Quick and Easy Boat Trick: Aft Deck Storage

I’m not going to lie: Life is pretty good right now sitting in a little condo that, while very modest by our standards, is air conditioned and comes complete with a salt water pool and spa. I am having a little vacation, getting used to the heat very gradually, and spending some time doing small boat projects in anticipation of the coming cruising season. We’ve got a kind of nice routine going here. Mike gets up early and heads down to the boat, makes his coffee and listens to the morning radio net (short and sweet though it is during the hot season). Then he starts on his boat projects, materials for which we shopped while in the states. I sleep a bit later and get up to a quiet condo, have my coffee, then begin working on my own projects. Some days I talk to clients over the phone. Our pace is sedate and fairly restful and we both needed this respite from traveling.

Galapagos on her initial survey day. You can see the hard case of the liferaft in this photo.

Blog readers all know how much we love our boat, Galapagos. But she isn’t perfect. Like the rest of us, she has things that could use improvement and one of these is the lack of storage on deck. On a 47 foot boat one would think that there would be loads of lazarettes but alas. Galapagos sports exactly one lazarette (boat language for a storage space accessed from the deck of a boat). It’s on the far aft deck and is one big, deep space that also includes our two hefty aluminum propane tanks and the rode for the stern anchor. Because of this, and because it’s just so difficult to dig this locker out anytime we need to find something, more storage was in order.

We had available to us the coachroof right behind the mizzen mast (see initial photo). When we bought her, Galapagos sported an old, hard cased life raft that had been attached to the deck of the coachroof.  We had removed that and bought a smaller raft, leaving that area free of encumbrances, but with the 4 thru-bolts still in place where the raft was attached. This was literally the only place available to put storage. I had guarded this space jealously because it made getting in and out of the cockpit and onto that aft deck so much easier, being able to avoid the entangling shrouds attached to the side deck completely. We also sit and lay across that area while underway, use the area when we catch fish, and pretty much act like it’s our ‘back porch’. I kind of didn’t want to ruin that groove but something had to give.

Michael had visions of building a fiberglass box, but where and when would he do this thing? Also that felt like a permanent solution to the problem and I wanted a way to ‘try it before you buy it’. I feel cautious about making permanent changes before I know for sure what we want. Because we literally use that coachroof area all the time, I needed to see how it would work having a big box up there taking up space while it gave us storage. Would it be worth it to free up space on the aft deck that was currently being used by gas cans, buckets of fishing gear, and the like? Would we still be able to use it for other things?

Our semi-temporary solution came to us when we visited the local Wal Mart and spied this large rectangular Coleman cooler. It was big enough that the existing bolts could be used to bolt it to the coachroof, but small enough that maybe we could still sit in front of it. We could definitely walk around it to get to the aft deck. We pulled the trigger on that bad boy for a measly 58$ and put it in the van. Michael drilled holes and put the existing bolts through, using washers for compression and butyl tape to prevent leaks. Et Voilá.  We now have a box for storage.

Firmly, if not permanently, attached. And actually it’s centered nicely, but the perspective in this phone photo makes it look off to one side. We didn’t want to drill more holes for now.

Mike is testing this out, but I have some ideas on the use of space that will allow us to store even more in there. Sure is nice to get that gas can off the deck. And that crate of ‘stuff’. Dinghy cable lock, fishing stuff, lots of useful items in that milk crate that never had a home before.

We were both concerned that there was no latch to hold the lid down, although the friction fit is adequate to most eventualities. To be sure, we bought this nifty strap for less than 4$ at Home Depot. It holds tightly and will surely last at least one or two seasons

Happily, there is just enough room to perch in front of the cooler.

In order to protect this new feature from the hot sun, I pulled out a scrap of outdoor fabric that was the right size and, sitting in the cool of the condo, stitched a cover for the cooler, using a dyneema drawstring at the bottom to cinch it up. I probably would not cross an ocean with this thing on the deck, but it will serve quite well where we are now, and when we get to a place where Michael can build his dream fiberglass box, we’ll know exactly what modifications we want; probably something with a lower and wider profile that we can use as a lounging area on passage, although this cooler is strong enough to sit or stand on.

If I had a sewing machine this kind of work would go faster. But actually I consider it a bit meditative to stitch this stuff by hand. When I get tired of meditating through needle and thread, I get to watch Netflix or listen to my Audible books, something I never seem to do on board the boat. I’ve covered all of our Bottom Sider cushions with new terrycloth, and next I’m doing the long yellow cockpit cushions that I made out of scraps of the latex bed topper we used in the aft cabin. Those have held up really much better than I expected!

Newly covered Bottom Siders. I won’t be covering the large one.

Costs (rounded to the dollar):

Coleman cooler – 58$
Strap – 4$
Fabric – 5$ (3.50/yard and I had this on board already because I never throw out fabric)
Dyneema – $4
Spring clip thingy- .35$, so basically change

Total cost: $71 plus change.


Here are a couple of photos Michael took this week. Can anyone ID these critters? I know we have a couple of readers who are interested in invertebrates, so let’s see what you come up with!

About six inches long, this millipede? was on the steps to our little condo. He had so many tiny legs it looked like he was wearing a skirt.

Is his little face cute? Ok well sort of, I guess.

Thousands of these caterpillars were crossing the road to get to the other side. I’m sure they had their reasons but it looked like the same sun blasted desert on both sides to us. Who is this little guy?

S/V Galapagos. Standing by, but not always on Channel 22a lately.





4 thoughts on “Quick and Easy Boat Trick: Aft Deck Storage

    • Yep, That’s the caterpillar. When I first noticed them on the road, it appeared that the pavement was undulating from the heat there were so many of them. Thanks for the positive ID.

    • Wierdly, we had one of those moths in my garden up in WA state several years ago. I got photos of it but suffice to say I was stunned and amazed by it and never saw another one. I believe I may have seen one at rest on the wall two days ago. perhaps they are quite common here. Thanks for the ID! So cool! The millipede was an interesting little creature and I read that people have kept them as pets. Also that they release a noxious substance when disturbed. I’m not sure how those too things play well together.

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