20 Life Hacks

Published in the July 2017 Issue November 2018 Multimedia Austa Cook

“A paperclip can be a wondrous thing. More times than I can remember, one of these has gotten me out of a tight spot.”

So says MacGyver, that famously savvy adventurer who can take the most ordinary of objects and make some magic happen.

No doubt as you’re enjoying your time on the houseboat this summer, you’ve run into a few tight spots yourself. Maybe you’re short on space in the galley and have no extra room for cooking that big family dinner, or the kids are whining for a new game to play while they’re cooped up at night, or the pop cans and bottles that were stacked in the fridge are knocking around with reckless abandon to every rolling wave. There are tricks you can wield yourself next time you’re out on the water and find yourself facing a situation you want to “MacGyver” yourself out of.

The world calls them “life hacks,” and these often simple and always clever techniques will have you doing things the easy way in no time. They may not call for paperclips, but one does call for a binder clip! Without further ado, here are 20 of our favorite houseboat summer hacks that we personally can’t wait to try out.

Left Stranded

We all love cheap flip-flops for running around at the lake, but if the strap ever falls off the sole, you could be momentarily stranded. According to www.popsugar.com you can lend your broken flip-flops a longer life until the vacation is over by slipping a bread tag over the bottom of the strap where it pokes through the sole of the shoe.

Comfy And Clean

Storing extra blankets onboard in a tidy, dry way can be challenging. Have you ever considered using vinyl slipcases—clear zippered bags you can buy in different sizes? Not only do they keep blankets clean in a marine environment, they can double as soft backrests while hanging out on the deck. Comfy and clean. It even saves you space from buying extra pillows.

Save A Bowl


It’s lunch or snack time and everyone’s digging into some chips onboard. Rather than dirty a bowl or two that you’ll just have to wash later, www.justimagine-ddoc.com recommends you try folding the opening over on itself and fold the bottom corners up inside the bag to push the chips up. There you have it, an impromptu disposable chip bowl.

Water In The Ears?

Swimming is always a blast during the summer, but getting water stuck in your ears can be a bit of a drag. If this happens to you, www.buzzfeed.com says you can try blowing up a deflated balloon to help your ears immediately clear.

Sweet Treat

If you’re craving ice cream but you’re at your favorite cove and don’t want to run to the dock store, www.1000lifehacks.com proposes you can make a sweet and creamy treat in a pinch that’s healthier to boot. Odds are you have yogurt in the fridge—pour some into a sandwich bag, cut off a small corner, and squeeze dollops onto a baking sheet. Freeze and enjoy! The small size means they’ll set pretty fast, too.

No Sand Allowed

When you’re ready to jump after running around in the sand, www.buzzfeed.com shared an easy way to make sure you don’t track it all over onboard. Give your feet a dusting of baby powder to make the sand fall off your feet fast.

Cans On The Loose

Wrangling all those soda cans and bottles in your fridge can be hard, especially with waves rocking the houseboat. If your fridge has rungs on the shelf, Adam Pash at www.lifehacker.com shares that you can clip binder clips on one side of your stack to keep your beverages in place. 

Nix The Itch

Adventuring at the lake in the summertime more often than not brings mosquito bites. If you’ve collected some itchy bites and forgot your ointment at home, try dolloping a little toothpaste on the bite instead to soothe the itch away. Plus you’ll smell fresh to boot. Thank you, www.todayifoundout.com.

No Bugs Allowed


Another summertime bug problem—getting critters in your open drinks! www.onecrazyhouse.com points out that to keep out the riffraff, all you have to do is cover your cup with a cupcake liner. Just poke your straw through to hold it in place, and voila! Bug-free drinks you can enjoy in peace.

Watered Down


Here’s another drink-related life hack. When you’re serving a cold drink like lemonade or punch and don’t want to dilute the flavor, try freezing little ice cubes of the drink itself and use those to cool it off. www.1000lifehacks.com attests that the flavor will be just as strong but you’ll have a cold beverage everyone can enjoy.

Chop Away

Is space tight in your galley? Chris Dudley at www.esquire.com has a quick and easy fix—simply buy a cutting board that fits neatly over your sink to save on counter space. That way you instantly have more room for prepping food. Should have thought of this years ago…

Chart Storm

If you do a lot of map reading, you might want to considering picking up an 8-foot, 4-inch PVC sewer pipe for tidying your navigation charts. By sawing off the length you need to fit all your charts, filing the ends smooth, and attaching an end piece on one end and a connector cap for a screw-in plug on the other, you have a watertight way of keeping all your charts in one spot onboard.

Where The Lines Meat

Oftentimes when stocking your houseboat with food for your family adventure, you end up freezing meat in bulk. Next time you’re storing pounds of ground beef in those gallon-sized freezer bags, gently press a criss-cross of lines into the meat with a pencil or chopstick before you freeze it. As www.homedesigninspired.com points out, that way you can break off however much your meals call for as needed, and the rest can stay in the freezer.

Not Just For Eating


Throwing together a bonfire on the beach? If you’re having trouble finding proper kindling (assuming you’re in an area that lets you comb for burning materials), just jump back onboard and raid the pantry. www.techeblog.com attests that you can use fried chips such as Fritos as quick kindling in a pinch to get your fire going.

I Can See Clearly Now

For those wanting to create their own night lenses cover for flashlights, cut a red plastic notebook cover to fit over the top of the flashlight. End result? A cheap but effective flashlight for preserving your night vision. 

Hot Feet

Set your flip-flops facedown if you leave them on the top deck or beach while swimming and sunbathing. That way when you slip your feet back into them, www.1000lifehacks.com points out they won’t be lava hot from soaking up the sun themselves.

Night Bowling


This one is more fun than necessarily problem-preventing, but if you want to have a little extra fun one summer night, make sure to bring a few spare water bottles and a pack of glow sticks when you’re packing for the houseboat. www.babycenter.com shares that you can pop the glow sticks inside the water bottles for some epic nighttime bowling on the top deck!

No Kernels Wanted

It’s movie night onboard! When you’re popping popcorn, here’s a quick way to get rid of any unpopped kernels inside the bag, aside from picking them out while you’re eating. Simply open the bag a small slit so the kernels can fit through and shake it over your garbage can. As www.imgur.com points out, you’ll be left with nothing but fluffy, ready-to-eat popcorn.

Tear-Free Splinter Removal


Rumor has it if someone onboard gets a splinter while roaming the beach, you can spread wood glue over it. Let it dry and peel the layer of glue off to remove the splinter. The real trick to this www.1000lifehack.com tip is remembering to bring wood glue onboard…

Memory Making


If you want to take a piece of your favorite mooring spots or best vacation getaways to keep you going through the off-season, start collecting rocks from each destination and write your favorite trip memory on each. www.homedesigninspired.com shares that you can save them in a jar or fancy glass container for a truly unique decoration piece.

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