9 Ridiculously Smart Boat Storage Ideas and Organization Hacks

Smart boat organization ideas for your sailboat. Living on a boat and being hyper-organized go hand in hand. You quickly learn how to maximize every inch of storage space you have. Once you finally find the perfect spot for each item onboard, you quickly realize the real challenge is remembering where said spot is! After living aboard for 2 years on Chanceand now on Chancelot, I’ve gotten pretty crafty in how I organize all our crap, I mean, worldly possessions.

If your boat is anything like ours, you have so many hidden sailboat storage compartments, but I bet they aren’t used to their best ability! Boat storage options are truly endless. Every time I step on to a new boat I am always inspired by something. Picking up little tips and tricks along the way, I have come up with a few boat storage ideas I’m pretty proud of. Since the majority of you may never cross paths with us and stop on by, I wanted to share some of my most clever boat storage solutions.

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Canvas bags keep clothes organized on your sailboat.
Canvas bags and packing cubes keep my clothes organized and easy to find.

Sailboat Storage Ideas

Canvas Bags: Bags have so many uses on a boat to help you keep everything organized and easy to manage. For Chance, I bought these bags from the Container Store to use in our closet. They allowed us to maximize the space (including along the curve of the hull) that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we use rigid buckets. I still use these on Chancelot along with packing cubes. Having multiple size bags makes it easy to organize like items and allows you to maximize the amount you can shove into a single cubby. I do wish they were waterproof, you know, just in case. I also bought a bunch of these shoe bags that help me keep my shoes organized and any dirt that may be stuck on the bottom contained.

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Fabric bins are great sailboat storage containers
Fabric bins keep our small electronics tucked away and organized.

Fabric Bins: Dog toys, handbags, electronics, more sunglasses – really, whatever odds and ends we have lying around – all find their way into a few fabric bins. These boat storage bins keep our shelves clutter-free and small items from being thrown around while we’re underway. I find that the fabric bins are more useful and can squeeze into spots that plastic crates can’t. And, they look a lot better! We do use the rigid bins in the galley and in the fridge. These are much easier to rinse off if food spills on them.

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An under the cabinet wine glass rack and velcro strap are great for keeping plastic wine glasses safe on a sailboat.
We quickly figured out how useful that velcro strap can be after a day out on the choppy Hudson River!

Wine Glass Rack: When we move aboard Chancelot we were gifted a set of plastic wine glasses. They are perfect for a night out on the deck and we don’t have to worry about them breaking if someone drops one. We installed a hanging wine glass rack under one of our cabinets and use a velcro tie to keep them in the rack while underway. Works perfectly.

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Hanging pockets add additional storage to your sailboat
Hanging pockets add additional storage to your sailboat

Pockets & Hammocks: I’ve written about my love for pockets as one of my all-time favorite boat storage organizers before, but I’ll say it again that these things really do come in handy. On Chance we had a pocket in the cockpit that kept our Explorer Charts nicely tucked away, but within arms reach while we were in the Bahamas, another pocket for our remotes and now on Chancelot we use one in the aft cabin to keep Jason’s socks out of harm’s way. Hammocks are equally as useful. We’ve used them to store produce and this winter we’re storing all our hats, gloves and scarves in one in our forward berth. The hammocks are nice as they let more airflow through whatever you have stored in them.

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Keep flip-flops tidy on your sailboat by tucking them behind a bungee cord near the companion way
We keep our flip-flops tidy by tucking them behind a bungee cord wrapped around the companionway.

Bungee Cord Flip Flop Organizer: Our companionway entrance used to house our battery bank so the bottom half of our entrance is a pretty hefty sized box. To keep our many flip flops off the floor I fashioned a bungee cord around it to slide them into. This is one of my favorite smart storage ideas because it creates new storage space and it is super easy to install. Pairs of flip flops easily slide behind the bungee cord, keeping them tucked out of the way.

Stairs with built in boat storage drawers replace a typical companion way ladderIn Stair Drawers: On Chance, our 34′ Seafarer, we built in a few drawers into the companionway stairs that ended up being one of my favorite small boat storage ideas. They gave us a lot of extra space that would have gone unused otherwise to store our silverware, stick lighters, cooking gadgets and random odds and ends.

Over the cabinet door racks are great boating storage ideas
Bonus points if you can spot my sailboat origami!

Over the Cabinet Racks: These things are great. I have a few of these hung between the louvers in our cabinet doors and even over the fiddles in our heads. They keep shower products, toiletries, pens, etc all nicely contained and not thrown all over when we’re healing. The over the cabinet towel racks also work really well and avoids extra putting unnecessary holes in the walls for a permanent rack.

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Keep sunglasses out of harm's way by hanging them on a string.
Our sunglasses avoid accidentally being crushed by hanging from a string hung up in our aft cabin.

Sunglasses String: We tend to collect sunglasses over here and have run out of places to keep them safe and scratch-free. I came up with the idea of hanging a simple paracord string up and hanging our sunglasses up and out of harm’s way. Boat storage solutions don’t always have to be complicated. Sometimes simple is best.

