A grab bag is a collection of essential items that can last you several days in case you experience a threat to your life, such as a sinking yacht. There are so many things that can happen when one is sailing through the open waves that’s it’s difficult to plan for every emergency you can think of. The weather and nature are very unpredictable. One moment it may be sunny and the next thing you know, the storm is already fast approaching. Low visibility can easily lead to an accident and thus it is essential to be prepared.
Weather is not the only threat to a sinking yacht; engine problems can also cause you to abandon your sailing, a faulty rudder or even a demasting. When not checked and maintained regularly, one may encounter technical issued with the ship when on board. An engine is a multitude of complex moving parts surrounded by water and the whole engine can stop therefore leaving the boat in the middle of the ocean. These issues may not only cause your yacht to stop sailing, but when overheated, it may also cause a fire.
If any of these two instances happen, you need to abandon the vessel and search for safety immediately.
Also, although it may only happen sometimes, there are still instances where accidents happen while sailing. One may be seriously injured due to an accident, and it is best that you have the necessary materials needed for the injury especially that you are far from the city and hospitals. A grab bag will not only have the things required for the exit, but it will also have a medical kit in case of an injury. Being stranded isn’t any fun as several sailors can attest to.
The basics of a grab bag should have five categories of items: (a) essential survival equipment; (b) rescue items; (c) navigation aids; (d) food and water; and (e) first aid and medicine.
Abandoning a yacht, should it be necessary is no one’s desire but knowing that your emergency grab bag is fully stocked will give you the comfort of safety in case anything happened in the ocean or the sea. Before sailing off into the deep sea, or large lake make sure you squeeze your budget and have a grab bag with you. Emergencies such as severe yacht fires, yacht sinking or even medical evacuation may occur, and your only saviour is the emergency bag. A grab bag for transatlantic sailing will be different from a coastal sailing regarding its contents and the money should be spent accordingly.
The grab bag should be placed in an easy-to-grab position for all crew members on board the yacht. Make sure that each member knows very well where it is located. During times of panic, people usually grab whatever they see and run for their safety. Also, each member should be briefed about its content and where it is stored. This will be helpful after the evacuation. There is no value in letting someone obtaining a bag which they don’t know how to use. It is essential that the grab bag should be the first thing to be picked in case of a yacht abandon due to a fire outbreak or sinking. This spares you the panic of thinking what you need in order to save your life, together with your family’s.
It is also essential to your grab bag well maintained. Once in a year check if your grab bag is still in order if it has not been used. Confirm that the velcro and the zips are working and it does not have holes. After that, also keep the items inside it well maintained. Check all the powered devices such as the GPS and ensure they are working and that their spare batteries are fully charged.
It is usually recommended to have two grab bags: one for equipment and the other for food and drinks. These two are considered essential items which will increase your survival rate on the water before being rescued.
Emergency Equipment List for the Grab Bag
• Radio/phone: a handheld VHF radio is essential in communicating with the rescue team. It should always be charged and have a backup battery for it. Additionally, you can pack a spare phone with pre-saved contacts for friends, insurance company, and family members. A phone charger is also an excellent accompaniment for this equipment, or it is best to always carry a power bank with you. Since there may be no electricity while on water, the power bank will undoubtedly be of great help. Make sure you have a sealed container for these items like plastic or Ziploc. Once submerged in water, these items may no longer work.
Depending on the distance you will be from shore, please consider a sat phone once out of range of normal VHF service or cellphone coverage. This is an anywhere in the world call for help, and should you need it, you’ll be glad you had it. If you are only sailing up to 10 miles off shore, in familiar waters and with other vessels around continually it becomes less necessary
• Personal effects: in case you want to sail in foreign waters, ensure you pack your credit card, wallet, passport, car/house keys in the bag pack before setting off. Arriving somewhere after abandoning your ship without any documentation is very stressful. For safety reasons, authorities should be able to identify the victims before they could offer assistance. Also, having extra money with you will be helpful for your survival. You can buy food once you get on dry land or purchase other necessary stuff. Extra pairs of glasses if anyone needs prescription vision.
• Flares: flares last for approximately 30 seconds. Most life rafts contain beacons, but it is also a good idea to have some handheld flares in your grab bag. Once you jump out of the yacht, you may no longer have access to the materials in it that is why you should have everything you need inside your grab bag with you.
