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Old 31-01-2022, 12:39   #1
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Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

I've got a Westerly Centaur which is a 26' cruising sloop I'm slowly outfitting for probably going most of the way around the world although I don't plan to return to my starting point of British Columbia in Canada.

I've got a new engine with a 70 amp externally regulated alternator and one 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel feeding a 345 amp hour carbon foam (Firefly) house bank. Minimal electronics just tablets for navigation and cabin/nav lights all LED.

I prefer to eat beef, pork (bacon), butter, eggs and beef tallow but in my land travels in Latin America I didn't see much in the way of good quality steaks that will freeze well and I imagine the selection is more limited in the south pacific. I'm also on a low budget as the big ticket refit items I have to buy before shoving off will constitute a year's profits so not much left for food etc. Should I even bother with a fridge/freezer? I was considering an either or unit that can be used as a freezer for offshore.

Loose plans are a year or two in Sea of Cortez before crossing to Marquesas and probably spending years in the South Pacific. I'd then like to spend several years in Asia especially Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia before heading to the Med and Western Europe and just running out the clock going between Europe and the Caribbean/ Latin America.

Advice?
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Old 31-01-2022, 12:50   #2
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Welcome to the forum, notfast.

We've got solar specialists, of which I am not one. I'm wondering whether you can successfully feed a freezer of a 100 watt solar panel. Small freezers use about 100 watts running and more than that starting up, and a 100 watt solar panel produces 100 watts at noon, panel straight up, cloudless day, on the equator. Then you've got battery efficiency and other uses.

I think the question is "can you," rather than "should you."
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Old 31-01-2022, 12:54   #3
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

a fridge is a blessing and a curse .. even with 345 amp hours it has to be fed a constant diet of electricity. I have heard dehydrated meals are pretty good. if it were me I would rather have a gas stove. Either way good luck and I am sure many more will chime in here.
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Old 31-01-2022, 14:01   #4
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

With a 26'er you can buy one of those little portables but you're going to need a good power source and an extra battery dedicated just for the refer.

A solar panel is good for day but it needs to keep the battery full until dark. And then able to recharge the next day.

You can wrap the freezer in more insulation to help but it needs to breathe for the electronics. Keep it out of the sun.
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Old 31-01-2022, 14:23   #5
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Worthy considerations, for sure.

I can add a few more solar panels if need be though I'd prefer not to as they are bulky and sharp. Probably a necessary evil, though. I'm more concerned with whether or not I'll find real food in remote places.
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Old 31-01-2022, 14:35   #6
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

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Worthy considerations, for sure.

I'm more concerned with whether or not I'll find real food in remote places.
Learn to live on rice, beans, raw fish and dehydrated foods. Sauces/mixes help. It takes a bit getting use to it but the Asians do it nearly every day. Canned supplies work good too but they are heavy. Avoid chicken unless you get it right from shore. Pork will keep for awhile, cooked. Beef if only fresh. You can tell by the smell.
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Old 31-01-2022, 14:56   #7
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

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... I'm more concerned with whether or not I'll find real food in remote places.
You'll find more "real food" in remote places than you will anywhere in the "civilized" world. Real food has far fewer preservatives than what you might be used to, and so doesn't last nearly as long. That means the preserving falls to you - you can refrigerate/freeze it, can it, dry it, salt it. Up to you as to your preference, but if you are hanging out in remote places for long periods you will likely be needing one (or more) methods of food preservation. Alternatively, you can make big stocking runs of preserved foods (canned, dried, whatever) in the less remote places and live off of those.

FWIW I spent five years on a boat (in remote places) with no refrigeration. We canned and cured meats, salted and dried fish, and used a lot of staples that don't require special storage (rice, beans, flour - all things that have already been dried for you and are available in those remote places). We now have a fridge.
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Old 31-01-2022, 15:11   #8
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

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You'll find more "real food" in remote places than you will anywhere in the "civilized" world. Real food has far fewer preservatives than what you might be used to, and so doesn't last nearly as long. That means the preserving falls to you - you can refrigerate/freeze it, can it, dry it, salt it. Up to you as to your preference, but if you are hanging out in remote places for long periods you will likely be needing one (or more) methods of food preservation. Alternatively, you can make big stocking runs of preserved foods (canned, dried, whatever) in the less remote places and live off of those.

FWIW I spent five years on a boat (in remote places) with no refrigeration. We canned and cured meats, salted and dried fish, and used a lot of staples that don't require special storage (rice, beans, flour - all things that have already been dried for you and are available in those remote places). We now have a fridge.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you think your diet has improved with the addition of the fridge?
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Old 31-01-2022, 15:25   #9
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Your diet will be worse with a fridge as the items it stores are generally worse for your health than fresh fruit and vegetables. Further, most of the items in a typical refrigerator actually keep weeks (instead of months) without one which is enough to get across the ocean.

In theory it uses no power to keep a fridge, only the heat that leaks in has to be overcome so I would imagine with vacuum insulation it won't use much? Some people claim theirs uses 30 watts and cycles on and off. This is still significant over 24 hours.

There are better ways you can preserve food such as drying, canning and pickling and tastes better and doesn't need energy to maintain, but it is more effort perhaps.

Fridge really is for people who cook too much food that they can't eat and want to save it for later. I agree it's easier to cook a lot once than cook many times, but it's difficult to justify for this, especially on 26ft boat, and I don't like eating leftover so I try to cook only what I eat right then.
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Old 31-01-2022, 15:39   #10
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Take a look at the portable refrigerators made by Dometic. I used to have a 36-quart on a previous boat. It was about the size of a decent carrying cooler. It could be used as a freezer or fridge.


