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Old 12-10-2014, 13:03   #1
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Life without fridge

Hi all,

We wondered if we should throw our fridge out. The sea here is always cold, and we have a small, easily accessible dry spot in the bilge which we can use for milk packages and cheese and butter. We also figured that many items don't need to be cooled at all. We haven't had the fridge on for a month now with its door removed (front load), and it worked perfectly. Removing the fridge would give us that extra space everybody wants and save energy.

Having said that, we live in a fairly cold environment, with cabin temperatures rarely exceeding 18degC during all seasons, often being below 15degC. If one day we decide to cruise the seven seas, we wonder if we will regret dumping the fridge? What are your experiences with fridge usage when cruising off the grid in warm areas? Our cruising style is quite minimalistic, i.e. we try to minimize energy consumption and hence try to avoid running the engine for more than maneuvering in harbors. Therefore, even if we had a fridge, we would probably not keep it on due to battery restrictions. I understand that constraint is removed when in a marina, but then there will likely be shops around with cooled food which will surely last two days in the worst heat.

Any opinions welcome!

Cheers,
Phil
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Old 12-10-2014, 13:10   #2
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Re: Life without fridge

Don't leave home without one. Of course the fridge is the biggest electrical draw. You will need to upgrade the batteries. Then you will need something to keep them charged up. Bigger alternator, smart regulator, wind, solar etc. It never ends but it's worth it.

But you seem to be doing ok without one so I would stay that way until you decide to sail to warmer climes.
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Old 12-10-2014, 13:44   #3
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Re: Life without fridge

What would the harm be in putting the door back on and using the interior of the fridge for dry storage thus not wasting the space now and having the fridge when you want it?
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Old 12-10-2014, 14:21   #4
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Re: Life without fridge

Hi, Phil,

We cruised from California to Mexico and as far as French Polynesia before having to return to Calif. and earn more money. The reasons for having the refrigeration where it is much warmer than the temps. you describe is that everything we like to eat keeps better if it is cold. When you catch a big pelagic fish, it is a shame to only keep a part of it, but the weather isn't always suitable for you pickling it, (one way of preserving it without refrigeration). Within a year after we got back to Calif., Jim put refrigeration on, and I, too, would prefer not to have to live without it.

However, some Canadian friends of ours never had refrigeration, and in addition, she did a lot of home canning (had to carry all those jars, seals, lids, etc.) And her home canned meats were delicious. She was choosy about what she canned. So, it's doable to go without refrigeration, and it will ultimately depend on you to decide.

FWIW, I think it is a good idea to go without, and then, if you decide you want it, install it then, just plan ahead money wise, so you can do it when you are far from home.

Ann
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Old 12-10-2014, 14:27   #5
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Re: Life without fridge

Its doable for sure. We went without for our first year of cruising in the tropics and didn't really miss it. You learn a lot of different ways to keep food from spoiling. Now that was 30 years ago and I'm soft now so pretty hard to do without it these days.
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Old 12-10-2014, 14:41   #6
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Re: Life without fridge

We lived aboard and cruised with most of our time in Florida for about twenty years without refrigeration. We often had some items on ice, but much of our time we did not keep the same types of foods or chilled drinks as we do now. We've had refrigeration now for about twenty years and we've become fully reliant upon it. We even delayed our cruising and stayed in port for a terrm a couple years ago while I worked on the refrigeration.

I choose refrigeration now, but people can adapt their food stores and get by without it. It's easily possible to maintain a healthy diet without refrigeration, but you do give up many choices.

It can be more expensive without refrigeration too. With our freezer we can save meats and keep items bought at a good price. In addition, though we had a free source of ice at our home port, before our refrig/freezer we would frequently buy ice at places in the Bahamas for a premium.
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Old 12-10-2014, 15:41   #7
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Re: Life without fridge

We've lived aboard without fridge for two years now. But since we're rebuilding the boat, we've neither cruised nor even really cooked aboard yet. We provision with things that don't need cooling, or can be eaten fast enough so it doesn't matter. E.g. I use peanut butter instead of dairy. It's a different kind of eating, but we've gotten quite used to it and I am thinking seriously about even installing a fridge later on. Definitely not the highest item on the list.

