10 Tips to Squallproof Your Boat

No, I’m not talking about anchoring for a storm, but rather lifestyle considerations – staying dry and comfortable during the inevitable tropical downpours that can last for days when a trough stalls on top of you!

1.  During unending rainy days, it is SO important to have adequate ventilation – make SURE you have at least 1-2 hatches (one preferably over your bed) that have canvas covers or squallproof windscoops or something that allows airflow without getting wet.  Remember that any canvas you use needs to be sturdy and low enough to withstand 30+ knots of wind during gusts in squalls.

Canvas Rainfly for Bow

Canvas Rainfly for Bow

2.  It’s also important to have adequate fans to circulate air inside.  We have an air scupper on one side of the boat and a solar ventilation fan in the other scupper.  In addition, we use a ventilator fan over the porthole over the stove that helps keep the air moving.

3.  On our boat, the cockpit is our family room.   We live outside and eat most of our meals in the cockpit.   When our canvas got so old that despite 2 coats of recent waterproofing, it still leaked, not just drops but waterfalls, we were destined for a soggy cruising season.  We should have been better prepared. (New canvas was part of our 2011 refit.)  Being confined below in 18’ of living space was not fun and was totally unnecessary.   Make sure your cockpit canvas and/or enclosure is as livable as possible in a week long tropical downpour.

4.  If you’re like us, during a serious tropical downpour, you may discover new leaks.  When you find new leaks, fix them as soon as it dries out. We carry flowable silicone window sealer to help seal leaks around hatches & windows plus always have extra hatch and porthole gaskets on hand.   A layer of vasoline over a rubber gasket will help it seal better and maybe even last a bit longer.

5.  Water collection system – despite our wonderful Spectra watermaker, it would be nice to catch rainwater.   We don’t have an elaborate system, but our decks are such that we can give them a quick clean then dam them up with towels rolled up inside trash bags.  Then we open the deck  water fills.  It is amazing how much water you can catch in a real downpour!  We have filled both tanks this way several times.

6.  Be stocked with games, books, sudoku, videos, whatever you like to do for a week a time if you’re caught inside.  One benefit is usually full batteries if you have a wind generator so lots of extra juice to play with computers or computer games.   Not so much juice if you only have solar since the sun may not shine for a week straight!

7.  Somehow taking a daily shower becomes cumbersome in never-ending squalls,  particularly if the inside of the boat is as damp as the outside.  If it’s warm, consider taking a shower outside in the next downpour — grab your soap & shampoo and lather up.  Be sure to pick a long enough downpour that you don’t get caught all soaped up and no more downpour!

8.  Many cruisers I know stop up their sidedecks as mentioned above and then use the collected water on the deck to do some quick laundry.  Makes a good stopgap between regular laundry stops.   Or you could collect water in buckets and use them for laundry.

9.  Do you have inside chores you’ve been putting off for a rainy day?  Now’s the perfect time!  We keep an ongoing list of chores that don’t need attending to right now, but that would be nice to get done “someday” for those never-ending rainy days.  Sometimes when you just can’t read anymore and need something different to do, even chores sound good.  At least you’re accomplishing something!  For us, a couple of chores seem to fall into this category …. Murphy Oil cleaning all the inside teak and then applying lemon oil — we do it twice a year and better on a crappy day outside than on a beautiful day when I could be snorkeling!   The second chore is to redo our boat inventory.  We try to keep it up to date so when inevitably say “now where was XYZ?” we can look on the boat inventory and find what locker it resides in.   Both kill time when there’s nothing better to do and look at it this way, you accomplished something productive!

10.  After a week of tropical rainshowers, even if the inside of your boat is perfectly dry, you’ll feel damp and sticky.  The first bright sunny day, take your cushions, pillows, sheets, blankets (heaven forbid you’re cruising where you need blankets!) and towels outside to dry and air.  Try to pick a not so windy day and don’t leave them out more than a couple of hours or they’ll soak up salt.  Once you have salt in fabric, it never quite feels dry again.

Day #4, Rain Rain Go Away!

Day #4, Rain Rain Go Away!

Remember to welcome the squalls as a free boat rinse even if you don’t collect the gush of water as drinking water delivered directly to your boat for free!


Do you have lifestyle considerations to share for when the rain just doesn’t seem to quit?  Please leave comments!


  1. Another good source of laundry water is the dinghy — in a good tropical squall, you can easily collect 10+ gallons. In El Salvador for the rainy season, we did a small bit of laundry every day in the collected water.


  2. Yet more great information! I had no idea that laundry left out too long would absorb salt .. makes sense!

    Ken and I were just wondering about ventilation during a storm … need to work on some hatch covers!

    As future cruisers (2013) we really appreciate all of your great information!

  3. Ty Gregory says:

    I am learning so much from you.
    All my thanks,

  4. Vaseline can attack some rubber seals. A better choice would be Teflon synthetic grease. Love your articles and blog. Thanks.

  5. Great info everyone. I’ve been using vasoline, not anymore. I think there’s a trailor grease that is teflon based and in a small jar, power boaters know about it. I too didn’t realize about the clothes on the line too long, I’m very aware of the salt not drying thing though. And great idea about using the dink as a laundry tub. Geesh, I’ve been stuck here in Tennessee too long, dreaming of the days I can spend sweating, and getting salt water rashes, ah, it’ll be just like back home, Tampa.

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