The 10 Laws of Boat Rigging

Boat rigging - Our first pass at the Luggage Rack

One of the cool things about rigging your own boat is that it gives you the opportunity to personalize it – to make it everything you want it to be. It’s not necessarily about spending a lot of money (although you could!), it’s also about coming up with an idea, designing it, and putting it in place.

To do it right, you have to spend some time thinking about what you’re going to do, and planning how you’re going to do it. This post is a discussion of design and installation philosophy, and the underlying principles that contributed to that philosophy.

It is part II in a  series regarding boat riggingPart I discussed what we decided to add to Toy Boat 2. Subsequent posts will dive into more detail about the rigging process, and we’ll wrap up with some posts on what went wrong (or didn’t go quite the way we expected), how we fixed the problem, and what we’d like to do in the future.

Before we selected and installed our equipment, we did a fair amount of planning. We researched equipment and pricing, checked on availability, etc. As we did our planning, we kept in mind these fundamental limitations of ocean skiffs:

  • Skiffs don’t have a lot of room. This is made worse by the amount of safety gear you should bring along, and the fishing tackle you will bring along.
  • Skiffs can be wet
  • Skiffs will take a pounding in rough water
  • Skiffs will rock more than large boats
  • Skiffs are sensitive to weight issues (both total weight and distribution of the weight)

If you combine these limitations with Murphy’s Law and a couple of laws of thermodynamics, you get what I’ve been referring to as “The 10 Laws of Life Aboard a Skiff”:Boat rigging - Watertight fuse holders can be used to substitute for waterproof plugs

  1. Sooner or later, you will wind up tripping over, bumping into, or falling on top of, almost everything in the boat.
  2. Sooner or later, everything is going to get wet.
  3. Sooner or later, everything is going to get pounded.
  4. Anything that can break loose and slide around, will break off and slide around.
  5. Anything that looks like a handgrip, will be grabbed.
  6. When you need something the most, you will not be able to easily get to it.
  7. Almost everything will eventually break, and have to be repaired or replaced.
  8. You will make mistakes and/or change your mind about how things are laid out. These things will also have to be repaired or replaced.
  9. You will never anticipate every problem you’ll encounter.
  10. There is a natural order or flow of things that you should follow – don’t fight it!

Boat rigging - clever placement of things that can get in the way
Before we buy any equipment or make any modifications to Toy Boat 2, we ask ourselves “What will happen when we apply the 10 Laws”? That is:

  1. Will doing this make it hard to move around the boat? What will happen if we trip over it, bump into it, or fall on top of it?
  2. What will happen when (not if) it gets wet?
  3. Will it survive when we repeatedly run the boat through rough water?
  4. Is it securely anchored to the boat? If not, what will happen when (not if) it gets loose?
  5. What will happen to it when the heaviest person in the boat grabs it to avoid going overboard?
  6. Can we access it easily? Or does it matter?
  7. If it breaks, or we want to replace it, how easy will it be to remove?
  8. If we decide to move it, how easy will it be to repair the damage caused by installing it?
  9. If we make a mistake, how easy will it be to fix the error?
  10. Is this the easiest way to do something? Or is there a natural way to correct a problem?Boat rigging - when everything is said and done, and feels right...

Of course, not everything we do will survive the 10 Laws. Like most things in life, rigging a boat often involves compromise. The key is making sure that if you have to compromise, you fully understand the ramifications of what you’re doing.

Next up: Some tips on selecting gear