7 Best Sailboat Accessories
Finding the perfect sailboat for your cruising plans is a terrific start to a great life on the water. Even better? Outfitting that sailboat with accessories that make being aboard safer, extra comfortable, and even more fun. Here’s a look at the seven best sailboat accessories for all kinds of sailors, from day cruisers to long-haulers.
- Wind indicator
- Sea-rail bag
- On-deck cooler
- Telescoping boat hook
- Fiberglass boat repair kit
- Barbecue grill
- Handheld VHF radio
1. Wind indicator
You can go a few ways when looking for an accessory to help you keep track of the wind.
Wind indicators are just what they sound like: a vane or arrow that sits on the boat’s mast and tells you the apparent wind direction at any time.
There also are accessories called telltales, which you position directly on the sails to get instant feedback about the airflow based on the way you have trimmed the sails. If you want to spend bigger bucks, there are electronics you can mount at the helm to show you not only wind direction but also your heel and trim angles, speed, and all kinds of other helpful information.
2. Sea-rail bag
There’s never enough stowage on a boat. It doesn’t matter if you’re heading out for a few hours or a few months. You will inevitably run out of places to put stuff that you want or need to have on board.
A sea-rail bag gives you extra space on deck for things like docklines and laundry clips. These bags often attach with Velcro flaps to the boat’s wire or rail, so you can easily remove them if you get into rough seas. For smooth sailing days, the sea-rail bag can stay out as long as you need it, especially if you buy a brand that’s built to withstand the elements.
Take a look at the sea-rail bags from Blue Performance, which makes them with features such as mesh side panels and fabrics that resist mildew, water, and ultraviolet rays. Another brand worth consideration is Ronstan, whose bags attach with hook-and-loop fasteners and 3M self-adhesive, and have a screw-in option.
3. On-deck cooler
A top-notch cooler is a great investment on any sailboat. Not only can it be kept on deck to eliminate trips below to the galley to grab a cold drink or a snack, but it also can be tossed into the dinghy for trips ashore to the beach.
Hard- and soft-sided coolers are available, some with suitcase-style pullout handles that let you roll them up the dock instead of lugging them. While the soft-sided coolers can be easier to stow, the hard-sided coolers can double as seating with a cooler-top cushion that you can buy separately.
If you go with the hard-sided option, a cooler-mounting kit can keep the accessory where you want it on deck with no sliding around. Some of the big brand names in coolers include Yeti, RTIC, and Engel.
4. Telescoping boat hook
Time and time again, while sailing, you’ll wish you had longer arms. Sometimes, it will be so you can reach a mooring ball just a little bit easier. Other times, it will be so you can fish a blown-off hat out of the drink. You can even use some boat hooks to help fend off encroaching boats tied up too close to your own boat at the dock.
A telescoping boat hook is a popular option because it combines long length during use with short length for stowage. Marine suppliers such as West Marine, Wholesale Marine, and Defender sell a variety of choices, including some models that float (just in case you accidentally drop the boat hook while trying to set your boat’s hook).
5. Fiberglass boat repair kit
Yes, stuff happens. There are myriad ways to ding up your sailboat’s fiberglass hull, leaving it with cracks, scrapes, gelcoat blisters, and other problems. Having a fiberglass boat repair kit on board will let you patch up the little problems before they turn into bigger problems that require a hefty expense at the repair yard.
West System makes a kit that can handle holes up to one inch wide in solid laminates a quarter-inch thick. The kit comes with the epoxy resin, fiberglass fabric, fairing filler, and other materials you’ll need to execute the repair. Instructions are illustrated for common repair tasks.
Evercoat also makes a fiberglass repair kit that it advertises for rebuilding rotted-out areas on fenders, body sections, and rocker panels and for forming customized shapes.
6. Barbecue grill
Few pleasures in life compare to grilling up whatever you catch that day for the freshest meal on earth. Sailboats and barbecue grills are a terrific combination, allowing you to make the most of the great outdoors without getting stuck belowdecks in the galley.
Barbecue grills can be portable on a boat, or they can be mounted directly onto the rail for more stability. As with home grills, barbecues for boats come in various shapes and sizes, including some with toppers for treats like grilled pizza if that’s what you and your family like to cook up.
The big name in boat grills is Magma, which also makes grill covers and other accessories designed to withstand the marine environment. Note: You’ll be cooking with propane gas since charcoal and salty environments don’t play well together.
7. Handheld VHF radio
A fixed-mount VHF radio is, of course, must-have safety equipment for any sailboat helm. But a handheld VHF radio can be a great addition to the boat, too.
The handheld versions can be used anywhere on the boat, including away from the helm, and they can be used in the tender during gunkholing and beach outings. As just one example, they’re a great way to keep tabs on teenagers who head to shore for some time away from the adults (or vice versa).
Standard Horizon, Icom, and Simrad are all good places to comparison shop for handheld VHF radios that have good reputations for working when they’re needed and for surviving the water and sun on a sailboat.
Like what you read here? We’ve got more—
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- How Sails Work: Understanding the Basics
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Kim Kavin has been on boats in more than 50 countries and islands, including in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. She grew up learning to steer a ski boat and Hobie Holder at her grandfather’s lake house in New Jersey, and went on to spend time aboard everything from America’s Cup racing sailboats to submarines.
Kim is a PADI-certified scuba diver and animal lover who always enjoys a good, long look around a coral reef. Her award-winning writing and editing regularly appears in national marine magazines and on leading websites. In her early years, she was a Dow Jones editing intern and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not writing, Kim can usually be found hiking northwest New Jersey’s beautiful park trails with her adopted shelter mutt, Ginger.