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I’m a little particular when it comes to buying wine, and since my go-tos are not widely available in the Caribbean, I’m stocking up. This week, four cases from my favorite supplier arrived, and combined with the bottles I was already holding, brought the total number aboard to over sixty.

Storing bottled wine on a boat is completely impractical. Glass bottles are heavy, fragile, oddly shaped, and take up tons of space. Also, wine goes bad when subjected to manic temperature shifts, sunlight, and constant movement/vibrations; three unavoidable aspects of cruising life.

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We gave up a lot when we moved aboard, but since I wasn’t ready to give up wine (seasoned sailors, I know you’re enjoying a good laugh at my expense), I had my work cut out for me. Making the best of a less-than-ideal situation, I came up with the following plan to mitigate against harm:

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  1. Prevent breakage: These webbed bottle protectors worked well for jars in the galley, so I doubled them to protect both the neck and the body of each bottle. Then, I tightly wrapped them in plastic wrap to prevent rolling while we are underway.

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2. Minimize environmental damage: Our travels will take us to some warm places this winter, so my primary objective is to avoid ruining the wine by “cooking” it. The bilge (compartment below the floorboards that sits entirely below the waterline) was the natural choice for protection, given that it’s the coolest (70 degrees F, even in a heatwave), darkest, most stable part of the boat.

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3. Position by purpose: There are some bottles (many with sentimental value) that could still benefit from age. I lined the floor of the bilge with these bottles to avoid disturbing them. Here, the slope is enough to keep the bottles almost horizontal, protecting the cork from drying out.

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4. Buy in box: Boxed wine has a bad reputation (hello college Franzia hangovers), but there are some really good ones to be found. In addition to being unbreakable, light and compact (one 3L box = four 750ml bottles), it’s also a great value, and stays fresh for a month or more after opening. I’ve just started tasting them and can’t yet make recommendations, but our boat buds from Sailing Chance and my pal Maggie from Serious Eats have you covered, and I’m excited to try more, so send your recs my way. Cheers!

Next up: How to Name a Sailboat