The best place to store life jackets and PFDs is on the top deck of a boat in storage bags and marine nets underneath T-tops and hard tops, in clear carry bags or boat kits, and storage nets affixed to the hull, bow, or cockpit on the top deck.
Life jackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) save lives. Federal and state law requires all sailboats, motorboats, canoes, and kayaks to store at least one US Coast Guard-approved life jacket per passenger when boating on the water. However, storing life jackets and PFDs can present a challenge, with limited space on many vessels.
Designated storage units and available spaces found underneath boat seats also represent a good place to put PFDs as long as these areas are not locked or have any equipment covering them.
They are an essential part of overall boat safety and need to be stored where it’s easily accessible to all passengers in times of crisis.
In this article, I will highlight the best places to store life jackets and PFDs on a boat.
🦺 Where Is The Best Place To Store Life Jackets On A Boat?
The best place to store life jackets and PFDs on a boat is where it’s easily accessible to all passengers on board.
On bigger boats, it’s a good idea to store life jackets in multiple areas as this gives all the passengers ample time to get their hands on one instead of getting one from one storage source in case of an emergency.
Life jackets do best in cool, dry, and dark spaces where mold struggles to form and where the sun’s UV rays can’t do any damage.
When storing life jackets and PFDs in small storage compartments in a boat or inside storage bins, ensure that no heavy jackets are placed on top of them that cause crushing. Also, don’t forcefully bend them to fit, as this can lead to a lack of performance in a time of need.
Should the passengers, for some other reason, decide not to wear PFDs when boating, the following places are best to store these life-saving appliances, ready for easy access should disaster strike on the water:
Store Life Jackets In The Cockpit Area Of A Sailboat
A sailing boat’s cockpit is considered the safest external location on the vessel. Storing life jackets and PFDs in this general area is a wise idea. Cockpit lockers are the ideal place to store life jackets.
Store Life Jackets In Storage Bags Underneath T & Hard Tops
Boats that are fitted with T-tops offer an excellent place to store life jackets. Investing in a T-top storage bag made from marine grade polyester that’s water-resistant and treated for UV is recommended, as these storage bags are easy to install.
Storing life jackets and other PFDs in the air keeps them safe from passengers’ feet and the sun and is easily accessible in an emergency.
With this heavy-duty, marine-grade storage bag for your T-Top, you'll never have to worry about storage space for life jackets and PFDs again. Choose between two sizes for 4 or 6 life jackets. East to install and easy to take down.
Store Life Jackets In A Marine Net Underneath T & Hard Tops
A great way to store life jackets and PFDs underneath a T-top, hard top, or Bimini tops is by fitting a marine net to store and retrieve this safety equipment easily.
Marine nets are typically made out of marine-grade bungee, which includes Velcro cinch straps (you can request starboard hooks at an additional price) for easy attachment.
An added bonus of using a storage bag is that life jackets are exposed to flowing air through the net, which helps prevent mildew and insect damage.
Store Life Jackets In A Storage Net
Storage nets are an ideal way to create a space for life jackets and PFDs on your boat. A storage net is similar to a marine net used underneath a T-top or hard top, with the exception being that you can permanently affix it to parts of your boat via screws and hooks.
You can install storage nets in the following boat areas:
- Sides of the bow
- Starboard side behind the console
- Under gunwale caps across the inside hull area
- Across open bow area (when there’s storage space underneath the bow of your boat)
Most storage nets’ design allows the net to be removed without having to unscrew it by simply unhooking the hooks.
Use Seat Storage Space To Store Life Jackets
The amount of space on most boats is limited, and finding the best area to store life jackets and other PFDs can be challenging. The boat’s shape typically dictates the storage space.
If your boat is fitted with seating options and space between the seat and the floor, then you are more than welcome to store life jackets and PFDs here. Central console boats are typically fitted with bow and stern seating that you can use to store life jackets.
The main thing to consider is how easy the action of removing the seat cover is and if the life jackets fit into the space without the need to contort it (force fit).
You Can Store Life Jackets In A Life Jacket Carry Bag
A life jacket carry bag is a good storage alternative if there’s no obvious place to put PFDs.
Many companies sell life jackets and PFDs in ready-to-use carry bags for easy storage and quick use. These carry bags are often see-through and made from marine-grade nylon.
Store Life Jackets And PFDs In Designated Storage Spaces
Many boat manufacturers include a specially designated life jacket and PFDs space in the boat’s design. These storage compartments are inserted where it makes the most sense in the overall boat design and can be inserted in the stern, bow, helm, or hull areas of a boat.
Using designed storage spaces is good and well, as long as they aren’t locked or difficult to open. Passengers must be informed where life jackets and PFDs are kept before any trip on water commences.
If the captain of the vessel stores life jackets in designated storage spaces, he needs to show his passengers where they are stored and how to take them out in the fastest fashion.
