I take a lot of gear when I go cruising, and while most of it is essential for my safety and comfort, only two things are irreplaceable: my photographs and my notes. Decades after a cruise, those images and words are often all that remains after I’ve sold the boat I’d used and updated all my gear. Although I have a sturdy watertight, crush-proof case for my camera gear, a drybag is all I’ve had to protect my journals and notebooks, pens, and pencils. That’s fine for writing at day’s end when I’m in camp or at anchor, but it’s awkward during the day when I want to make notes while I’m underway.

Photographs by the author

The Clampdesk measures 14″ x 11″ and weighs just 24 ounces when empty.

The Clampdesk from Rite in the Rain consolidates writing material in a weatherproof case that also serves a lap desk. Its shell is made of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), a tough, UV-resistant thermoplastic. Flat panels on both front and back provide smooth, stiff writing surfaces. The front has a strong spring clip that can hold a single sheet of paper or a 1/4″-thick notebook, and an elastic-fabric band at the bottom to keep letter-sized sheets of paper from blowing around. A weatherproof zipper with dual sliders keeps rain and spray out of the Clampdesk when it is closed and a yellow elastic loop on the spine keeps a writing implement handy without having to open the case.

Photographs by the author

The front of the Clampdesk has a stiff, flat writing surface with a clamp at the top and a band of elastic-fabric at the bottom to keep a standard sheet of paper in place. A handy loop on the spine holds a pen or pencil.

Inside, there are two mesh pockets on the left side, the upper one zippered and the lower one open-topped to hold long items. The mesh allows a good view of what’s inside and both pockets provide well-protected places to keep reading glasses. On the right, there is a single pocket made of stretch materials that can accommodate letter-sized notebooks and loose sheets of paper. Five elastic loops sewn on the pocket hold pens and pencils.

Inside the Clampdesk, there are two mesh pockets on the left side and a single pocket on the right with elastic loops for writing implements.

The Clampdesk is roughly 1-1/8″ thick and encloses an airspace that keeps it afloat if dropped overboard. The zipper has rubber flaps that close tightly against each other for most of their length to keep water out, but there are gaps around the sliders where water could get in. Because the Clampdesk floats, very little water gets in, if any.

The waterproof zipper protects the contents of the Clampdesk from rain and spray. The only gaps in the zipper’s seal are next to the sliders.

I bought a Rite in the Rain “All-Weather Legal Pad” which has 35 sheets of letter-size 8-1/2″ x 11″ recyclable paper. The pad is a good fit for the Clampdesk, inside and out. I’ve used several of the company’s “All-Weather Notebooks” in the past and the paper is certainly more water-resistant than common writing/printer paper. Immersed, it does turn gray as it absorbs water, but while ordinary paper when saturated comes apart at a light touch, Rite in the Rain paper retains some of its strength. It will tear with about half the effort required to tear it when dry, so although it’ll survive a dunking or a rain shower and still take pen and pencil marks, it’s best to take some care to keep it dry and to dry it out gently if it gets soaked. (WetNotes note pads from Ritchie Navigation have fully waterproof plastic pages that are better suited for downpours, rough water, and even snorkeling but are expensive and not recyclable.)

The Clampdesk provides a way to keep paperwork—home-printed charts, navigation notes, and writing materials—in one safe and readily accessed place. It will make it easier for me to capture experiences in writing, preserving them far longer and more clearly than I can in fleeting memories.

Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Magazine. He has been taking notes while cruising since 1980.

The Clampdesk is available directly from Rite in the Rain for $39.95.  The Clampdesk here was purchased from Fisheries Supply in Seattle for the same price.

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