Just what do you pack into an overboard bag.
Attending a RYA sea survival course will give you the best ideas about the things you will need.
wants to find themselves in a situation where they need
their grab bag, however, it is an ESSENTIAL part of your
emergency equipment - so just what goes in? We look
at the answers.
Of course, depending upon the type of sailing you are doing, a few different items might be included / excluded. Before packing / re-packing your grab bag have a look inside your life raft the next time it's serviced. Most life raft service stations will allow you to put in a few personal items, medications (take note of expiry dates) , spare glasses etc. So now that you have familiarized yourself with whats in the raft you can set to putting the grab bag together. For the purpose of this page we have assumed that you are undertaking an ocean passage.
Just how often should you re-evaluate and check your grab bag? If you have just completed an ocean passage, then once you've settled is a good time. Replace any food items, check the dates of medications, above all check that it has not suffered any water ingress during the passage or damage. If you are coastal hopping, then once every 4-6 months should be sufficient.
NAV& COMMS / WATER & WATER MAKER / MEDICATION & FIRST AID / FOIL BLANKETS & CLOTHING / FLARES / TORCH / KNIFE / FISHING KIT / FOOD / REPAIR KIT / EPIRB & PLB's / SATELITE PHONE / PERSONAL ITEMS & MORAL BOOSTERS /
NOTE: Try to ensure that all electronic
items run off the same batteries, making life easier both
for packing your bag, and should the worse happen trying to
discern which batteries are for what, when you are cold, wet
Absolutely essential. Even though it’s heavy and takes up lots of space, don’t skimp on water. Most liferaft survival packs contain at least some water in pouches, but take enough for your full crew for at least a day. A hand held water maker is something to really think about, though they are not cheap they could possibly be a life saver. The best of the market is a Katadyn Desalinator. Ensure that either in your life raft or grab bag there is a square of plastic sufficient for catching water, also some type of non-spill sealable bag.
Note: Attend an RYA, St Johns or Red Cross
first aid course.
Most people will get
seasick in a life raft. The first moment you have,
take a seasickness pill, even if you think you don't need
it. Ensure that you have packed all essential
medications both into your life raft and your
grab bag. There is an abundance of ready made kits on the
market, they are a good starting point, but perhaps a few
other items should also be added. Good quality
dressings should be included, or replace dressings
supplied in a ready-made first aid kit. What is in a basic
ready-made kit? For this purpose we have used a St
|Aeroplast Fabric Dressing Strip||1|
|Aeroplast Plastic Plasters||2|
|Antiseptic Wipes, Alcohol Free||10|
|Combine Dressing 200mm x 200mm||2|
|Combine Dressing 200mm x 90mm||2|
|Dressing (Sterile) - 75mm x 100mm||2|
|Eye Pad 60mm x 75mm||2|
|Gauze Swabs 75mm x 75mm, Packet of 2||10|
|Nitrile Gloves, Disposable, Pack of 12 Pairs||9|
|Retention Bandage, Gauze 80mm x 4M||2|
|Saline Solution 30ml||12|
|Splinter Tweezers, Stainless Steel 8cm||1|
|St John First Aid Tips Guide||1|
|Sterile Dressing 75mm x 50mm||2|
|Tape, Transparent 25mm x 5M||1|
|Triangular Bandage 110cm x 110cm||2|
It is worth mentioning at this point what you should do in an extreme first aid situation. After much research we found the Israeli Multi Bandage. These dressings are for major trauma, however can be applied with one hand, thus ideal for short handed crews. These bandages have been adopted by military and civilian organizations worldwide, and could very well save a life. Click here to buy.
They are not
expensive, and serve more than one purpose (water
collection etc...). Think about any clothing that you have
in your grab bag. No doubt you will be wet through
after entering your life raft, therefore, dry trousers,
dry long sleeved top and outer layer are essential.
A hat to keep in what heat you have, socks and
gloves. It may seem like a lot, but clothing can be
squashed down and put into waterproof bags to minimize
You should have a separate flare box
to hand, but it’s worth placing a few hand flares in the
grab bag as well, just in case. Laser flares are
becoming a must have item. Not only can they be
slipped into a grab bag, taking up
virtually no room, but can also be attached to life
jackets. Battery-powered, they’re long-lasting and much
less risky to deploy than their pyrotechnc cousins.
waterproof torch is very important. Don't forget
Most liferafts will
come with a knife included, but think about taking
another. Try not to go for a sheathed knife (as
accidents do happen), buy a safety knife.
Fishing line and
lures, you will also be grateful that you packed those
There should be a
repair kit in your raft, but if possible pack a few
extras. Cable ties are a good all round solution to
many problems, along with some good quality duct tape.
If you have managed to grab a few bits of
food on your way out, fantastic. If not you are stuck
with what ever fish you catch and what is in your grab
bag. Most life rafts will have a few high energy bars
included (if you have ever tried to eat one of these you
might want to take your own choice, they are not called
emergency rations for nothing!). There is a lot
of choice, amazon carries a very good selection.
There is a great choice of Emergency
Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal
Location Beacons (PLBs) available now. A GPS-enabled 406MHz
EPIRB is best, and should be grabbed as you ready to get
into the life raft. PLB's should be attached to life
Sat phones have, along with their
terrestrial cousins come a long way in recent years.
It is no longer the preserve of the rich to own one.
True, you will need to activate a calling card, but put
against the cost of human life this is not a serious
consideration. An industry leader is the Iridium
9575, here are just a few reasons for buying one:
- Using Iridium's global satellite network, the
Extreme 9575 allows you to make and receive phone
calls anywhere in the world. The phone offers an
integrated speakerphone and hands-free capability
through a headset.
- The Iridium 9575 Extreme is SMS and email enabled, allowing you to stay in touch and share experiences with others anywhere in the world. SMS and email messaging is limited to 160 characters and delivery/receipt is dependent on compatibility with local mobile network carriers
- Programmable emergency button that activates critical, rapid response when you need it most. It is the only satellite phone currently available with emergency services supported by GEOS International Emergency Response Coordinating Centre included at no additional cost.
- With a ruggedized IP65 rating, the highest of any satellite phone currently available, the Iridium Extreme 9575 is designed to withstand the harshest weather conditions. It is jet water resistant, shock resistant, dust proof and has a rugged antenna for unparalleled durability.
So now we get onto
personal items. Yes you might want to place your house
and car keys in the grab bag - but of far more importance
are your ships paper, crew passports and details of any
medical / boat insurance. Maybe think about putting in
a spare pair of eye glasses if needed.
You might want to include a morale booster
or two. A pack of cards sounds nice, if you can manage
to put your thoughts to playing you might want to consider a
waterproof pack! A waterproof pencil and corresponding
paper/plastic is a great idea, not only for jotting things
down, but perhaps for navigation.
Finally you might want some way of making yourself show up on ships’ radars. Many liferafts include inflatable radar reflectors. Recently, AIS-based personal rescue devices have been introduced and these are the best way to alert nearby rescuers.