boat storage basics, with the food particularly in mind

3 steps to better understanding storage aboard

Bottom line? You can store way more on your boat than you think you can. It requires a little foresight and some organization, but you can take it with you!

Step 1: Open up every nook and cranny on the boat and see what you have for storage. All of it. Under every bunk, behind every seat rest, in the cockpit, lockers you already “know” you have. Open it all up and inventory the space. You can do this mentally or on paper – it is totally up to you. The larger and more complicated boat you have (ie the more storage spaces you have!), or even the newer the boat is to you, the more strongly I would suggest doing this space inventory ON PAPER. If you are not singlehanding, please do this with whomever will be sharing the space with you in a position of responsibility.

Step 2: Think about everything you need to store. Strong recommendation, if you have a larger boat than I do, is to list it all. Spare parts. Tools. Spare bedding and towels. Clothing. Toiletries. Food. Booze. Kids’ legos. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Pet supplies. Dishes. Spices. Coffee maker. Snacks. Certain lockers will begin to make sense. Again, do this with all responsible parties.

Things to think about:

1.     Weight distribution. If the batteries are on the starboard side, and you’re choosing between tool storage and paper towels on the port side, you might want to go for the tool storage on port to keep things as even as possible.

2.     Ease of access. You will get more familiar with crawling around and pulling things out of lockers to get to what is stored underneath than you can currently comprehend. Don’t make it harder by putting your most-used items UNDER the ones you need once a year. A snack drawer or bin or locker will be your most raided storage space. Plan accordingly.

3.     Be logical. Putting engine spares in the locker closest to the galley and the pots and pans in the engine room doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This may seem obvious from here, but sometimes the size of a locker suggests things to you that don’t make sense in real life. Spend some time thinking about how you use the things you are putting where.

4.     You may need to subdivide lockers. Plastic containers work. So do plywood dividers, or even canvas bags. Large lockers look great until you realize it’s just one big space that things get lost in.

5.     Don’t overlook the bilge for things that can get wet – we store bottles of beer and even wax-wrapped blocks of cheese in the small bilge areas that are not filled with water tanks.

Step 3: My basic philosophy for food storage is cribbed openly from Lin Pardey in "The Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew". It might help that our boat is basically a sister ship to Taleisin, but to me the concept is totally sound and one I recommend. Designate ONE (or two, or three, depending on your boat, your provisioning needs, and your organization level) main “shopping bin(s)” where you put the bulk of your non-perishables. This should be less accessible, more tucked away. In the more easily accessed part of the boat, have 5 or 6 lockers with the basics, organized in a way that makes sense to you. Ours are under the settees, 3 on each side (our water tanks are in the bilge). When something gets low or out, I go “shopping” in the main bin up front.

            My boat is small enough, and I’ve been doing this long enough on the same boat, that I do NOT need a detailed storage map. Your boat, your comfort level, may require one.