The best boat equipment

The Cygnus III guide

5th January 2015
Christmas Office Party
Sailing mistakes
Cygnus III's Top Gear

 Best Boat Equipment for liveaboards.

Some gear you need on your boat

One of the questions we are often asked aboard Cygnus III is “what is the best boat equipment needed to sail around the world”? Obviously a boat that floats is a good start but what other things do you need?

We are now into our 6th year of livingaboard Cygnus III and have become experts at getting things wrong so I thought we would try and show some the best boat equipment and accessories we got right. It is not an exhaustive list and I may well do another blog but here are just a few items that have made our lives easier and safer.


What is the best boat equipment to have?


Boat Anchors.

Anchoring in a marina

I knew that the boat anchor was too heavy

We spend the vast majority of our sailing season in anchorages so having a good anchor is a top priority. We actually have three anchors but the one we use all the time is a Manson Supreme boat anchor. When I go to bed I am like sleeping beauty. The only thing that would wake me up is some hairy arsed bloke trying to kiss me whilst claiming he is a Prince. I need to know that when I do wake up Cygnus III is going to be where we left her and not washed up on a beach or drifting towards Outer Mongolia. I wonder if anchors ever get tattoos of sailors?



Although the Russians won’t admit it publicly, Chernobyl suffered a few minor hiccups. This happened when a couple of boats hooked up to its power grid. You see, today’s boats need power. When I say power I don’t mean a couple of “AA” batteries but enough power to make them glow in the dark. There is so much electrical equipment on a modern cruising boat you really need something special to charge the batteries. You could have an internal or external generator or extra alternators but this means running your engine. As Cygnus III is a sail boat we don’t want this. You could fit a wind generator but everyone we have spoken to says they are not worth the money. The best thinking at the moment is to fit a stern arch and put as many solar panels up there as you can. The only other alternative is to do what we did. Buy Chernobyl and tow it behind you!


Water Filter

We drink from our water tanks on Cygnus III via a Seagull IV water filter and have never had any problems what so ever. Drinking the water direct from the tank without the filter tastes a bit like licking an aerobics instructors armpit (Don’t ask me how I know). With the Seagull it is like drinking cold water from a highland spring on a summers day. One of our best buys ever.



Cygnus III and the flying dinghy

Our dinghy really flies along

The dinghy is our equivalent of the family car. Without it we would be lost as we spend so much of our time at anchor. We have a big brute of an engine which can rip the skin off your face on full throttle but because it is so heavy it is an absolute pain to get on and off. If I had a choice I would have two outboards, the one we have got and a small very light one for quick journeys. Some of my favourite moments though are spent watching my wife, Angelina getting in and out of the dinghy. She literally dives in and out often knocking someone else overboard or ending up with her face buried deep in their crutch! Before you ask, no you cannot come in our dinghy!



We have visited so many wonderful places that need a really good camera to do them justice. I have a large camera that needs several camels and a Bedouin tribe to carry it when we go out. Because of this we don’t often take it and have really missed out. Given the choice again I would take a small compact camera with video capability.


Chart Plotter at Helm.

Having the chart plotter with AIS and radar overlays at the helm of Cygnus III was one of the best boat equipment upgrades we made. We can see at a glance exactly where we are and what we are going to hit next. It has saved us so many journeys’ ashore just to ask where we are. The one thing I do regret is only having the AIS receiver rather than the transponder. On more than one occasion we have had to make some radical manoeuvres because big ships want to ram our yacht for some reason.


Music Radio

Angelina, the best boating equipment a man can have.

Angelina and the sub woofers

This year our music radio followed me and developed a bad case of Alzheimer’s. The CD stopped working and the radio would turn itself off for no apparent reason. We usually have the local music station on all the time as it helps with learning the language. Car stereos do work but in the marine environment they don’t last too long. Luckily we were able to get an old stereo from another boat who was upgrading theirs.



