“Ditching” the boat, or abandoning ship, is not something I want to contemplate before taking off on a sailing trip (in fact it absolutely terrifies me), but stocking the ditch bag is a necessary precaution, and I think I am off to a pretty good start so far. I wish I could say that I was this organized with all my projects…but the truth is that we recently had to reorganize the entire boat again… I posted about boat organization back when we first moved onto the boat, but after living aboard for a year, Brian and I found that we needed to put almost everything in a more appropriate location. Sigh. Such are the trials of living in a small space. And we will probably move things around again once we do some actual sailing.
I started my list of items to include in our ditch bag on the trip down from Charleston and began slowly putting it together a few weeks ago. The ditch bag contains survival tools that sailors would want with them in a life raft if they were ever forced to abandon ship. Hopefully there won’t be a need to abandon the boat at any point during our trip, however accidents can happen anytime, even on land, and there are so many unpredictable situations that we always have to be prepared for the worse. I actually feel safer just knowing that we have one, even partially put together, and in an organized state.
In the beginning, I just started tossing items in the bag as I found them on the boat or between our trips to Wal-mart and Target. But then….Eureka! As I was cleaning out the jeep, I found the emergency vehicle repair kit that my Dad gave me back when I first got my driver’s license. It had never been used and everything inside was still in its original packaging. Although it was targeted at car repair, it still included quite a few applicable supplies, such as a flashing red signal light, batteries, a rain poncho, band aids, antiseptic wipes, a bungee cord, electrical tape, cable ties, a water resistant case, and a few other goodies. After its discovery, I packed it to the max with more emergency gear and then threw it in the ditch bag (it has to go inside because the zippers on the kit aren’t watertight).
For those of you who might be curious, our ditch bag currently includes (there will be additions to this list):
Flares, compass, watch, whistle, lighter, a sparking device, small mirror, flashing red signal light, a waterproof hand-crank flashlight, regular flashlight, several packs of lithium batteries, a multi-tool – including pliers, screw drivers, knives, saw blade, can opener, etc. – regular screw driver and pliers, band aids, gauze, several feet of stretchy bandage wrap, antiseptic wipes, triple antibiotic, electrical tape, small bungee cord, cable ties, rain poncho, orange reflective vest, sunscreen, and a hand-held GPS unit.
I’ve already run out of space in the watertight bag I’ve been using, so the rest is on hold for now, but I am planning to buy a second one of equal size for additional items such as rope, a signal horn, a plastic sextant, a fishing reel, fishing line, a hook, a whole bunch of energy bars, and whatever other useful survival stuff I can find that will fit in there. We will of course also grab the VHF to radio for help, the SPOT unit (satellite tracking) which we would use to send out an emergency request for help, the dry box with our passports and other documentation, and a few jerricans of fresh water (and hopefully some canned food). We will be keeping both bags secured just under the companionway door for easy access in the event of an emergency.
It scares me to contemplate what I would need if I were drifting in a life raft in the middle of the sea/ocean for more than 24 hours, but that’s exactly the type of situation when the contents of this bag could greatly increase my chances of survival (and it has happened to other sailors before). So if any of you fellow sailors (or anyone else out there) has a suggestion for the ditch bag, by all means, please let me know. Thanks!