vinegar. Plug it up, and let it sit 10-15 min, then pour more hot water down. Repeat until clear.
Clothes Mix 2 cups of washing soda with the gratings from one 140 g bar of castile soap. Use 15 g for light loads, and 30 g for heavy loads. To whiten, disinfect, deodorize clothes of dish cloths, use sodium percarbonate at a ratio of 15 g per 5 L. It's also possible to use lemon juice as a mild lightener if exposed to the sun.


Basic tools to make repairs to the various parts of your boat.

Carry only those tools that fit the fasteners that hold the various bits of your boat together and you will have what you need and won’t be burdened by what you don’t. — Don Casey

Starter kit:

Advanced kit add-ons. Many of these are useful if you plan to do most of your own work.

Tool General uses Boat uses
Grinder Cut metal, sanding, polish metal or wood etc Polishing prop, cutting SS pipes or sheeting
Dremel Cutting, sanding, etching, engraving wood or glass Sharpening tools, drill bits, customizing wood with art, cutting small areas with precision.
Power drill Drill holes through wood, metal, SS etc Holes for hardware etc.
Orbital sander Sanding Fairing fibreglass, or rounding edges of wood.
Screw extractor (E-Z outs) Removing broken bolts from wood or metal Extracting seized bolts in engine body
Tap and die kit Re-threading stripped bolt holes Engine body hole repair
Bolt cutters Large, cutting through heavy wires or metal Cutting locks or rigging wires
Small hatchet Cutting, whittling wood or other Cutting lines, or through walls in an emergency
Shears Heavy duty cutting Cutting through heavy canvas or rope
Pipe wrench Turning threaded pipes and fittings Tightening or loosening galley plumbing, or stuffing box
Strap wrench (metal band) Loosening and tightening pipes, fixtures and cylindrical items Loosening or tightening oil and fuel filters on engine
Hand-sewing needles 5 assorted straight and 2 curved sailmaker's needles, plus assortment of carpet needles Sail, clothes or canvas repair
Caliper Precious measuring Measuring inside of pipes, diameters of tubes etc
Hole saws Boring round holes Cutting holes for wires, or instruments through wood or fibreglass.
Small manual pump Extracting water, oil or sewage water Oil changes, pumping out bilge water
Heat gun Stripping paint, shrink wrapping, softening adhesives or plastics Softening hoses for insertion, shrink wrapping electrical connections etc
Right angle screwdriver Tightening or loosening screws with limited clearance Removing screws from engine
Jigsaw Cutting holes, shapes and curves in wood Making complex custom wood projects
Small bench vice Holding wood or metal in place for cutting or drilling

We prefer not to have too many overly specialized tools that we only ever use once every 3 years, like a rivet gun, a grease gun or a swage tool. In a boatyard, there is always someone who will have these, and we're certain that they'll be more than happy to lend them to you.

bikes on a boat

a bike on a marina dock with the two wheels off and strapped to the frame

Bike tool essentials:

Note that we have single speed bikes(no derailleurs). We chose leaner bikes because we knew we'd be taking the wheels on and off often to store them onboard.

There are many more tools to get if you wish to do a full bike tune-up, but in all these tools are way fine for most people, and it is what we carry aboard Pino.

Note: Keep some old bike tubes, they are useful for self-steering a boat at sea (instead of using bungees). We used them a lot on long ocean passages because we didn't have a windvane, or an autopilot. See Thoughts, Tips and Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing by Andrew Evans(it's free) for more information on steering a boat with bungees (or bike tubes).

Do the bikes rust? No, our bikes don't rust, the frames are aluminum(forks are carbon) and we keep the steel chains and hubs well-oiled(3 in 1 oil). Always apply lube to a dry chain.

Where do you keep your bikes?. When in port for a long time, we keep them outside, locked to a strong point on the boat. When we move the boat, or during the winter/rainy season, we stow them inside. We stow the bikes inside in either the v-berth, or quarter berth. The best way to stow them is to take both wheels off, to remove the pedals, turn the handle bars sideways, and to tie all components with straps. We cover the bikes with a bike bag.

The bags are nothing special, but allowed us to carry them with us aboard trains while in Japan.

hauling out

Tasks like hauling-out (to get the bottom painted) is necessary once every 2-3 years for an offshore boat, but can be every year. How often you haul out depends on your personal preference(and the size of your wallet).

When out of the water, don't forget to...

Bottom paint: If the goal is to wait longer between haul-outs, paint more coats (2-3), otherwise aim for 1 coat every year. We use high-copper ablative anti-fouling. Ablative wears out over time, overtime it becomes less effective at repelling sea critters. Eventually, stripping the bottom of all paint down to the gelcoat is necessary, paint can build up and the older layers will start to flake off, making it difficult for new paint to adhere to the bottom. If painting the bottom from gel coat, adding a layer of primer is necessary so that the antifouling paint can adhere. We have no experience with Coppercoat, or hard bottom paint.

Strut and prop: Coating your prop and strut with PropSpeed (see image above) works well to keep growth off, it works well in high-growth areas (we used it in New Zealand and Japan) but it is very expensive. Sailors often buy the product to share with others to keep costs down. There are also zinc-based sprays, or paint, that work quite well. See propeller maintenance if you want advice on maintaining a feathering propeller.

If your boat comes out of the water for a haul-out every year, a cheap alternative is to coat metal with zinc cream(penanten) or anhydrous lanolin(reported by others). Both products are available at the pharmacy. Note that neither last very long in the water.

wood upkeep

Most boats have teak rails or accessories, or marine plywood(interior). Teak does not rot, but it is a very expensive and an increasingly rare material. We don't recommend buying new exotic hardwoods, even if they last longer, because they often come from endangered forests. In all cases, using reclaimed hardwoods is the best thing to do. When boats are too old, they're stripped for parts and are a good source of used hard woods.

Most interior wood ought to be treated—especially marine plywood—so they don't absorb moisture. Marine ply is usually pre-treated to prevent the wood from rot and decay, but the wood still needs to be sealed. All boats suffer leaks eventually, and so it is necessary to take steps to protect the wood to make it last. If replacing a wall, coat the wood with multiple layers of epoxy(on the seam too) before applying multiple coats of varnish for UV protection. For outside wood, apply at least 8 coats of varnish to make sure that it lasts. Add more coats after a few hours, while it hasn't dried, that way you don't have to sand it to get the new coat to adhere (this means having to do many coats very fast though).