It can be tempting to keep every possible item that you might ever need aboard your small sailboat. You know, Boy Scout style, ready for anything. But storage space is very limited and the more you store in those spaces, the harder it is to find what you’re looking for. Getting organized below deck not only makes your sailboat more comfortable, especially for overnight trips, but it also makes your sailboat safer by eliminating clutter and excess weight.
Before I continue, a bit of legal housekeeping. This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links. Those commissions help to pay the costs associated with running this site so that it stays free for everyone to enjoy. For a complete explanation of why I’m telling you this and how you can support this blog without paying more, please read my full disclosure.
There are lots of ways to store and organize things below deck. None of them are wrong so long as you have some kind of plan. These are tips on how I organize the storage aboard Summer Dance. If you don’t have a Catalina 22 or similar sailboat, some of these tips might not work perfectly for you but think about how you can apply the same principles to your specific sailboat design.
A Boat Hook In the Hand Is Worth Two In the Bilge
The primary guiding principle that I use for organizing storage is practicality. You need to be able to retrieve some items quickly or often like safety equipment, rigging, or ground tackle. For this reason, reserve all the storage space that is accessible from the cockpit for sailing gear only. If you’re busy minding the helm and sail trim in heavy weather and have all the hatches closed up like you should , you can’t stop everything to go below for a something critical – you need it within easy reach.
Other items, you might only need rarely and can take longer to retrieve. They can be stored wherever you have space to spare for them.
Don’t Be a Taildragger
Your sailboat shouldn’t look like a small airplane on the ground with its tail lower than its nose. Even though it can be easier to stow some large or heavy items in the stern of the sailboat, resist that temptation and try to find a place forward if you can. Some sailboats like the Catalina 22 are notorious for squatting in the water and handle better when their weight is more balanced from bow to stern. You can easily tell how heavy your stern is by how much of the transom is under water. Ideally, there will be none. Two to three inches is typical, less is better.
After practicality, consider how the weight is distributed aboard your sailboat but let necessity be your overriding guide. For example, if you have a heavy outboard motor on the port side of the transom, try to compensate for it by putting a roughly equal amount of weight on the starboard side. Consider where your normal crew sit too. Rather than leave the fuel tank in the port lazarette, slide it forward under the cockpit, near the keel. If you don’t anchor out often, store your ground tackle in the one of the more forward lockers to light the stern too.
Keep Things High and Dry
When you get everything sorted as to where it will go, don’t just toss the small items into their locker. They’ll just gravitate to the bottom of the locker where, if you get any water in the bottom of your boat, they will get soaked and likely damaged.
Instead, put small items in inexpensive plastic storage bins like these.
I use them aboard Summer Dance wherever they will fit through a locker opening. Stored items are easier to find and they stay dry. If the size is right, you can remove the whole bin from the storage locker to reach smaller items or to clean the bottom of the locker.
$tingy’s Storage Suggestions
Below is a diagram of the storage compartments in a first generation C-22 with each compartment numbered. Refer to the table below for suggestions of what to store in each compartment. These are just examples, you might not need some of these items aboard at all or in all seasons.
|1||Port lazarette||This is the largest compartment with relatively easy access, so store the lightest, most often-used sailing gear here like:|
|2||Aft settee locker||The easiest to access small locker, put often used smaller items here like:|
|3||Forward settee locker||This locker provides access to the swing keel lock bolt, so don’t stuff it full. Store seldom used gear here like:
|4||Bow locker||This locker is not convenient to get to, but it has a lot of storage space. It’s also a good place to store heavy items to move their weight forward and better balance the boat. Rarely used gear goes here like:|
|5||Dry locker||The only place that you can be reasonably certain will stay dry, this locker is best for:
|6||Head locker||Directly in front of the portable toilet, this is a good closet for:
There is no easy access to this space unless you Make a Door to Storage Space Under the V Berth.
|7||Forward galley locker||Next to the galley, this locker makes a good pantry for:
|8||Aft galley locker|| Directly under the galley, this locker is convenient for:
There is no easy access to this space unless you Make a Door for More Storage Under the Galley.
|9||Starboard lazarette||Another large compartment with relatively easy access, store heavier and most often-used sailing gear here like:|
|10||Under cockpit||This space is nearly inaccessible unless you are either very flexible or have small children to send down there for:
Tie one end of a short length of cord to these items and tie the other end to the line hanger in the nearest lazarette to make them easier to retrieve.
You might not want to store still other items in lockers at all, like:
- Clothing in duffle bags in the V berth
- Food and drinks in an insulated cooler under the dinette table
- Maps, binoculars, camera, and electronics on shelves or in dedicated holders
And if you live in a region with an off-season, be sure to take everything out of the boat except a dehumidifier to keep it dry and mildew-free until the next sailing season.
For even more storage tips, see:
- Product Review: Smart Solutions Add-A-Drawer Kit
- Product Review: Bayco Kord Manager
- Turn a Locker Lid into a Cockpit Table
- Keep Often Used Items Handy with Snap-on Gear Bags
Would you like to be notified when I publish more posts like this? Enter your email address below to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. You will also receive occasional newsletters with exclusive info and deals only for subscribers and the password to the Downloads page. It’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time but almost nobody does!