One of the most important pieces of life saving equipment onboard vessels are life jackets. As a former captain, I was responsible for the safety of the crew in addition to the passengers. With that said, stowing personal flotation devices while they remain in excellent condition was of the utmost importance. Here are tips for where and how to store life jackets on your boat. Read up on the best life jacket storage tips. 

Center Console Life Jacket Storage

I am a big fan of center console boats for many reasons. Not only are they easy to maintain, but they are also great for fishing and cruising. Furthermore, one of the biggest benefits of a center console boat is the space to store life jackets. 

Importantly, center consoles fitted with a T-Top allow you, as the boat owner, to store the life jackets suspended from the top. 

A stylish waterproof bag attaches to the framework of the T-Top beneath the cover. The marine-grade materials prevent the onset of corrosion and deflect water to keep the contents dry. 

I highly recommend adding a life jacket bag for easy storage on a center console boat compared to utilizing hatches. Importantly, you’ll have space to store other essential items within the deck hatches. 

Dayboat Life Jacket Storage

On a dayboat, including runabouts, ski boats, and more, you won’t have the opportunity to stow life jackets above your head. Instead of utilizing overhead storage compartments, you will need to rely on hatches.

Open Bow Vessels

One area that makes the most sense on an open bow boat is beneath the forward seats. The forward seats are positioned on the port and starboard side and are typically long. Considering the size of life jackets, you’ll need hatches with plenty of space. 

With that said, the bow-seat hatches are ideal because of the size and location. Take advantage of the port and starboard compartments when storing life jackets on open bow vessels. 

Closed Bow Vessels

Undoubtedly, life jacket storage becomes more challenging on closed bow vessels. I highly recommend avoiding storing life jackets inside of the cabin as they will be challenging to retrieve in the event of an emergency such as a capsizing

On a closed bow vessel, the life jackets should be stowed near the helm. Located hatches that are suitable in size to store personal flotation devices. However, keep in mind that you may need to utilize multiple hatches depending on the number of life jackets you keep onboard. Lastly, remember the key is accessibility. 

How To Properly Store Life Jackets

Beyond finding a suitable and accessible location, it is imperative to stow life jackets properly. Improper storage can lead to deterioration and, therefore, issues when you need them most. 

Keep The Life Jackets Out Of Direct Sunlight

The sun’s UV rays are harmful not only to people but also to items that we possess, including life jackets. 

Unfortunately, life jackets that are exposed to sunlight over long periods of time will become discolored. Additionally, the fabric will become brittle, and the outer covering of the life jacket will fall away from the core. 

With that said, always store life jackets in an area that is sheltered from the sun. 

Inspect The Storage Space For Sharp Objects

Believe it or not, the insides of storage compartments have sharp objects. The sharp areas of hatches are a result of one of two things. First, the fiberglass mold the boat was formed within. Secondly, metal edges from bolts and other hardware. 

I recommend inspecting the hatch before stowing the life jackets. Rips and tears on personal flotation devices must be avoided. 

Do Not Cram The Life Jackets In A Storage Compartment

I know that space is limited when it comes to storage on boats. However, jamming personal flotation devices into a tight space will cause them to become misshapen. 

With that said, never cram the life jackets into a space that is too small to accommodate the quantity needed onboard. When the PFDs are placed in the hatches, don’t contort them; instead, leave them in their normal shape. 

Ensure The Storage Space Is Well Ventilated

I’ll admit that it is hard to come across well-ventilated compartments on vessels. One of the primary reasons that they are not ventilated is that they are fitted with a seal to avoid water intrusion. 

In the situation where the hatch does not have airflow, I recommend opening the hatch on a weekly basis under dry conditions. Opening the hatch will reduce the chances of mold and mildew growing on the fabric. 

Never Store In A Wet Location Or If The Life Jackets Are Wet

Unfortunately, I have seen countless people wear a life jacket into the water and stow it in a closed compartment. This is never a good idea. Placing a wet life jacket in a dark hatch will cause it to grow mold. For this reason, you’ll want to allow the life jacket to dry thoroughly. 

Secondly, don’t place life jackets in compartments that are susceptible to water intrusion. A PFD that is constantly soaked will decompose and be rendered ineffective over time. Ensure that the storage locker remains dry at all times. 

Know Where And How To Stow Life Jackets

Keeping your life jackets in excellent condition is critical for safety. At times, as a captain, I managed over 100 life jackets based on the number of guests aboard the vessel. Remember to not only have your life jackets accessible but in a space where they are kept dry, not crammed, and out of the sun.