Deck Cargo
Or:  Giving up on Vanity

This page was last updated on September 29, 2002.

The reality makes itself known slowly, inexorably.  At the beginning, you think you're smarter and more organized, and that it won't happen to you.  But before long, the harsh reality hits you:   you have chosen a small, slack-bilged (but sleek and attractive, mind you), narrow sailboat on which to cruise.  You can't fit everything you want in the lockers!Something has to give!    You've always scorned those "other" boats, the ones with all that junk piled in every empty space on deck, looking like nothing so much as a refugee transporter.  But now you find yourself in the same position, with no other choice but to join the unwashed masses and be-grunge your precious, clean-decked  baby:  I'm talking, of course, about exposed deck cargo.

You may not like the reality, but there's just no way to avoid storing some larger,  bulkier items on deck on a cruising sailboat, particularly one as small as a Triton.  Enclosed storage space is at a premium, and bulky items like fenders, docking lines, anchors, water jugs, diesel jugs, and other items simply take up too much of this precious room--room that is better used for storing food, bottled water, tools, spare parts, or dirty laundry, to name a few.

Any cruise with a duration longer than a few weeks will likely require that you sully the deck of your beauty with at  least some deck cargo.  Unless, of course, you enjoy minimalist (and I mean minimalist) cruising, or enjoy hopping from dock to dock the whole time to fill your puny onboard water or diesel tanks, winning you any number of fine friends at busy fuel docks along the way.  Yes folks, they don't like tying up the fuel dock for your 8.2 gallons of diesel when several large powerboats ready to drink up 300 gallons each are waiting impatiently beyond.

Other items eventually find their way above decks permanently, despite your overwhelming urges to keep them hidden away.  In most cases, convenience takes over, and you sacrifice your empty decks.  This applies to things like BBQ grills (as if anyone really wants to set these greasy, filthy things up every single time you want to use it...and then break it down and stow it again--get a nice cover and leave it out), mops and buckets, and dinghy parts, if you have them.  And other things just being on deck anyway, unless you had cavernous lockers somewhere where bulky stuff like water jugs, sunshowers, etc. could go.  (And who does...?)

It began for me with the stupid fenders (4), which I had stored in the starboard cockpit locker.   Obviously, there are times you  need these big vinyl sacks of air, but most of the time they're one of the biggest space-wasters anywhere.  But they're ugly...what do you do with them, other than stuff them away where they can't be seen?  For the longest time, I resisted, working and reworking storage lockers throughout the boat in an attempt to keep the fenders where they belonged.  Eventually, I realized the futility of it all, and the fenders were moved on deck once and for all.  Fortunately, our fenders are covered with generally attractive gray polar fleece sleeves, so they aren't hideous.

Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 003.jpg (153324 bytes)Two of the fenders, one on each side, fit nicely on the cabin trunk forward of the dodger, next to the sea hood.  The handrail kept them from rolling off when we heeled, and I tied the lines to the rails to hold them in place at the forward end.  This worked well throughout the season, and these fenders now have a permanent home here.  They blend in quite well with the dodger and sea hood, and disappear for all intents and purposes.

Cruise 8-27-28 040.jpg (121822 bytes)Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 002.jpg (153659 bytes)The second two fenders were tougher to deal with.  There was not enough room on the cabin trunk.  The stern pulpit seemed like a likely place to store them, but if they were tied inside the pulpit, they took up too much of the small deck space back there.  I ended up tying them to the outside of the stern pulpit just off centerline, between the radar mast and the ensign.  I secured the tops and bottoms with the fenders' lines, to hold them securely in place.  This ended up being an excellent place for the fenders:  barely noticeable, out of the way, easy to grab if needed, and with the added benefit of providing a bit more privacy for the cockpit.  I also stored two docklines and a large coil of spare line nearby.  Other spare lines stayed in the cockpit locker, secured to the inside wall of the locker with some small lines.  You can also see the deck mop that I typically stored as shown--it was just too much of a pain to keep it in one of the stuffed storage lockers, and it really blended in with the rest of the stuff stored aft and was invisible.

Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 004.jpg (170362 bytes)Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 007.jpg (169062 bytes)We secured two yellow diesel fuel jugs (5 gal. each) to the shrouds or lifelines, one on each side of the deck.  They were only slightly in the way, and didn't preclude easy access to the foredeck.  The three parts of the dinghy mast and  boom are stored on the starboard side, running from the shrouds forward towards the bow pulpit and well lashed in place.  There's simply nowhere else for these to go.  The diesel jugs were great.  We never took the boat to a fuel dock, choosing always to grab the empty jug(s) and row them ashore instead.  

To supplement the small 23-gallon built-in water tank, we brought six clear polyethylene water jugs, 2.5 gallons each.  These worked out very well--their small size makes them easy to handle (not too heavy), they have large mouths for easy pouring and filling, and they were easy to scatter around the decks to keep the weight fairly evenly distributed.  When empty, we either left them where they had been when full, or tied up several with a sail tie to the stern pulpit, as seen in the photo below to the far right.  Otherwise, the six jugs were lashed to the shrouds, stanchions, the mast base, and the stern pulpit base, as seen below.  We stored a 6-gallon Sunshower on the coachroof just forward of the sea hood, lashed on each end to the handrails, and our 2 gallon garden sprayer/shower was lashed to the mast for easy access.

Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 005.jpg (148517 bytes)        Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 006.jpg (193432 bytes)        Cruise 7-16 to 7-19 001.jpg (196241 bytes)

Cruise 8-7 015.jpg (157465 bytes)Cruise 8-16-19 024.jpg (153764 bytes)Originally, I stowed the teak daggerboard and rudder for the sailing dinghy in the back of the starboard cockpit locker.  This was a real deterrent to actually using the dinghy, so after a time or two I searched for somewhere else to keep this stuff.  I found that I could lash it to the top of the spare Danforth anchor stored on the coachroof behind the mast, where it was out of the way and easy to access when we wanted it.  Storing these parts here did block viewing access out of the forward-facing ports, but sacrifices must be made.  I don't have a specific photo of this arrangement, but you can see the items in these photos, as well as the arrangement of many of the other pieces of deck cargo and how everything works in concert with everything else.  When we got home from the cruise and I removed all the gear that isn't required on board for daysailing or shorter cruises, I was amazed at how much room there suddenly was!  The boat looked naked.  We got very used to the gear stored on deck, and it was never a problem.

Cruise 8-16-19 015.jpg (156482 bytes)This overhead shot, taken in Castine during the trip, shows the bulk of the deck cargo and how it affects the workability of the decks.  There was still plenty of room to work halyards, reef the main, or other necessary chores.  For offshore sailing, I would secure the jugs with some stronger lashings, but small nylon cord or sail  ties worked very well throughout the cruise.  Note the clean, clear decks of Dasein, the boat next to me...viva laŽ difference!

Cruise 8-20-21 026.jpg (154914 bytes)The space under the dodger was extremely useful for storing many small, everyday items.  I love these little plastic bins that you can get at Wal-Mart--4 or 6 of them for a few dollars--and we placed several of these bins on the coachroof under the dodger.  They were held in place by the handrails, hatch trim, and the dodger itself, and were invaluable for stuff like sunscreen, cameras, watches, hats, small lines, etc.  Without the dodger, we wouldn't be able to use this space, and for this reason--among others--the dodger ends up being a permanent installation.  I don't really have any pictures of this; this one is the closest I have.

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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