• GPS: a handheld navigation tool is a powerful gadget since it precisely points your location even if you are in the deep sea. It is also helpful in estimating the drift rate. It should be packed with some spare batteries in case it runs out. A hand-held compass, as well as a waterproof chart, might be helpful. This way, you will have an idea where you are and where you need to go to seek for help.
• Blankets: include a foil blanket in your emergency grab bag to keep cold people warm and prevent them from getting hypothermia. Several pairs of hats and gloves depending on the number of crew in your yacht will also keep you warm. Water can make you cold especially at night, having a blanket will ensure warmth and will prevent any serious health problems that may arise.
• EPIRB: An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination centre. An ESSENTIAL piece of equipment on any sail.
• Medication: in case of an emergency and you find yourself in a life raft, the chances of getting seasickness are very high. It is therefore recommended to visit a physician and ask him to prescribe medication for at least thirty days. This may include medicines for the first sickness such as for a headache, cold and the likes. And if one has special medical needs, it is best to bring more than enough supply of medicines with you. Asthmatic persons should carry several packs of their medication, migraine pain relief drugs, or inhalers in the grab bag. This kit should have the basics of treating any injury such as bandages, betadine, gloves and other necessary things needed to address any harm.
• First aid kit: a fully stocked first aid kit should be the first item to be packed in the grab bag. A fully stocked first aid kit has necessary things like arm sling, band-aids, thermal blanket, steri-strips, a variety of bandages, and antiseptic ointments. Also, add some insect repellants, vitamins, painkillers, and sunscreens.
• Knife: a vessel or liferaft should mostly have a knife, but it is advisable to carry along another one. It should be sheathed to avoid punching any liferaft. This knife will be a lifesaver. It can help you defend yourself and will also be a great help in other instances like having to remove or open something.
• Signalling whistle and mirror: these are used to signal rescuers at a distance. Usually, rescuers will look for these signals to make the search rescue faster. Part of signalling is being able to see help, so consider a pair of binoculars.
• Plastic sheets: they act as shade during the day and protect the crew members from rain, as it can serve as a catchment. Like blankets, this is also very helpful to keep body temperature at a reasonable level and avoid people getting sick.
• Stationery: include items like pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and a handheld notebook to make notes of the emergency.
The other emergency grab bag should contain the following:
• Can opener – this may not look like a necessary item, but it will be helpful during an emergency, mainly if your stocked food contains any canned items. Although the knife can be used as an alternative can opener, this item is more convenient and less harmful compared to a knife.
• Sharp knife – a second sharp knife will be very helpful in a lot of ways. Like in cutting ropes, clothes or other things. It can also be used to open a lot of things like plastics and cans. Lastly, you can use to slice food for survival.
• A packet of glucose – this is very important for survival as it helps in the creation of body energy needed by the body. Glucose will be a help to maintain the shape to be active.
• A spoon for each of the crew member – a spoon has more benefits than one can imagine. It has more uses than for eating. It can be used to open a can just in case an opener or a knife is not available. It can also be used to get small things inside a small opening.
• Tinned food: a variety of tinned food should be considered to ensure the crew eats a balanced diet. Each member should be able to maintain the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for the body to function well. The minimal requirements are laid down as follows:
• Vegetables: they include tin sweetcorn or peas – one tin should serve at least four people. Plants are usually packed as liquids, and thus they can supplement water. Other plants can also be included for more vitamins needed for survival.
• High Proteins: they include, baked beans, tinned viennas, tinned chicken, tinned tuna, tinned meat, picnic ham, or corned meat – one tin should serve at least four people. Proteins are essential for the muscle which is also very important for one’s survival. When on an emergency exit from a yacht, one should be as healthy as possible to be able to carry all necessary items and to be able to swim their way through the raft.
• Glucose: they include tin peaches or cream. They are stored as syrups, and they can be consumed whole or added to water if available. One tin should serve four people. As mentioned, glucose is needed for the creation of energy in the body.
• Drinking water: pack along the other items of two bottles of 5-litre water to ensure you stay hydrated. Sure, one may think that there will be enough water in the ocean, but this is usually salted water and is not healthy for drinking. It is safest to have clean and potable water during an evacuation.
These are the necessary things one should have in their grab terrible in case of emergencies while on water. It is always better to be safe and prepared rather than be sorry in the end. Other people may feel like they should have more items in their grab bag but always remember that you only need to bring what is necessary and what is essential. You do not want to burden yourself with a hefty grab bag during emergencies. The lighter the grab bag is, the better so you are still able to move around conveniently while carrying your grab bag.
Here’s a good little video that explains a great deal and you do well to listen to the advice