Need a longer clothesline to dry all the towels and other items on your boat? Here's a trick my daughter-in-law taught me!

Drying Towels & Rags

You’d think, on a sailboat with those nice jib sheets, lifelines and more, there would be plenty of space for hanging towels, dish rags, wash cloths and everything else that needed to dry.  But that wasn’t always the case . . . and sometimes regular clothes pins would pop off, sending towels into the water.  Some were retrieved and had to have the salt washed out; others were sunk into muddy estuaries before we noticed and we never found them.

And so I wanted to share a brilliant solution that our daughter-in-law, Melody Shearlock, came up with on a recent camping trip for their family of nine — nine towels . . . nine swim suits . . . dish cloths . . . dish towels . . . face cloths . . . and the odd t-shirt that one of the little girls dunked in the lake.

Tie simple loop knots (picture at right — don’t use slip knots) in your clothes line, then use clip-type hangers (like for pants and skirts) to hang items.  By tying knots every 3″ or 4″ apart, you can get far more on a relatively short piece of line, such as the ones we’d tie from the mast to the side stays.

Better yet, the clip hangers have a tighter grip than any clothespins I’ve used.  One day, we were all about 10 miles away from the camping area when a sudden thunderstorm blew up.  I didn’t see an official wind reading, but it was sufficient to knock down a few tents in the campground, and the swimsuits that Dave and I had on our line ended up on the ground.  None of the items Melody had hung with the hangers had come off — and the loop knots (which she had tightened up somewhat after I took the photo at the top of this article) kept the hangers from blowing off.

The only real disadvantage of this system is stowing the hangers when not in use — yes, they do take up more space than a bag of clothespins!

A couple of related products I really like and use every day, just because readers have frequently asked (product links to Amazon; if you use the links to buy it does support this site a tiny bit):

  • Favorite quick-drying non-stinky dish clothes and washcloths:  Scruber and Trekr cloths from Lunatec (links to Amazon) — also see my article on these
  • Micronet Microfiber Bath Towel (formerly Rick Steves branding) — I’ve used these for over 4 years now and love the texture compared to other microfiber towels.  No, they don’t feel quite like terry cloth, but it’s not at all unpleasant.  And the extra-large size is a true bath towel size.  But the best thing is that they dry in just no time at all — generally about 10 minutes, although it depends on the weather and humidity.  Over the years, I’ve used a lot of travel towels and these are the only ones I’ve actually liked, as opposed to tolerated.

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  • Verena
    Posted at 10 August 2012 Reply

    Hi Carolyn,
    Great idea! Whenever we hang things from hangers the wind eventually knocks them down. We nearly lost a wetsuit drying on a hanger. Next time I will try the loop knot!
    As for clothespins, there is only one kind that works (click here to see them on Amazon). They have great grip and are all plastic so they won’t rust – one will easily hold a wet towel in high wind. I use a collapsible carousel dryer for small things. It doesn’t take up much space and dries a lot of small items in a small space. This month the Raft-Up Topic is clothes and laundry on board. Lots of good tips. The chain starts here:
    Thanks for all the great galley tips!

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    We’ve done that for years now, but we use the same hangers that the clothes hang on in the closet. If they a little loose on the hanger we just use a clothes pin to clamp it to the hanger. The hangers don’t slide either.

  • S/V Dos Libras on Facebook
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the tip. We just bought a camping clothes line at a garage sale. It has great clips but they slide around. I’m thinking some well placed knots might fix it!

  • Hope
    Posted at 09 April 2013 Reply

    Have used the hangers for quite a number of years but instead of knots in the line, i use rubberbands. Just fold the rubberbands over the line and put the hanger’s hook through both “loops” and the hanger stays put!

  • Allan Cobb
    Posted at 08 January 2014 Reply

    You can practice your knot tying skills by using butterfly knots. 😉

  • toni borrett
    Posted at 08 January 2014 Reply

    Hi Carolyn. I use a camping clothes line, no pegs required – its 2 strands of stretchy rope twisted together. You just poke a corner of item in & it’s trapped. Works really well. I take it when travelling OS too. Love your site. Toni

  • Shelley Benger
    Posted at 08 January 2014 Reply

    Does the metal in the hangers rust ?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 08 January 2014 Reply

      In mine, it’s aluminum (looks like it and magnet doesn’t stick) so it won’t rust.

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