How to Optimize Storage Space on a Boat

How to Optimize Storage Space on a Boat

July 17, 2018

Last updated on 31st May 2024

How to Optimize Storage Space on a Boat

Whether you’re anticipating a move to live aboard, are in the market for a new boat or just want to be more strategic about maximizing your current boat space and organization, our key space-saving tips for boats can help. 

Why Is Maximizing Storage on a Boat So Hard?

While it’s obvious that the amount of space in any boat is limited, it’s also important to consider the shape of the storage that is available — often it isn’t the neat, box-shaped storage we’re used to. Instead, the storage curves along with the shape of the boat, making boat organization even more challenging. 

In addition to those challenges, you have plenty to store:

  • Personal flotation devices
  • Fishing gear
  • Watersports equipment
  • Towels
  • Food
  • Everything else you need for entertaining friends

With so much to store, how can you possibly find a place for everything on your boat? 

Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome these challenges and optimize storage for boats. As a boat manufacturer, we’ll give you some of our Formula Boats storage ideas, but also many boat cabin storage ideas that can be used in any boat, regardless of manufacturer or model.

Our Top 16 Boat Organization Ideas

It’s important to understand that not all boats have all of the same boat organization options. Where some models may feature built-in storage, others may require a more creative approach. 

We’ve gathered an extensive list of some of the best built-in storage options for those who may be in the process of designing and purchasing a new boat, and some creative add-ons for those who have a boat and are looking for ideas to optimize space. Together these space-saving boat storage ideas should be just what you need to declutter and get your boat organized.

1. Donate Items You Don’t Need

All of the tips to maximize boat cabin space in the world can’t help you if you have too much stuff. The first step is to go through everything you have or plan to have on the boat and keep only the necessities. 

While we love finding new ways to optimize storage space on a boat, the reality is there isn’t much space, and so it’s important to start by going through everything and donating any items you don’t need to create more space. Throughout this list, you may find products you can purchase to help maximize space. In that case, you may replace some old supplies with new ones, which presents another opportunity to donate. 

Take every chance you can to revisit the items you are storing on the boat and consider whether or not you need them. Having more free space gives you the opportunity to maximize more space.

2. Get a Boat With Stowable Tables

One of the most obvious space-saving tips for boats is to get one that has a stowable table. When a group of friends is sitting around the table with food and drinks, it’s a great use of space. But when it’s not in use, it’s in the way. 

Having a table that can simply fold up, under or to the side when it’s not in use is a no-brainer. Stowable tables give you the table when you need it for entertaining, but the additional space when you don’t. 

We love having the ability to transform space on a boat — that’s why we’ve incorporated stowable tables as a part of our Formula Boats storage. You’ll find a stowable table in our 310 Bowrider and tip-out stools with stowable padded seats in the raised L-shaped cockpit lounge of our 500 SSC.

3. Use Collapsible Containers

While most plastic or metal containers are square, the storage space on your boat is not. Trying to fit those containers into the curves of your boat can be incredibly difficult — and it’s even more frustrating when you’re only using part of the container.

You can replace some of your rigid storage containers with flexible ones, such as:

  • Kitchen containers: While you might have room for all your kitchen accessories in your house, the kitchen space — known as the galley — on your boat is limited. Collapsible silicone measuring cups, bowls, cups and more pop up to full size when you need them and collapse flat when you don’t for easy storage in drawers and small galley cabinets.
  • Canvas baskets: Soft canvas baskets come in a variety of sizes and give you the best of both worlds — durable and collapsible — so you can fit them into your boat’s curved spaces. Consider keeping a couple of waterproof baskets on board for impromptu storage needs.
  • Trash containers: Even with a covered garbage can, any trash you have on deck can easily fly away in inclement weather conditions. You can purchase specialized fabric trash bins for your boat that securely attach to railings and other hanging surfaces for secure trash storage — and because they’re soft, you can fold them up when you’re not using them.

You can usually find these types of containers at your local sporting goods or outdoor store or through your favorite online retailers.

4. Invest in a Gear Hammock or Cargo Net

When you’re standing in your boat and look up, do you have some headspace to spare? If so, the addition of a gear hammock or cargo net may be just what you need for your boat cabin storage. 

