Bill McClure's "Dulcinea": Storage and the Potter 15

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“Where does it all go?” you may ask yourself when faced with stowing all of the equipment and supplies necessary for a cruise in your Potter. Here are some tips I’ve collected from other Potter owners, web and print sources to help you fit it all in. We’ll start  below deck and work our way up. Remember, these are just my suggestions. You may figure out even better methods. I’d love to hear them.

The Bilge

I’m referring to the area under the cabin sole accessed by the wooden hatches on either side under the cabin cushions. Many Potters have a thin concrete block glued to the hull either side of the centerboard trunk for ballast. Still, there is room under each side for 3 Rubbermaid #8 (2 gallon) and 3 #7 (1 gallon) containers. The boxes have a tight fitting lid that can be sealed with tape for extra waterproofing.

This is where I keep the things I hope not to need: first aid kit, spare parts and tools for the outboard motor, sail and rigging repair, some long shelf life food and water.  The flashlight, running light and anchor light fit in a box along with spare bulbs and batteries. A fleece emergency blanket fills one box.  A couple of boxes are empty except on overnight cruises. They hold spare and repair parts for the propane stove and lantern plus more food and water.  I seal each metal item in a Ziplock bag with a squirt of WD-40 to prevent rusting. I have also seen this space used for extra ballast, water containers, spare anchors and rode, or even banks of batteries.  I stock it at the beginning of the season and leave the boxes in the boat between trips so I don’t forget things.  The area forward contains flotation. Leave it intact. See the note on flotation below.

The Footwell

This is the area between the cabin and the quarterberths.  It’s a good place for items that need to be accessed from the cockpit.  A milk crate and a 5-gallon square bucket will fit on each side. Fenders, anchors & rode, small coolers like a Playmate, the Porta-Potty and the garbage container can all go here. I’ve heard of, but not seen, drawers fitted under the bridge deck in this space.

The Quarterberths and cabin sole

Flotation Note: My mid-80’s Potter is open under the quarterberth area. I’ve heard that some have this area glassed in. I pulled out the two blocks of Styrofoam and replaced them with three bigger bags of Styrofoam pellets under the benches and the cockpit sole. A Potter without flotation in this area is in serious trouble if the cabin floods. Once the water reaches the level of the centerboard trunk opening, the boat will keep flooding, and it will float in a stern down position that’s hard to pump or tow.  There is room for long things-bilge pumps, oars, boom tent frames, and fishing rods-to slide down alongside the flotation bags. Never reduce flotation for the sake of storage.

The Cabin

Duffel bags and other soft luggage seem to fit in the berths better than boxes, crates, sea chests or barrels. Having said that, I find the Rubbermaid Roughneck 18-gallon tote handy.  It fits right up against the anchor locker and holds odd shaped hard items like cooking gear better than a bag. No, I don’t have Rubbermaid stock ( I wish I did). It’s just what happens to be readily available where I live. You may find something better where you live. I’m considering, but haven’t installed, lashpoints on the cabin sole to keep everything secure in heavy seas.

If you sail by yourself, you can just pile all of the stuff in the other berth at night. Otherwise, everything has to go into the cockpit, so give a thought to keeping your gear dry if it rains and might sit in a puddle.  Use plastic garbage bags as waterproof liners for regular cloth duffels. I prefer to keep gear forward of the mast compression post while sailing and leave the mid-cabin clear for a place to get out of the weather. This also helps with boat trim.

I’d heard much about hanging little hammocks from the top edge of the cabin liner but hadn’t figured out how to keep the hooks in place until Derek Jensen from Oregon shared his method. Take PVC pipe and cut a slit down one side. Remove the plastic trim from the liner and slide the pipe over the top edge of the liner. The clamping action of the pipe will keep it from sliding. Attach netting, bags, or other storage to the pipe with screws, pop-rivets, or hooks in drilled holes.

The area under the foredeck and above the cabin liner forward of the mast compression post can be fitted with shelves. Wood, netting, plastic panels or even plastic coated wire closet shelving work. Don’t forget to put a fiddle-a lip an inch or two high - to keep things from falling off when the boat is underway.

You can use U-bolts to attach lamps, shelves or even a gimbaled single burner stove to the mast compression post.

The Bulkheads

Small stowage pockets or bins for binoculars, navigation aids and misc. gear are handy mounted just inside the hatch. Mine are plastic shower accessories from the bath department of a home store. I glued the suction cups onto the fiberglass with marine 5200 glue.

That’s it for below. Let’s go above.

The Foredeck

Bungee cord run in an X over the foredeck lets you stow the jib, or a small raft, out of the way. Tie it off to the chainplates and the bow fittings. This is a good spot for solar panels. Long things-oars (the Potter 15 needs 8’ oars, minimum) whisker poles, torpedoes, can be lashed to the sidestays and cockpit railings.

The Cabin top.

The top of the sliding hatch is the best spot I’ve found to store the drop-in hatch out of the way. A couple of lengths of bungee cord secure mine. I’ve also seen snaps, Velcro and clever blocks with slots used. This area can also be used for solar panels, solar showers, instrument mounting or clothes drying underway.

The Bulkheads

Instruments and cup holders are traditionally mounted here. Be sure to reinforce the back of any mounts and seal them. I find this spoils the bulkhead for a backrest, but that’s just me.

The Hatch

This is often overlooked other than for use as a table. I hang a clear vinyl chart case outside for use underway. I’ve been thinking about non-skid rubber or Velcro for holding cups and plates on the inside. Some people prefer to mount bulkhead instruments here, instead.  Windows and vents are an option, too.

The Cockpit

You can set boxes into the cockpit coaming and bins into the seats if you are confident of your fiberglassing skills. I’m better at sewing than sawing, so I made mesh pockets to keep the main and jib sheets out from under foot. A waterproof bag hung at the transom holds emergency supplies: flares, horn, fire extinguisher, knife, VHF, etc. I figure I’ll be able to get at this bag even if I capsize.

A 5-gallon bucket sits on the sole at the stern. It holds boat-cleaning supplies, and spare gas and oil premixed for the outboard in 1-quart oil bottles.  This is the biggest fire danger, so I put it forward or over the stern when cooking in the cockpit. The ultimate cockpit storage is a lazarette, or stern box, such as the early Potters had.  You could build a permanent one, but the 18-gallon Rubbermaid roughneck tote makes a good, cheap, removable one. Sometimes I just dump all of the wet and muddy anchor and fender stuff in it. A board laid across the bench seats supports a two burner stove and other cooking gear.

The Transom and beyond

Hang anchors, coolers, gas cans, and smelly garbage over the transom or from the ladder, rudder or motor mount. A 5-gallon bucket is handy for this. Unruly or mutinous crew traditionally were towed behind a ship in a dinghy, but that’s hard to do in a Potter, since it’s already a dinghy. A small inflatable raft (1-2 person) will tow without many problems. It’s a good toy for children and dogs on a calm day, or for getting into shore from a mooring buoy.

That’s about all of my suggestions. I’m sure that other Potter sailors will have many more creative ones. And, if you ever find yourself looking at a full boat with a pile of gear still on the dock, just think, it could be worse. You could be paddling a kayak.