Store Life Jackets In The Cockpit Area Of A Sailboat
A sailing boat’s cockpit is considered the safest external location on the vessel. Storing life jackets and PFDs in this general area is a wise idea. If your sailing boat has cockpit lockers, use them to store life jackets.
Store Life Jackets And PFDs In The Boat’s Cabin
Boats fitted with cabin space can be used as storage space for life jackets and PFDs. Life jackets can be mounted against the cabin wall using hooks and stored under passenger seats if there’s space.
Ideally, you don’t want to keep the life jackets and PFDs in an enclosed space simply because it could be the area affected during an emergency (fire and flooding.)
Store Life Jackets And PFDs At The Back Of The Leaning Post
The leaning post is a structure consisting of elevated support for the captain to use when piloting the ship behind the helm. Leaning posts vary in design but mostly feature some form of seat.
Some leaning posts have passenger chairs or a storage cabinet at the back. Underneath any chairs with storage space or inside an unlocked storage cabinet is an excellent place to store life jackets and PFDs.
Where Is The Best Place To Store Throwable PFDs On A Boat?
A throwable PFD can be anything from a classic ring buoy, flotation cushion, or flotation collar. When “man overboard” is shouted, these rescue devices are thrown to save the person in the water from drowning.
The best place to store throwable PFDs is somewhere on the boat that’s unobstructed, where nothing impedes a person from grabbing it and throwing it to a passenger in distress. On center-console boats, a convenient place to store a throwable PFD is on the leaning post.
🚤 Why Is It Important To Store Life Jackets And PFDs On A Boat?
Many recreational boaters choose not to wear a life jacket when boating, with the tendency not to wear one increasing on perfectly sunny days. However, according to the US Coast Guard, most boating-related drownings happen on perfect boating days.
All recreational vessels (sailboats, motorboats, kayaks, and canoes) require a US Coast Guard Approved lifejacket for every person onboard.
According to federal and state law, all children under 13 must wear a life jacket or PFD when on a boat or PWC (Personal Watercraft) when not in a fully disclosed area.
For example, sailboats in California measuring less than 16 feet must carry a life jacket for every passenger. If the sailboat or motorboat is longer than 16 feet, it must have at least one throwable flotation device (ring buoy), where it’s immediately accessible by the passengers on the boat.
A sailboat, motorboat, canoe, or kayak without the correct number of approved life jackets and PFDs on board violates state and federal law and is punishable by a fine.
Of the 767 drowning deaths recorded in 2020, the Recreational Boating Statistics report has 86% of the people who drowned not wearing a life jacket or PFD.
🙅 Where Is The Worst Place To Put PFDs On A Boat?
When the captain (or boat owner) of a boating vessel doesn’t demand that the passengers wear a life jacket, he still needs to inform everyone aboard where the life jackets and other PFDs are stored before setting sail.
Life jackets and PFDs are required to be stored where it’s readily accessible to all the people on the boat. Placing these personal flotation devices in difficult-to-reach areas can be the difference between life and death when disaster strikes on the water.
According to the US Coast Guard, the following are some of the worst places to store life jackets and flotation devices:
- Inside plastic bags
- In its original packaging
- Locked or closed compartments
- In areas with gear stored on top of it
- Anywhere below deck
You don’t want to struggle with safety gear in an emergency, as time is often limited. When a boat is taking on water, or if a fire breaks out, there’s typically no time to go into the interior of a boat looking for life jackets, as the interior is where disasters originate.
How Do You Keep Life Jackets From Getting Moldy?
The trick in keeping them free from mold is to dry them thoroughly after use. If used in salt water sports, your personal flotation device needs to be rinsed with clean and fresh water. Do not use harsh chemicals to try and clean PFDs and life jackets.
Life jackets need to air-dry in a well-ventilated area, preferably out of direct sunlight, which will quickly fade the material.
If you encounter incumbent weather and you have to dry life jackets inside. You can use a fan to speed up the drying process.
How Do You Store A Wet Life Jacket?
A wet life jacket should be allowed to drip until it’s dry to the touch. Storing a damp life jacket in a boat or a container is a recipe for disaster. Mold thrives in damp areas.
Let a life jacket dry completely before storing it in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Always check if the interior foam has caught any water, and refrain from drying the life jacket with any external heat source, such as a hair or clothes dryer.
🗣️ Final Words
Life jackets and PFDs are best stored somewhere on the top deck of a boat. On sailboats, a popular section to keep these lifesavers is in the cockpit area in cockpit lockers or inside storage seating.
The best storing options for hard tops and T-top boats are in a marine net or specially made storage bags for boating safety equipment.
Storing life jackets and PFDs in designated storage compartments, under seats, and at the back of a leaning post. When storage space is limited, a life jacket carry bag should do the trick regarding storage.
Boat cabins can be used to store PFDs on mounted hooks, but it’s best not to keep all the jackets here as this area can be affected by flooding and fires first.
The best and safest place to store life jackets and PFDs on a boat while out on the sea having fun is on every passenger’s body, including the captain and crew.