How many of you have your safety equipment located in every available nook-and-cranny in your boat? Safety onboard should be a paramount concern, so the method I use to ensure I have all my safety gear handy and ready is to place everything in a 'ditch bag'. The original intent of the typical ditch bag is to collect any necessary survival gear into one place in the event you have to abandon ship. While this might have some merit on the high seas, I simply use the ditch bag to organize all of my safety gear. Simply put, my ditch bag is used for housing the gear in one location rather than something to abandon ship with.
The ditch bag I chose was ACR Electronics Rapid Ditch Express, model 2273. This bag comes with a velcro strap for hanging on a bulkhead, but I found it just exactly fits into my underhelm seat storage area. The advantage of this bag is that it has built-in flotation, and while not USCG approved as a flotation device, it does provide some additional protection for its contents.
While not unlimited, the ditch bag holds an incredible amount of gear, so the first step you should take is to organize all of your safety equipment, make sure everything is within expiration dates, and so on. My ditch bag contains:
While it should be noted that not all of this equipment may be needed to meet minimum USCG requirements, it provides an indication of how much equipment the bag can hold. In addition, I also keep expired flares in a separate pouch in the bag. While the expired flares cannot be counted to meet USCG requirements for safety equipment aboard, they can still be used. One study suggests that there is up to a 50% failure rate for expired pyrotechnics, the conventional wisdom is that you should keep these aboard to be used first.
Everything gets packed neatly within the bag. The throw bag simply clips to the web strap of on the outside of the ditch bag.
You should also consult with the USCG for the minimum safety requirements, as well as your state organization. Or better yet, have the USCG Auxillary or US Power Squadron conduct a Vessel Safety Check to ensure you have all the gear you need.
The whole thing fits snugly below a storage bin at the helm for quick, easy access. So get your emergency and safety gear organized and stored where you can grab it quickly.