By Tim Allard
An organized boat is more comfortable and safer than one cluttered with items on the floor and thrown into storage spaces. In this Buyer's Guide, I'll discuss some of the basic boat accessories that will keep your vessel organized.
A bimini top provides protection from sun and light rain while on the water. Covers
A boat cover is an excellent addition to your rig, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes for every model available. While towing, a cover will streamline your boat, reducing the unit's drag on your vehicle. During towing and storage, the top will protect the interior of your boat from rain, dirt, tree sap, bird droppings and UV rays.
Some boat cover models include a section to cover an outboard motor, although separate motor covers are also available. Covers are secured to the boat itself or to a trailer by straps, but some custom-made models are fastened to the hull with snaps. Extra straps, hooks or suction cups are also available to ensure a snug fit.
To increase the performance and lifespan of your cover consider combining it with a support system. Systems vary from straps with spreaders to wooden bows and sockets, but the goal is the same; they provide an internal frame for your boat's cover to keep water from pooling on it as well as reducing the material from sagging.
Bimini Tops: Not a full boat cover, a bimini top provides protection from sun and light rain while on the water. These tops are excellent for adding shelter to otherwise wide-open boats. Most rigs have an expandable and collapsible frame. Tie-down straps allow the rig to be safely secured during use. Additional bimini accessories are available to ensure your top is a perfect fit for your boat, such as adjustable hinges, tube-ends and straps. When not in use, most tops collapse and fold down, or can be removed completely from their hinges for storage.
Cases, Boxes and Bags
Keeping your gear stored in containers is a big part of staying organized while on the water, as well as when loading and unloading your boat. Three storage options are cases, boxes and bags.
Storage boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit your individual needs. Cases: A waterproof case can be used to safely transport expensive and fragile items, especially in wet conditions. Available in hard or soft plastic models, waterproof cases come in a range of sizes from ones small enough for a cell-phone to extra-large cases with foam padding for bulky items. A step down from a waterproof case is a dry storage box. These boxes will keep items dry in the rain, but may not keep the water out in heavy rains or if submerged. For expensive items, such as electronics, consider a waterproof case, while for other less costly items a storage box will often suffice.
Storage Boxes: Storage boxes are also useful to help organize a boat and can be classified as either portable or permanently installed models, like a hatch liner. Look for storage boxes with a watertight, O-ring seal to keep moisture out. Portable models can be used for carrying first-aid supplies or Coast Guard-required safety equipment. Portables can be better suited for smaller boats without lockable storage spaces, so you can remove them and their valuable contents when the boat is unsupervised.
Smaller, portable boxes include plastic, or polypropylene, see-through storage boxes that come in a variety of sizes. Known for storing fishing tackle, these boxes can house anything from small hardware components to basic kitchen items.
Some boat bags like this one are built like a "dry bag" and are waterproof.
Boat Bags: An alternative to a case or box, a boat bag is specifically designed for on the water use. Like a duffle bag, they may contain removable shoulder straps and side carrying straps, side pockets, mesh pockets, and some come with roller wheels. Additionally, the bag's material is often waterproof, usually made of a PVC-coated material. Most boat bags also feature a heavy-duty reinforced bottom that is also waterproof, letting you store them on the floor of a wet boat. Note that few boat bags are submersible, but most are designed to stay dry in light to modest rains. If you need a submersible, waterproof container, a case is often your best choice.
Electronics are a standard in most boats today. They assist in navigation and communication, with fish finders, GPS units and VHF radios being the most popular types. Yet, with these gadgets comes a need to store them and keep their wiring tidy.
Mounting Options: Permanent electronics come with mounting hardware and accessories for mounting handheld GPS and radios are available. Handheld mounts keep the units secure during travel as well as house or hold the wiring connections. To increase the viewing range of a fish finder or a GPS, a swivel or swing-arm mount allows you to adjust and rotate the unit for various angles. The other option is to wire a second fish finder at the bow of your boat and there are a plethora of accessories to help with this task including cables, transducers, mounts, and switches.
A swivel or swing-arm mount allows you to adjust and rotate the unit for various angles. Wiring: With a variety of electronics on board, controlling the clutter of the wiring is not as difficult as it seems. Using a mount for each unit will help keep wires tucked away. Wires can be kept compact using plastic tie-downs, and wiring at the battery-end can be housed in a battery box. Battery boxes secure batteries in place using a mounting hardware and a strap. For those without boxes, a battery tray will serve a similar function when teamed with a tie-down kit. A battery terminal with connections for separate leads is useful to secure several wires to the battery. Another item to help with clutter is an onboard battery charger. If it is permanently installed in your boat, you will not need to carry batteries or chargers to and from your boat. Chargers also help keep the boat's wiring system tidy and tucked away. With an onboard charger, all you need is an extension cord.
