The Ditch Kit should contain items that allow survival from the moment the raft is jettisoned to potentially a period of several months.
Calculated in minutes and hours, deal with injuries sustained during abandon-ship procedures, hypothermia, and the ability to keep the raft afloat.
Signaling devices can be useful immediately or long-term; they represent the capacity to signal one’s presence to potential rescuers.
Calculated over a few days, depends on the ability to collect water.
Measured in days to months, is based on the potential to gather food.
Ditch Bag Contents
A. Short-Term Survival (Minutes to Hours)
1) Thermal protective aids such as space blankets or survival bags that consist of compact aluminiumised sheets of heat-reflective material shaped into a suit or a mummy-bag.
2) Chemical heat packs, either four six-hour units or two 20-hour units per crew, to warm crew
3) Self-inflating foam pad or air mattress, especially if the raft has no insulated double floor, for cushioning and added insulation
4) Wool and rubber work gloves and watch cap
5) Minimal first-aid kit including instruction manual, sterile bandages, sutures, seasickness medication (tablets, suppositories, or injectable), pain killers, aspirin for heart attacks, surgeon’s tape, antibiotics, enema sack for rehydration, sun screen, burn cream, petroleum jelly (also for lubricating metal), and inflatable splints.
6) Repair kit with small tubes of silicon seal that cures under water or similar “good goop.”
For inflatables, include a spare air pump, clamps (assorted sizes of cymbal type), heavy needles and sail twine, spare canopy and raft material, and glue patches. For rigid dinghies, include underwater epoxy and glass
and fabric for making and repairing the canopy 200 feet of 3/16-inch line and 100 feet of 1/4-inch line, duct tape, spare line for lashings, securing items, and improvising.
7) Tools: sheath knife, multitool or Swiss Army knife, several flat blades, file, sharpening stone, tube of oil.
8) Two 1/8 X 8 X 12-inch marine-plywood cutting boards to protect the raft floor from puncture
9) Two sponges
10) Plastic sacks and ties
11) Lights: small diving flashlights, chemical light sticks
12) Reflective tape attached to the outside of raft
B. Short to Medium-Term Survival (Hours to Days)
1) Secondary EPIRB
2) Waterproof handheld VHF
3) Six SOLAS-approved parachute flares or 12 non-SOLAS parachutes, three handheld red flares, and two orange smoke flares.
Metal flare guns may be prone to rust, so carry oil
4) Signaling mirror
5) Navigation kit: survival manual, pencils, pads of paper, waterproofed pilot chart for the ocean travelled, compass, waterproof watch, plastic protractor
6) Parafoil signalling kite that’s compact and light and may be flown in moderate winds, providing some propulsion and extending visibility, even at night
(e.g., the Sky-Alert Rescue Kite by Davis Instruments, 510-732-9229)
7) Backup improved Icelandic-style sea anchor (many models are available) that’s a tapered cone with mesh or straps around bridle to prevent fouling, with a strong swivel and rode
C. Medium-Term Survival (Days to Weeks)
1) Reverse-osmosis watermaker equivalent to Survivor 06 (Survivor 35 is preferred for a crew of six or more)
2) Water in pouches or cans; 16 ounces per person for immediate use
3) Transparent biking bottle with secure cap to help rationing
4) Other bags and plastic sheets for water collection
5) Siphon/enema tubing to transfer water between containers or help survivors absorb water rectally
6) Dried fruit and chocolate
D. Long-Term Survival (Weeks to Months)
1) Survival ship’s biscuits
2) Multiple vitamins
3) Fishing kit: small trident and handle, large gaff or Hawaiian sling, 200 feet of 50-pound test (natural cod line shrinks as it dries, good for small lashings), 20 feet of heavy-wire leader, hooks from trout-size to 4-inch, various jigs and lures, sinkers
4) Small plankton net or stockings with stiff metal ring to keep waist open to troll at night (you may be able to live off plankton, but beware of jellyfish)
1) Photocopies of all essential crew documents, including passports and boat documentation to aid you when reaching land. (It’s advisable to file additional copies ashore along with a list of safety equipment and a float plan.)
2) Shore survival items in case you land in an uninhabited area: waterproof matches, flint, wire saw.