4 Useful Tips for New Boaters


drinklip_cup_clip_holder-810-500x505Cup holders are virtual necessities on today’s fishing boats, but there’s not always room on a boat’s horizontal surfaces to add recessed holders. An alternative is a folding cup holder that installs on a vertical surface. The West Marine folding cup holder (about $11) is made from corrosion-resistant plastic, occupies a 414-inch square, and is only % inch thick when closed. It holds cans, bottles or ther­mal mugs. I added a couple to the exterior of the transom bulkhead on my boat, where they handily unfold and hold a beverage while I fish off the stern. When the drink’s done, the holder easily folds away. – Jim Hendricks


Life jackets are items you want to access quickly in an emergency. Life-jacket storage bags that mount under a T-top or hardtop serve this purpose nicely. With just a pull of a zipper, the jackets become imme­diately accessible. Both the C.E. Smith Overhead Storage Bag (about $85) and the Kwik Tek PFD-T4 T-Bag (about $63) hold four Type II life jackets. The Kwik Tek PFD-T6 T-Bag (about $78) stows six Type II jackets. These easy-to-install bags feature breathable mesh panels to vent moisture and prevent mildew. Plus, there are pockets for stowing light items such as sunglasses and flashlights. – JH


Life-jacket bags from C.E. Smith and Kwik Tek (right) strap to the underside of a T-top or hardtop, neatly stowing the jackets yet making them immediately accessible in an emergency.


hatcherBilge hatches should be watertight to keep seas from flooding belowdecks, but many older boats lack a means of battening these hatches. Making matters worse, many foam-filled hatches tend to float, allowing water to pour in below. You can fix this issue by adding a turn-and-lock compression latch. Companies such as Gemlux, Perko and Southco offer aftermarket compression latches for boats. All require that you cut a hole in the appropriate location (usually at the existing lifting point); they also need a ledge or lip to serve as a catch for the latch arm. I added a Southco 2-inch-diameter stainless-steel latch (about $45) to the bilge hatch on my boat, and now the door stays tight and secure until I choose to open it. – JH

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If you have a boat with an elevated bow rail, you can add rod holders to the forward portion of the boat without cutting holes for gunwale installation. Brands such as C.E. Smith, Perko, Taco and West Marine offer rail-mount rod holders that securely clamp to a bow rail or any other rail on the boat. I chose to install a set of four C.E. Smith mid­mount rod holders (about $96 each). The adjustable mount lets me tilt the angle of each holder on two axes and then tighten the clamps with an Allen wrench. The soft vinyl liner protects the rod butt, and the polished stainless-steel finish resists corrosion. Now I can place fishing rods all along the perimeter of the boat. – JH

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