Boat Storage Ideas: 10 Ways to Stay Organized Onboard

boat storage ideas

Storage of small things on a boat can help you avoid crushed sunglasses, exploding tubes of sunscreen, lost keys and more. Organizing everything from galley items to sandpaper in the limited spaces of a vessel is possible, you just need a plan—and a few good ideas.

10 Simple Boat Storage Ideas

onboard boat storage

1. Space-saving Silicone

Silicone tools from buckets to colanders are great space savers because they’re collapsible. Bulky kitchen items such as cups, bowls and even bakeware can be packed into a small cruising galley when you opt for silicone. Also, a collapsible bucket can tuck into the tiny nooks of fishing or runabout boats. Silicone is easy to clean and durable so you can stock up and pack up.

2. Suction Cups & Velcro

Modern suction cups have grown appendages and today you can use them for just about everything. Hooks to hang wet towels, cup and rod holders, and even iPad holders can be attached with special marine suction cups. When the surface isn’t smooth and amenable to suction, try Velcro, which now comes in various widths, colors and strengths. Velcro tabs that hold up to 10 pounds can be attached in a cabin or on deck to organize everything from tools to life jackets and PFDs (personal floatation devices).

3. Pockets Aplenty

You can buy pre-made mesh pockets or make them custom and fit them in out-of-the way places. Because every tiny space on a boat counts, you can get creative tucking pockets under and onto existing structures such as handrails or on seat backs. Pockets are perfect to stash sunglasses, cellphones, keys and even pet toys.

4. Flying Cutlery

Knives aboard are necessary whether to filet a fish or cut a snagged line, but keeping them safely contained can be a challenge. Here's one good way to handle it:

  • Imagine a knife set block, like the one on your kitchen counter.
  • Cut it down to one vertical column and attach it to the side of a cabinet bulkhead or any unused vertical space.
  • Add a square piece of fabric with a snap on one end and Velcro on other end.
  • Cover the handles of the inserted knives when not in use or just open the flap and make the knives handy.

Another way to store knives (or metal tools) is a magnetic strip mounted on, inside or under cabinets. Just be sure not to have magnets anywhere near a compass.

5. File for Sandpaper

DYI-boaters will appreciate a sandpaper organizer. Plastic accordion files (available at office supply stores) offer multiple pockets and a cover with an elastic closure. These organizers are perfectly sized to hold sheets of sandpaper and each pocket can be labeled with the grit count. Keep full or partial sheets in one location and waste less on your next project.

6. File for Dishes

Magazine organizers can be used for dishes and more. Just secure them to a shelf and then stack in your plates or shallow bowls on end. They’re plastic so they’re washable and usually have open sides for good ventilation. They can also hold tools, books, or boxes of kitchen supplies like aluminum foil and baggies.

boat organization

7. Shoes on a Hook

Cruising sailors know how much has to be packed onto a boat that travels. Shoes are always a concern so instead of taking up the bottom of an entire locker, hang them with the help of hanging fabric shelves. These fold-up soft shelves can be hung on any rod and can hold a dozen pairs of shoes or more. They’re breathable and lightweight and they can hold things other than shoes including hats, gloves, T-shirts, or even containers of cleaners.

8. Bungee Cords on the Ceiling

Large flat items such as charts or cutting boards are unwieldy. Create a web of crisscrossed bungee cords on the headliner of a center console head compartment or on the side of a bulkhead and keep these big flat tools out of the way but still very accessible. You can use one long cord with an array of hooks or use multiple small cords attached point-to-point. Either way, you can magically whip up stowage space from nowhere.

9. Cooking & Happy Hour Necessities

So you’ve caught the big one and now you want to grill aboard. You’ll need spices but you don’t have room for bulky bottles. Try a bead storage organizer with small sealable plastic jars or even a plastic pill dispenser case to take along only what you need. For happy hour, consider making a plywood wine cellar below your cockpit or cabin sole and to bring it all down to boat, a portable shower caddy works wonders.

10. Less in More

Remember, space is limited onboard a boat of any size. Be thoughtful about what you need to have onboard, and prioritize the most necessary items you'll need on a day-to-day basic or in case of an emergency. Don't forget to consult our Boat Safety Checklist & Equipment List.

The good news is that there’s no limit to creative stowage options on a boat. Just look at everyday items in a new way and soon you’ll be better organized and more de-cluttered than Marie Kondo.

Read Next: Living on a Boat: Beginner's Guide for Liveaboards

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