Once it’s time to get out on the lake and enjoy the boat or jet ski, or just hang out on the dock, your day might begin like this: You gather a few items and head down to the water. You load all the relatives and the dog on the boat and are ready to head out, right? Then you hear the cry of “Who brought the boat keys?”, followed quickly by “Mom, since you’re going up, will you bring me a towel?” and, “I forgot a bottle of water!” Mom should not have to be the keeper of all things nautical, though at our house this usually seems to be the case. So why not take a few minutes at the beginning of the season to organize all those “lake necessities” and make the rest of the season more enjoyable?
Large canvas totes seem to be the lightest, roomiest, and most practical way to tote your must-haves down to the water. Most of us already possess a number of these, but, if not, totes are easy to find. (Several online sites sell large ones for under $35.) If you want a new one for the season, consider monogramming it with “Boat” or “Lake Supplies” so that family members don’t pilfer it for their own personal use! You might want to consider using one tote for “soft goods” such as towels, and another for everything else. Beyond distinctive monogramming, consider different sizes for different tasks. Another option would be a large laundry basket, which provides more structured toting.
Now, give some thought to what your family really uses on the water. Even if you apply sunscreen before heading to the water, take some along to reapply after tubing or skiing. Keep more beach towels on hand than you think you need, as these often seem to “walk away.” Also, having extras will allow you to have a load in the dryer yet still have plenty for the next trip out. Roll each towel and stuff in your tote on end, being sure to take extras for wrapping up; it gets breezy on the water.
What you need in your tote also depends on how long you plan to be out on the water, but somehow, boating excursions nearly always run longer than anticipated. So bring along a small cooler filled with water bottles, and don’t forget a collapsible bowl for your dog. The sun and breeze on the water dehydrate your pets as well. If you’re planning to stop over at a friend’s dock or at a marina, don’t forget to bring a leash.
A hat and sunglasses are a necessity for the captain of the boat, especially for a full day of pulling skiers and tubing teenagers. It’s even nice to have a pair or two of inexpensive sunglasses or a hat tucked in the tote for those who forget theirs. A bag or two of snacks or crunchy veggies are also nice to have for longer jaunts, and especially important if you have small children. And you do have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on the boat, yes?
Cell Phones and Other Essentials
Though many of us want to disconnect—literally and figuratively—during time at the lake, a cell phone really is in the “necessity” category when it comes to being on the water. Even the newest water vehicles can have mechanical issues, and you want to be able to reach assistance if trouble occurs. If you haven’t already, put the Tow Boat USA and marina numbers in your contacts now, before you need them. Also, use the “Notes” section of your cell phone to keep a lake supplies list. If you run out of sunscreen while out and about, you can add it to your list immediately.
Plastic zip-lock bags are also essential to organized boating. You cannot have too many! Keep a quart zip-lock in your bag just for your cell phone, and stash it in a pocket of your tote or in the glove box of your boat. Another zip-lock bag can be used to safely store the now-required boating licenses for anyone who will be navigating your boat. It can also be a real lifesaver to keep some cash in this same bag. Remember the time you went to gas up the boat and didn’t have your credit card with you? Glove box cash to the rescue! Great action photos can be snapped with your cell phone, of course, but if you have a photographer in your crowd, then bring along the real camera with a zoom lens and store it in a gallon zip-lock bag in your tote.
Easy Clean-Up, Restocking
The sun is sinking in the west and you are headed back to the dock after a fun day on the water. Hopefully, you have selected a tote large enough to round up all those damp towels, empty snack bags, and water bottles. Time for a refreshing beverage for Mom and Dad while the kids (of any age) put the towels in the dryer—they really don’t have to be washed with every use! Kids can also recycle any trash from the tote. Make it their job to restock the tote with towels and snacks for the next day’s excursion. Keep a large basket or trunk for storing rolled-up beach towels by the door you use most often to head to the water, and keep your stocked totes nearby.
Perhaps you’re taking a day off the water and spending time on your dock. Again, think in terms of only making one trip; for many lake homes, it is quite a hike back up to the house when you forget something! You’ll still need plenty of towels for swimming and sunbathing, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks (or sandwiches if you want to stay out longer), and reading material. If your children are small, have another tote dedicated to their water toys that they can easily grab and bring along. For children a bit older, corral those swimming noodles with a lightweight, colorful bungee for easy transport. You can also run a longer bungee through the armholes of life jackets, an easy fix for cries of “Mom, YOU forgot my life jacket!” Make this the season to work on teaching the children of all ages to bring along their own necessities; Mom shouldn’t always be the pack mule!
Now that you are all stocked up and organized for summer on the water, get ready, get set, and go have fun!