I was at the fuel dock in Papeete, Tahiti, early one morning topping up Clover's tanks when the American boat Y-Not came alongside the finger pier. It was a 50-footer and crewed by a crowd of young Californians. From the parking lot nearby one of the crew suddenly appeared at the top of the gangway on a large black motorcycle. He paused and then, with a roar, rode the thing down onto the dock. The others were ready. The had the halyards and straps around the 500 cc bike and in no time it was in the air and swinging toward the stern. There, aft of the cockpit doghouse, was a large built-in box with its lid thrown open. Into this box the motorcycle was lowered. The lid was screwed shut and the big toy was secured for the trip to Moorea, 20 miles away.

Y-Not was a unique vessel in many ways. It had been designed around toys as much as any other dictates. There were wind surfers tucked away in special compartments as well as bicycles, dinghies and surf boards. Yet, a real effort had been made to keep the foredeck clear. This was not necessarily for reasons of seamanship. Every evening at about 10 the real reason became apparent as the big deck speakers began to boom and the crew boogied under the bright spreader lights. It was all a bit of fun, incorporated into the design of a custom boat for a unique individual, reminding me of the T-shirt popular a few years ago emblazoned with the statement: "He who dies with the most toys wins."

Why not?

Most of us don't take our motorcycles let alone all our toys to sea with us. But everyone who sets off cruising with family and friends — even if it is only weekend gunkholing — ends up carrying more that he knows what to do with. It seems inevitable. Our boats are small spaces. Our need for gear, equipment and toys is large. For those heading off to remote regions and across oceans, the need to carry more and more equipment and fuel increases. It is not uncommon in the Pacific to see cruising boats so laden with deck cargo — particularly extra fuel tanks — you can barely walk on deck.

Experience seems to temper the need to overload an offshore boat. I spoke with American circumnavigator Webb Chiles in Newport, Rhode Island, when he passed through on his She 36. The deck of his boat was clear of gear. He commented simply: "Deck's shouldn't have any clutter. Keep it simple and sailing will be easier and more fun."

The trick, then, is to organize the deck of your boat to solve several basic problems and to fit the gear and equipment you want within the space available. Deck layouts should improve your ability to handle sails and heavy gear, should arrange for stowage of needed on-deck equipment, should provide useful stowage for toys and should be conceived to minimize clutter.

Sheets, Lines and Halyards

The development of single handed offshore racing boats for the singlehanded transatlantic Race — OSTAR — in the 1960s and 70s and for the BOC Challenge Single Handed Round The World Race in the 1980s has changed the way we all think about rigging our halyards, lines and sheets. Since most of us cruise shorthanded — two people on 30- to 50-foot boats — many of these innovations are particularly attractive. The trend to bringing halyards, up hauls and down hauls aft really caught on in the mid-1980s. The trend has continued to the point that major manufacturers are beginning to incorporate cockpit-led lines into new boats. In 1990, Beneteau introduced a line of designs that take the concept so far that conduits have been molded into the deck head permitting halyards and other lines to run aft from the mast to the cockpit unseen and out of the way. Very neat.

The object of arranging your lines, either forward at the mast or aft at the cockpit is to make sail handling easier for you. The traditional method has long been to have all halyards fall to the base of the mast, to have topping lifts trimmed at the mast and to lead foreguys for the spinnaker aft to the cockpit. There are a hundred variations on how to set up all of these. However, when thinking about lines at the mast, it is important to link jobs together with the lines you will be needing. For example, when tying in a slab reef, you need to be able to able to drop the main, fix the new tack cringle, hoist the main again and tighten the new out haul for the reef. On Clover I do all of this for both the main and the mizzen at the masts. The job of reefing the main requires going forward to the mast, where I'll rarely get wet, and can be accomplished in under two minutes. The mizzen is reefed at its mast and takes even less time.

To make the job of reefing simple, then, it would make little sense to have the main halyard run aft if you still had to go forward to attach the reefing cringle and haul in the reefing line, only to have to return to the cockpit to rehoist the halyard.

