DIY on board: making instead of buying

14 Feb

double reefed under blue skies

There are a host of reasons why it makes sense for cruisers to make things that are normally purchased in a store. The most obvious is that you might be out in the middle of a big piece of water, double reefed under blue skies- but no option for a store.

Or maybe you’ve made landfall. Beautiful island, but no store!

Fun with Panoramas!

Or maybe there IS a store, but supplies are limited, and may not have anything like what you’re seeking…
the "everything" store

…or it might not have labels or ingredients that you can understand (or want to!).

You could have other reasons, too. I simply like to know what goes into a product, so that I know I’m doing the best I can for my body and the environment. That excludes unpronounceables (and a lot of ill-sourced more readily pronounced stuff: try finding lotion without palm oil).

There are a lot of things we make, for all these reasons. We’ve made beer, and ginger ale. I make yogurt- lately, a LOT of yogurt, as it’s a choice breakfast or snack for the kids. I make kombucha, too, although I don’t have a lot of competition for drinking it (only Siobhan shares my taste!). I make other random personal care goops and cleaning aids (nice to know what’s in them, and what’s not). There’s a new jar of kefir percolating at the moment, and sourdough in the root cellar.

It’s a gentle, creamy lotion that I’ve been making the longest. When you’ve gotten drenched and dried in several rounds of _________ (fill in the blank: wet dinghy rides, snorkeling, boat washdown), a little simple lotion feels so good getting clean. It’s nice to know you meet a need if/when you have it, wherever you are. It’s easy to keep the base ingredients around: they typically have multiple uses.

Making lotion on Totem


Combine in a small saucepan, and heat just enough to melt together:

  • 3/4 c gentle base oil: I use olive or grapeseed most of the time, since they’re easier to find, but apricot and almond would be great as well
  • 1/3 c coconut oil. Love being in the tropics, where it’s easy to get.
  • 1/4 t lanolin. A small tub of this has lasted me for many years. When Jamie’s eczema used to flare up (back in colder climates), more lanolin helped
  • 1/2-1 oz beeswax. More give you thicker lotion; less give you runnier lotion.
measuring the oils

Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly.

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 2/3 c water (it should be distilled, which means watermaker product water is perfect)
  • 1/3 c aloe gel

A few drops of essential oil (optional; I adore the sent rose geranium with a hint of lavender.. tea tree adds antiseptic properties- another boon for Jamie’s eczema)

When I made this lotion while lived in a house, I used a blender. No blender on Totem, but that’s no problem. You’re making an emulsion, like salad dressing, suspending the water in the oil at a microscopic level- either method gets the job done.

I put the oils into a bowl, and one of the kids helps drizzle the mix of water, aloe, etc. while I whisk furiously. It’s important to add the water mixture in really, really slowly in the beginning! Once about half of the water/aloe mix is incorporated, you can speed it up a little. The key is to drizzle the waters into the oil, not the other way around; that’s more likely to separate.

Then, put it aside to set. As it cools, it will go from runny liquid to creamy goodness.

Making lotion on Totem

Bonus: upper arm workout.

What do you make on board? What do you wish you made?

Lubed up readers know it greases the Totem skids when you read this on the Sailfeed website.


  1. Alana Cowell

    Definitely adventurous with regarding to own sourcing. I think it has inspired me to have a go this summer thanks.

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