Let others do the work of getting stuff to your boat! Okay, it won't work with everything but it'll help.

Getting Stuff to the Boat

We got great news yesterday — we’re going to be able to leave for our new-to-us boat about a week earlier than expected! That means we’ll be leaving in just about ten days.

All summer, we’ve been collecting a pile of stuff to take to the boat — some of it items we had kept from our previous boat and some gifts from friends (yes, friends gave us a total of 4 fenders, which we really needed as the boat came with only one). The tools, sewing machine, clothes and paddleboard aren’t even in the pile yet!

And about as soon as we get to the boat, we’re going to be entering “project mode” meaning even more stuff. Yeah, lots of stuff to get to the boat.

The stuff from here at the house we think we can take in our vehicle (a medium-size SUV). Well, I say “in” but part of it will go on this hitch carrier (it’ll be the first time we use it, so wait for a future post to say how it goes). Our son has one and says it adds about a third more cargo carrying capacity to his vehicle without a big hit to the gas mileage.

But how about all the other stuff that we’re going to need? Wouldn’t we have been better off getting a trailer?

It’s a question I get from readers with their first boat, or those heading away from their home waters for the first time. How do I get stuff to the boat? Not a big problem if you live close to the boat, but we’re over a thousand miles away and need to do this in one trip.

All summer, we’ve been figuring out what we want — the exact bottom paint and how many gallons, sandpaper, epoxy for the few blisters, a new charger, and so on. I have a spreadsheet with links to all the products . . . but you’ll notice they’re not in the pile.

And no, we’re not going to spend days down there running around from store to store getting it all. Such is the power of the internet and online ordering!

The trick is that almost all marinas and storage/work yards will let you have things shipped to them as long as you’re there to pick it up within a day or so (check with yours before doing this and find out how they want it addressed — every one has different requirements it seems). This is the secret that no one seems to tell new cruisers and it makes life so much easier!

And yes, it can even work in foreign countries. When we were cruising in Mexico, we worked with a local import company, had a “load” of things shipped to a US address, and then the import agent handled the customs and got the goods to our marina. Not cheap, but far less expensive than a trip to the US for the items we couldn’t find in Mexico. I’ll never forget the look on a couple’s face as they were unloading a trailer full of goods they’d driven down and we walked past them with the boxes we’d just picked up at the marina office!

Now, we have an Amazon Prime membership — free two-day shipping on many items — and Amazon has the best prices on many of the items we’re needed. The two-day delivery makes it easy to know when items will arrive. Prime membership is totally worthwhile for the free shipping if you’re literally buying a boatload of stuff!

Rather than buy everything at once and totally overwhelm the office (you don’t want to get on their bad side), I sub-divided my list:

  • Immediate. There are a few items that we’re going to want immediately when we get to the boat, such as the proper adapter for the shore power cord to plug into the yard’s system (last spring we were lucky enough to borrow one for the few days we were putting the boat away). We’ll order this two days before we expect to arrive at the boat (it’s a day-and-a-half drive).
  • Project Lists. We divided items by project, or phase of a bigger project, as much as was practical and will order things as we need them (this also helps the cash flow). Where we were only going to be buying a few items from one retailer, even if for different projects, we grouped them together so save on shipping costs and will order all whenever the first item is needed.
In each case, I’ve carefully noted what the expected shipping time is so that we’ll order things in time for when we’ll need them. This is important as sometimes it can take two to three weeks from ordering to arrival.

This same strategy works well if you spend weekends or vacation weeks on the boat and feel like there’s not enough room in the car for various project materials. While most marine stores and Amazon totally support separate shipping and billing addresses, once in a while I encounter a merchant that doesn’t seem to provide for it. The trick in those cases is to look for some sort of “send as a gift” link!

Let others do the work of getting stuff to your boat! Okay, it won't work with everything but it'll help.

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • Deborah Ruths-Brown
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    Wow! I feel blessed to be a 50-minute drive from our girl. I look forward to reading of your continued “adventures”!

  • Helen Marie Stanfield Bell
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    We are driving 8 hours from ontario canada to Annapolis Maryland with our stuff…ordered lots online and had it delivered to the boat too. Packing up your life gives you a different perspective on “stuff”

  • tami
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    Within the States? Rent a U-Haul trailer… why not? I’d bet it might be cheaper than shipping in the end

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

      But if I have to have it shipped to me anyway, why not have it shipped to the marina/yard and skip the U-Haul?

  • Diane Dashevsky
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    We OWN a utility trailer but didn’t want to tow it back empty in the spring (24 hr+ drive)…so we reserved a small U Haul…

  • Jackie
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    Make sure that the vendors understand that you want multiple items shipped together. We ordered a few items- computer, not boat stuff- and thought we’d clearly made that point, but it ended up costing us about 3 times more than it should have because they shipped them separately from the rest of the order. Shipping was $40 for a box of 3 mice that barely weigh anything, but it’s a flat starting fee with the shipping agent we use.!!!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

      Good point! We were able to specify with the agent how many items were coming and ask that they wait and forward them together.

