That depends on the boat in question and where you’re going to sail it!
Whether you’re planning a boat trip or studying for those all important marine exams, you might be wondering – where should I put those PFDs?
Personal flotation devices are the difference between life and death so it’s important to know where they are!
There are rules put into place that differ in every single state, so make sure you know the legislation in your location before you buy and store them.
The majority of vessels need to have at LEAST one USCG approved PFD for everyone on board.
USCG of course stands for the United States Coast Guard, and it is highly important that you adhere to their guidelines before you set sail.
Unless you want to end up in danger, or potentially prosecuted for breaking marine laws, then you should make sure you’re up to code!
Remember, two-thirds of any boating fatalities are deaths by drowning, and 90% of those victims were NOT wearing a PFD.
For the safety of yourself and all of your passengers, have one there for everybody and more importantly, make sure they fit!
Best Place To Store PFDs When Out On Your Boat?
First and foremost, you want them to be in an area that is known to everybody, easy to see and out on the top deck of the boat.
Sure, you might want to tidy them away out of sight, but how will you then grab them quickly in an emergency?
What you CAN do is place them in an open storage bin or box, provided you can see them peeking out of the box.
Be sure to put said box away safely in a corner, so nobody trips over it, but again – it must be obvious and very clearly visible.
Do not cover them with any other additional gear or equipment.
You really shouldn’t put anything over the top of them if you can help it, as the PFDs need to be immediately and instantly accessible in the event there is an emergency.
Remember: as soon as those PFDs become damaged or in less than perfect condition, they’re no longer approved for use and could get you into trouble.
They also need to have been USCG approved PFDs in the first place!
Other Important PFD Requirements – By Law!
No matter if you’re operating the vessel, being towed behind it on jet skis or just riding as a passenger, you need to wear a USCG approved PFD.
Every single person aboard the boat needs to wear one, even if they’re not actually ON it.
You should also avoid any inflatable PFDs, as these aren’t legally permitted for wearers under the age of 16, nor can they be worn safely for high impact boating or watersports.
At high pressure on a stormy sea they could burst, leaving you helpless.
A PFD is NOT a substitute for a child or teen being properly supervised by a responsible adult over the age of 18.
You cannot ever leave them alone on open water or aboard a boat, even if you think they are totally safe and protected.
It is imperative to make sure that all passengers have a personal PFD that has either been sized personally for them to wear or will definitely fit them in accordance with manufacturer guidelines.
This is usually determined by weight or chest size for kids.
These must be approved by the US Coast Guard, Transport Canada or Fisheries and Oceans; if this is the case, it will be clearly displayed on the label of the PFD or in blatant terms on the manufacturer’s website.
Likewise, the boating or water-based activity you’ll be participating in determines which PFD is best for the situation.
It must not restrict your movement and be comfortable, but fit snugly enough that it is certain not to slip off at any point.
How To Properly Store And Maintain A PFD
In order to make sure that your personal flotation devices last as long as possible (remember when damaged they are no longer approved by the USCG) you should do your best to take care of them properly, and teach other passengers to do so too!
Always avoid any cleaning chemicals, strong soaps or dry cleaning – all you need is environmentally friendly and ocean safe mild soap, paired with warm water.
This is more than enough to sluice them down and make sure they’re good to go next time.
You want to squeeze out your PFD and rinse it as thoroughly as possible, leaving it to air dry for as long as is required.
This should be done away from direct sunlight (contrary to popular opinion!) and also as far as possible from any sources of heat.
Need A Last Minute PFD For Your Kid? Not Sure What To Do?
Although it might not be the perfect solution, the BoatUS Foundation offers a Life Jacket Loaner Program, wherein you can obtain a life jacket for your child that fits correctly and will meet all state laws, just for a day or a weekend.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have to buy a life jacket (if you do these are the best lifejackets here) – if you regularly engage in water or boat based activities with your kids, you want them to have their very own jacket that they have been sized correctly for, as this is safest.
However, when you’re in a pinch, head over to this helpful BoatUS map, which shows you exactly where your nearest Life Jacket Loaner site is and how to get there.
There are just a couple of things you need to do when you get there!
Simply provide your full name and phone number, home address and driver’s license number, as well as your anticipated date of return.
You’ll then receive the ideal loaner jacket for your kid, which must be brought back to the location on the return tag.