The benefit of leaving all your halyards and other lines led forward at the mast is simplicity. You always go to one place to do a wide variety of jobs. You can look up the mast for tangled halyards and other problems you might miss from the cockpit. And, you can drop and gather in sails single handed, while paying out the halyard with one hand. But having to go forward to accomplish the smallest task can be a nuisance; it also can be uncomfortable and dangerous in rough weather.

When you decide to reeve lines and halyards aft through turning blocks, you will need to replace those lines with longer ones. On boats with roller furling headsails and standard mainsails, it makes sense to bring the control lines for the mainsail aft. With only three lines — main halyard, main boom topping lift, and a single line reefing line, you will have all necessary lines in the cockpit for handling the mainsail in most conditions. And, if you anticipate sailing often in boisterous conditions, you can add a second single-line reefing system to enable a second reef to be taken without leaving the cockpit.

In most cases, the lines coming aft will be on top of the cabin house and will terminate on one side of the companionway hatch. Hardware to bring lines aft will include turning sheaves mounted at the base of the mast for each line, plus one or two deck organizers. Ronstan, Schaefer, Harken and others supply a range of low-profile organizers that will route the lines around hatches and Dorades to their final destination. In the cockpit, these three or four lines can all be handled by one self tailing winch and good quality line stoppers. As you design such a system for your own boat, carefully work out the ergonomics . You need to be able to reach each line at the line stopper easily, must be able to flip levers up and down while still controlling a line around the winch, and must be able to stow and sort a lot of line in one small corner of the cockpit.

The line stoppers — Lewmar, Spinlock, Schaefer and others — need to be arranged so lines feed onto the bottom of the winch without binding. The stoppers will have to be bolted either through the deck or onto a sturdy platform because they will hold the full strain of the mainsail once the lines have been cranked in.

Such a system — roller headsail and cockpit-reefing for the main — will be the simplest solution for most boats. With such a rig (and two reefs set up for the main) you will never have to leave the cockpit in winds up to 30 to 35 knots or so. Above that, the main may have to come down, which will require a quick trip to the cabin top to tie in a few sail ties on the main that has been dropped into the lazy jacks.

But for those who want all controls led aft, you can set up a second battery of line stoppers on the other side of the companion way and add five or six more control lines to your cockpit repertoire. Further lines to bring aft should include: a third reefing line for the main sail, the headsail halyard, a second, spare headsail halyard, the main boom vang control, spinnaker halyard, and the spinnaker boom topping lift. With all these lines terminating in the cockpit, a method will have to be devised to sort and stow them. On BOC boats, lines are stowed in canvass bags affixed to the inside of the cockpit and around the coaming. Once a halyard or line has been taken up, it can be coiled and dropped into its bag. When it is time to let the line run free, remove it from the bag and uncoil it, removing possible knots, before flipping up the line stopper.

The rearranging of your halyards and lines aft to the cockpit will help a short-handed crew enjoy sailing more in a wide range of conditions. If you rarely have to leave the protection of the cockpit dodger, then even sailing to windward in 30 knots and rain squalls won't be too bad. Well...

Stowing Anchors And Rodes

Carrying the right anchors and ground tackle is a main concern for all sailors. No matter what conditions we meet out there in a far anchorage, we need to be able to hook the boat securely to the bottom, to protect it from grounding and protect ourselves from a suddenly wet visit to the beach. Here we'll address the problem of stowing anchors on deck so they are ready to be deployed but as out of the way as possible.

Most coastal boats will carry only one anchor on deck that is attached to an anchor rode and ready to go over the side. The choice of which type you carry will depend upon the areas you sail, the bottoms you are trying to hook into and your own anchoring style. Yet, the three anchors most commonly used are the lightweight-Danforth style, the plow and the Bruce. And, all three are hard to stow on deck.

