End-of-Season Boat Organization Tips

Prep for smooth sailing next season by clearing the clutter before stowing your boat.

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Wooden boat in storage
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For many boaters, late fall means the end of boating season is near. Organizing your boat now will ensure your stuff won’t be rolling around the deck during the spring shakedown cruise. Here are a few tips for corralling the clutter and streamlining your stuff before storing your boat away for the winter.

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An Initial Inventory

Chart a course to keep clutter at bay by making a list and checking it twice — before boating season ends. Knowing exactly what’s on the boat is the first step towards streamlining its contents.

Use a boater’s logbook or the MyStuff2 app and pare down redundant items as you go, ditching anything that’s out-of-date and noting things that need to be replaced. This will help ensure you have what you need at a glance and avoid re-buying things you already own.

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Organize Owner’s Manuals

Sure, sorting through a stack of operator’s and owner’s manuals can feel like an overwhelming chore. But the next time you need to reference one and find it in seconds flat, you’ll be glad you took the time. Dealing with books and papers are important steps in Marie Kondo’s organization tips.

First, purge the ones for items you no longer own, as well as the ones you have easy access to online. Then group and store the remaining booklets in an expandable plastic file folder, by categories such as galley, plumbing and electronics.

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Cockpit Clutter

Did your helm turn into a junk drawer over the season? If so, don’t let clutter take the wind out of your sails. Add a cockpit organizer to keep keys, sunscreen, phone and all the other small items you stuff there secured in a dedicated slot and easy to spot. It’ll keep unnecessary and duplicate items from piling up, too.

And if the area is doubling as a trash can, add a hanging trash bag to put garbage in the right place the first time.

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Tidy Up the Tool Chest

Save space while keeping your tools organized and protected until next season with a canvas Tool Roll-Up. They’ll take up less room than they would in a bulky plastic case, and any empty pocket will signal a missing tool.

Keep all the nuts, bolts and hose clamps at the ready in a slim, clear tackle box that can be stored flat or sideways. Removable dividers mean you can customize the storage to suit your needs.

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Pack the Puffy Things

Big blankets, puffy pillows and fuzzy fleece jackets demand tons of storage space — space you may not have to give up. Store them in a vacuum bag. and once the air is taken out they’ll shrink to a fraction of their original size. Then you can easily pack them away mildew free until next spring, on or off the boat.

Shrinking items can make them difficult to identify without opening the bag, so add a water resistant label.

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Stow the Small Stuff

Little stuff gets lost when you just toss it into big bins for storage. Here’s how to make headway when you’re sorting and storing the small stuff: Group items into similar categories, such as beauty, skin care and personal care. Then use clear re-usable leak-resistant zip-top bags to keep the contents separate, dry and visible until you prepare the boat next spring.

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Store the Sunglasses

On a boat you accumulate a lot of sunglasses. To keep your stockpile safe and scratch-free during the off-season, hang them from their arms on a glasses organizer. With a place to store up to 20 pairs, you’ll be ready for sunny skies next season. While you’re at it, prep a spot for the captain’s pair with a single ring holder, to keep them out of harm’s way yet still within reach. Oh, and if you don’t have a polarized pair, make sure to add that to your stockpile, too.

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Must-Have Multitaskers

Opting for all-in-one tools means you’ll have fewer to organize and store. For end-of-season boat maintenance like screw- and bolt-tightening, nab this fun and functional shark-shaped all-in-one tool. It’ll be handy for opening bottles next boating season, too. Slip it onto an easy-to-spot floating key ring, just in case it goes for an unexpected swim.

Cull the tool chest even further by swapping out your most common tools — saw, hammer, wire cutter, pliers and fish descaler — with this inexpensive and highly rated 14-in-1 tool.

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Control Cable Chaos

Navigating through a messy tangle of cords to find a spare cord or pigtail adapter is a waste of time. You might waste money, too, if you have to re-buy an item that got lost or damaged. Keep them tidy with a GRID-IT organizer, with lots of secure, customizable spots.

Avoid playing the matching game next boating season, trying to figure out which cord goes to what, by adding clip-on plastic write-on labels. Or go old school and use masking tape and a Sharpie instead.

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Conceal Cleaning Supplies

Too many cleaning tools take up precious boat storage space, plus they’re hard to track down. Storage and location become a whole lot easier when you swap out the seven most common tools, like the squeegee and scrub brush, for an all-in-one cleaning system.

The smaller attachments are easy to store in consoles, under the deck or in your dock box. Down below is a good spot for the seven-foot extension pole that telescopes out to 24 feet.

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Hang Your Hat

At the end of the season, store your collection of bucket hats and baseball caps on the boat so you’re ready to set sail in the spring. A clear zipper hat bag keeps them visible, dry and dust-free through the winter. When the sailing season commences, a hanger with clips keeps up to 10 hats of all kinds ready to grab and go.

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