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Old 12-10-2014, 17:25   #8
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Re: Life without fridge

We lived aboard and cruised for two years without mechanical refrigeration. For some things it was inconvenient but we really didn't miss it. Meant more frequent trips to the store/market but then the food was way fresher and room temperature which for most foods make it taste way better than chilled. Caught lots of fish for fresh protein. Salted and dried or canned the excess if not near port or gave it away when we got to an anchorage.

One large disadvantage and unmentioned cost of refrigeration is it takes a lot of electrons to keep things cool. You'll need a around 400 amps or more of battery storage and the electrical generating ability to charge them back up on a daily basis. That means a large outlay for a generator or lots of runtime on the engine or solar/wind generator to do the charging.

If it was a choice between several months cruising extension to my cruising or a new light air sail, wouldn't even consider refrigeration.
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Old 12-10-2014, 17:40   #9
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Re: Life without fridge

We lived aboard and cruised for five years with three small children and no fridge. I wouldn't consider cruising with a fridge, since the power draw is huge, the space it takes up is nuts, and much of the food available in third world countries is beyond refrigeration anyway--eat it that day of the next, visit the market or grocery store daily when within range.
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Old 12-10-2014, 17:50   #10
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Re: Life without fridge

Leaving the fridge intact allows you to have the option. Or even just run it when motoring.... Did that on my first offshore cruiser and lived with it.
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Old 12-10-2014, 18:00   #11
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Re: Life without fridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by phipseml View Post
Hi all,

We wondered if we should throw our fridge out. The sea here is always cold, and we have a small, easily accessible dry spot in the bilge which we can use for milk packages and cheese and butter. We also figured that many items don't need to be cooled at all. We haven't had the fridge on for a month now with its door removed (front load), and it worked perfectly. Removing the fridge would give us that extra space everybody wants and save energy.
<snip>

Any opinions welcome!

Cheers,
Phil
Here's any opinion...

Most people without fridges want one. If I had one I wouldn't be pulling it out. As noted the fridge is probably the most complexity in terms of power needs.

No one "really" needs a fridge but having a cool drink or the ability ot make fresh provisions last longer is a good thing.

I would be concerned about leaving an installed fridge unused for a long period of time. Compressors, evaporators etc. all have seals that like to be used...

So my advice would be use it or lose it. Don't leave it installed unused for any length of time lest you get caught in, "My fridge doesn't get cold" hell...
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Old 12-10-2014, 21:17   #12
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Re: Life without fridge

Lifestyle decision time.

It's doable. I lived without a fridge as a liveaboard in the SF Bay area for several years. It does limit the variety of foods you decide to buy and keep on board because of how long they will stay edible.

I eventually put in a fridge and found living aboard a much more pleasurable experience. Not only does food keep much longer and I don't worry about food poisoning like I used to but I didn't realize how much I missed cold drinks.
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Old 12-10-2014, 23:20   #13
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Re: Life without fridge

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Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Most people without fridges want one....

Not me, happy and well nourished without one.
I don't drink alcohol though, which seems to be important to so many cruisers.


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Old 13-10-2014, 05:39   #14
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Re: Life without fridge

It has always seemed to me that most people without refrigeration on the boat look at it as some kind of "purity" thing when they can stick out their chest and say "I don't need any refrigeration".

In the end I don't care whether some other boat does or doesn't have refrigeration and don't understand why people would ask others whether THEY need it. Isn't it a question you answer for yourself?
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Old 13-10-2014, 06:12   #15
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Re: Life without fridge

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It has always seemed to me that most people without refrigeration on the boat look at it as some kind of "purity" thing when they can stick out their chest and say "I don't need any refrigeration". .........................................
....................................
Although I've cruised with a refrigerator/freezer for many years now I can well understand the pride someone might have in being able to do without. Some people are proud to be able to sail without an engine. I'm somewhat proud that I'm able to do well without a car and that I can fetch my groceries by bicycle.

I think it's quite acceptable for people to be proud of an ability to succeed without some of the things we accept as common. I'm always impressed by those that can start a camp fire with a couple of sicks and a piece of string!
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