A ditch bag is a bag that you grab as you ditch your ship. This bag is supposed to contain important items that are crucial to your survival and recovery. The time to collect all of these important items is not when your boat is sinking and panic is setting in. The idea of a ditch bag is it offers you a place to store all of your important items in an easy to grab bag that can be set aside and ready to be taken with you in the event of an emergency.
A ditch bag is a great place to store your coast guard required equipment for two reasons.
- If you get boarded by the Coast Guard or Marine Police and they ask for you to present your flares, horn, whistle, etc., that is not the time to begin searching your boat for the place you stored them.
- If you need to jump ship, having everything in one bag makes it easy to grab and go, without the risk of forgetting something important.
If you have to look around for a while to find your flares, the boarding party sometimes will give you a citation because "taking too long to find it means you couldn't find it in an emergency". Secondly, if you are jumping ship, you don't want to be searching around the boat to find everything you need as the yacht is sinking.
Having everything in one bag stowed in a safe and secure location will make it easy to retrieve all of your needed items in the event of an emergency and also make you look prepared in the event of a boarding. If you look prepared, the boarding officials tend to be less particular when going through your vessel. Why search the heck out of an orderly and organized boat? They can see that everything is as it should be. The sailboat that looks like a disaster needs a more investigative eye to make sure that the captain can manage the chaos in a safe manner.
On Wisdom, we keep our ditch bag stocked with the basics while in port.
- Flare gun
- Un-expired flares
- Electronic flare (flare substitute)
- Daytime distress signal (distress flag)
- Noise device (whistle and air horn)
- Floating smoke
When we are leaving port, we always add 2 liters of water in plastic bottles to the bag. Instead of carrying a water maker, we simply carry 1L of water per person on board. This will provide us enough water for 1 day in the life raft which is in accordance with the average recovery time of near shore rescues.
If we were sailing further offshore, we would stock the ditch bag with more water bottles since the recovery times are a bit longer when we are farther from land.
The ditch bag is stored with the life raft in Wisdom, being how if you need one, you also need the other. It is stowed safely and hopefully will only be used to organize our emergency supplies.