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Boating Basics: Stowing Gear

Finding the right spot to store watersports equipment and other gear on your boat for a day on the water can be like working a jigsaw puzzle, but there are plenty of innovative solutions.

Boating Basics: Stowing Gear

If you are new to boating, the “Boating Basics” series of videos from Mercury Marine provides an engaging, educational guide to our favorite pastime that will help you gain confidence on the water. Even if you are an experienced boater, you might pick up a few tips!

To get the most out of your day on the water, you probably will want to bring along some watersports gear like a wakeboard, towing tube or floating mat. And, of course, you’ll need a cooler full of drinks and snacks. Figuring out where to stow all this gear on board can prove to be a challenge. The good news is you don’t need to buy a bigger boat. Our advice, along with the video below, will help you stow your gear efficiently.

Start with Onboard Compartments

Start by optimizing your use of the boat’s built-in compartments. Stow items that you will be using throughout day, like sunblock, hats, etc., in easily accessible compartments such as a glove box, gunwale hatch or drawers, if your boat has them. Put gear you may only need once or twice during the day in compartments that are less accessible, such as those beneath the seats or in the transom.

Aftermarket Accessories Help with Tow Sports Gear

Bringing water skis and wakeboards can greatly enhance your boating fun, but they also are bulky and cumbersome to stow. Luckily, many boats are built with dedicated compartments in the cockpit sole that are long and wide enough to hold your skis and boards. Fish boxes also can double as water-ski stowage compartments.

If your boat has a tower, there are many types of dedicated wakeboard and water-ski racks available for purchase online and at your local boating retail store. There are even racks designed for boats without towers that attach to a railing or directly to the hard top or side of the boat. If you plan to bring along an SUP (stand-up paddleboard) or two, you can find special racks for them as well, depending on the size of your boat.

Deflate or Strap Down Tubes

When you bring an inflatable tube along for towing riders behind the boat, the most convenient way to stow it is by deflating it and folding it so it fits into a bag or compartment on board. Don’t forget to bring along a portable, battery-operated air pump so you can inflate the tube when it’s time to use it.

If you prefer to keep the tube inflated and you have a boat with an open bow, you can stow the tube in the bow compartment until it’s needed. Tie it down by crossing docklines or straps diagonally, running the straps through the handles on the tube and attaching the ends of the straps to cleats. If you have a closed-bow boat, you can use a similar procedure to tie it to the sun pad at the transom.

Roll Up or Deflate Floating Mats

For many boaters, a floating mat for lounging in the water is a highly popular piece of watersports gear. If you have an inflatable mat, once again, the best thing to do is stow it deflated and use your portable air pump to inflate it when you get to the beach or cove where you want to use it.

If the mat is made of solid foam, however, the solution is to roll it up and use a line or strap to secure it to the rear sun pad or swim platform. Roll the mat around a dockline or strap, so the strap passes through its center, then tie off the strap to cleats on each end. This should keep the mat in place while the boat is underway and keep the boat’s seats free for passengers.

Whenever you have a tube or mat – or both – strapped down to your boat, be sure to keep a close eye on it and watch your speed while underway.

Coolers Double as Extra Seats

Many posts in boaters’ forums over the years have been devoted to the best way to stow a cooler in a boat. These days, boat manufacturers typically incorporate a spot for a cooler beneath a seat or elsewhere on board all their models – or they build them into the boat. Some even add slides that allow you to pull the cooler out and access it with ease. But if your boat does not have a built-in cooler or dedicated cooler storage spot, or if you bring along an extra one, it can always double as a seat. Just bring along a cushion that fits its top or pad it with a towel. Alternatively, you can use a hard cooler as a footrest. Soft-sided coolers also make a great option because you can squeeze them into a tight space on deck or in a storage compartment.

As with cooler storage, boaters have been coming up with innovative ways to stow gear in their vessels for years, and many manufacturers follow up with their customers after the sale and incorporate their clever solutions into new boat models. So, if you want to bring along that piece of watersports equipment or gear to make your time on the water even more fun, don’t hesitate. There’s always a place for everything on board!

Boating Basics: Stowing Gear
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