Improve Your Living Space

Sometimes the simplest projects can yield huge results aboard. Here are three that you can complete in an afternoon.

February 8, 2018

Each of these DIY projects can be completed in less than two hours; two require no special skills, while the third is a good first 12-volt wiring project, and all add immensely to the livability of your boat.

Shock Cord

Shock-Cord Towel Racks

Perhaps the most versatile item on board is the lowly shock cord. Carolyn Shearlock

Need a towel rack but don’t really have space for one? Make your own from shock cord! Use existing attachment points, cup hooks or even 3M Command-strip hooks.

Spice rack storage
With it, you can fashion towel racks and secure spice spice racks and paper towels. Carolyn Shearlock

Cut shock cord to length so there is slight tension on it (more tension with larger, heavier towels) and add 1 inch to each end. Fold ends back and make loops with hog rings, then slip ends over the attachment points.


The same technique can be used for paper towel or toilet paper holders, or to restrain items on shelves.

String for produce storage

Hanging Produce Bins

Use simple 1/4-inch line to string up baskets for produce. Carolyn Shearlock

Hanging produce bins will add to your food-storage space — lots of produce really doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but you do have to have well-ventilated bins to put it in. Hanging three or four bins makes great use of space that is otherwise underutilized.

Plastic bins that are solid on the bottom and ventilated on the sides work well — if something should spoil in a bin, plastic cleans up easily and the mess is contained with solid bottoms. Use any size that fits the area you have available.


Use ¼-inch line and thread it through the ventilation holes nearest the four corners of the bins, putting cord locks at the bottom of each bin (you can buy cord locks in fabric stores and on Amazon). Hang the baskets from a hook (or in my case, the former hanger bar in a hanging locker) and then adjust the cord locks so that all bins are level — it is much easier to do this with cord locks than to try to tie knots in just the right spot!

Central charging station

Charging Station

Adding a central charging station for all your portable electronic gadgets can greatly simplify liveaboard life. Carolyn Shearlock

One of the best little DIY projects we’ve done was to add a charging station for all our electronics — phones, tablets, camera, MP3 player, portable speaker, external battery pack for the phones and camera, handheld VHF and GPS, rechargeable batteries (AA and AAA) and even our cordless vacuum and power tools (using a small pure-sine-wave inverter). Most boats more than a few years old just don’t have enough outlets, and they’re usually not in a convenient place!

Both USB and cigarette-lighter plugs are helpful — you can buy all sorts of combination outlets on Amazon as well as from many marine stores. In choosing your unit(s), look for 15-amp capacity in the 12-volt sockets — someday, you’ll want to plug in something that requires it.


Consider opting for even more USB ports than you currently need. The newer iSmart and QuickCharge USB ports are a worthwhile upgrade, as is making sure that ports are Apple-compatible, even if you don’t currently have any Apple products.

Many of the outlet strips come with a male cigarette lighter plug on the end of the cord; to hard-wire it to your electrical system, cut the plug off and be sure to use an inline fuse of an appropriate amperage for safety.


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