The first time we went offshore, we had no clue what we were doing, now with many years of experience, trial, and error, this is a list of must-haves to be safer offshore.
Type 1 Life Jackets
Inflatables are common and can be purchased online or in most marine stores. These types of PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices) help keep your head out of the water better than other types of life jackets. We make sure to put them on ANY time the conditions and circumstances make us feel unsettled.
Foul Weather Gear
When we let go of the dock lines we knew we were going to be in warmer weather for a long time but we went ahead and got our foul gear and I can tell you that had we not we would have been COLD during some points of our journey, We are very happy with these Foulies as they are very comfortable to be in, we were able to sleep in them very comfortably.
These are lines that go from forward to aft so that if you have to leave the helm and move around the vessel you can attach yourself to them.
A lot of people do not carry a life raft on their vessel when they go offshore. Listen it can get messy out there quickly and boats and anything can happen. Do yourself a favor and get one on your vessel before you go offshore they are not that expensive IF you ever need it.
Satellite Communication Device
For myself and being the Captain of my vessel, this is a must. You don’t have to have an Iridium Go, there are other less expensive options available that can transmit your location, send a signal for help and allow you to text that you are ok if for some reason you are held up past your float plan. We have Iridium Go but our Spot has been our go to and we LOVE it.
Handheld VHF Radio
This was important for me to have as you could be a small life raft in the ocean and may not easily be seen, you can transmit your location with it (redundancy) and you can communicate with anyone who is trying to help you out of the bad situation.
There are many types but I only carry one on board (here’s my EPIRB) as I have other devices that transmit also. At this point I have 3 different devices that can transmit my location (remember redundancy) .
1. A boat version that will automatically trigger a hydrostatic release if the boat goes down. Ours is right by the companionway so it can easily be grabbed.
2. A personal 406mghrtz that I keep in my ditch bag in case the boat version does not go off properly.
I have never used these at this point but I do keep them on board just in case. These are becoming harder and harder to find.
I have learned to trust electronic charts and we use them extensively, along with EVERYTHING else you have with you to safely navigate. Again I have two different apps for redundancy and we often check both in “skinny water”
Here’s what is in my ditch bag:
- MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) – but Meal Bars or Trail Mix will help*
- Light Sticks
- Handheld areal flares (for night)
- Handheld smoke flares (for day)
- Signal Mirror
- Distress Flag
- Canister of water dye
- Floating Flash Light
- Mini First Aid kit, not to replace the ship’s kit, which should be bigger.
- Bottled Water
- Safety knife with a rounded tip
- Bottle with critical medications*
- VHF Handheld radio*
*Some of these items we have practiced grabbing and putting in the ditch bag if there is an emergency. They aren’t always in the ditch bag.
All of the above assumes that you have all the customary safety gear, which should be on any boat. Going offshore is a serious endeavor and should not be taken lightly, do research and remember the above list is what I packed in my ditch bag. You are responsible for making your own list and decisions on what is best for you.