Storage And Stowage On A Liveaboard Boat

Anyone that has lived aboard or considered living aboard a boat understands the issues with finding enough space to stow all of your life's possessions. The builders and designers of boats are more interested in bragging that their 35 foot boat will sleep 10 and seat 15 for dinner. What they don't provide is space on the boat to store the bedding for 10, nor the dishes and provisions to feed 15 people. In almost every boat there is a great deal of wasted space along side the hull, behind steps and cabinets and many other areas. So we boat owners need to get very creative if we don't want to spend the dollars for a very large boat just to haul all of our stuff. With every boat we have purchased, we spend the first hour sitting in the main salon asking one question. Where will we put everything we need to be comfortable and enjoy cruising. If we can not quickly answer that question, we move on to the next boat.

Beach House presented that problem since she is 34 feet long and we were transitioning from a 40-foot sailboat with more storage than most sailboats in the 50 foot range. As we sat and pondered the question, we realized the fit would indeed be tight. We had looked at several boats after we sold our Mariner 40 Sea Trek and found quickly that the storage on many of these boats hardly covered weekend cruises, let alone full-time cruising, and these were some very well-known popular boats. With Beach House, we had to do some serious research to figure out if we could indeed find the additional space. After several more weeks of looking and reconsidering our options, we finally came to the conclusion that we could make it work. The deal was done and we began the process of moving aboard.

The galley area holds 4 large drawers, 2 cabinets and a large open area under the windshield. The drawers were optimized using plastic dividers and small plastic baskets wherever they would fit. The area under the windshield would hold additional galley implements stored in wicker baskets, and glass and plastic containers that could have their lids secured. We also have large open shelves at the aft end of the main salon that would be utilized as storage for most of our snacks, chips, cereal, etc. again using wicker baskets, large zipper-type plastic bags and air-tight plastic containers. We used a non-skid drawer liner found in rolls at most hardware stores to keep everything from sliding around. Hanging fishnet bags are great for fruits and baked goods, and lots of other things. Hanging cup holders are used to slide wine glasses and stemmed tumblers into, allowing them to hang upside over the shelf in the main salon, freeing up the available cabinet space for vertically stacked plates and stacking cups.

In the heads, we used plastic baskets inside the cabinets to divide items and organize things to get more in the cabinets than if we just piled it in and had to sort through things every time we needed something. Here again, we used hanging net bags for paper items, and they stayed much dryer than being stuffed inside lockers. We used several off-the-shelf items found in both regular hardware stores and marine chandleries. Small teak racks strategically placed will hold all of those shampoos and sundry items we all need. We also found small stainless steel and textaline hanging storage containers at local hardware stores that attached to the bulkheads with large suction cups. Small hammocks strung up along the inside of the hull will store a great deal of all kinds of items. Towel bars and towel racks can be used to store several towels and wash cloths that might normally be stored in a drawer or locker. Cleaning supplies could be stored on the shelf that the head is mounted on, in plastic containers to keep things organized.

And those are the easy things to do. Now it is time to get creative. Our water tanks are under our bunks in the aft cabin and take up most of the area under the bunk. The area not filled by the tank is used to store several power tools that are not used that often because getting in and out from under the bunk is not always that easy. There is almost always space behind most drawers that is not used perhaps because of hull shape. This room to can be used for storage, keeping in mind that the drawer will need to be removed to get to it. Large areas under seats and settees are usually available to store larger items and bins with lids for cloths, linens, paper goods, tool boxes and pretty much whatever will fit. Items such as chartbooks and placemats can be stored under seat cushions and mattresses. It keeps them flat and readily available.

The next step is to look for small modifications that can pay off in a big way. We found that there was space under the bottom step that actually would accept large flat plastic containers like those used to store items under a bed. By removing the step tread and the front of the bottom step, we found the plastic containers could be slid inside the steps and with very little carpentry work. The front and tread could be easily removed and replaced to gain access to this otherwise unusable space. Also, the space between the first and second step was deep and open. We enclosed the area just under the first step with a nice piece of teak with an opening cut in it to allow shoes and other items to be stored where normally there would be nothing. Because we cut this in an oval shape, we used split electrical wire loom that fit over the cut edges to finish it off. Large open areas such as under the forward v-berth can be sectioned off and allow much more to be stored than if it were a big open area.

There a few other tricks we can use to keep the need for storage down to a minimum. Almost every live-aboard we know has a large portable dock box. These can be anywhere from a small second car to an older-model station wagon to a full-size utility van. For years, we used a Chevy Astro van until it just got too tired and was recently replaced. We used our "dock box" to store items we might not need on the boat, but wanted access to on a regular basis. With the sailboat, this meant, among other things, our extra sails, things we might need and use for repairs and projects and some larger tools and tool boxes, are also stored here. We also used the vehicle to store clothes when we didn't need them. Being in a northern climate, we store winter clothes in the summer and summer clothes in the winter. We have found this to be much simpler and the clothes more protected by using "Space Bags" that can be compressed by using the suction end of a vacuum cleaner. Since the vehicle is just at the end of the dock, it comes in handy and also provides a second vehicle when we need it. If you look around your boat, and use your imagination, we bet you too, can come up with some pretty creative ideas to get that extra storage space you never thought you had. If all else fails, local storage facilities will rent you a small room for a reasonable rate to get clutter out of your way while you are dockside.


  1. We too, cruised for some years by sail, a 36' ketch in the South Pacific, and after some years as landlubbers are happy to be back on the water with a 34 CHB based in the Pacific Northwest, where we will live in the summers. Enjoyed reading this. Searching for inspiration to make this power boat one I can love as I did the sail boat!

    1. I'm sure you will enjoy the trawler just as much as we do in time. If you haven't visited it, see our blog for our trawler, . Chuck

  2. Tremendous article, will be sharing the link from our Twitter page, @kingharbor1. We are a marina in Redondo Beach, CA and have plenty of liveaboards. This is a question always brought up.


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