Thursday, February 13, 2014

Does a Printer Have a Place on a Cruising Boat?

One piece of advice I heard way back when we were prepping to cruise was to have a small printer on board.  At first, I was pretty certain this would be unnecessary, I mean -- a printer?!  On a boat?  I couldn't see the logic.  When you are getting ready to shove off you will undoubtedly read and hear a ton of advice on what you should bring and what you should not from other cruisers, on forums, and in books and blogs.  It's very difficult to weed through all these well-meaning recommendations, and it's important to remember that they are all opinions (including those you read on this blog - see our disclaimer) and should be taken as such.  There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to outfitting your boat.  The advice comes at a price, though, and many newbies (us included) end up leaving the dock with FAR more gear, food and provisions than they really need.

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!


Neophyte Cruiser said...

We found a printer/copier useful cruising Mexico. Often copies of the various pieces of documentation are required by the Port Captains each time you enter a new port. Also, on those occassions when we had friends and family visiting, an updated crew list is required. Being able to copy and update documents on board, saved both time and money. Well worth the space.

Anonymous said...

Next it'll be a mini 3D printer. :) print your own spare parts as needed?

Carol Florida U.S.A. said...

It helps, too, Brittany, if you need to have clearance documentation (customs papers) faxed from Guadeloupe's officials to you, so that you can present them to the immigration officers in Antigua, too!!! lol I remember that you had a "little" trouble (or did you call it a "major snafu" when arriving in Antigua!! You didn't say, but your printer maybe would have helped in that case . . . if it had been necessary, but possibly in this instance, Guadeloupe just faxed it direct to Antigua Customs. And, just maybe (probably), now I think of it, you may not have fax service onboard Asante!! (But, with a printer, at least you could have made a copy of the wet customs paperwork, before you tried to dry it out!! ) :-)

SailFarLiveFree said...

We don't even have a printer at home anymore, let alone on the boat. And we don't miss buying those expensive ink cartridges that cost almost as much as the printer.

Windtraveler said...

@ SFLF - once you start cruising to foreign countries you might find it useful. I would see no use for a printer if we were cruising the Great Lakes. But everyone is different, you can definitely get by with out it - though they are nice to have.

Breezy Delaney said...

Just yesterday I was hugely inconvenienced and wasted lots of time because we don't have a printer on board (it likely would have been worse if we were outside of the US). Running small businesses to fund our cruising occasionally requires shipping labels, and I think you're right about a printer coming in handy. Thanks for the confirmation!
P.S. We're wishing you the best with your new additions!

Michael Robertson said...

We have the exact same model aboard, love it--3 years and going strong. We use it all the time, but the greatest use was a couple months back when we dropped in on a remote fishing village we were last at 17 years prior. I printed photos we took there from 17 years ago and the folks we met loved them. One mother cherished the photo we had of her son--wouldn't have been possible without a printer.

Jill Bebee said...

We had the Canon pixma and it survived two seasons in the Bahamas, but alas, succumbed to a failed hook in the closet where we are presently land-locked (it and IRS bag fell and the case got a fatal crack). We replaced it with a little Epson printer-scanner-copier. About the same footprint but taller.

Kevin Baerg said...

Thanks for the post Brittany! Why the copy of your marriage license?

Red Heeler Business Essentials said...

Good to know some interesting ways printer been doing in the cruising boat!! I don't have a such boat but surely will keep a printer when I'll have a cruising boat my own. Thanks.

Doug Treff said...

@Kevin - For young couples traveling recently after being married, the female may have a passport issued with her maiden name on it. In that circumstance, carrying a marriage license will help with the name change thing...

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