The best solution is to have your anchor nestled into a bow fitting tailored to its size and shape. Both plows and Bruce anchors can hang neatly on bow rollers, where they will be out of the way and ready to use. Bow rollers can be adapted to most boats and you will find a range of stainless-steel rollers available at larger chandleries and through mail-order houses. Remember that the strains on the anchor line will be transferred directly to the bow fitting. The stress can be particularly damaging when the boat is anchored in a choppy anchorage, causing the bow to pitch up and down. Make certain the roller is built of heavy steel and is solidly through-bolted and backed under the deck.

Stowing a Danforth-style anchor at the bow is more difficult. The simplest solution for coastal sailing is to hang the anchor from the bow pulpit in the patented straps available from most chandleries. Although not secure enough for sailing in rough conditions, this will keep the anchor at the ready and out of the way of those on the foredeck. Traditionally, Danforth-style anchors have been stowed in chalks on deck or on the cabin top. The chalks, which enable you to tie the anchor down neatly, are simply screwed to the deck and the anchor is then tied in place with a short lanyard. If there is room enough on the foredeck to stow the anchor well forward, then such an installation will not be too inconvenient. If, however, you have to mount the anchor on the cabin top, you will find it a struggle each time you set the hook.

There are many ingenious ways boat owners have found to stow Danforth style anchors, from lashings on the pulpit, to stainless-steel hawse pipes angled overboard to customized brackets under a bow sprit. Each boat owner who wants to carry a Danforth-style will have to find the stowing method that works best for his boat.

Stern anchors are standard equipment on many ocean sailing boats, but are less common on coastal boats. For most of us, a light lunch-hook — smaller than our main anchors — will suffice. On Clover we stow our lunch hook/stern anchor in a cockpit locker, where it can be retrieved quickly and easily. Because I like to keep our decks as uncluttered as possible, we have chosen not to mount the anchor on the stern pulpit. Yet, that is the best place for it if you have the space and can arrange the anchor rode in a compartment belowdecks. Center-cockpit boats and those with large aft decks can mount stern anchors on a roller for quick deployment. Most of us, will have to find a way to lash the anchor to the pulpit or in chalks on deck. A small Danforth-style anchor may be the best choice here simply because you can hang it neatly on the stern rails in anchor hooks and then lash it tightly in place.

Storm anchors — a large fisherman, plow or even a large Danforth-style — should be stowed below decks or at the bottom of a sail locker. The object is to keep the weight of the anchor and its rode as low and as near the middle of the boat as possible. On Clover, we keep our 75-pound Danforth-style storm anchor lashed to floors and brackets in the bilge next to the drive shaft. The 300-feet of nylon rode lives at the bottom of forward sail locker. And 60 feet of 3/8-inch chain lives in an unused sump between the after berths. If we were to carry a fisherman anchor, our choice would be the Luke version of the Herreshoff anchor, which can be disassembled and stowed in pieces in the bilge. Simple wood brackets can be fashioned and fixed in place to hold the pieces out of the way and securely in place. In many years of cruising the world, we have never needed to use the storm anchor. Yet, we would never sail without it.

Lastly, the working anchor rode needs to be kept ready to set, yet stowed out of the way. Most production boats have a chain locker forward that can be used for an all-chain rode or for a line and chain rode. In either case the rode will pass through a hawse pipe on deck. With all chain you need to flake the chain side to side as it comes in to ensure that it won't bind on itself and prevent it from running out smoothly. To make chain self-stowing as it comes in, a simple slide can be built into the chain locker that will allow the chain to slide evenly into a neat pile. The slide should be covered with tin or copper to protect the surface and to make it slippery. An all-line rode — with 6 to 20-feet of chain on the end — can be stowed in the chain locker also, although you will find that it will have to hand-fed down through the deck hawse pipe. With nylon line, you will find that it tends to kink under the deck as it is being paid out during anchoring. To avoid this as much as possible, make sure the hawse pipe is as large as you can have it. Additionally, the line can be trained somewhat by towing it behind the boat and then coiling it wet and letting it dry in the sun. This will give the rope fibers firmness and help build a memory into the line. When the rode has hardened up a bit, with use and coiling, you will find that it will nearly coil itself below decks as you feed it down and will run freely when paid out.

