Cruising Skills to Learn at Home (& in Lockdown!)

It’s a tough time all over the world right now, and every cruiser we know is trapped somewhere and seriously contemplating their futures. The repercussions of the COVID-19 virus are going to be felt for years in our community.

There are many people out there somewhere along the process of moving into the cruising life; whether you have a boat on order and were expecting delivery just days after countries started lockdown (like a few of our friends) or are five years from moving onto your boat. Here are some things we did, or wish we did, at home to prepare ourselves to live aboard the boat.


If you plan on getting a sewing machine for your boat, that’s great! Many friends have regular sewing machines and/or Sailrites, which can handle heavier fabric like canvas. Get your machine now and start practicing little projects. You can jump on the face mask bandwagon or you can make a fabric bin, which is perfect for storage on a boat.

Sewing projects aboard Starry Horizons are not uncommon. I don’t have a sewing machine, but I do have two sewing kits – a regular sewing kit and a sailor’s sewing kit.

You can buy a pre-made sail repair kit or make your own. My sailor’s kit includes:

And then I learned how to stitch by hand. I use a backstitch for a basic sewing project because it is strong and easy to use.

Stitching the UV cover of our genoa in Brazil.

Learn a Language

David and I both took Spanish in high school. We don’t remember much, but unfortunately, even if we did, Spanish is not super helpful when cruising.

Everywhere we go, people know enough English that we can get by – even in the most remote islands we’ve been to in the Maldives or Fiji. But, if you wanted to learn another language before you went cruising, French would be the best one to learn. There are many places we visited that still spoke primarily French: Guadeloupe, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, etc.

So, pick up Rosetta Stone or Duolingo to learn a bit of French to make your cruising life easier. And, don’t forget to pick up a copy of French for Cruisers or Spanish for Cruisers before you go out sailing.

Cards & Dominoes

While we do have some board games on Starry Horizons, it is much easier to store small games such as decks of cards (how about these gorgeous nautical ones?) or dominoes. We often play card games when friends come to visit as a fun after-dinner or during-sundowners activity.

Playing dominoes in Panama.


I wish SO HARD that I’d picked up photography sooner. Even just reading a basic book, like Stunning Digital Photography, would get a novice started on some basic photography skills.

If you need to pick up some gear, check out what we have for photo and video equipment.

Learning to photograph the stunning sunsets we see is very gratifying!


In our opinion, there are three knots you should know by heart. Practice them at home until you can do a bowline in your sleep, like a lasso, or with one hand.

A bowline in use.

Play with a Pressure Cooker

I have a pressure cooker on board and I love it. It uses less propane than a regular pot because instead of just using temperature to cook the food, it uses temperature and pressure (remember pV=nRT engineers?).

I have Miss Vickie’s Big Book of Pressure Cooker recipes, which has time tables for simple cooking and recipes for one-pot meals.

Some people are scared of pressure cookers, but they are very safe as long as you follow the direction – so get some practice in!

Become a Bakery

There have been many times where I would have loved to buy a baguette, or a loaf of rosemary focaccia, or even just a damn boring plain hamburger bun. But in many places we’ve been to, that’s not an option.

As many people are discovering with the COVID-19 situation, when you have time to cook bread, it is SO MUCH BETTER than store-bought bread. Now, it doesn’t last as long on the counter because it doesn’t have preservatives to prevent mold. But, that means it’s better for you, and trust me, your homemade bread will be eaten quickly anyway!

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Warm, fluffy pita bread….

Grow Some Easy Plants

I don’t have a garden or a green thumb. But when I buy green onions, I put them in a jar with a half an inch of water. Anytime I trim them, they grow back. I can trim green onions three or four times before I have to toss them out.

Another thing I grow is bean sprouts. Soak 1/2 a cup of mung beans overnight in a jar without the lid. Then, fit a bit of cheesecloth over the top, securing it with a rubber band. Drain the mung beans. The next day, fill the jar with water and drain again. Rinse the beans every day until they’ve grown as much as you want. Mung sprouts are great in stir-fries or fried rice.

Read Sailing Reference Books

There are tons of great instructional books to start reading before you go cruising. Here’s a list of our favorites sailing reference books that we still have on Starry Horizons.

Listen to Sailing Podcasts

There are a bunch of great podcasts out there to listen to and learn more about sailing. Start with On the Wind, Convert Castaway or The Boat Galley Podcast.

Read a Cruising Memoir

So many people are writing about their grand adventures. Here’s a few memoirs I recommend:

What else can you do while stuck at home to prepare for cruising?

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Cruising Skills to Learn at Home (& in Lockdown!)