Seven Best Inexpensive Boat Hacks

Use these seven easy and cheap solutions to make your time on the water better.
Launching a boat at the ramp
These inexpensive hacks can make owning, trailering and launching your boat much easier. Tom King

Owning a boat can be expensive (But, oh, so worth every penny!) That said, savvy boaters find ways to take care of things less expensively. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of seven great and inexpensive hacks that will not only make boat ownership easier, it will help make boat ownership less expensive as well. Check out these seven boat hacks and add your own boating and boat ownership tips in the comments below.

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Crayola crayon
Keep your zippers and snaps working correctly by using a crayon to lubricate the surfaces. Courtesy Crayola

Stuck Snaps and Zippers

Snaps and zippers on boat canvas eventually stick, become hard to operate and may even cause a tear in the fabric or damage to your boat. To prevent these tragedies snaps and zippers need to be kept lubricated. Use a crayon (or a candle) to “draw” a waxy film on to snaps and zippers and keep them operating smoothly. It’s easy, there’s no overspray to stain fabric and using a crayon is easy and cheap.

Rough Linen towels
Towels have many important uses on a boat. Courtesy Rough Linen

Windshield Glare

Glare in a boat windshield is annoying. It can also be dangerous: if you have difficulty seeing you might strike flotsam, jetsam or even another boat. Most windshield glare occurs because the reflection of a light colored helm (“dashboard” for any landlubbers reading this). A simple solution to cut reflected glare from a light-colored is to place a dark towel on top of the helm. A colored shirt works in a pinch. Some boaters will paint there helm tops, or have custom canvas covers or adhesive decking applied. Those solutions work, but a dark towel is easy and cheap!

Sliding Coolers

A cooler that slides around the cockpit as your boat plies the waters can be annoying. Surely, if a heavy cooler is best tied down or placed in a dedicated rack or stowage spot. But, not every boat is so fitted. Also, sometimes boaters carry an occasional extra cooler. In any event, a cheap and easy way to prevent a cooler from sliding is place it on a wet towel. Use a towel big enough so that when folded in half, it’s at least as large as the bottom of the cooler. Soak the towel with water (should be plenty of that around when aboard a boat!), wring it out, then fold it over to make it thick. Place the cooler atop it and watch it stay in place. Note that this hack won’t work with an empty cooler; the weight of ice and supplies helps the hack to work.

Spotlight for leaky hatches
Weatherproof hatches by using a spotlight or lantern at night. Courtesy Streamlight

Leaky Hatches

Whether it’s your lifejackets and gear, or your boat’s sterndrive or inboard engine, keeping things dry increases longevity, reduces corrosion and is overall a good thing. To see how “watertight” your hatches are, go aboard your boat at night. Place a bright light, like a flashlight or portable lantern, inside the engine compartment or stowage compartments. Close the lid. Wherever you see light peeking through is a place where spray, rain and wash water can enter. Apply self-adhesive weatherstripping (available at hardware and home supply stores) to the underside of hatch lids, around the perimeter. Weatherstripping costs but a few dollars. Before doing that, though, make sure the lid latches and hinges are tight and adjusted correctly. Using a screwdriver is cheap and doesn’t require a ride to the store!

PVC for boat fenders
PVC in a rod holder makes deploying fenders a breeze. Courtesy Lowe’s

Fender Hanging Hack

We stole this boat hack from contributor, author and charter boat operator, Capt. John Raguso. Raguso uses a clever and cheap solution to hang fenders from his boat, MarCeeJay. He has his fenders pre-rigged with a length of line tied to a section of PVC pipe with holes drilled at one end. The pipe fits into the rodholders and when he needs to deploy fenders, he simply drops the PVC into a rod holder and fender overboard. “Wall-ah,” as they seem to say on the internet. This hack can work for any boat owner whose vessel is equipped with rod holders. And it’s cheap!

Dawn dish soap
Liquid dish soap can make carpeted trailer bunks easier to navigate. Courtesy Dawn

Sticky Trailer Bunks

Boat owners who use bunk trailers can sometimes face difficulty getting their boat off the trailer if the water level is low. While a roller trailer and slippery bunk covering are both great options, there is a “ home-brewed” solution to help a boat slide off a bunk trailer more easily. This hack is simply to apply a few squirts of liquid dish soap onto the carpeted bunks before you load the boat. Then, the next time you go to off-load your boat, the slipper soap will make sure your boat slides off more easily. Hey, almost everyone has dish soap meaning this boat hack is free for almost every boater.

Industrial film wrap
Keep the bugs off your boat when trailering by using film wrap. Courtesy Home Depot

Bugs on Trailer Boats

Some call them love bugs, but don’t tell that to a trailer boaters. If you are trailering your boat through bug country it can be quite annoying as the “buggers” stick to your hull, t-top, bow rails, windshield and everything else. A good cover helps a lot, but often does not cover T-tops or other high boat structure. Additionally, there is the hull to protect. For tops and pipework, a cheap hack is to buy stretch film packing from hardware or home repair store. Secure it with tape to help it withstand highway speeds. A cheap solution to mitigate bugs sticking to your hardtop  is to split pool noodles and secure them over the leading edge with tape. Of course, making sure every exposed surface is waxed will go a long way to make bug removal easier.