Stowing Big Deck Items

The longer you cruise and the longer you own your boat, the more you will have to contend with deck gear. What usually starts out as a sleek uncluttered deck, can become a jumble of items all lashed to the deck and the rig. If you cruise with children, the addition of big items to the deck is even more of a problem.

The big items we'll deal with here are: spinnaker poles, life rafts, sail boards and surf boards, scuba gear and awnings. Dinghies are their own special problem.

Even if you don't carry a spinnaker or a cruising chute, it is wise to carry a pole with which to wing out the genoa. Running dead down wind, there is no better rig for a sloop without a chute than wing and wing. A telescoping whisker pole of the type made popular by Forespar may be the best solution in this instance because it can be used effectively with genoas and jibs of different sizes. If you carry a cruising chute or a full spinnaker, you will carry a standard spinnaker pole. Aboard Clover we carry both. The whisker pole is used for poling out the yankee or small genoa and the big pole is used for the spinnaker and the large genoa.

The simplest way to stow poles is in chalks fixed to the deck — one on either side of the foredeck. Forespar, Hall Spars and other rigging companies carry a wide range of cast aluminum or stainless-steel chalks for varying pole sizes. When these are installed on deck, be sure to space them so the poles sit in them tightly to prevent the pole from rattling as the boat rolls or pitches. With the poles set up in this way, one person can manage the foredeck. The pole ends are freed from the chalks, the inboard end attached to the car on the mast and then the outboard end rigged with the guys and sheets needed. The whole pole itself need never be lifted at once and all the heavy work can be handled by the topping lift and the foreguy.

Yet, a simpler solution is to rig the pole — or even both poles — on the mast. The mast track and cars will have to be able to slide virtually to the spreaders and need to be rigged with both an uphaul for the cars and a down haul. When deployed, the lower-outboard end of the pole is detached from the mast and the in board end is lowered until the pole is in the correct position. Then, the pole can be rigged with sheets and guys and hoisted into position with the topping lift. The beauties of such an arrangement are the simplicity of deploying the pole and the neatness of stowing the pole on the forward edge of the mast where no one will trip over it. Yet, you should be aware that stowing a pole aloft adds weight where you don't want it. If your boat is already tender, you will only increase the tenderness by stowing the pole up the mast. However, most modern sloops carry enough beam and enough initial stability to make the addition of a few pounds aloft relatively meaningless.

Stowing a life raft is always a problem. You want it to be handy to the cockpit, if possible, yet as out of the way and unobtrusive as possible. The two requirements do not go together easily. Probably the best place to stow a raft is under the helmsman's seat. However, the cockpit has to be designed and built with this in mind or space will not be available. On some modern designs, a life raft compartment is built into the transom, where steps lead down from the cockpit. While this arrangement gets the raft out of the way, it also puts it in a place that would be impossible to get at in a large and breaking sea.

Most offshore sailors choose to mount the raft on the cabin top or on the foredeck. Both spots are out of the way and can be reached in terrible sea conditions. If you choose to carry the raft on the foredeck, make certain that it is secured with straps that will withstand the force of breaking waves. Even in moderate conditions, when beating to windward in most boats you will find that from to time you take a sea right across the foredeck. A poorly secured raft could easily come adrift and you could find yourself with an inflated raft trailing astern. A hydro-static release for the raft is an option you will want to study. Such release will free the raft from its deck seat should your boat sink under you before you can free the raft. A sound safety precaution, the hydro-static release also increases the size of the raft and will make it harder to stow conveniently.

The life raft without a hydro-static release should be seated on teak chalks and held in place with sturdy webbing. The webbing needs to have a quick-release buckle made of stainless steel or high-impact plastic. Providing a canvas cover will protect the raft and fastenings from sun damage.