The large benefit is that it doesn't have to be installed. All you need to do is install a 12-volt electrical connection (with fuse) near where you want to keep it. I bought mine years ago for $500 U.S.


Electrical consumption was about 35 amps a day in Florida, which of course is extremely hot. The cooler is well insulated, which is another advantage over a permanent installation using your ice box.


You could freeze or deep chill your meats with it. Plenty of fresh food can keep for days without refrigeration. There's no reason to eat out of cans or freeze-dried bags, unless you don't like to cook.


Drinks, of course, can be challenging. Either make ice or drink wine. Or cultivate the old English habit of warm beer ...
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Old 31-01-2022, 15:59   #11
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Ice and cold drinks are obviously a wonderful luxury in hot weather. More importantly, freezing and ice creation for coolers allows you to make the most of local foods and seafoods. We are in between fridges right now and it sucks. It’s really nice to be able to stock up a little when you’re in a good fishing or shellfish spot. We often take a pressure canner on longer trips, but that’s not the same thing as being able to freeze or ice the catch fresh and eat it at leisure. If you can afford the portable chest type as Shanachie mentions, I doubt you’d regret it. At times you don’t plug it in you’ll still be able to use it for storage to some extent. And as a seat…
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Old 31-01-2022, 15:59   #12
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

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Thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you think your diet has improved with the addition of the fridge?
Probably just the opposite, I don't always agree with sean, but in this case he is probably closer to correct than I would be. However, my comfort and convenience have improved. I like a cold beer from time to time, and ice, and butter doesn't keep well in the tropics (and the canned stuff has an off flavor to me). None of those things improve my diet

It is a whole lot easier to get back to the boat and toss things in the fridge than it is to can them, or dry them. If we catch a fish it can go about three days with refrigeration, a nice convenience as even the smallest of the pelagic fishes is usually more than we can eat in a day.

In the end, I prefer cruising with a fridge, but by no means is it a necessity.
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Old 31-01-2022, 18:08   #13
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Suggest you look at storing and preserving food as a topic. In an earlier age there was no refrigeration. I've sailed much without a fridge, but I do confess that it's now a luxury I'd not like to go without again. But whether you have one or not, capacity will be very limited and the idea of actually freezing stuff on a little boat somewhat of a fantasy I think.

In most South Pacific islands I've visited meat is available but is usually relatively expensive. Beef cattle, chickens goats and pigs are raised locally. Dairy products almost all imported and so seriously expensive. Fresh milk and cheese will become a thing of the past, and UHT milk is expensive, so get used to mixing milk from powder.

Fridges are great for beer and water. Marinas sometimes offer a freezer for their visiting customers to freeze drinks in overnight. The yachties then put these bottles in their boat fridges. Often just a few 3ltr contains of water/cordial helps to minimise the electricity draw of the fridge and keep everything xtra cold. And it takes 2 or 3 days for these bottled 'iceblocks' to thaw. But you'll find marinas are few and far apart on your travels through the tropics.

But as someone else mentions local produce, 'real food', 'whole food' or whatever you want to call it is widely available, and it's cheap, cheap, cheap. Bananas, taro/dalo, tomatoes, cucumber, coconuts of course, egg plant, melons, cassava, pineapple, yams, ginger to name a few. There are local markets everywhere you go. And it's fun shopping and cooking things that you've never cooked before; so get used to eating what is on offer.

You will find what you might think of as mini markets, but there's nothing like real supermarkets (except in a few large cities). There you'll find endless varieties of canned tuna, soft drinks, and junk food, ie instant noodles, chippies etc. But they're well stocked with the bsics, flour, rice, pulses etc.

You will also discover that the majority of small villages don't have reticulated electricity, they are themselves reliant on solar and bottled gas. So there's actually a really good range of the 12 volt and battery powered gadgets on offer.

Obviously you can fish, and most places are safe from ciguatera (ask the locals). Something to be wary of is to avoid just picking fruit from seemingly ownerless trees (even on uninhabited islands). An easy way to fall out from the locals.

Here's an interesting video about bottling meat (sorry you call it canning in the US don't you, even though the method uses glass jars). Bottling fruits and vegetables is actually even easier and less likely to make you sick. It is from the youtube channel from
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Old 31-01-2022, 18:15   #14
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

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Originally Posted by PippaB View Post
Probably just the opposite, I don't always agree with sean, but in this case he is probably closer to correct than I would be. However, my comfort and convenience have improved. I like a cold beer from time to time, and ice, and butter doesn't keep well in the tropics (and the canned stuff has an off flavor to me). None of those things improve my diet

It is a whole lot easier to get back to the boat and toss things in the fridge than it is to can them, or dry them. If we catch a fish it can go about three days with refrigeration, a nice convenience as even the smallest of the pelagic fishes is usually more than we can eat in a day.

In the end, I prefer cruising with a fridge, but by no means is it a necessity.
Just to say I agree very much with Pippa's comments. I will just add a thought about catching fish though. Without a fridge catching even a small tuna can be very wasteful with a small crew, There's only so much you can eat and it very quickly goes off, same day in fact. Over fishing is a very real issue and so try to minimise your foot print.

It is very sad too that wherever you go you will see a vast array of discarded plastic of every type. Much of it the remainder of food packaging.
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Old 31-01-2022, 18:48   #15
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Re: Is a Fridge Worth Installing?

Notfast, what is your timetable for departure?
Sounds like a marvelous plan and excellent choice of boat.
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