These elastic nets secure to the ceiling of your boat cabin and make a great place to store pillows and blankets. When they’re empty, they fit snugly to the ceiling, taking up next to no space. 

If you don’t have the headspace to spare, you may be able to find one that fits a section of a wall or side of furniture, like the end of your bed. Regardless of where you place one, you’ll discover that having the storage space fitting securely will be an asset as you strive to save space.

5. Find a Boat With Floor Storage

Perhaps even better than headspace storage is under-floor storage — not only does it give you extra space, but it’s also completely out of sight and, more importantly, out of the way. 

Find a Boat With Floor Storage

You can use under-floor compartments to securely store emergency supplies like:

  • First aid kits
  • Extra rope
  • Emergency food
  • Water bottles
  • Signal flares

They’re also great places to stow extra fishing equipment and any valuable items you don’t want sitting in just any cabinet or drawer.

Because this type of storage is difficult to add to a boat that didn’t come with it, you’ll want to add it to your list of needed features. We love it so much, we’ve included it in our 270 Bowrider.

6. Use Wall Space Wisely

Wall space may have a reputation for being exclusively for décor, but in a boat, it’s all about function. Functional décor is even better. 

Hanging organizers are a great way to maximize wall space and gain storage for everything from toiletries to clothing. On a smaller scale, one of our favorite galley storage ideas is to get small wall racks to help you get extra storage space for spices and bottles — think of it as a little galley pantry on your wall. If you have more wall space near the galley, you might even consider putting your plates and cups on display in a closed wall rack.

7. Use Hooks for More Than Fishing

You can also optimize wall space by adding hooks. Whether you choose a series of decorative hooks together or a few individual plain plastic ones scattered throughout your boat cabin wall space, hooks are a great addition to boat storage. They make a great place for hanging items you want to have easy access to, like:

  • Wet towels
  • Bathing suits
  • Hats
  • Leashes for pets
  • Keys

Hooks aren’t just for wall space either — you can add single hooks anywhere you find a nook that could be turned into storage, like the side of a cabinet or a piece of furniture. 

8. Enlist the Help of a Vacuum Sealer

When you think of a vacuum sealer, you probably think of food storage in your home kitchen — and yes, this is another galley storage idea you can use to store food on your boat. However, the shrinking effect that a vacuum sealer has by removing the air from packaging is very appealing to anyone with a boat. 

Large and extra-large vacuum seal bags are excellent for storing soft, flexible items such as:

  • Blankets
  • Sheets
  • Towels
  • Clothes
  • Small accessories
  • Coats
  • Extra bags

Using these bags is a quick and easy process. All you need to do to seal it is attach a vacuum or hand pump to the bag and remove the air. This step flattens the bag and everything inside, so you can stack your sealed bags horizontally under beds or in floor storage panels. You can also store your sealed bags vertically in closets and cabinets if space allows.

9. Get a Boat With Seating Storage

In any boat, sitting and storage should go hand in hand. Inevitably, the seat you’re sitting on has open space between the platform you sit on and the floor of the boat — that space is ideal for boat storage, which is why many of our Formula Boats feature under-seat storage everywhere we can make it fit. It’s tough to add this storage to an existing build, so if you’re in the market for a new boat, make sure you look for seating storage. 

If your boat doesn’t have much seating storage, or you find yourself wishing you had more, purchase a storage ottoman or two. These storage ottomans give you additional seating and additional storage, giving you the opportunity to check two things off of your list with this purchase.

10. Maximize Cabinet Space By Adding Shelves

Sometimes boats come with galley cabinets that have quite a bit of vertical space, which is great, assuming you have some tall things to store. If you find that the top of these cabinets is full of bare space, consider putting an additional shelf in the cabinet to maximize galley cabinet space. Suddenly you’ll have more space for some of your galley accessories.

11. Embrace Charging Stations

Counter space is limited in boats, so one of the key boat organization tips is to limit the amount of stuff that’s taking up counter space. Often cell phones, tablets and laptops are among the accessories left out while they’re charging. 

A charging station can confine them to one area of the counter — or even fit in a drawer — and hide cords to maximize the counter space available throughout your boat cabin. Multi-device charging stations are great solutions because they let you charge all your devices simultaneously, and they’re easy to find online in various colors and surface textures.