Boaters spend a lot of time seated while on the water. Outfitting your rig with a supportive seat can increase comfort and reduce backache. When purchasing boat seats, look for quality construction with heavy foam padding for support as well as UV- and mildew-resistant, marine-grade vinyl covering. Folding seats let you minimize their size when unused and a snap strap will ensure they stay folded down during travel. Swivels mounts let you to turn the seats instead of your neck, reducing strain.
For anglers, pro seats, let you lean while fishing and feature a smaller seat to minimize the space they take up on casting decks. For the hunter, many seats come in camouflage color patterns, keeping your boat disguised but still comfortable. To help organize frequently used items within reach, consider a small accessory holder that can be mounted to a seat's side or its support post.
Fenders will protect the hull and gunwales from dock's sharp edges. Docking Accessories
Every boat should carry basic docking accessories. Fenders will protect the hull and gunwales from dock's sharp edges. High-quality fenders are made from marine-grade vinyl. PVC models are also available but less effective in rough water and are less durable. Some fenders also come in inflatable models. Hardware is also available in various mounting options to secure boat fenders.
Cleats are the next item on a docking checklist. Not all boats come equipped with cleats, and you should add some to your rig if you're currently without any. Cleats allow you to secure your boat to a dock while waiting at a launch or getting gas at a marina. They come in high-impact nylon, stainless steel or other weather-resistant materials.
Your boat should also have enough rope to secure it to a dock properly. The rope's thickness should be strong enough to hold your rig in strong winds and rough water. Most marine-grade rope is made of nylon. The length of rope needed will depend on the size and weight of your rig.
For anglers, a fishing rod storage system will significantly help keep your boat clutter free during travel and fishing. A variety of systems are available. Units come in tubes or grooved racks for individual rod and reel storage. Tube units are designed to store rods vertically and may contain other storage holes for additional items, such as fillet knifes or pliers. Grooved racks tend to be for horizontal or overhead rod storage and some feature bungee cords to keep items secure during travel.
Another system that is effective in smaller fishing boats is a Velcro strap system that mounts to the side or deck of a boat. The bottom of the strap is secured to the boat and rods are then wrapped and secured in the loose ends, creating a snug and customized hold. Individual Velcro wraps can also be used to secure a series of rods together to transport out of the boat.
A first aid kit should accompany you whenever you take to the water. Safety Accessories
Part of the peace-of-mind from boating is being prepared to deal with an emergency should one arise (whether a large threat or minor risk). Here are some safety items to carry to ensure you're prepared and organized. A first aid kit should accompany you whenever you take to the water. As a precaution, store kits in a waterproof bag or a case. Supplement your kit with water, sunscreen and an emergency blanket.
A ladder that can be mounted on the boat's side is another useful tool. In an event requiring a water rescue, a ladder allows someone to easily climb into a boat. They are extremely helpful in cold weather or rough water conditions. You should also carry the required US Coast Guard safety equipment, which may include a signaling device (horn or whistle), visual distress signals (such as flares), a fire extinguisher, a throw rope and PFDs. If you own a boat that does not have navigation lights, consider installing a set or purchasing a pair of portable ones. Lights are required by the Coast Guard from sunset to sunrise and in reduced visibility situations.
General Hardware and Boating Gear
Keeping your boat organized can be aided by several simple accessories, which I've grouped in this category. A tool kit can go a long way to keep your boat organized, housing all the tools, materials and hardware in one storage box. Another great add-on is a paddle keeper. This device is designed to vertically or horizontally hold your paddle, keeping it stored out of the way, but accessible when needed.
Small organizers, in either screw or suction cup mounts, can be great for storing small, but frequently needed items in one place. Units are available to hold lures, drinks, hand-held radios or GPS units, binoculars, garbage bags, and general boxes for other personal items. Bungee cords are also useful to keep items strapped down in windy conditions or during travel. Look for plastic hook models if you are concerned with scratching your boat.
The above items are just a sampling of the many accessories you can purchase to upgrade the organization, comfort and safety of your boat. Many are inexpensive add-ons and it's a satisfying feeling (whether on land or water) when you need a specific item and you know exactly where to find it.
View all Marine Accessories.