That said -- I have found that a printer does have a place on a cruising boat. We ended up finding a tiny compact printer on mega sale at a local Best Buy in Florida and I bought it just in case. The Canon PIXMA iP100 Mobile Printer is small, light, user-friendly and - even better - easy to store. The printer itself has a footprint smaller than a Macbook, and it takes only moments to deploy. While I would not go so far as to say a printer is an "essential" piece of kit for a cruising boat -- it did come in handy on plenty of occasions and was certainly nice to have. Another "perk" of this particular printer is that it can also be battery operated (with purchase of rechargeable battery) so there's no need to invert or run the generator if you want to print something. If possible, we buy either DC powered or battery operated appliances when and where we can to save on energy expenditure.
As far as storage goes, I have been singing the praise of using airtight bins for everything from spice packets to spare linens since the beginning, and the storage of our little printer is no different. Moisture and leaks can be a real issue on a cruising boat in the Caribbean (luckily we never had a problem with this, but even still...) so keeping things protected will lengthen their lives considerably, not to mention keep things organized and safe from banging around when things get...lively. Our little printer fit perfectly into a watertight bin only slightly bigger than a shoebox, which slid nicely into a small storage compartment behind our settee. It still looks brand new and hasn't succumbed to the humid tropical air in over two years. Some people have an issue with cartridges drying out if the printer isn't used for a while, but we never found this to be an issue, probably due to the airtight storage. Aside from the printer itself, our bin held 2-3 spare ink cartridges (still in their plastic wrap to prevent drying out), as well as all the chords, printer manuals and a stack of printing paper. If we wanted to print something out, we grabbed the bin and it was all there. Easy peasey.
So what can you use a printer for on a boat? Lots of things:
- Printing out customs documents ahead of time
- Printing our important emails
- Printing photos (don't forget to buy the photo paper)
- Printing complex instructions for servicing/fixing parts
- Printing out to-do lists (this is probably what I used it the most for)
- Printing out boat cards
- Instructions for people who are boat sitting
- SOP's (like VHF radio etiquette, offshore pre-departure checklist, etc)
Some people recommend having a printer that has a built-in scanner as well, but with iPhones and digital cameras, it's fairly easy to take a photo of something and then print that out - so we didn't find a scanner necessary, but it might have come in handy. Just something to think about.
Speaking of documents, the other thing that we found to be HUGELY useful and beneficial is the fact that we had owner/operating manuals and spare parts lists for just about every system on our boat -- from the cabin fans to the generator -- organized and labeled in plastic sleeves kept in three ring binders in our nav station. We have five binders on board ('On Deck Systems', 'Mechanical Systems', 'Appliances', 'Engine' and 'Personal Docs') full of all this information and it came in handy a ton. While internet is becoming pretty ubiquitous in the Caribbean, there are plenty of times you will find yourself without it and if something breaks in a time and place when you can't summon Google, you will be very happy to have the necessary service/trouble shooting manuals on hand.
Other documents which should be kept aboard:
- Color copies of all passports
- Copies of all credit cards
- Copies of boat documentation
- Boat insurance information
- Radio licenses (if applicable)
- Marriage license (if applicable)
Do you have a printer on board? What do you use it for and what other documents do you find useful to have on hand? Please share in the comments!