Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   February 2016

Backpacks for Sailors

by Laurie Corbett

The Compass’ recent columns on tips for cruisers had my wife, Dawn, and me thinking what we would share, and we decided that our backpacks might be worthy of the column.
We carry backpacks primarily so we can carry things back to the boat. Indeed, we consider things to haul back for every trip ashore, hoping to decrease or stall larger reprovisioning exercises; but whether hiking, touring, or busing, there are things we would rather have with us.

Over time, both Dawn’s and my backpacks have collected the following minimum gear:

• Small pack of tissues — for hikes and for toilets without TP;

• Small pack of pre-moistened napkins — for barbecued chicken and many other sticky situations. Please note that most wetnap-type products are not biodegradable, and the manufacturers will not share this information;

• Sun protection — Reapplication may be necessary during hiking and after swimming;

• Bug repellant — to protect us from the newest mosquito-borne diseases and to let us enjoy beachside bars. We use small bottles that can be refilled;

• Adhesive bandages — for cuts and scrapes as well as footwear-induced blisters. Waterproof are the best, but on a sweaty day, you may need to reapply a few to get you home regardless;

• Elastoplast wrap — We've been lucky enough to not need this yet, but pack it for sprains, dog bites, major cuts from old fence wire, or as a potential shoe replacement;

• Beer cozies — If you find cold beers, you may wish to insulate them;

• Granola bar — In case you get lost or are delayed, or just get peckish on the trail or while shopping;

• Island map — Some show bus routes, some show topography, all show the island shape and at least some of the roads;

• Pencil and paper — to write down complex directions, names and phone numbers, boat parts, and ideas for Compass articles;

• Reusable shopping bag — for when you find good rum on sale. It might even come in handy for food;

• Plastic shopping bag or resealable bag — We’ve found fresh fish on the far side of Bequia, and were glad for the bag. Also, I’ve been known to pick up garbage on a trail;

• Knife — We travel with a Leatherman Juice, and have used it a number of times for emergency shoe repairs. The corkscrew, pliers, and bottle opener have also come in handy;

• Wire ties and/or a bit of twine — for shoe repairs, clothing repairs, and things we just have not yet considered.
It seems like a lot, but the whole bundle takes little room in a backpack and does not weigh much either. Still, it is not all-encompassing. Some of our friends insist on one or more of the following:

• Water bottle — Word of mouth suggests that dehydration is the most common cause of the hospitalization of cruisers in the tropics;

• Small flashlight — so there will be no excuse when you get back to the dinghy after dark;

• Face cloth in a resealable bag — so you can swim at that perfect beach or stand in the waterfall, but dab the water away before putting on those sweaty clothes;

• Phone or portable VHF — so we can call to say goodbye as our dinghy is blown to Belize;

• Camera — for the million-dollar photo, or a picture of the assailant;

• Memory stick — for the photos somebody else took, or pirated book, movie, or music that they tell us that we MUST experience.

Finally, I am reminded that in her book An Embarrassment of Mangoes, cruiser Ann Vanderhoof said she always kept a 20-dollar EC bill in her swimsuit, because you never know where you might find an ice-cold beer.

See more Old Salts’ Tips for New Caribbean Cruisers at and

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