This is a must for winters on board. For some reason I seem to do a lot of heavy breathing which causes things to get moist.  No one likes sleeping in the damp patch so a good dehumidifier helps dry the whole boat out.



Obviously this does not apply to the UK or sailing at night but elsewhere good quality sunglasses are a must have item either on Cygnus III or ashore. Polarised glasses are excellent but on the downside they make digital instrument readouts impossible to see. Unfortunately this year my best pair decided to go scuba diving in several thousand fathoms. I am now wearing an old pair I bought 18 years ago and being hunted by the fashion Police.


Angelina the Admiral with the Nice Rear.

Best boat equipment manual

This is the condensed version

Everyone should have an Angelina or “Ang” aboard. Without doubt she is the best bit of boating equipment ever and we would not survive without her. She is multi functional with very complicated programming I cannot start to fathom. Then again, I am only on the first chapter of the operating manual. Apparently some versions come with built in flotation devices already installed. My version has worked for years without once letting me down although they do need to be serviced on a regular basis. This can be done quite easily without having to return them to the manufacturer. Others I know of are on their second or third unit due to what they call faults but often it is the operator’s failure to understand the equipment. Before you ask I would never change or update my “Ang” for anything.


A Tale of Two Companies.

During this year we had problems with a few things on Cygnus III. One is the semi-flexible solar panels and the other is the music radio. I just want to relate two stories about these and see which company you would go to.


The Worst Company we have Dealt With.

As I mentioned above power on Cygnus III is one of our major concerns. During this year we noticed that our semi-flexible solar panels had big blisters and were only working for an hour in the morning. I contacted the company who made them (GB Sol). I spoke to the office manager who answered my numerous e-mails and told me they do not offer any advice for individual instillation’s. They would not help in trying to identify my problem and did not appear to want to know about the blisters.  They did offer to replace the panels at cost plus VAT and carriage to Italy. This worked out at a small fortune we could not afford. More importantly I refuse to pay for new panels, VAT and carriage twice on products that fail miserably and the manufacture gives no useful help or customer service.


The Best Chandlers we have Dealt With.

Some time ago I came across a marine chandlers called Cactus. They were advertising a job at their company. What was so refreshing was that they wanted a young person with no prior experience who liked fixing things such as pedal cycles. They did not want a PHD in brain surgery or even references from high court judges. They just wanted someone with enthusiasm who they were willing to teach and even pay for their further education. I was so impressed I wrote to Cactus to let them know. In return I got a long friendly e-mail back from the owner, Andrew Smyth, explaining that is how he started in the business and how he believed in putting employees and customers first. Recently our music radio broke so I searched for a particular brand and found that Cactus was the cheapest by quiet a way. I thought I would chance my arm a little and see if I could get a larger discount. Andrew again wrote back personally explaining the companies policy on discounted items and being “basket cases” we did not qualify. He did however offer us a large discount on a show model but even so we could not afford it. This is how a company should behave. They are honest, friendly and above all believe in trying to help.

So Mr Company directors, please think about your policy to us poor customers. Of these two companies one I would never touch with a barge pole and the other will be first on my list. I bet you cannot guess which is which?

We have never received sponsorship, free or discounted items from any of the companies mentioned although we would be more than happy to do so. (Except GB Sol)


What is your best boat equipment?

So that is the Cygnus III list of some of the best boat equipment. If you want to know more just message us or why not leave a comment below as we really enjoy hearing from you. If you enjoyed the blog then please share it. Also let us and others know just what your best boat equipment is?



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  1. Response from GB-Sol Ltd

    It is sad to find your products refered to in this way as in the rare cases of of semiflexible panel failure there is usualy an external issue contributing to the cause. Usualy incorrect fitting, but we did discuss this in our emails I seem to remember and personally feel the installation was correct.

    Once a solar panel is completed it is a sealed laminated component and very unlikely to fail unless something else effects it.

    So I would like to explain our position.