  • Leigh
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    Amazon Prime is fantastic for acquiring household goods, as well. We don’t stay at marinas often, but whenever we have access to a shipping address, I order all the heavy, bulky things we use on a regular basis – cat litter, cat and dog food, packs of toilet paper and paper towels, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner bottles, etc. This saves us from having to lug these items by foot or bike from the grocery store quite so often.

    Amazon’s prices on these things are sometimes a bit more expensive than the store (although more cost-effective the more you buy in bulk), but it’s worth it to me to have these items practically delivered dockside!

    • Paula
      Posted at 23 September 2014 Reply

      What’s even better about Amazon Prime delivery is that they just started delivering on SUNDAY!

  • Heather Drost
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    We moved from Ohio to USVI. We ordered our boat supplies (including batteries, paint and solar panels) through the chandlery. We took 2 hiking backpacks and 2 suitcases on the plane for our ‘must have day 1’ stuff. The remaining stuff (30+ boxes!) we divined into ‘needed ASAP ‘and ‘didn’t really matter’ and sent the ASAP items priority mail and the others standard mail to a mail service in St. John. Labeled and inventoried everything. Took some to the post office each day so they would trickle in. The hardest part was getting everything out to our boat on a mooring!!!! (No dock where we were)

  • Bonnie
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    Thank you! We are (hopefully) moving from St Louis to Annapolis in the spring. I’ve been thinking that the final provisioning could be done with Amazon. Thanks for the tips.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

      Absolutely — and Annapolis has tons of boat stores and regular stores, too.

  • Jane Gammons
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    We are in N. Myrtle Beach, SC if you head South by ICW and need anything. we are now power boaters but Sailing never leaves you.

  • Ann Capehart
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    we will be trailering our boat to FL and coming back VIA Erie Canal. The kids are flying down to pick up truck and trailer. This, we can pack our boat here in the Midwest with the exception of refer items

  • Frank Collins
    Posted at 21 September 2014 Reply

    We live in East Tennessee and when we first bought our O’Day 34 in Cape Coral, Florida I loaded my truck after a month of “what we need” and made the 15 hour drive. New items we bought we had sent to our neighbors who we lived next to in Key Largo 25 years ago. We now fly down not needing to check a bag for the flight down except for out computer bags, also, we if do need to bring anything down to the boat we ship it UPS. the airline charges about $50. for a checked bag 40 pounds or under. I can ship 40-50 pounds down for about half the price with UPS . We right now only get the chance to go down every few months for about 2 weeks at a time but plan on be on the boat more frequently in the next year or so

  • Maje Brennan
    Posted at 23 September 2014 Reply

    I’m so glad you posted this. I’m on my way to FL today for the boat survey. If all goes well, next Tuesday, after my husband’s retirement ceremony, we’ll be heading south. We have a small car and are going to rent a minivan for the stuff I sent up from St. Thomas, stuff from the apartment in VA, and stuff I bought.

    Where is your boat located?


    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 23 September 2014 Reply

      Hi Maje!

      Right now, it’s on the hard at Glades Boat Storage, just outside LaBelle on the Okeechobee Waterway. We have some work to do on her before we put her in the water, then we’ll go over to Ft. Myers for a bit (time to learn the systems and do more “in the water” work), then the plan is to head down to the Keys.

      Hope the survey goes well!

  • Kimberly Fain Ward
    Posted at 21 April 2016 Reply

    Three years ago, we bought our Gemini, Ally Cat, in Annapolis. We lived near the Cape in MA. We loaded up our little Camry, attached the Thule trailer, filled to overflowing and all tied down with an deflated dinghy, and drove the 10 hours down! It was three years ago this week, our April vacation with coincides with Patriots Day and the Boston Marathon. That was the year of the bombing, so we were just reminiscing as the marathon was run on Monday…

  • Chrissa Bates
    Posted at 21 April 2016 Reply

    Kimberly, we live in Gloucester, MA and we’re doing the same thing now in VA although she’s headed to Maine soon. Can’t leave without a few things aboard.

  • Laine Common
    Posted at 23 April 2016 Reply

    4 days of driving 2 cars with 5 kids, 2 cats, a dog, and a uhaul… Then we get to the marina and see they’ve parked us at the end of a near 1/4 mile dock with restrooms up at the opposite end… Not fun. Not fun at all. We ended up with a porta potty until we get our bathrooms fixed :(.

  • Joanne Cannon
    Posted at 20 September 2017 Reply

    So timely for me as we will be doing this very soon.

Post A Comment