12. Consider a Stemware Rack

We’ve already briefly mentioned a wall rack for plates and cups, but another one of our space-saving tips for boats is to add a stemware rack underneath cabinets. A stemware rack gives you a safe place to store glasses but also frees up cabinet space, so you have more room for other galley essentials.

13. Add In-Stair Drawers

We usually think of stairs simply as a way to get from a lower area to a higher area or vice versa. However, stairs are rectangular boxes that can make a great boat storage opportunity. 

Whether you add stairs with drawers that pull out or steps that open from the top, this additional boat cabin storage can prove to be exceptionally valuable when you’re low on space. Plus, it’s completely out of sight, so you get an opportunity to declutter your main cabin.

14. Strategically Use Your Bungee Cords

Boats usually have plenty of bungee cords on board for docking and holding other things together, but did you know they can play a role in your boat cabin storage? Consider hanging one of them somewhere out of the way to hang sunglasses. 

Not only does this save space and clutter, but it also ensures that they’re protected from being scratched. You can also easily use a bungee cord to keep sandals out of the way.

Just wrap the bungee cord around any of the furniture or boxes you have in the boat cabin – or fasten it to run alongside a wall or seat. Once you have it in place, tuck sandals and flip-flops vertically so they are flush against the object, keeping them off of the floor and out of the way.

15. Store Blankets as a Pillow

Bolster pillows work best for this trick, but you may also be able to use any large pillow cover. Here’s how:

  • Remove the stuffing from the pillow cover
  • Roll up one thick blanket or two thin ones
  • Replace the stuffing with your blankets

This trick gives you a functional and decorative pillow, while also providing storage for extra blankets.

16. Prioritize Safety

While the above tips will work for most items, unfavorable weather conditions can cause hazardous items to come loose and damage your boat’s interior — or worse, harm someone on board. For example, improperly storing sharp kitchen knives could become a serious risk if you’re in the galley when the boat hits a rough patch.

Here are some simple, low-profile ways you can safely store hazardous objects:

  • Magnetic strips: Attach kitchen knives and other sharp metal objects to magnetic blocks on walls, counters or even in cabinets and drawers to prevent them from coming loose.
  • Velcro: Strong Velcro can keep sharp objects securely in place while also allowing easy access when needed.
  • Blade covers: Blade guards and plastic sheaths help prevent accidents even if your cutlery comes loose by ensuring the blade is covered.

Formula Boats Can Create Custom Solutions

The best way to maximize boat cabin space is to purchase a boat with versatile boat cabin storage options, and that can be challenging to find. Fortunately, Formula Boats is owned and operated by a family of lifelong boaters who understand that boat space comes at a premium and that organization and storage are important. 

It shows in the standard boat models and design customizations that are available when you purchase a boat from us. In addition to offering floor storage, seating storage, cabinets, stowable tables and stools, moveable seating and more, Formula Boats also gives you the opportunity to customize some additional design aspects of your boat based on your needs.

Formula Boats Can Create Custom Solutions

We don’t build for the masses – we build for you. We create custom boating solutions through our FormulaFlex™ and FormulaFlex™ MyWay™ programs. FormulaFlex™ gives you a variety of customizations available to you at no cost. Not everyone has the same list of wants and needs, and we understand that. That’s why we give you the ability to customize your dream boat.

If you don’t find everything on your dream boat list through our FormulaFlex™, additional customizations are available by upgrading to FormulaFlex™ MyWay™. Here are a few of the customization options you have through these programs:

  • Basecoat colors
  • Exterior graphics
  • Upholstery colors for base, accent and piping
  • Cabin fabrics
  • Cabinetry
  • Cockpit, cabin and electronic choices
  • Corian surfaces
  • Graphics color selection
  • Pillow, drapery and bedspread fabrics
  • Positioning of electronics

Contact Us Today to Get Started

Whether you’re just beginning to envision your dream boat or know exactly what you want and are anxious to get started on bringing that boat to life, Formula Boats can help you take the next step. We understand the need for both functional, fine-tuned design and authentic craftsmanship. If you’re in the market for a new boat and would like to learn more about our custom solutions, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 1-800-736-7685.

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