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Use Your Cooler As A Sidekick For Extended Cruising

Our under-the counter refrigerator/freezer has plenty of room for provisions when we cruise for a week or two, but when we go for a longer period of time there’s not enough space for everything I want to bring, especially a healthy supply of fruits and vegetables. To make room for spinach, lettuce, peppers, oranges and apples, we’ve adapted our standard 94-quart cooler—that measures approximately 34”x16”x17’’—as a sidekick.

The key to the success of this little rig is a plastic office supply file box that acts as a separate compartment, so the produce never gets soggy and stays cold and fresh. It never comes into contact with the melted ice water that accumulates at the bottom of all coolers. You’ll find these file boxes readily available at office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot.

I cut off the top rim at the end of each file box, so it fits into the cooler perfectly and allows the cooler lid to close and latch tightly.

Instead of using blocks of ice, I wash and fill several milk containers with water and freeze them at home and use them to line the bottom of the cooler. As the water melts I use the water in the morning to make coffee and tea.

I also fill the containers with lemonade and iced tea and freeze them. I fill the containers until they are about three-quarters full so there’s room for expansion when the water or beverages freeze. As they melt we have cold iced tea or lemonade to drink.

In the main area of the cooler, which is lined with frozen milk containers, I load water bottles, beer, wine, soft drinks and any other containers that are too large for the refrigerator.

I bring ice from my freezer’s icemaker at home and store it in gallon-size Ziploc bags to keep on board. It seems to last longer than the bagged ice cubes sold at convenience stores.

Usually, the food in the cooler is eaten halfway through our cruise, and space clears up in the refrigerator, which allows me to resupply and store produce there. If that’s not the case I can always add a few bags of block ice or cubes to the cooler and know the produce in the side compartment will stay cold and crisp.

Katie and Gene Hamilton are authors of the e-book Great Loop Cruising: Two on aTrawler available at