Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ditch Bag Manifesto

Any well-prepared cruising boat should have an Abandon-Ship bag at the ready, just in case its crew needs to, you guessed it, abandon ship for any reason. We know that leaving our boat is very unlikely. First, it means that our catamaran, which is built so that it doesn't sink, would have to sink. Second, even if it does flip upside down, leaving one's boat for the life raft should always be a last ditch decision as it's much easier to be spotted by a rescue boat or aircraft if you are with your boat due to its relative size.

Notwithstanding all of that, IF we were to ditch our boat and head into the life raft, we are prepared to be out there, as uncomfortable as it may be.

In preparing our Ditch Bags, we realized that with four people, we had to split its contents into two bags. One of them is the 'priority' bag with the more important items. And because the bags don't float, we've wrapped them in life jackets, and enclosed all its contents into waterproof ziplocked bags. The bags are kept at our navigation station inside the cabin whenever we are underway so that they can be easily grabbed on our way out the door, so to speak.

In addition to these bags, we have reviewed other items that we need to take: Two EPIRBs (Emergency Personal Identification Rescue Beacons, which send off a signal to the coast guard), our sheath knife and leatherman tool, water bottles, spear gun, and of course life jackets (which should be worn at that stage).

After much research, here are the contents of our Ditch Bags:

Green dye marker
Satellite Phone (recharged the 1st of every month)
VHF radios (fully charged at the start of every passage)
Extra batteries for all electronics
Waterproof flashlight
Head lamp
Various tupperware containers
Various ziplock bags, plastic bags
Rain ponchos x4
Baseball hats x4
Wool hats x2
Toilet paper
Sanitary napkins, tampons
Plastic wrap (1 roll)
Tin foil
Sponges x2
Pocket Knife
Strong tape (duct tape)
Waterproof matches
Wooden stick
Safety pins
Emergency blankets (foil) x4
Notepads and pens/pencils
Game book
Deck of cards
"Adrift" (book about being lost at see for 76 days)
Passport copies
$100 Cash
Immunization records
Credit Card
Diver DAN emergency numbers

Fishing equipment:
50 lb monofilament line
2 weights, 2 lures, 1 floaty
10 lb test line

12 power bars
4 cans sardines
1 gallon water

First aid:
Sunscreen 45 SPF
Staff infection antibiotic
Triangle slingband
SAM splint
dry skin lotion
tensor bandage
bandage tape
Burn cream
alcohol swabs
blistex lip treatment
zinc oxide
antiseptic wash
artificial tears eye drops
non-stick first aid pads
sting meds: lanacaine, claritin
Pain meds: vicodin, tylenol with codeine
seasickness meds: dramamine, meclizine, scopalomine

Have we missed anything? Other items recommended by the author of Adrift, who was stuck in his liferaft for 76 days before being found thousands of miles later: rudder, closed cell foam cushion, and sail fabric.

It would be difficult to carry enough fresh water onto a life raft as it is heavy and cumbersome. We have practiced creating a solar still to make fresh water from salt water using the tupperware container, plastic wrap, and a weight. Harrison blogged about this last year.

Some might find it curious that we've included things like pad and pencils, deck of cards, and a game book. Apparently the biggest issue in surviving life in a life raft after getting fresh water is one's mental state. We'll take care of that one by having a games tournament. Our friend Sarah of Stepping Stone even added fashion magazines to her bag.

We certainly don't intend to spend very long in a life raft, especially given all the chances we've given ourselves to make sure that help is on the way as soon as possible (two EPIRBs and a satellite phone). Nonetheless, it sure gives us a lot more comfort knowing that we are prepared.

-Barb, comfortably on board Whatcha Gonna Do
Day 3 passage Vanuatu to Chesterfield Reef
18 degrees 59.217 minutes South
162 degrees 00.297 minutes East
At 11/2/2011 10:03 (utc) our position was 18°50.66'S 162°44.11'E

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  1. Is there any room left on the life boat once the bag is on it? OMG. This blog didn't give me any comfort at all. Please have Danielle and Harrison post about birds and dinners and other FUN stuff!
    Miss you all.

  2. You really are able to filt all this into 2 ditch bags? What about a pottie, or do you just feed the fish?