We put together Magnolia’s abandon ship ditch bag before we left last fall. It all started when we had taken our Switlik life raft in to be re-certified by Vane Brothers in Baltimore, Maryland last summer They confirmed that while it was an older, well made life raft, it should be “condemned” because the glue on the seams was deteriorating among other things. We inherited this life raft with the boat so it was time and we weren’t really surprised. (It was interesting to see the life raft deployed in their work space. ) We ended up buying a new Revere 4 person life raft. We consider it an insurance policy type of expense. It came with some basic necessities so we set up a ditch bag with additional items.
I recently reviewed what we have in our ditch bag. I thought I’d share our list of ditch bag items. This isn’t a definitive list. It’s just our list. We have crossed the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and back so we don’t have lots of ocean crossing experience under the keel. But I did some research in books and lists online and adapted ideas from those for the contents of our coastal ditch bag. Maybe we erred on the conservative side. Maybe you would consider different items.
This spreadsheet includes the items that are in our Revere life raft kit and the additional items we pre-packed in a ditch bag. This spreadsheet shows what’s where, is organized by category and has the dates of anything that has an expiration date. I also laminated a list of items that we use on Magnolia that we would “grab and go” at the last minute. This list is in a pocket on the outside of the ditch bag. I organized this part of the list by location on the boat and bolded the necessary items. We’d need to use another bag for these items. There is also a list of items we considered and decided not to include for various reasons (e.g., weight, redundant, etc.).
I grouped items and contain them in zipper-top bags labeled with the contents. I also laminated copies of our passports, boat documentation, insurance policy and our Divers Alert Network card. These won’t be the most recent versions of our policies, but at least our account and policy numbers are available until I get another set laminated. (It’s a pretty easy and inexpensive process to laminate documents at a Kinkos or other retail office service location.) Don’t forget to include a family or emergency contact. Regarding documents and computer files, we’ve scanned all of our important documents and we back up our hard drives periodically to external drives so ideally we’d grab one of those. At this time we do not have personal locator beacons, or a satellite phone. As an aside, we took the Safety At Sea Seminar in Annapolis and highly recommend attending one.
What other resources are important to consult when preparing a ditch bag? What else would you include? As I said earlier this is just the list we’ve assembled so far for Magnolia. We plan to review the contents periodically as information and our experience evolves.
Captain’s Guide to Liferaft Survival by Michael Cargal
Sea Survival book by Dougal Robertson