    The solar panel was out of warranty.
    It was not directly supplied by us but via another company (so they were contractualy responsible in the first instance).
    We did not install it so cannot verify the installation to see if this was contributory, but we hope it was installed in accordance with our instructions. e,g bonded down and not flexed beyond the curvature stated.

    Under the circumstances we felt supplying a new replacement panel at cost as a goodwill gesture was reasonable.
    We have been producing panels for 20 years, have an excellent reliability record and contrary to the inference above we did try to find a solution even though the warranty was expired.

    Mark Roope is correct semi-flexible panels are produced to fit on curved surfaces but do need installing correctly and as this is out of our control, like other manufactures we can only offer a one year warranty although we would expect them to last very much longer than this.

    It seems that as we did not offer to simply replace the panel at our cost even though it was out of warranty, which they would have known when purchasing it we are fair game.

    We are a small company and well respected in the industry, but sadly not aboard the Cygnus III.

    1. Ray, Thank you for taking the time to reply. This is the first time I have talked to you. All my e mails were answered by the female office manager who refused to assist in discussing the reading I was getting or offer help in anyway what so ever. I offered to take photos of the blisters on the panels and took readings over a period of a week. All I wanted was someone with knowledge who could help. It was consistently refused. On at least two occasions I had to e mail to ask if my previous e mail had been received as I got no response. All I wanted was help as to a possible cause. The office secretary did admit the panels fail in a small number of cases.
      Your fitting instructions we followed implicitly and the curvature is less that 15mm so they have not been over flexed. They were working for a short time and even now work 1st thing in the morning and last thing at night. (about an hour in total). They do not work during the rest of the day.
      Yes you did offer panels at cost but I would also have to pay VAT plus carriage on these which meant I could not afford them.
      I think a lot of this could have been avoided if you actually treated your customers with some respect and tried to help resolve a problem rather that creating one by point blank refusing any assistance on the numerous times I asked.

  2. Mark – you crack me up. I love all of your best boat equipment suggestions – especially the one called, ‘Ang.’ Lucky for me, I get to borrow her every once in a while and I’d never want to see her changed or updated either. And considering that we’re wintering in the Med right now I’d have to add our reverse air conditioner system (produces heat) – I’d be one grumpy person if I couldn’t heat the boat up!

  3. Mark… thanks for the visual of you kissing the armpits of an aerobics instructor. And I was going to ask for a ride in the dinghy but you already said no. Being a land lover I will have to live vicariously through you and your adventures. So keep writing my friend.

    1. Ellen, It always worth paying tribute the the driving force in any partnership. To that one special person but I have already written too much about myself. With out my wife this boat would not be a home and my life would not be as full. Permission granted to throw up over the side.

  4. I’m right with you on this list and mine would look similar- well, up to Ang anyway! But she’s perfect for yours. 😉

    1. I would be careful with semi-flexible solar panels. They are far more expensive than rigid and the guarantee is a year. Rigid have a 25 year guarantee. There must be a reason for this? Ask the company before you buy. They are also not as efficient as they get too hot.

  5. I wish I could say we rough it, but I’d be lost without all of our creature comforts — DVD player with USB hook-up so we can watch movies straight from the hard drive, a heated mattress pad to help keep our bed warm and dry (when tied up), satellite radio, a portable freezer, water maker, a large battery bank, solar panels, generator, inflatable kayaks, a really good dinghy, a reliable and powerful engine — but at the end of the day, it’s our ground tackle that allows us a good night’s sleep!

    1. You live in luxury compared to us but I will agree about one thing. Having an anchor you can really trust and going oversized as well make so much difference. For the first year at anchor I hardly slept but now I have trust I sleep like a baby (why do we say that when babies wake up at all times).
      The Seagull has been amazing too. No carrying water bottles or getting rid of them afterwards. Does not seem to matter what we put in our tanks it always seems to cope. Thank you for leaving a comment.

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