What is a project bag? Well, how many times have you gone to look for some fiddly bit that you need to finally finish your (plumbing, electrical, sewing) project. Then you realize that not only do you not have one aboard, but you’re nowhere near anywhere you can buy one?
Enter: The Project Bag
We’ve been repurposing the reusable grocery bags we’ve collected on the Windward Islands for boat projects. The humble project bag keeps all the parts, pieces, wires, and connections together while we wait for that “last thing” that will finally complete the parts list.
We’ve got one bag that holds the parts we’ve been collecting for our new SSB antenna. We ordered a tuner from the United States and wanted to keep everything together until it arrived.
Another project bag contains the pieces we need to finish a wire gate for the lifelines. Now, we wait for the special crimping tool to arrive so we can finish the job. (Unfortunately, the manufacturer barred the use of other tools.)
A selection of rain catchment items sits together, waiting for the day someone has the desire to assemble them – and for rainy season in the Caribbean.
There’s also a box sitting in the aft cabin with 4/0 wire, lugs, and wire shrink wrap that we’ve only recently been able to find the right sized terminals for. While we had the first three items for our project, it took us months to find the terminals we needed out here.
Keeping Parts Together for Assorted Projects
As you can see, these projects aren’t on the emergency, safety, or vessel soundness list. (Well, maybe replacing that wire should happen sooner rather than later.) But, if we’d put all the parts away, we might scavenge them for another project. Or worse, lose them to the bilge monster.
Keeping all the parts for small projects bagged together also gives you a little boost to get the job done. First of all, you don’t have to go looking for the pieces – they’re already together! Secondly, when those little bags start stacking up, you know you’ve been snorkeling too much and it’s time to do some boat projects!
Tips to Stay Organized
Pro Tip 1: Keep all the packaging with the project bag until the project is complete. You can corral the packages in a gallon-size zip-top bag. If you remove the packaging from some fiddly-bit, install it, and find out that it’s not quite right or you needed two instead of just one, having the packages to refer to later makes finishing the job more efficient and less frustrating. Plus, if you bought the wrong size, you might be able to return it if you’ve still got the packaging.
Pro Tip 2: Use your notes app on your phone to keep a separate parts list for each project. Then when you dinghy ashore to the chandlery, you know what you need to buy without scrolling a huge master shopping list. Keeping individual project lists will keep the list small and help prevent oversights when shopping. If you’re a paper-and-pencil type of person, you can also keep the “needed parts” list in each project bag. Then just snap a photo of it before you go. I’d recommend leaving the original in the bag so it doesn’t get lost, wet, or left in the store.
Julie Tijerina is the author of the Comprehensive Ship’s Log. She does all the graphics for The Boat Galley as part of our team. She and her husband, Greg work and live aboard their 1984 Whitby 42’ and are currently cruising the Caribbean.