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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. This is the kit included inside an average ISO 9650 liferaft – drogue, foil blankets, sponges, paddles, flares, torches, throwing line, knife, seasickness pills, whistle, repair patches, pump, drinking water, torch, bailer and signalling kit. 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.
Most people have their separate flare box to hand ready to take with them into the liferaft, but it’s worth placing a few hand flares in the grab bag as well, in case you’re separated from the flare pack.
Even if you’re not prone to seasickness while sailing, chances are you will be as soon as you spend any time in a liferaft – they are notoriously vomit-inducing. Pack a spare pair of specs so you can understand the instructions on the flares – you run the risk of losing your usual pair en route to the liferaft. A handheld GPS will let you communicate your position accurately to a potential rescuer, as well as work out your drift rate.
Most liferafts will come with a knife included – but there can be no harm in taking another. They’re not cheap, but as a non-flammable way of gaining a rescuer’s attention laser flares could be ideal. There are many Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) available, and these are your failsafe, best bet for a quick rescue wherever you are in the world. Long-distance cruisers may well already have one of these – it’s not worth buying just to leave in the grab bag, but you should add it to your ‘grab’ list when taking to the raft.
If you want to ensure you won’t be without water, a handheld and manually-operated watermaker will let you make drinking water from seawater. Fishing line, lures and a gaff to land fish might be essential hundreds of miles offshore, but for UK waters it’s almost certainly unnecessary – unless you want to pass the time waiting to be rescued.
The repair kits found inside liferafts are often laughable, with glue that needs 24 hours in dry conditions in order to cure. This intrepid couple spent 117 days in a liferaft and Avon dinghy after a whale sank their yacht in the Pacific.
The six-strong Roberston family survived for 38 days in the 1950s after whales sank their yacht.
More than 7,000 visitors flocked to Beaulieu Boatjumble yesterday and left the Hampshire country estate laden with bargains.


Use the free weather tool for sailors offering real-time high resolution data in a six day forecast.
A few of the tools include a multi-function shovel, battery jumper cables, tire puncture seal and a reflective vest.
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.
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. 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.
Abandoning ship is bad enough – you won’t want the stress of arriving somewhere without documentation.
Keep yours in the grab bag, along with a set of spare batteries – you can always take it out of the bag for routine use if you need it approaching a harbour. Seasickness tablets are a must, as well as any other medication you need on a regular basis, such as an asthma inhaler or migraine pain relief drugs.
A toothbrush and paste might help you feel better, as might a small pack-towel to dry off with. Battery-powered, they’re long-lasting and much less risky to deploy than their pyrotechnic cousins. A GPS-enabled 406MHz EPIRB is the top of the range – choose a floating one – but a PLB will suffice, especially in coastal waters.
Consider packing a selection of Jubilee clips, some duct tape and a repair clamp such as the Barton Clamseal. They salvaged some tins of food, a small oil burner, a chart, sextant and compass, rubber and glue to patch the dinghy, water containers, knives, plastic mugs and passports before their boat sank. UK, publisher of Practical Boat Owner and other iconic brands about its goods and services, and those of its carefully selected third parties. For coastal sailing and cross-Channel hops, you’ll need very different contents than if you’re doing a transatlantic passage. 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. For instance, assign one person the EPIRB, another the ship’s log, or drinking water, another the flares and grab bags.
Most liferaft survival packs contain at least some water in pouches, but take enough for your full crew for at least a day.
At the other end is a SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) which will introduce a big echo onto nearby radar screens.
You may not need these for coastal sailing where quick rescue is likely, but further offshore they could be invaluable. He took water, food, flares, a spear gun and sleeping bag, and his raft contained a Solar Still to collect fresh water.


They grabbed some fresh fruit, onions, a tin of biscuits, a sail, oars, empty boxes, petrol, a sewing kit, and a first aid kit.
Include other ‘nice to have’ items if there’s time – things like cushions, money and warm clothes. Make sure it’s correctly registered, though, or emergency services might waste valuable time trying to track your details down. Steve Callahan, who spent 76 days adrift, recommends having a 25ft floating line attached, so the bag can float free but stay tethered.
But the grab bag should contain the minimum to allow you to survive that you can still manage to manhandle in an emergency. Add a few items such as Neosporin, Hydrocortisone, Aspirin to make your perfect, small first aid kit to go. The best wilderness first aid kits are ones where the contents, your experience and the likely risks are in sync.
There are some general skills that everyone should learn such as basic life support (even if you are travelling no further than the office) but you shouldn’t neglect to undertake a risk-assessment for where you are going and use this information to improve your preparation. I hope this article will give you the basis to think about what’s already in your personal first aid kit as well as what else you might like to include. These military dressings are very absorbent and much better than cheap pharmacy-bought dressings. Small bandage: I find these cheap, small bandages useful for cutting to size to dress a cut or burn, particularly on fingers. Alongside are other items - large bandanna, water bottle, and malleable splint - useful for outdoor first aid.
The Israeli bandage and the Oles dressing are both pressure dressings and yes once applied can be left on within reason.
I would recommend anyone wishing to use specialist medical equipment to seek out professional training before use. Regards AdrianReply robinAdrian, 30 years ago, when I was is the military we removed and replied tourniquets. Now as a member of the ambulance service we are taught and teach that it is to be left in place as we look at life over limb.Reply robinAdrian, public forum is probably not best place for this discussion and will only confuse readers.
There is some risk that some people may use the knowledge imparted as a replacement for proper training. Also, if folk can recognise Plantain it is good at treating them too (I’ve used it on my youngest).



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