Paper products seem like some of the easiest things to store on a boat: they don’t break and they don’t go bad. Or do they?
Well, if they get wet, they’re of no use. And if they harbor bugs, you’re not going to be too happy, either.
So maybe just pitching them into any available locker (as I did initially . . . ) isn’t really the answer. So what is?
First, you have to get the items to the boat in good shape. If you’re just going from the car down a dock to the boat, it’s not such a big deal. But if you’re anchored out, dry bags are essential for transporting anything that would be harmed by water — toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, and feminine hygiene supplies as well as foods like sugar and flour. Read more about dry bags in Provisioning by Dinghy.
Once aboard, the basic rule for storing paper supplies is not to put them all in one locker. If that locker develops a leak, your entire stock could be wiped out. It’s never fun to discover you have a leak, but it’s that much worse when you discover that your entire stock of toilet paper or feminine hygiene supplies has been ruined.
If possible, it’s good to store at least part of your supply in a solid plastic bin with a lid. That way, should you get water in the locker, it’s far less likely to actually get the paper wet.
And in addition to splitting things between lockers and putting part of the supply in bins, I always keep an emergency stash of various paper products sufficient for a week in either vacuum bags or double plastic bags. Okay, I’m overprotective!
As I’ve researched various questions on avoiding cockroaches and other bugs, there seems to be controversy as to whether cardboard and paper actually harbor bugs or not. I err on the side of caution and put an ant trap and cockroach trap in every locker with paper supplies in it (if you can’t find these where you cruise, read Avoiding Critters on how to make your own). If you use a liquid or spray bug deterrent, be sure not to get any on the paper supplies themselves.
And one final note: paper supplies can take up a LOT of space on a boat. You can use a lot fewer paper towels if you use cloth bar rags and tear the paper towels you do use in half (lengthwise is easier). And compare the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper to find the ones with the most (some have amazingly few sheets!).
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