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  Topic Review (Newest First)
05-30-2013 04:45 PM
Re: Ditch bag

Of course there is no one list that works for everyone, nor for every situation equally well. You could be left bobbing in the water with a hull dropping to the bottom in what, 20 seconds? Of course a mortally wounded boat could also linger on the surface for hours first. Then seriously evaluate conditions, the difference between abandoning in calm seas vs. a gale vs. a storm are radically different. Of course very different are also the chances of encountering these coastal cruising vs. offshore cruising.

Let me add another variable. Consider for a moment your boat is sinking, say your instinct is you have 3 minutes, pick the weather. Now the variable I'm adding is someone in your crew (maybe someone you love) has a broken leg, or maybe is unconscious. How many of us have really thought out different, plausible, scenarios like these. Plans of grabbing this or that being nearby and grabbing it will likely never happen. What if you're the one unconscious?

The way I see it, if all plans go to pot, the one thing my crew(family) and I NEED to greatly increase survival is a liferaft. That's #1. So with that in mind, our ocean Winslow is prepackaged with as much survival gear as possible. In the liferaft our job is just to stay alive long enough for someone else to help us. If all we get is ourselves in, we still have everything we need to stay alive, make our presence known, and be visible (water, emergency rations, EPIRB, Flares, smoke, etc.). It also has repair kit, fishing kit, and first aid kit.

When it comes to ditchbags, I almost look at them as a luxury I may be able to grab. If I can, it will increase my resources, but this is still survival mode; not packing for a trip to Gilligan's island. Remove what is not essential. The less you pack, the more buoyant they will remain when you heave it overboard; and the lighter it is the more chances the weakest member of your crew can hurl it into, or near, the liferaft. Don't assume you'll have the luxury of tying your raft so everyone can get supplies and themselves in.

We have two ditchbags, both are in the locker closest to the liferaft, with the thought is that'll be where we are, increasing the chances of grabbing one or both. Both have water, flares, smoke, emergency rations, and glo-sticks. The larger one also has a flashlight, batteries, VHF Radio, sunscreen and a knife. We need to add spare eyeglasses since both of us wear contacts (couple dies at sea, blind f**kers didn’t see the plane approaching, never signaled). That's it. I've heard a lot about having cash or a credit card in the bag. I think it makes sense for offshore boats, and I'd add that item to the bag before getting underway. In fact, why not just keep your wallet there while you're out. If we have the luxury, I'd also grab our first aid kit and binoculars from down below. With two ditchbags, I look at it as I’ve doubled my chances of fishing one out of the water, and could potentially have more supplies.

Another point that needs consideration is how much water, food and flares you need. That is really a calculation of how many souls in your boat multiplied by how many days you could be expect to be at sea before a rescue; again, very different for offshore and coastal cruisers. This was in fact what pushed us into the second ditchbag. Most of the room is really just fresh water (turns out a family of 4 can drink a lot of water in a week). I don’t want to bet everyone’s survival on a little water maker working and not being dropped in when we need it. We have one (packed in the liferaft), as a long term strategy if the freshwater packets run out, not as a primary source of water.

In summary, it is just my opinion that the best chance is to have a prepackaged liferaft. Of course I wouldn’t sail without a properly packed ditchbag onboard, but I won’t forget that there are too many variables to overcome to count on it alone. And the boat leaves with whatever the bag needs already in it.
05-30-2013 03:33 PM
Re: Ditch bag

EPIRB - should have been on the list. Must have missed it during cutting and pasting...
05-30-2013 03:06 PM
Re: Ditch bag

That's a great list, but no ePIRB on your wish list ... Or is it in there somewhere?
05-30-2013 01:48 PM
Re: Ditch bag

Here is what is in our ditch bag (actually two medium sized bags)

Red handheld flares
Orange smoke
Red parachute flares
Swiss army knife
Air pump
Trash bags, black
Wide brim Hats
Bag w/solid bottom
water packs, liter
Water bottles
Ziplock bags
Protein Bars
Swim goggles
Vick's Vapor Rub
Trash bags, white
Duct tape
Toilet paper
Aluminum Foil
Reading glasses
Pencil and notepad
strobe light
Plastic drop cloth
survival rations, 2400kCal
Sewing kit

These are the items to gather and stick in the bags as needs be:

Ship's papers
VHF radio
First aid kit
water, gallons
Cutting board

These are items I'd like to add or at least am considering adding:

Signal Mirror
Raft repair clamps
Dye marker
rescue streamer, 20'
Rescue kite
drinking cup
Thermal protective aid
Fishing kit
Spear gun
Sea anchor/drogue
quality knife
Emergency Navigation by David Burch
Katadyn PUR Survivor R.O. pump
knife sharpener
Waterproof matches
Light sticks
Steel Wire
Electrical wire
05-30-2013 09:37 AM
Re: Ditch bag

Good post. We keep our ditch bag with most of the items before mentioned at the foot of the companionway with the EPIRB above it. We have a fishoing kit in it also. Mmost of our sailing is costal or in the Chesapeake. We also have a few of the high tech foldable blankets in it, hand crank LED small lantern, warmers, and glow sticks for nighttime seeing

Space All-Weather Blanket at
Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern - Free Shipping at
Grabber Mega Warmer - Package of 10 at
Life Gear Eco Light Stick at
05-30-2013 09:02 AM
Re: Ditch bag

I have a can of inedible French muck... I bought it grocery shopping and then did a Google Translate on its label.
Apart from that I have some water.

Everything else is in its normal stowage area as it gets used on a normal day to day basis.

I reckon it would take me 30 seconds to get all I need to chuck in it.

Certainly if I had a spare $500 I would not be shoving it in the ditch bag. I would be buying $500 worth of safety equipment - another epirb or Sat phone.

05-30-2013 07:05 AM
Re: Ditch bag

Due to in port theft concerns I would be leery of having a high limit credit card in the bag, but would go to some lengths to have a hand pump r/o watermaker & Epirb there or packed in the raft.
05-14-2013 10:52 AM
Re: Ditch bag

I don't know what commonly accepted principles are with regards to that, but we put our ditch bag at the foot of our companionway when we were underway. Plus, we had well over $2k worth of gear in it (EPIRB, survival radio, GPS, lots of SOLAS stuff) so having two would have been cost prohibitive for us. We also had a "survival pack" in our liferaft, with most items from there duplicated in the ditch bag. I don't know where I would have staged a second ditch bag on the boat anyway that would have made it both reachable and given us an easy egress. Maybe catamarans or larger vessels change the rules.
05-13-2013 07:20 PM
Re: Ditch bag

shouldn't you have more than one ditch bag for offshore sailing? not including the one in a life raft?
05-13-2013 07:08 PM
Re: Ditch bag

Good suggestions above. I need to remind myself of what's in our ditch bag (the Landfall Nav bag mentioned above, which is VERY well built). One thing we throw into our bag... in addition to keeping a set of good and non-expired SOLAS flares and smokers, we throw all of our expired flares in there too.
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