We are all about our tools. Homo Faber – Toolmaking man. Often in cruising we do make our own tools, and I hope soon to write an article on jury rigs that sailors have “invented”. But there are some tools that are just so delightful for their purpose that I have to sing their praises here today. Great devices for cruising sailors obviously have to first meet their intended use particularly well. Second, it should do so with some extra characteristic, a beauty or efficiency or flexibility that really delights.
And I’m not going to talk about classes of things – of course an AIS transmitter is high in my list of must-haves, and I like the one I have, but I particularly like it because it is inexpensive and does exactly what all the others do. Not a source of delight except insofar as AIS transmitters are a delight. To show up in today’s blog article it has to have an extra quality of delight apart from the others of its class.
I don’t claim that all these devices for cruising sailors will delight you in the same way they delight me, but maybe by telling you why I love it you’ll understand whether you would love it as well.
Devices for Cruising Sailors that Offer Utility and … a Bit of Delight!
Boom UE Wireless Speaker
Our cruising speakers eight years ago were inexpensive wired speakers. They were fine. They played music. But they were blocky, black, wired in place. Recently I’ve discovered Boom UE speakers which are delightful. The sound quality is great. They connect with Bluetooth, so no wires required – you can carry them to where you want the music. They are water resistant! They come in delightful colors. They get as loud as I would ever want. The charge lasts 15 hours! You can use one for great sound, or you can use an app to connect two together to be stereo speakers. They work great with my Android phone, iPod, iPad, or laptop for music, books on tape, or amplifying streamed movies, in fact they “remember” the last 8 devices that connected. And did I mention they come in delightful color combinations? Scoff if you want, but I love the colors. Plus you can hang them from a hook on the bottom or set them down or stick them in a sheet bag. They project sound in 360 degrees. These are well thought-out devices that work beautifully and make us happy just to look at them. They range from $90 to $150 at Amazon depending on the color.
Soggy Doggy Towels
The Soggy Doggy Towel is a cute towel perfectly sized to dry off a dog, and it works well on humans as well, especially great for drying long hair. Shape. It has a triangular pocket in each end of the towel that you tuck your hands into before starting to dry off your dog. This gives you a good grip on the towel and the dog so you can dry both sides of their body at once. Size. The size is perfect for most people’s hands – big enough to get both hands around the dog and effectively use the whole towel surface. Absorbancy. Super absorbent and keeps on drying even when the chenille itself has picked up a lot of water. Dries Quickly. After my dog has been bathed the two standard towels I used to use end up in a sodden heap on the floor of the bathroom. The Soggy Doggy never seems to get saturated, and dries quickly even if you forget and leave it lying on the floor after the dog is washed! Cute Factor. This has serious cute factor with strong colors, contrasting piping, and great big chenille “loops”. Very soft as well. Your dog will love it, or keep it for yourself!
(Quiet) Silicone Pot Covers
There are four things that annoy me about conventional pot lids: they get hot, take up a lot of storage room with their protruding lids, they make a rattling racket when being stored, and they only fit certain pots. All four of these traits are remedied if you use silicone pot lids. You just slap the lid over whatever you want to cover, and it creates a suction keeping the lid on the pot. When you’re ready to release it, just stick your cooking spoon under the overhanging lid, push the spoon up to release any steam, and then pick it up with the other hand. There is a little ridge along the middle of the cover that you can use to pick up the cover, but watch out as it can heat up if the pot is boiling. They cool off very quickly, often just breaking the seal is enough to be able to use the top handle. They are also great for covering a bowl of leftovers. The suction grip really holds tightly, although I would not use if when offshore for storing food, but would work fine at anchor in your icebox. They are perfectly safe to use to cover cooking pots at sea if you’re using a gimbled stove top. Measure your largest fry pan and make sure you buy one large enough for that hard-to-cover pan! Works great for containing grease splatters, too.
I slightly prefer the clear pot covers with low-aspect handles, but there are some terribly cute ones made in the shape of flowers or leaves. Get several sizes for all your pots and pans. Buying several sizes in one pack is less expensive. Buying one of the multi-color packs has the advantage that you can tell at a glance which size cover is which.
Vivo Ultra Boat/Water Shoes
VivoBarefoot makes these Ultra shoes. The older model is the Ultra Pure and the newer model is the Ultra II. These shoes are perfect for warm weather sailing. They have decent grip on the deck surface. Like Crocs and other plastic shoes they don’t absorb water, but these stay on your foot better than most plastic shoes. The provide good stability, are very light and cool, and protect your toes from injury (cleats love to jump out and attack my toes) or under-the-water menaces. They come with a removable tongue and I prefer to remove it. The stretchy laces help the shoe cling to your foot. The bright colors (navy, black and white are also available) are darn cute, too. There are models for men, women, and children. Look for the older models on Amazon, Zappos and others to save a little money, but you might not have much color selection. These are long-lasting, comfortable shoes.
Soft-edge Can Opener
When cruising you open a lot of cans, sometimes under less than stable conditions. A can opener that leaves a sharp edge is not your friend. But some can openers, rather than cut the metal top off, actually bend up the glued edge of the top where it bends over the can. The result is that these can openers never leave metal burrs since the opener doesn’t cut metal. They also don’t need as much cleaning or tend to get rusty since the opener does not enter the can or touch the food. Finally, because the lid is left whole, with an un-bent edge, the lid cannot fall back into the can and in fact can be used as a semi-secure lid for what remains in the can.
There are now quite a few “soft-edge” or no-cut can openers, but it can be hard to tell the true “un-benders” from the can openers that still cut but dull the edge or use blades that reduce burrs. If they leave a top too large to fall in, that can be pressed back on top of the can, they are the real thing that you want when cruising. My favorite of these models is the Bartelli Soft Edge 3-in-1 can opener. And besides the lovely way it works, it also stores in less room than most can openers – always helpful with my tiny galley drawers. It also is a bottle and jar opener!
A garlic press should enable you to smush garlic without straining, and preferably without first peeling the garlic. It also has to be easy to clean so that you’re not trying to tease dried garlic pieces out of the corners or holes in the press. Finally, darn it, if it’s also attractive and robust looking we’re not going to complain, even if it is just galley equipment. Kuhn Rikon succeeds in all those aspirations with their Epicurean Garlic Press. It is truly effortless to use, a real pleasure. This stainless steel tool is not inexpensive (about $30 on Amazon) but is sure to last a lifetime.
Canon iP110 Printer
It is not essential, but awfully useful, to be able to print while on the boat. I want the device to be small and light, print in color for either photos or documents, not be too outrageous in printing costs (dream on!), and I wish to print from any of my devices – laptops, tablets, phones. I don’t want to plug it into my device to print since I may print from any of these several devices – it has to be wireless.
Asking too much? The Canon iP100 meets those requirements. It is 12.7″ x 7.3″ x 2.5″ and weighs just over 4 pounds. You can buy a battery separately so that it can be run without a power cord when desired.
It is very useful to have on board!
Devices that are More than Adequate!
Each of the devices above offer great utility, but also something a little more. Whether lovely design, an ease of use, a color or design that coaxes a smile, or simply optional but sensible capability, these devices go above and beyond to delight the user. I wish all devices designers aimed as high as these designers did! Enjoy.