Whether you’re bringing pets aboard your boat, cruising with company, or just wanting more peace of mind when you kick your shoes off, it may only take a few quick changes to help make your boat the perfect place to be this season. With DIY tips, tackle management gear, cool foot pedals for your throttles, and more, here are several ways to keep your boat comfortable for bare feet (and paws).
7 Quick Ways to Keep Every Foot Cool and Safe While Boating
How to Ensure a Barefoot-Friendly Boating Experience
It’s time to keep the decks clear and cool, so here are a few recommendations from the pros and experienced boaters in our crew.
1. Add or Improve Your Options for Shade
We’ve found this reminder to be particularly important for kids and canine friends, but as those decks and seats heat up under the sun, it can be hard to find a comfortable spot for your feet to go. A bimini top is your most substantial solution to cooling hot surfaces, but consider a portable sunshade or small beach umbrella at the very least.
2. Cool Foot Pedals and Decking Using ‘Chill’ Options
EVA foam solutions, like modern decking products and Chill Trax foot pedal pads, may be the ultimate option for cooler surfaces, especially during peak heat, but it’s also a great idea to keep a light color, thick towel on your boat for some relief, too. Similar to how this trick works to cool a livewell full of tournament fish, it also works for cool feet. Just dip the towel in water and spread it out for a cool surface to step on or a cool spot for a pet to lay on.
Though it isn’t recommended for trolling motor pedals and foot throttles, it can help along many other areas of your deck and floor.
3. Make it Easy to Rinse and Wash Down Surfaces
Spraying or misting water may be helpful for cooling your boat down a bit, but a full-blown washdown station is a true necessity for many boats. On bay boats in particular, these water-spraying systems help keep decks clean and clear of fish blood, slime, grime, and anything else you don’t want to be stepping into or slipping on. It may be helpful to install a washdown station on your boat, too, or at least stow an adapter nozzle and washdown hose. They can come in pretty handy for a number of reasons.
4. Eliminate Snags and Tripping Hazards
It’s easy to take for granted how well we know our own boats and how comfortable we are with our own systems for where things go, but that’s not always a given for pets, kids, and guests. For anglers, it’s common to shrug about potential snags from hooks lying around and tripping hazards from rods leaned up somewhere, but sometimes we need a system that quickly allows us to reduce the risk.
This could be as simple as making it a habit to use our hatches and rod lockers more, especially when we have others on board, but it also might mean adding tackle management systems for holding baits and maybe even adding more rod holders for keeping those sticks up and out of the way.
Pros rely on these storage systems to keep gear organized, ready, and safe. And, for pros like Ott DeFoe, it makes it even easier to fish barefoot whenever possible.
5. Add Grip Along Footpaths
Much like the way modern decking options can improve both the general cushion and surface temperature of a boat’s decks, it’s also helpful to look at targeted traction solutions. This can be especially important along footpaths of decking, flooring, and steps like those on your trailer where you step up into the boat.
Non-skid tape is usually your least expensive and most flexible option to consider adding wherever it’s slippery, but we'd recommend considering supplements and alternatives as well. As a supplement that can make your sponsors happy, some decals even have a texture to them that can help with traction (like T-H Marine Carpet Decals). Once installed, not only can you get more traction out of installing them, you'll be all set to snap a shot of your latest catches in front of the logos of sponsors who can help fund your fishing.
For a more subtle and substantial upgrade though, consider using the GatorSkinz rubber traction pads that many pros and manufacturers use. They are known for their unmatched adhesion and durability, they come in a variety of textures and colors, and their installation simply requires wiping down the installation spot, peeling, and sticking.
6. Put a Stop to Gates, Doors, and Lids that Stub and Pinch
Many manufacturers have come a long way when it comes to rigging lids and doors so they don’t swing or shut with just one rogue wave, but there are still plenty of boats that could use an upgrade.
To help restrict those pontoon gates, hatch doors, and lids that can still stub and pinch, you likely just need to look at your options for door stops, gate latches, and lid supports. Many install in just a few minutes.
7. Mill or Mark Edges, Paths, and Other Hazards
For other potential harms, it's important to remember that sometimes we can eliminate but sometimes we just have to mitigate. This can include dealing with rough edges on a boat's surfaces, submerged objects near your dock or boat, and instances of low visibility.
For rough edges left by DIY jobs and wear and tear, you may be surprised what a little filing can do to grind them down. Alternatively, you can always add some brightly colored electrical tape that can either cover the edge or help add an element of warning. When you take care of these, they won't get you when you least expect it.
When it comes to underwater hazards that can be rough on feet, draw caution to them. Marker buoys are a tried and true method, especially for equipment like auger anchors.
Lastly, never underestimate how helpful it is to have deck lighting, various courtesy lighting, and a handheld spotlight for low times of low visibility. This can help you, your pets, and guests to see your walking path, the edges of a boat, and anything in your way.
Products that Keep Every Foot Cool and Every Paw Safe
Scorching surfaces, slippery spots, pinch points, random hooks… where would you start with eliminating possible pain points on your boat? When it’s time to go beyond routines that make your boat barefoot friendly, check out the helpful products linked below.