What to pack in case of a boating emergency
A ditch kit is something we put together and hope we never need to use, at least not to its full extent.
In our kit we have a red, nylon life jacket bag with a couple of spare life jackets in it. Next we have a laundry list of items: flares, a whistle, a portable air horn, water bottles, a handheld VHF with spare batteries, a waterproof flash light, a handheld GPS, a spare pair of prescription glasses (for a seeing-impaired captain), and a floating survival knife.
The ditch bag is something we pull out of the hanging locker when we make a long crossing or if we get caught in rougher water than planned. After seeing other boaters’ kits, I’m thinking about updating ours by switching to a kayak dry bag or floating case and having a lanyard attached to the handles to clip in the tender so we won’t lose the kit if we capsize. Adding a personal locator beacon or EPIRB is on the list, too.
Going through the kit at least once a year is important. We discovered that the batteries in our handheld GPS had leaked and corroded in the battery compartment. The kit also came in handy when the U.S. Coast Guard boarded our boat. The flares were in our kit, so we didn’t need to search for them.
Consider building a ditch kit, and remember to get a vessel safety check.