Storing Clothing on Your Sailboat

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Pinterest is a terrible thing for a girl who lives aboard her boat. Beautiful bedrooms, gorgeous spacious kitchens and huge closets filled with stunning shoes litter my feed and remind me daily of what I could have if I had not traded life on the land for a floating home. The truth is, though, that my life on land was really not that much more spacious than it is now. I lived in a teeny tiny studio apartment with a small kitchen, ok sized closet and a surprisingly spacious bathroom. At least now I have multiple levels to work with. What living in a studio did teach me was how to organize and hide all my crap in the most efficient way possible. You would be shocked at how much I could fit into my closet, under my bed and in that space between the fridge and the wall. This is definitely a skill that is transferable to my new aquatic life!

When I first moved onto the boat full time I had a small duffle bag full of work clothes. Clothes solely dedicated to painting, sanding, fiberglassing and getting dirty. I didn’t care what happened to them. Once we got to the point of needing real life clothes on board I had to figure out how we were going to store them. I had already converted our hanging locker into shelves, but I needed to figure out how we were going to keep our clothes fresh, organized (I didn’t want them flying everywhere if we were healing) and mold free.

estrellita510b-clothes-storage
Image via SV Estrellita 5.10b

When I first started researching clothing storage I really liked what SV Estrellita 5.10b had come up with. They used storage cubes or coolers to keep their clothes dry and free of the dreaded boat smell. I was all for going this route, until I priced out the cubes. At the time these were just too pricey for me (although now I am seeing them for a decent price on Amazon in some colors).

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Image via The Boat Galley

My next idea was to use dishpans. Carolyn from The Boat Galley had told me about their solution of using the dishpans as drawers in their hanging locker so I thought that it may work for us as well. The best part was they were under $3 a piece. I estimated that I could fit 2 large and 1 medium on each shelf. Unfortunately this left us with a lot of unused space – a big no-no to efficient boat living. The curve of the hull was pretty severe so the pans couldn’t rest flush up against it. Also, the dishpans themselves waste a lot of space. They angle in as they go down and have a lip leaving you with about 2 – 3 inches of unused space between the pans when they were set up next to each other. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot but just think of how many bathing suits you can roll up into that space! On to the next solution.

Jason and I both decided we needed some sort of fabric tote that would mold to the space we had. We also wanted them to zip closed to keep out unwanted smells and keep our clothes organized if they happened to get knocked around. I found a lot of plastic bags that fit the bill but I was concerned about the cheap and thin plastic melting in the Caribbean sun or just ripping too easily. Finally I came across these storage bags from the Container Store. They were cheaper than the storage cubes and actually fit our space much better. As we’ve added more bags over the years to accommodate additional land based clothing we’ve started using travel cubes and really love how they fit the space as well.

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Custom shelving turns a hanging locker into more useable storage space on your sailboat
Our converted hanging locker aboard Chance. There is one more space below that we use for storing other items like our first aid kit, the dogs first aid kit, vacuum, etc. The closet goes pretty far to the left and can also be accessed through the v-berth.

Each shelf has two medium bags and one small bag. Shockingly Jason and I have pared down our clothing and shoes to one shelf each. We each get two medium bags for clothes and one measly small bag for shoes. Luckily flip flops don’t take up much space. We certainly have come a long way from having over 50 pairs of shoes each! The other shelf is full of sheets, towels, cold weather clothes and foul weather gear.

We’ve been using this solution for a few months now and so far I am really happy with it. The insides of the bags are coated but they are not waterproof. We had a leak and the clothes inside definitely got wet, but once we fixed that we haven’t had any sort of mold or boat smell. I think my favorite part of the bags is that they maximize our storage space as the cloth molds to the shape of the hull. The only real negative is that the faux leather pulls on the zippers rip off pretty easily which isn’t a big deal at all. I don’t think these will last forever, but they will until I can at least make my own with better and waterproof fabric. Sometimes I throw in a lavender scented fabric sheet to make it smell really nice.

What are the best ways you’ve found to store your clothes?

13 COMMENTS

  1. Gosh, I’m not looking forward to having to find/make space for clothes on our boat-and we don’t even have that many clothes now. But I really like your idead of putting shelves in the hanging locker! Plus I think the bags would work well on the shelves in tour v-berth. Great ideas!

  2. That’s actually something I’m working on right now… I took out the soft hanging shelves that took up half the closet and just hung everything up. That is by no means going to work when we are on the boat full time! But I also don’t think I can do shelves. I’ll keep searching. Thanks for sharing your solution!

  3. Love the bags!! Can you treat them with Scotch Guard?? It’s not 100% waterproofing but at least it would be an effort to keep out the moisture in the inevitable event that it gets in there.

    • Great idea Kerry! I actually need to pick some before I re-cover the interior cushions. Jason and the dogs can get dirty and I don’t want anything messing up my new pretty fabric 🙂

  4. In the pop up van I use for road trips, I put several items of clothing under my bed mattress… I even use some of it rolled up on the edge under the mattress for when I can’t park in a level spot so I don’t feel like I’m about to roll out of bed all night. Not sure how you’d water proof it tho. Slacks come out sort of ironed. Can’t find my way back to your bed photo to see if you have any space above the mattress if you raise the mattress with clothes! I store folded blankets under the mattress in case I end up in colder climates than I expected. And it’s good for a few extra towels!

  5. Here’s another tip! If you suffer with a lot of condensation from the hull to clothes, line the hull with some cheap carpet behind shelves.

    • Hey Natalie –

      The bags held up fine. THe zipper tabs broke off relatively quickly, but those are just design elements. After a while some of the handles also ripped off. The bags themselves held up very well. It is important to note that these are NOT waterproof though. So, if you have a leak it will seep through.

  6. What about Never Wet? My son bought some to play with and you can spray it on a shirt and catsup and water run right off of it.

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