More and more sailors are carrying sail boards and surf boards with them as they explore the coasts and there may be nothing harder to stow effectively than a 11-foot-6-inch plastic board. When board sailing first became popular in the early 1980s, several manufacturers came out with brackets for carrying a board outside the life lines. These are still the best solution for carrying a board on deck on smaller boats coastal cruising. Yet, it is also common to see boards simply tied inside the life lines sitting on foam pads to protect the deck. The greatest danger in carrying a board tied to the life lines is taking a wave across the foredeck and losing the board or tearing loose the stanchions. When going offshore the boards should be secured on the cabin top. Even, better, if you have davits for the dinghy, the boards can be secured on the top of the davits where they will be well out of the way of a breaking sea.

Sails, masts and booms all need to be tucked away somewhere on deck. The simplest way to stow the sails and masts is to remove the battens from the sails, roll them around the masts and then lash them to the side stays. if you will be leaving the sails stowed this way for a long period, you should make tube-like sail covers to protect the sail cloth. Another approach is to use two-piece masts that can be disassembled and tucked into storage bags kept on the cabin top. A 10-foot bag, tied down on the cabin top can hold the masts, booms, mast steps fittings, center boards and even the rolled sails.

Scuba gear is heavy and delicate at the same time. The bottles need to be stowed in such a way that they can not get loose in bad weather and can not be damaged. Regulators, weight belts, flotation vests, wet suits, and so forth all need to be stowed so they are dry, protected and out of the way. The best place for scuba tanks is in the bottom of a deep cockpit locker where they can be strapped into place. The rest of the gear should be kept in strong dive bags that can be tucked away in a lazarette or forward in a sail or chain locker. If the scuba gear is too hard to get at, you will find you use less often than if it is readily accessible.

Those of us who spend a lot of time in warm climates and the tropics need to carry awnings that will provide shade over the cockpit and main decks. These can be big, bulky and hard to stow, for the best ones have solid cross members that are will be as long as the width of the boat. If you intend to stow the awnings below decks, the cross members need to be in two pieces. The awning then can be disassembled, folded and stowed in a bag tailor made for it. But, it is simpler to leave the cross pieces in one piece. The awning will be stronger, easier to put up and simpler to build. Such a contraption, which can be 15 feet long, can be stowed in a bag on the cabin top, or it can be lashed to the side stays on the main mast. Stowed in the shrouds, the awning will add a bit of windage and weight aloft, but it will be out of the way and handy when you want to put it up.

Dinghies On Deck

It is important for boats sailing offshore, even if only on short runs along the coast, to be able to carry the dinghy or dinghies securely on deck. If you carry a hard dinghy, you will find that there will be only a few ways to carry the dinghy. An inflatable is easier to carry and easier to hoist onto the deck, but you may not wish to deflate a dinghy each time you bring it aboard. Lastly, two-part dinghies, which have been developed to solve the deck stowing problem are a good solution, although the dinghies available commercially are very expensive.

In the past decade, inflatable dinghies have taken over the sailing scene. This is because they are fast under outboard power, easy to mend, light and seaworthy. Aboard Clover, an inflatable is our first choice and a sailing dinghy a second choice — two dinghies being the ideal. Stowing an inflatable on deck requires only that there be enough space for it to lie up-side down. You will find that deflating the dinghy is impractical for short runs, so you will generally leave it inflated and will have to find a spot for it on deck. This can either be on the cabin top or on the foredeck of an aft-cockpit sloop or on the after deck of a center-cockpit design. If space is at a premium, an inflatable can be partially deflated and wedged in almost anywhere. The best arrangement I've seen for stowing an inflatable on deck was aboard the 66-footer Dione, which Brian and Judy Harrison sailed around the world and now charter in the Caribbean. Their large, 13-foot inflatable, with its outboard still on the stern, can be hoisted on the mizzen boom right onto a small cradle on the after deck. Electric winches certainly take the sweat out of this job, but are not completely necessary. In three minutes, the dinghy is on deck, tied down and Dione is ready to go.

