For all the luxurious accommodations, cool features and high-tech electronics aboard a boat, there’s one simple feature that owners seemingly can’t get enough of: cup holders. We want them within easy reach, whether in the bow, stern lounge, even hanging out on the swim platform. The good news is that adding cup holders is well within the reach of a competent do-it-yourselfer. But before any discussion of adding cup holders begins, it’s essential to first address the elephant in the room.
Or rather, the YETI. The cooler manufacturer introduced drinkware in 2014 and, virtually overnight, made traditional cup holders obsolete. Today, if you fancy YETI’s 30-ounce Rambler travel mug or 10-ounce Lowball (we suggest the conch-inspired hues of the latest Bimini color collection or the deep blues that grace the new Offshore color collection in either), you’ll find that most manufacturers offer cup holders designed to handle a YETI’s added girth. Boats that predate the YETI cup, however, will likely have to be retrofitted.
Perhaps the easiest way to add YETI-ready cup holders to a boat equipped with standard-size holders is to first consider existing cup holder locations. If you have a little extra real estate around the cup holder’s rim, you might be able to just swap out the existing holders for a YETI-size drop-in. The trick, of course, is enlarging the existing hole without the benefit of a hole saw’s pilot bit.
One solution is to first match a hole saw to the existing cup holder’s cutout. That saw can then be used to cut a wood “plug” that will neatly fit into the existing hole. Make sure the plug is cut from wood thick enough to extend beyond the oversize hole saw’s teeth. That plug can then be spun onto that saw’s pilot bit to hold the saw in position as you evenly enlarge the hole.
It also might be possible to cut a YETI-size cup holder’s hole out of a similarly thick piece of lumber and use that lumber as a template to guide the larger hole saw. Just remember to secure the template in place with clamps or other temporary attachment.
Adding new cup holder locations? Look for flat areas such as the top of the gunwales or above the dash on a center console. Just be certain to visually inspect the area below where you’ll be cutting to make sure there are no wires, cables or other objects that could be damaged by the saw, and that the location offers both the necessary depth and, ideally, a way to run a drain similar to your boat’s existing cup holders.
Tip: When cutting fiberglass, always follow best practices. When choosing a hole saw, look for fine-toothed blades rather than a coarse pattern that can chip the gelcoat. Covering the area with masking tape is another technique. You can also score the hole’s outline by first running the saw slowly in reverse. Punching a small nick in the surface with an awl will also give the pilot bit traction and prevent skipping.
Rather not cut a hole of any kind, even for that beloved YETI? Look for cup holders that can clamp onto your boat’s pipework, vacuum-mount solutions that adhere to flat areas of fiberglass, or portable cup holders that tuck into bench seats.
But first, take a sip from that YETI tumbler, bottle or mug. It’s best to start any project well-hydrated.