Emergency grab bag: what's in yours

If it ever came to abandoning your yacht in a hurry would you be prepared? Would you have ready all you would need to grab and run?

When about to embark on an ocean passage it is essential that you prepare for the possibility of needing to abandon ship and, if Murphy’s Law is right, then the better prepared you are the less likely it will be you will need to put into action any of what you have arranged.

We have an emergency grab bag stocked and ready at all times, stored in a locker in the cockpit for such emergencies.

So far we have never needed to use it but we do check its contents, replenishing as needed any items that have passed their use by dates, checking batteries etc.

In addition we have close by, a water tight satchel that contains all our important documents, passports, birth certificates, boat registration details, thumb drives with photos and other important information stored on them etc. This is stored below decks unless we are travelling, at which time we store it alongside the emergency grab bag.

We have an action plan for if we need to leave in a hurry, though we know that we would only leave if we needed to climb up into our life raft, your yacht will always be the safest vessel on the water unless it is actually sinking.

The bag itself is a heavy duty weather proof bag which seals well. Such items are readily available at most good chandleries.

So what do you put in an emergency grab bag?

Our contents

  • emergency locator beacon (maintain as per manufacturer’s instructions)

  • rocket flares under use-by date

  • first aid items: sea sickness tablets; antiseptic ointment; variety of bandages; steri-strips; thermal blanket; band aids; arm sling

  • fluoro V tarpaulin

  • sponge for soaking up excess water in life-raft

  • mirror for signalling

  • waterproof matches in sealed plastic bag

  • puncture repair kit

  • zinc

  • compass

  • whistle for attracting attention

  • hand fishing reel and line

  • emergency food: we carry muesli bars in coastal waters when rescue will most likely occur within 48 hours.

For ocean crossings you will want to consider carrying more in your grab bag allowing for a longer period drifting before rescue. A prepared and well-stocked grab-bag, stored in a an easily-accessed location will mean that in the eventuality of needing to abandon ship you will be spared the anxiety of trying to think what you might need.

Sue Parry-Jones

Cyclops Marine
JPK August 2023
Race Yachts