Aboard Clover, we carry the dinghy — an 8-foot-6-inch Avon, soft bottom with a rigid transom — on deck almost every time we go sailing simply because dragging it costs us a half a knot or more. We stow it on the main cabin top, where it fits neatly aft of the main mast and over the main saloon hatch. We bought this size, in fact, because it fit neatly on deck. To get it on deck, we hoist it with the main halyard and drop in on the side deck — it weighs only 85 pounds. Finally, with one person at the bow and another at the stern, we hoist it over the main saloon hatch and lash it to the cabin-top hand rails. Including the time it takes to hoist the outboard onto its rack on the stern pulpit, lash the gas tank to the mainmast, stow oars, pump and sundries, and hoist the dinghy onto the deck, the whole job can be done by two of us in less than five minutes. However, a larger inflatable or a rigid dinghy would not be so easily handled.

Stowing a rigid or hard dinghy aboard requires some form of built-in solution. Most hard dinghies will not sit easily on deck without the aid of wood chalks for the bow and stern. These can be as elaborate as you like, or as simple. They need only be shaped to hold the bow in place and offer the stern a pad onto which it can be tied. Most often the best place to stow the hard dinghy is on the cabin top, yet larger boats will be able to find a spot forward of the mast if necessary. If you stow the dinghy upside down, it will present the lowest profile and offers a cave under which you can stow an inflatable or other gear. The chalks for such an arrangement can be small and unobtrusive. There are some who like stowing their dinghies upright on deck, requiring a large cradle for it to sit in. On boats of 50 feet or more, this might be practical — as it was with the inflatable aboard Dione. Smaller boats will find such an arrangement wastes space and creates a monster on deck.

If you are determined to carry a hard dinghy and have it on deck, then a two-part dinghy may be the solution. Naval architect and cruising sailor Danny Greene has spent years perfecting two-part designs and offers several excellent sets of plans through the classified ads in the back of Cruising World Magazine. These are plywood, stitch and tape dinghies that can be built for a few hundred dollars by any reasonably handy amateur. The beauty of the two-part dinghies is the light weight of the individual parts and the ease with which they can be hoisted on deck or launched. Finally, with a two-part boat, a 12-foot dinghy that rows and sails beautifully will stow on deck in a space under eight feet long.

The one drawback to the two-part design is the difficulty of launching and assembling the dinghy in really bouncy conditions. If you have the dinghy stowed on deck and suddenly need to set a second anchor in choppy, windy weather, you'll find it nearly impossible to assemble the dinghy in the water. You'll have to put it together on deck and then man handle it — 120 pounds or so — over the side. In this situation, an inflatable with an outboard is the best dinghy going.

The problem of how to store a dinghy out of the water while underway can be solved most easily with davits. There are a dozen different davits available on the market, so there should be one model to suit your boat. Davits need to be mounted robustly, so they can carry a lot of weight canterlevered off the stern. Moreover, should you find yourself in rough weather with the dinghy still on the davits, the dinghy and the davits can create a lot of strain on the deck and davit fittings. A dinghy held in davits for a long period needs to be able to drain rain water that would otherwise fill it adding a huge amount of weight on the davits.

Davits usually have hoist cranks built into them and most often the gear ratio is small, making the job of raising a large dinghy hard work, particularly if the outboard has been left on the transom. You will find it easier to have two people cranking. Moreover, the gears are exposed to the weather and need to be cleaned and greased regularly. Once the dinghy is in place, it should be lashed tightly to the davits and the boat. In a seaway, the swinging of a dinghy can put a hole in the dingy hull and can tear the davits from the deck. Chafe gear should be fitted where necessary.

When heading offshore, you should take the dinghy off the davits and mount it securely on deck. A large following sea could rip the dinghy loose and tear away the davits, creating a problem that could quickly endanger the dinghy and crew. In addition, when sailing in rough weather, you will want the weight of the dinghy in board rather than hanging out over the stern where it will increase the pitching motion of the boat and slow you down.

The last clumsy item to stow related to the dinghy is an outboard. Most often you will find cruising boats with their outboards mounted on fitted boards on the stern pulpits. This is serviceable on most boats and in most weather conditions. But the engine is vulnerable here and a larger engine — 10 horsepower and up — will add weight and strain to the rail. When you anticipate sailing in rough waters or making a passage in high latitudes, bring the engine inboard, either down below or onto the cabin top, where it won't be swept by a breaking wave.

Other places to stow an outboard on deck include at the sissy bars by the mainmast, down in a deep sail locker or in the shower stall of a large head. Wherever it is stowed for a passage, the engine must be tied down firmly to keep it from migrating about. It is heavy and sharp and could cause serious damage if it got loose.

Cockpit Struts and Arches

For years powerboat builders have installed arches and struts on larger powerboats to carry radar domes and antennas. This idea was picked up by singlehanded racers in the OSTAR and BOC Challenge. From there, struts and arches have begun to appear on many offshore cruising boats.

A single strut or pole is an excellent way to mount a radar and one or two antennas above head level on a sloop. Positioned well aft and braced against the stern pulpit, a single pole strut made of stainless-steel tubing is easy to install and will be strong and useful. The radome mounts atop the pole on a square of aluminum. The pole should be tall enough — 8 feet or so — to keep the radar well above the crew level to avoid as much as possible the low level radiation emitted from the unit. The base needs to be well braced, through bolted on the deck and backed with a thick aluminum plate.

The simplest addition to the radar strut is antennas that do not require height — GPS and SatNav. The neatest way to add these is to have smooth tube elbows of about a 1-inch diameter welded to the top sides of the strut — so the whole construction looks like a Sonora cactus. The antennas can then be attached to the tops of the elbows. It is possible in this way to add up to three antennas to he single-pole strut, with the third positioned aft. Be sure to check with the dealer or manufacturers of your GPS or SatNav to determine if the receiver will be damaged by radiation from the radar. The SatNav antenna, in particular, is alive as it carries a low 12-Volt current.

Putting an arch across the boat will give the boat a new look — for better or worse — and will give you a number of options for mounting electronics and other gear. The simplest type of arch is fabricated of 1-inch stainless-steel tube, with welded cross members on the top and through bolts at the deck. The frame must be strong enough to take the full weight of a large person thrown against it — 500 pounds of force or more. A more complicated way to manufacture an arch is to mold up the shape from foam coring and fiberglass. While this is workable in production runs, a custom fiberglass arch will be too expensive for most owners.

When planning an arch, think through all the different jobs you want to do. An arch is a good platform for radar and antennas. You can mount all of your antennas above head level, but within easy reach of the cockpit for repairs. The only antenna that should not be installed here would be for the VHF, which needs to be as high as possible — VHF broadcasts only over a line-of-sight distance.

Yet, the arch can also be a base for solar panels, which should be secured either horizontally or in pivoting frames. While this may seem to be adding a lot of weight and complexity at the stern and above an aft cockpit, panels mounted here can offer shade and protection as well as amps for your battery bank. The arch can act as the aft end of a cockpit awning which stretches aft from the aft end of a cockpit dodger. The easiest and possibly best installation is to have the awning rolled and stored under the arch. A fabric and Velcro closure will hold it neatly in place when not in use. When pulled out over the cockpit, the awning will slant slightly forward and can be pulled tight with webbing straps that lead to eye hooks forward of the dodger. In addition, the arch can house a cockpit light for evenings in warm climates, or a fresh water hose for quick showers on the transom after swimming, or it can have a small stainless-steel arm and tackle incorporated into the design for lifting a heavy outboard engine from the dinghy to the stern pulpit. In my years of cruising, most recently in the cruising grounds of the South Pacific, I have seen arches used in many imaginative and useful ways. Once you decide you want one, all you have to do is dream up uses for it.