When sailing offshore—whether cruising, sport fishing or yacht racing—it is the responsibility of the vessel’s owner and captain to ensure the vessel is ready for its intended use. Consider using the following to help you guide your preparations.
Act well in advance
Factors such as distance offshore, water temperature, and distance from assistance all should be considered prior to departure from land. Even if it isn’t necessary for your purposes, it is highly recommended to have a life raft onboard. In addition, keep a fully equipped “abandon ship bag” or “ditch bag” easily accessible. These are watertight buoyant bags or containers that hold your most important emergency equipment. The bag allows for quick evacuation in time of distress and ensures that you have everything needed to improve your chances of rescue and survival.
Train your crew
Training with your crew for abandoning ship is essential. Each person onboard should be able to locate the safety equipment and know how to operate it. If you are forced to abandon ship due to fire or flooding, time may be very short. Abandon ship bags should be located close to the companionway, in the wheel house, saloon, or muster station. Whenever possible, do not store your abandon ship bag in a locker. After completing abandon ship drills with your crew, debrief to discuss the location of equipment, procedures, and ways to improve your routine.
Select or prepare your abandon ship bag
Depending on your vessel and needs, you may choose to purchase a pre-packaged abandon ship bag or create your own. Here are a few examples of what the bag may look like: