(Revised 4/23/07: shortened).
Here are two waterproof boat boxes to store emergency gear and regular gear. Boat boxes are good for protecting crushable gear from tsunamis or your stupid feet. I love flexible waterproof bags and have several, but for the delicate expensive stuff, the box works for me. The photo shows the gear that goes in the large box, minus a flashlight, because I am between flashlights and am seeking a good bright LED one I can afford.
Design Worldview comments:
(1) Bags are good, but Boxes are more Multifunctional -- Boxes can double as hasty stools. I love multifunctionality. Modification: either box could incorprate a small closed-cell foam pad, with nylon cover, to make these boxes into gear-and-tired-butt boxes (not to mention add flotation power).
(2) Weight and Buoyancy -- These boxes are rather heavy (big one is pine, epoxy coatings in and out, fiberglas cloth as abrasion protection, then paint. However, the weight is mostly from thick wood, which floats. You can build them lighter without sacrificing much strength. Thus, the small box is marine plywood on four sides epoxied to pine squares at the ends, so it is lighter.
Closed cell foam used to pad the interior also provides floatation. The boxes float when sealed, but what if you capsize right after you open them? Well, good luck! You can't design around all the issues. More closed-cell foam to insure flotation (the boxes hold some heavy stuff after all, such as tool kit, radio, and flashlight); more foam means less carrying space inside, means larger box needed, and then what? Write a treatise entitled, "The Engineering Trade-off as Analogy for the Human Dilemma."
(3) Interior design -- the large box has a partially-dedicated compartmentalization to separate one-time use gear such as flares, flare-gun, light-sticks, from hardware such as radio, light, tool kit. The concept is that you want to be able to plunge your hand inside and snap up exactly what you need for type I emergencies ("Help!") and type II emergencies/issues ("Oh, damn it all.").
(4) Now Decide How Many Boxes You Need -- "And why do you have two boxes?" Because....epics are fine, but every day on the water need not promise Green Giants, scylla, and other events worthy of entry to the Explorer's Club. For those days, and those boats, an option for a small box is good. I may be wrong, but I think all the flares, radio, tool kit, etc., are a bit of overkill for kayaking a few hours in the local river-swamp.
(Marginalia for the Positively Pedantic -- Note the saw, which I made from a replacement sabre-saw blade with handle wrapped in epoxy-soaked nylon cord. Why? I could find the size that suited me, and make it cheaply since tools are known to rust and be lost. Why carry a small saw? Because you never know.... Other tools are a Leatherman and a hand drill, and in fact have needed both for repairs, once. Sheaths for saw and drill made from polytarp and ductape, loose fitting and stiff to allow aeration.)
Step 1: Design an Ergonomical-Spatial-Temporal Context for Your Boxes
Design an Ergonomical-Spatial-Temporal Context for Your Boxes
....because boxes do not just exist in a Black Box! Boxes exist in a great continuum of connections. The most immediate one is the place it will be habitually placed; you may think of other contexts on your own.
(1) For now, let's focus on the comfort-to-size ratio -- Specific Example, the paradigm of which is to be extended to all boxes in existence -- The small box should nestle between your legs or behind your seat in a kayak -- that is the best I know how to set its comfort-to-size ratio. It should carry a lunch, small binoculars, camera, cell phone, wallet, small ditties (first aid, nylon cord,etc.), perhaps a small signalling device (flare gun will fit, electric strobe -- I keep a strobe on my lifejacket and that is enough for me for lazy boating), and perhaps a thermal undershirt or poncho.
(2) That done, now do Thought Experiments by asking, "How Might I Be Flexibly Adapting My Box?" ....
(a) Example: I added double handles at top that double as the "roll bar" that can hold and protect exposed items such as compass, GPS, binoculars, light, etc. The holes in the handles are for elastic cords to hold in your exposed items. I ennvisioned, therefore, how I would be using the box in a typical afternoon of kayaking -- what things I would careless place on it as the space between my legs is put to efficient use.
The larger box has a similar protective cage (compass is permanently mounted but room for GPS behind the bar). The second watertight screw-cover thing is a small compartment for small stuff you might want handy right away (keys, ID, money, medicine). I am uncertain as to its usefulness; the paradigm has weaknesses (aka "over-designing"). It is right where I tend to put my foot when sailing, or where I would sit if I put the box down on a wet beach to sit on.
(b) The blue elastic cord is to let you jam things under in case you are rushed and have no time to unscrew lid, or to hold stuff safely that need not go in the box (poncho, windbreaker, length of coiled rope). Many sudden needs arise in boating; for such times, I wish for you an enoughness of blue elastic cord.
(3) Next, ask, "What Could Happen to My Box?" (answer: lots, so: Then Armor High-Wear Areas) -- Both boxes sit on "skids" that you can't see here to keep their bottoms out of the constant wetness often found at the bottom of any boat and to take up most of the in-boat abrasions (yes, the boxes are waterproof but life is flawed and so isn't much waterproofing). The protective side rails and the epoxied on rope around the aft edge also protect the box from the knocks that it suffers in my crowded outrigger canoe -- the idea is to reduce the chance the the epoxy coating will be breached and let in moisture.
(4) Design to Keep the Boxes -- Both boxes have strong provisions for attaching to your boat (you barely see the SS eyehook on the small box, held in by interior nut with washer). (See photos on next page). I suggest attaching to your boat by a length of rope, because in a capzie you want the boxes to float free; you don't want to take a breath and get under the boat to find the emergency box. Yes, it might happen to stay there any way, but at least you did what you could.
(5) Think of the Inside Attachments -- Besdies tying screw-covers to cords leading inside the boxes, you might want subsystems in place for the contents. Example: The yellow bag on the safety cord is to hold daily objects such as cell phone, keys, wallet, and is clipped to a second safety cord. (That assumes you don't carry both boxes and save the large one for gear you hope you need not use, and the small box for gear you will probably use. There's a whole ritual possible here.)