DITCH BAG ITEMS YOU NEED ON YOUR BOAT
Though boating trips can be a lot of fun, there are inherent risks in being hundreds of miles away from land. Unexpected situations could arise, such as malfunctioning equipment, fast-changing weather and collision with rocks. With this in mind, it’s crucial for boating enthusiasts to have a ditch bag — an emergency kit filled with essential items that’ll ensure your survival.
We are not going to be as crazy as some doomsday preppers are but it is important to be vigilant and do your due diligence when preparing your ditch bag because it will contain what you need to survive while you wait for rescue or find your own way out if you have landed on land.
Once you decide to abandon ship and jump into a life raft or have managed to get your boat close enough to get off in terrain you don’t know, you must just as easily grab onto your ditch bag without having to think twice.
The ideal ditch bag should be waterproof and buoyant so that it can double as a floatation device. It must also have a tether that can be clipped onto the life raft, so it doesn’t add more weight. The ditch bag can vary in size and shape — make sure that all the necessary items are securely packed inside.
So, what goes inside a ditch bag and what are you going to put in yours?
ANCHOR FOR YOUR LIFE RAFT
Most people don’t think about this. Once abandoning ship, if possible, you want to keep in the same location to make it easier to be found. A lightweight safety anchor might just do the job. Think about your choice depending on the location you will be boating. You could even have a system of taking in your boat anchor with you.
FIRST AID KIT
A first aid kit is one of the most essential items to pack in your boat’s ditch bag. It’ll allow you to address any medical emergency that may arise during accidents. The first aid kit should include antibiotics, aspirin, antihistamine, pain killers, seasickness tables as well as other prescription medication you rely on, bandages, gauze and antiseptic solution.
It may be a no-brainer to pack food in your ditch bag. However, you should be smart about the kinds of food you’ll bring along. Food should be non-perishable and edible without needing any additional preparation. This means bringing along food such as nuts, dried fruits, trail mix and granola bars. It’s also better to have pre-packed portions in vacuum-sealed bags for quicker rationing. Having a folding knife and a small wooden board can also be used when catching and preparing fish. High protein foods that don’t spoil such as nuts and trail mix are excellent as long as they don’t contain salt, which will only make you thirsty. Again, you want enough to feed everyone for at least three days.
Despite being surrounded by a vast body of water, staying hydrated while stuck in a life raft or on the shore of a strange region will be hard to do. Drinking water pouches should be included in the ditch bag. The volume of water should consider the number of people on your boat and enough water for everyone for more than three days – humans can survive for three days without water but it is all over after that. Pre-packaged water bags, which is the amount necessary for survival are a good option. Four ounces is just enough to keep someone alive. Drinking salt water is extremely dangerous.
When your fresh water runs out, you should also have a jug which will serve as your means of collecting fresh water, which is going to get tricky. Cold water can be sucked off the canopy of a lifeboat and drinking water can be distilled out of saltwater, although this is a tricky process if you are not on land. Saltwater must be distilled before it can be consumed.
Your ditch bag must also include various means of communication such as a powerful radio, navigation and signalling devices, such as flares. Depending on how far you are from shore, a mobile phone may also come in handy. It is worth knowing the coverage area of your mobile device before heading out on the water.
You should also have basic items such as a whistle, a flashlight, handheld flares, reflective tape and binoculars. These items will be crucial in notifying anyone close by. The tech devices to contact the coast guard and alerting the rescue team of your location should have been used before the decision was made to abandon ship. Finally, I recommend a beacon that continually outputs a signal to make it easier for you to be found. Make sure all these devices are fully charged and you have back-up batteries.
SHELTER AND PROTECTION
In case the rescue team can’t get to you immediately, you should also have the means to set up some form of shelter or protection in the meantime. Your ditch bag may include space blankets for you to stay warm and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
When planning for your next open-water adventure, a ditch bag may not seem relevant — especially if your previous boating trips went off without a hitch. Truthfully, you might not even use your ditch bag, and the goal isn’t to use it. A ditch bag is a form of insurance we have and hope we never need to use.
However, packing and bringing it along could spell the difference between life or death if ever tragedy does strike. At least, you can be confident that if anything wrong does happen, you’ll be prepared. If you are anything like me, your ditch bag will grow over time so you have everything you need for fast rescue.
Finally, to help with a fast rescue it is important that you let someone know exactly where you are going and your schedule. Never leave on a boat trip without this first safety measure. Oh, and yeah, make sure you have a life raft!
Is there anything that must be on this list? Share your thoughts below.