A bag of essential items incase of an emergency while on the water, whether you have to leave the boat due to fire or sinking, or stuck on the boat, adrift at sea. This should be on the boat at all times, and stored in a safe spot with easy access to it at all times. The saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” is very fitting when it comes to a ditch bag. Let’s hope you never have to use it, but if so, it is there.
The bag or box itself should be at least water resistant, if not waterproof, and have enough positive buoyancy that when full, will still float. The contents of your ditch bag can vary depending on where you are headed, but here are a few essentials that can be a life saver in time of need, no matter where you are.
Alright, this isn’t something that you can physically stick in your bag, but is huge if you ever need to be rescued. Letting your spouse, family or other trusted source know where you will be heading, with whom, and when you are expected to be back. “If the PLB fails or we are unable to activate it for some reason, my wife (or other trusted source) will know when to call for help and where to direct search and rescue. Never trust technology alone. File a float plan,” said Jeff Weakley, Editor of Florida Sportsman.
2. Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
A personal locator beacon is a GPS enabled unit that sends a signal, using various frequencies, to search and rescue satellites, pin pointing your location. These units are typically small enough to fit in you pocket, easy to use, and often have a strobe light on them as well for increased visibility. When cell phone service is non-existant, a PLB can notify authorities when in need.
3. First Aid Kit
A no brainer for the ditch bag, accidents happen when on the boat. Having the proper supplies when removing a rusty hook, or treating a deep gash can be worth it’s weight in gold when access to medical attention is absent.
4. Handheld VHF
A handheld VHF is a great compliment to a PLB. Just about every VHF made nowadays is waterproof, floats, illuminates at night, and has a great battery life. Some offer NOAA weather monitoring, some units offer digital selective calling (DSC) distress calls, which sends your vessel information and location to authorities with one push of a button.
5. Small Tool Kit
I opt to pack a small tool kit in my ditch bag. I recently had my starting battery go bad, requiring that I remove the flywheel cover from my motor to pull start the motor. While hours from my home waters, in an unfamiliar area, I had these tools to get my motor back up in running, and was able to get back to the boat ramp safely. Sometimes a few turns of a wrench is all it takes to get you back up running and to safety.
These are just a few things that can save your life. Other items to consider keeping in your ditch bag are a fire starter, bug spray, rope, knife, lights, and high protein food. Also remember to keep up with this equipment, make sure everything is charged and working correctly, you can never be too prepared in an emergency!