Coolers on a sailboat: to bring or not to bring?

You will want at least one cooler for drinks on your sailboat and I’d suggest at least two – for drinks. And I’ll give you three reasons for using coolers for drinks on the boat.

  • Your boat will come with a refrigerator but in most boats, it runs off the battery or only when the motor is running. So every time you open or close the refrigerator, your food melts a bit.

    And if you are like most  people, you will end up drinking several cold beverages a day and you want to keep those steaks and chicken cold until the day you were planning to eat them.

  • The fridge is in the galley. You don’t want wet people, fresh from swimming, traipsing in and out of the galley for drinks all the time.
  • Boat refrigerators aren’t very big. Holding food for a week and drinks for a couple of days makes for a very tight squeeze.

I recommend two coolers.

  1. Get one big hard sided one from your charter company. Find a good place to store it. Remember that you are going to be putting ice in it and you’ll need to drain it regularly. Fill it up at the beginning of your trip and restock with drinks and ice as needed. We find that we need ice every couple of days. Even if you are a big beer drinker, don’t forget water! We keep a gallon jug in the cooler or fridge and then everyone keeps their own bottle for the week.
  2. Carry a soft sided cooler. This is great for having in a convenient place on deck (no stubbed toes) and for carrying ashore for a couple of hours on the beach. We use a Polar Bear Cooler and we love it – it keeps ice and drinks cold for well over 24 hours. You can either flatten it and carry it in your luggage or you can use it to pack food down to the BVI (lots of people like to take frozen steaks).

Whatever you do, don’t take bottles of beer! On our last trip, the grocery delivery guy said they’d run out of Carib cans, so he brought bottles. We should have sent him back for cans of anything else. Bottles are hard to store (especially once they are trash – they generate a lot of trash!) and they aren’t safe on a boat.