Storage: Any organizing tips and tricks for us?

We recently purchased a Com-Pac 23 (an upgrade from a Com-Pac 19). We take many extended stays on the water throughout the summer, hoping to someday take off for the big blue waters.

My question, as we start to stock our boat, is:

What organizing tips and tricks do your contributors have for us rookies?

I always thought it was Ben Franklin who coined the phrase, “A place for everything and everything in its place.

But not surprisingly, according to Phrase Finder, several early citations are from nautical contexts. Here’s an example from Frederick Marryat’s Masterman Ready or the Wreck of the Pacific, 1842: “In a well conducted man-o-war, every thing is in its place and there is a place for every thing.

Unorganized organization
Unorganized organization

I have my own version of this: “There is a pile for every thing and every thing is in its pile.

I am a “pilot”. I pile it here and I pile it there.

However, on the boat that is not an option. We have to be able to put our hands on what we need quickly. So it is imperative that everything on the boat has a designated spot and is returned to that spot when not in use.

Anybody remember what we put in there
Anybody remember what we put in there?

We even tell each other where we are putting something new so that, hopefully, one of us will remember where it is.

Over the last several days we have been stocking Wrinkles. Storage on this boat is completely different from our previous boat. There is significantly more storage but in different configurations from the CP-19.

We have shelves with doors along the port and starboard sides of the cabin that we didn’t have before. There are also two long compartments under the side berths that provide room for the larger items. However, we lost the galley that Mike made for the CP 19 that had two pull-put drawers.  Now we get to find the perfect places for all the things we carry.  We need to remember that just because there is more room doesn’t mean we need to carry more stuff. Well maybe one more ……

Storage behind doors by side berths
Storage behind doors by side berths

I’m sure there will be a trip to the local discount store to find containers that will fit the various shaped cubbies.

The compartment under the side berths is long and narrow with only an 18″ square opening for access.  The previous owners used a system we had heard other sailors mention – rectangular plastic tubs hooked together by a rope in a train-like fashion.  The tubs can be slid back and forth so that the needed item is positioned under the opening.  I think this might be the perfect spot for canned goods, coffee press, pitcher, etc. on one side and water cannon, slushie mobile, flashlights, etc. on the other.

I’ve had to retrain myself for life on a boat.  I try very hard to not just set something down – I take the extra couple of seconds needed to make sure the item is returned to its correct spot.  Now if I could only accomplish this on my desk! (and my bathroom counter, and…)


About Brenda Greene

Brenda is new to sailing. She and her husband Mike (high school sweethearts) began sailing five or six years ago. They started out on a Sunfish and were instantly hooked. They bought a Com-Pac 16 to learn more about sailing and then moved up to the Com-Pac 19 for more room. Last summer they spent 30 nights at anchor.

Brenda is definitely not just along for the ride when it comes to sailing. She splits time at the tiller, hanks on sails and handles the anchoring duties. Sailing as a team ranks high on her list. Recently they upgraded again to the Com-Pac 23 (Wrinkles). The goal, now that they are empty nesters, is to get as much sailing experience as possible in the next two years and then sell the house, buy a seaworthy boat, and sail to ports unknown. “We don’t have very deep pockets. We do all the work on the boat ourselves. (OK, Mike does most of the work). We aren’t minimalists, but rather prefer to keep things simple.

Brenda is a middle school special education and reading teacher. Mike, no matter what his job, would prefer to be retired! When not sailing, Brenda is a keeper of memories – scrapbooking and blogging about their experiences to help their friends and family understand and share in the pursuit of their dream.

Here is their blog: Wrinkles in Our Sails

Read also on this website
  • Ask your question – Women & Cruising contributors and readers answer your questions about cruising: Read all entries

What organizing tips and tricks have you discovered?

Let us know.

Email (with pictures if you have them!) or leave a comment below.

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6 comments to Storage: Any organizing tips and tricks for us?

  • karen

    Check out The Boat Gallley website and she is also on Fracebook. She has lots of ideas. Also make an inventory in excel of what you have stored where on the boat. This will help you find things.

    Good luck

  • Karen –

    Wow! Great website with tons of info. Good thing it is raining out – I can sit and read through it!


  • Nancy McKeown

    We have lived aboard and sailed throughout the South Pacific for over ten years on and off (our boat is currently in New Zealand). The system I developed takes just a little work to set up, but then it’s easily accessible to everyone on board, so anyone can find whatever they need any time once they know how the system works. Our nearly 50′ boat has lots of random places to store things, so we have to keep track of where we put stuff. Here’s how I do it:

    1. Created a master layout “map” drawing of the boat’s interior, with all the storage places labeled A-Z (well, actually we only needed up to “S”).

    2. Created a Master Stowage List, with a list of all that is stored under each letter designation that corresponds to the letters on the boat’s interior map, created in Step 1. After a large provisioning shopping trip and stowage session where I do the list by hand as things get stashed, I then type it up for a more organized (readable!) version and then print it.

    3. Both of the above get neatly folded, and stowed, for cross-referencing, in the front pocket of a small index card 2-holed “binder” (got mine in Mexico, but, I think they’re available in the U.S. at office supply stores, along with the little hole punch to make your own punched cards). We keep the binder in our settee table’s middle storage spot, next to the salt and pepper for instant access. The binder has alphabetical divisions, and on the index cards I list items alphabetically, i.e. “corn” goes on the “C” card under C. I draw vertical lines to the right for 3 columns. The first column gets the corresponding stowage place letter, for exactly where the item is located. The second is where–in PENCIL–I put the actual number of that item that I’ve stowed. The third, wider column is where each item gets a ‘tick’ mark–also IN PENCIL–when it is removed. Things get an *(asterisk) if they are stored in multiple places, and then listed again in their secondary place.

    Thus, if someone looks up “corn” and sees that originally there were 5 listed in the “F” location, but there are 3 tick marks next to it, then obviously there are only 2 left of that item.

    Once the index cards are created for all items stowed (sounds more daunting than it is!), it’s easy to maintain the list. I’ve never felt the need to completely re-do all of the index cards. If entries are in pencil, they can be easily modified as things come and go. Once you “know” the stowage places, you never have to look at the master layout again, and, rarely the Master Stowage List–but they’re there if you need them for some reason. The Master Stowage List usually gets re-done after a large provisioning, before a long passage.

    The most important aspect of this system is that EVERYONE cooperates, and is diligent about recording that tick mark for every item they use/remove from its original place. We don’t record every little snack item–those all fit in some cupboards above our settee–but everything else from fuel filters to flour gets listed ad updated whenever necessary. Finding things on board is quick and easy forever after the system is set up, which takes less than a single afternoon.

    Hope this system might be of use to others!

    ~Nancy McKeown
    s/v Shanachie

    PS: Sorry, our website is temporarily inactive.

  • Nancy – What a great way to keep track of everything. As we load our 23 footer for a weekend, I am in awe of your organizational abilities. I can’t imagine how many hiding spots there must be on a bigger boat.

  • Cathi

    I love anything that does double duty…looks nice but is functional…so here’s a trick I use for storing extra linens…

    Instead of throw pillows on the settee we use pillow covers (basically a pillow without the stuffing with a zipper on one side for access)and fill them with extra sheets, towels, fleece blankets (and even fleece pullovers).

    You could go to the trouble of making custom ones to compliment your upholstry…but I’ve found some lovely ready-made ones in the dollar store and a surplus store.

    s/v Trudy Mae

  • Great idea. Now, what can I use empty wine bottles for? Hehe

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