What to pack in a grab bag
Published on February 27th, 2015
Grab bag, ditch bag, panic bag – whatever you call it, it’s a vital bit of kit to have prepared and ready to take with you in the event of an emergency, be it a serious fire, sinking or medical evacuation.
Whatever your budget, there are some items that you simply must include in your essential grab bag. Obviously, what you have in the bag depends on the type of sailing you’ll be doing and how much you’re willing to spend. For coastal sailing and cross-Channel hops, you’ll need very different contents than if you’re doing a transatlantic passage.
Look in the liferaft
While your liferaft is being serviced, it’s well worth heading down to the service centre while yours is inflated, to take a look and familiarise yourself with both the raft and also its contents. While you’re there, the centre will normally let you put some personal items in the raft’s survival kit – medication or a spare pair of glasses, for instance.
What can you use as a grab bag?
Ideally, you want something that will float and keep the water out. Several are commercially available. Alternatively, a dry-bag of the roll-top variety is a good idea, especially if you keep it around 70% full with a good amount of air-space at the top. Others, like a rigid flare canister, have advantages. Steve Callahan, who spent 76 days adrift, recommends having a 25ft floating line attached, so the bag can float free but stay tethered.
Abandon ship drill
It’s worth putting some thought and training into your abandon ship drill. In the darkness on a sinking yacht it’s easy to get disorientated, so assign each crew member a task – something to grab on their way out of the boat. For instance, assign one person the EPIRB, another the ship’s log, or drinking water, another the flares and grab bags. Include other ‘nice to have’ items if there’s time – things like cushions, money and warm clothes. But the grab bag should contain the minimum to allow you to survive that you can still manage to manhandle in an emergency. Non-essential items can be grabbed if there is time.
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