When things are going well, nothing beats overnighting on your boat. Overnighting creates instant adventure; it feels like an exotic getaway, even if you’re just a few miles from home.

But when things aren’t going so well, when you don’t have what you need or you have too much of what you don’t need overnighting can be a nightmare. And once you’ve lived through one overnighting disaster, you probably won’t be willing to give it another try.

The good news is, outside of nasty weather, the overnight experience is within your control. Here are 10 solid tips, these suggestions don’t guarantee overnighting success, but they’ll help you get there.

  1. Make a List

Make a list of all of the things you think you’ll need for an overnight trip on the boat, and use it as a checklist both before and after your trip. In making this list, you’ll prioritise. You may even discover redundancy, and that will help you streamline what you take or do not take next time.

Use this list before you leave to check off the supplies you need to pack. Then use it afterward to keep track of the supplies you have left over as well as those you used up.

  1. Pack Smart

Most people tend to over-pack clothing for overnight boat jaunts. (Chances are, you can leave the cashmere sweater at home for the weekend.) But no matter what time of year it is or what type of climate you are boating in, always have a windbreaker or rain gear on board. You never know when a cold wind or a rainstorm will blow through.

Hot tip: Even though they take up a bit of extra space, a couple of pillows from home are worth bringing. When it comes time to sleep, they’ll provide much-appreciated added comfort.

  1. Prepare Food

You basically have two options for onboard dining: You can bring food that doesn’t require cooking or heating, or you can cook on your boat. Cooking complete meals at home that can be packaged and frozen and then defrosted and reheated on your boat can make your life a lot easier.

The key to eating well on a small boat is to plan ahead whatever you possibly can.

Your cold-food options are unlimited; however, some items are better than others. Single-serving yoghurt containers and hard-boiled eggs are great examples of “compact” (consider space for everything you take on board when overnighting) and nutritional.

Here are several tips for cold foods:

  • Pack lunch meats and cheeses separate from bread to keep sandwiches fresh.
  • Use hard rolls or bagels instead of bread (they stay fresher longer).
  • Store salads in plastic bags for easy storage and easy eating.
  • Freeze juice boxes to serve as drinks and “ice blocks” that keep coolers cold.
  • Pack hard fruits that don’t easily bruise, such as oranges, apples and cantaloupes.
  • Freeze pasta sauce (marinara, pesto, etc.) in sealable plastic bags and lay them flat in a cooler.

  1. Use Two Coolers

If you can we recommend using two ice chests on board: one for storing foods that need to stay cold or frozen, and the other for beverages, fruit and snacks. By using the two-cooler method, one cooler can be opened on a regular basis while the other will stay closed, and colder, for longer periods of time, preserving the foods inside.

Hot tip: Wash out empty plastic milk bottles, fill them with fresh water and then freeze them. Not only do they serve as frozen blocks of ice, but they are also drinkable once melted.

  1. Cook Safely

Portable charcoal and gas grills present another popular cooking alternative. However, grilling on board should be approached cautiously. In fact, unless a grill is designed to be used on board a boat — specific provisions (rail attachment, for example) have been made by the manufacturer — you should avoid it. Take the grill to the beach, if possible and cook there.

  1. Outfit Your Galley Utensils

In addition to basic galley utensils such as a spatula and at least one all-purpose knife, we suggest keeping three pans on board. You need a frying pan, a small saucepan and a pot for things like boiling spaghetti.

Obviously, you can’t bring your entire spice rack with you on board, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be relegated to eating bland food. A few versatile spices, such as mixed herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper are worth bringing on board. They don’t take up much space, and you’ll be glad you have them.

  1. Save Power

If you have a refrigerator on board, turn up the temperature so it doesn’t use as much energy. Only open it when necessary, and know in advance what you will be taking out.

Consider using a two-battery system. Use one battery just for starting the engine, and use the second battery to run the other systems, such as appliances. Unfortunately, little things like having your stern light on all night or even playing the stereo can substantially drain your battery, running the voltage down below starting capacity. Using two batteries will ensure that you always have the power to start up the engine and head for home.

  1. Add Power

Some people opt for a small portable generator on board to run those luxury items they can’t seem to leave on shore. A small generator is lightweight and can be used to run a variety of appliances.

Before you buy a portable generator, consider how much valuable space it will need and whether or not you are willing to sacrifice that space for convenience. If it looks as though it will take up too much space, it probably will.

  1. Tow an Inflatable

Under the right conditions, you might consider towing an inflatable behind your boat. You can use it for stowage space, which will give you more space in your boat, as well as a shore tender. Before sunset, you’ll want to tie your dinghy tightly to your stern so boats passing in the night don’t accidentally go over your line.

Hot tip: Get settled for the night before it gets dark. Chores such as anchoring, putting up the canvas and retrieving items from your towed inflatable are a lot more difficult in the dark.

  1. Budget Wisely

Some of these tips you can implement right away, and some require further financial investment. If you are on a tight boating budget, make a list and buy only the most important items first.

For example, your two-cooler system is likely more essential and certainly less expensive than a portable generator to power gadgets. As with every aspect of overnighting, working within a budget requires a little planning. But don’t be discouraged if you can’t outfit yourself with everything you want immediately.

Need help or advice on going on an overnight boating adventure?

Give the team a call at North Coast Boating, we have years of experience and advice.