Best New Things Boat Systems

The Best New Thing In the Boat

Friday, September 19, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but we have a Sirus satellite radio on board and one of the things I like to do is listen to MSNBC.  Every day.  It drives David nuts, but I’m addicted.  What can I say?  In my defense I try to limit myself to one hour, usually while I’m cooking dinner, which means The Rachel Maddow Show gets a lot of airtime.  But that’s not the point of this blog.  This is: Rachel does a segment from time to time called, “The Best New Thing In the World” where she introduces something new that’s caught her attention.  It can be a product, an idea or something somebody has done.  And that inspired me to write a blog about the best new thing in the boat – our Dometic CF80 portable freezer.

Being an offshore boat, it was surprising that Cambria only came equipped with a fridge cooled by a freezer box, similar to what you’d find in a dorm refrigerator.  So, when we first moved aboard, we considered moving the fridge to the wet locker and changing the old one into a freezer.  But we’d seen pictures from other Westerlies that had made the conversion, and I wasn’t too impressed with the result.  I was sure David could do a better job (at least one that was more aesthetically pleasing).  But, at the end of the day, the wet locker is valuable storage.  Not only does it keep our foulies dry and mildew-free, but the bilge space below is huge and the perfect place for heavier items like flour and sugar . . . or wine.  I just couldn’t find my way to giving that up, not even for a freezer.  And then there was the cost.  We never put an actual estimate together, but the compressor and tectonic plates alone would have easily run $2000.  Probably more. 

Cambria's original fridge (next to the stove) and wet locker (next to the companionway -- the perfect location for a ditch bag!)
For the next ten years we lived with what we had, and every three weeks or so we’d find a place to re-provision. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.  Then when Sally, our dog, got sick last year and was no longer able to digest regular dog food, I had to cook for her and our time frame dwindled down to two weeks . . . at best.  So, over the winter we revisited our options and decided to go with a portable freezer – the installation would be easier, the costs were lower, and the units were more efficient.  I’d still have to give up storage space, but it was in an area of the boat I could live with.


Having a freezer aboard has completely changed the way we cruise.  In the past, we had to plan our destinations around provisioning stops; and if we wanted to linger or make detours along the way, our fresh food levels dictated our decisions.  But not anymore.  For the last four months (that’s months, not weeks), we haven’t had to buy a single piece of meat until yesterday. And with a little better planning on my part, I’m confident we can make the full six months next season.

So why is it the best?

There are a lot of ways that having a freezer aboard has improved our lives, some of them we were prepared for and others came as a surprise.  Here are just a few:

  • Grocery stores are difficult to find in remote areas along the BC Coast.
  • When you do find them, they’re usually very expensive.
  • Having a freezer aboard allows us more flexibility in our cruising.
  • It keeps us away from “civilization” for longer periods of time.
  • If we want to have people over for dinner, we don’t have to count chicken breasts to see if it’s possible.
  • Lunches have always been difficult in the past.  With a freezer aboard, we’re able to freeze lunch meat, bacon and cheese (something that’s ├╝ber -expensive in Canada) to help fill in the gaps along the way.
  • Having a freezer opens up the possibility of fishing and crabbing, something we’ve avoided because we didn’t have the space before.  I’m not saying we’re actually going to start; we move around a lot and may not have the extra time it takes.  But at least now, we can if we want to.  

You Might Also Like


  1. What a helpful post. We are currently looking at options on Galapagos for refrgeration and freezing food. We have a big space that used to be a fridge, but all the internal working parts have been removed. Where did you end up putting your freezer, and how big is it? This is a timely post. And your galley is beautiful!

    1. Thanks! It's also has a lot of counter space and storage and is a GREAT galley when you're underway -- apart from our aft cabin, it's Cambria's best feature.

      Our freezer is a Dometic CF80 and measures 18.1 x 19.6 x 31 inches. They have a catalogue with a full product line (including specs) on their website ( The also make a fridge/freezer combo. Most of their products are chest-style but they do have a few upright models as well.

      We ordered ours online through RV Parts Country ( for $699 (no tax or shipping) and put it in an area we like to call the "shed". On paper, it's a pilot berth but nobody in their right mind would want to sleep there, so we've always used it for storage. The freezer takes up A LOT of space, but is secure and has been worth the sacrifice. I don't know if I mentioned it or not, but we spend about 45 amps in 24 hours to keep it running at 20 degrees F.

      Engel ( makes a more efficient unit, but they cost significantly more. I contacted them about sponsorship for the blog and they responded that they'd be interested in offering us a discount but wanted some more information. I wrote back but didn't hear from them again, so Dometic won out.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Yes, that's really good information! We will keep it in mind as we make our decision. Meat storage is the big problem for us as I simply cannot rely on cheap carbohydrates if I want to stay healthy. My body just says 'no' to that kind of eating. We have a large space for a fridge in the galley, and it's possible I could do a fridge above/freezer below kind of deal. I'm bookmarking the post.