A bolster can make blankets do double duty as the pillow's stuffing saving space in your tiny home.
A bolster keeps our down duvet out of the way when not in use and provides a nice pillow to lean against as we are reading in bed or watching a movie on our laptop.

Duvet or Blanket Bolster: We have so many blankets aboard Chancelot. So. Many. They sure have come in handy when we have a group out for a sunset cruise and the temps start to drop, but for a while, I had no idea what to do with them when we weren’t using them. I saw the idea of using the blankets as the stuffing for a bolster pillow and a light bulb went off. It was so brilliant. So I hauled out my Sailrite and whipped up a bolster for the end of our bed and I haven’t looked back. You can find directions on how to make a bolster in one of our favorite sailing DIY booksDon Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual. It provides something nice to lean up against when not in use and easily unzips when I’d rather snuggle up in the blanket hidden inside.

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What do you think, am I missing anything? Do you have any genius sailboat storage ideas that will change my liveaboard life?

Article updated July 2019. Originally posted in January 2016.

23 COMMENTS

  1. The blanket bolster is great. I have 2 sets of sheets for each berth so in case one gets wet or just need an extra if you can’t get to the laundry mat but want extra sheets I have some of those zippered pillow protectors and store the extra sheets in those and then put the pillow protector in a pillow sham . Nice way to store the sheets and use as an extra pillow for leaning on while reading in bed and does not take up a drawer or cabinet storage. Plus look good too!

  2. Great ideas! We have blankets stuffed in to cushion covers too. Great space saver. Also love turkish towels as they take up much less space than traditional towels.

    LOVE the origami! Can you do a post on how to do that!?
    Viki

  3. Vacuum storage bags have changed my life. I put extra blankets, sheets, and out of season clothing in them and don’t have to worry about moisture and mold invading.

    Very inventive way to store your thongs. When we get to warmer climes I’ll definitely think about doing that! Thanks for a lovely article!

    Cheers,
    Monique
    s/v Paragon

    • MONIQUE

      We have used the vacuum bagger for sealing spare parts and seldom used tools to prevent rust in addition to sealing food and clothing and linens. Note – if the spare part or tool has sharp corners or edges we pad it so the bag will not be punctured.

      D and Don
      aboard SV SOUTHERN CROSS

  4. Great ideas – will definitely get a bolster cover for the extra duvet and the flip flop/thong storage is super!

    We use the very big ziplock bags for the clothes, they are mainly waterproof but have a breathing strip around them and handles. Oddly, as we are a 60 year old boat, Ikea baskets work in the saloon for storage of pet items, still need to come up with a fusion of Martha Stewart and NASA for storing pet food though…

    Thank you for the article!

    Wendy
    s/v Adventuress

  5. These are great tips, thank you! I’m not a cruiser, but we do a lot of day and weekend sailing, and our boat is pretty small. I love the flip flop bungee idea, and the blankets-in-a-bolster! 🙂

  6. I love the blanket bolster idea! I know that Matt and I need to get some new blankets for the new boat, but on the Dip it was always a question of where to store them. Even out of the way they were still in the way. Looks like I have one more project to do with my new Sailrite. 😉

  7. You clearly value organization. I am struggling with a clothing storage solution. Something that will use the lockers either under my v-berth or in the companion way. I can lift the cushions up, but making that space accessible is a true challenge that a year living aboard has not resolved.
    Any suggestions? I’m on a Hunter Cherubini 25

    • Hi Reno – I really like packing cubes. With the soft sides you can squish them into different spaces. You can organize clothing by type or use. Amazon sells a bunch of options, but something with multiple sizes may be best. Take a look at these: http://amzn.to/29Qwdqc.

      I also line my lockers with hypervent so they stay dry up against the hull. You could also use dridek or something similar.

  8. So excited to have found y’alls blog! My husband and I are currently in the process of provisioning our boat, trying to figure out what we need and also where and how to store everything. This post was so incredibly useful! Looking forward to following along 🙂

  9. KELLEY –

    Thanks for some great ideas. I always find that even if your ideas don’t work for our boat, that they are wonderful “fodder” for more ideas that do work on our boat.

    I particularly like the blanket bolster and the flip flop bungee ideas.

    I could recommend a sock over your wine glass bowls to keep them banging together and scratching.

    For sharp items, like scissors or knives, I use leftover corks (we create plenty) to cover the pointy part.

    Under our berth we use Dri-deck to help prevent condensation, mildew and mold.

    We really appreciate our Lock n Lock containers not only for food storage but also to help keep tools and spare parts from deteriorating.

    D and Don on SV SOUTHERN CROSS

  10. Roll your towels when underway and stuff them into the cabinets in the head,keeps little things in place better.
    I also stuff extra blankets in cabinets that are dry to keep those things tight and to keep from disarray in heavy weather/ heeling etc.

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