“Ditch Bag” Basics Every Boater Should Know

“Abandon Ship!” For most of us, those words seem like a silly line from an old movie. Indeed, as a boater, you may not ever need to ditch your ship and jump overboard. But emergencies do happen. And it’s important to be prepared in case they do.

That’s where your ditch bag (aka: ditch kit; abandon ship bag) comes in.

Here are 8 ways to ensure your ditch bag serves its purpose:

  1. Stock your ditch bag with the right contents. Some key items include an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB); Personal Locator Beacons (PLB); a waterproof emergency VHF; emergency lights; and a waterproof handheld GPS. This is a partial list only; most ditch bag manufacturers provide a full list of essential items.
  2. Always have your ditch bag onboard—whether you’re planning a long sea journey or a few hours of fun on a lake. As you well know, winds and currents can be unpredictable. Never assume you—and everyone else on your boat—will be able to make it safely ashore.
  3. Keep your ditch bag visible—and in the same location for every trip. Make sure your bag is in a place where you can grab it quickly as you evacuate the boat (like near the helm). Make sure every person on the boat knows where the bag is located.
  4. Make sure your ditch bag can float and that it can remain buoyant with the weight of its contents.
  5. Attach a strong lanyard to the bag. Because you’ll likely need to use both hands during your evacuation, it’s important to secure yourself to the ditch bag before you exit.
  6. Attach lanyards to the contents of the bag. To make sure your emergency items don’t float away, connect each item to the bag with an individual lanyard.
  7. Equip your ditch bag with a passive signaling device, just in case you become separated from it in the water.
  8. Make sure all battery-powered ditch bag items are equipped with working batteries.

In the event of an onboard (or non-evacuation type) emergency, your ditch bag will serve as a convenient storage place for many of the safety items you may need. In addition to the contents of your ditch bag, however, you should always have other precautionary items—like paper charts and PFDs—on board as well.

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