I've heard them referred to as ditch bags, overboard bags, abandon-ship bags and grab bags. Whatever you call them, it's that time of year again. Annually, it's my job to complete the ditch bag/safety equipment inspections aboard Nine of Cups. I've blogged about this in the past, but I thought it might be a good reminder if you haven't done it in awhile that this might be a good time to consider doing it. It's one of those things that tends to slip your mind unless you have it on your calendar or pre-passage checklist.
I have a checklist I use and just work methodically down the list. I update it from time to time as we add or delete items from the list. Some checks are easy and take less than a minute … test the EPIRB and check that the decal is current, for instance. Some items, like making sure the spare GPS and VHF are operative, take a little longer since they're stored without batteries. Then there are others that are time-consuming like making sure the manual watermaker works and then re-pickling it. Nonetheless, since our lives might depend upon each and every one of these invaluable items, we inspect them yearly, hoping we'll never have to use them.
This year there were a number of things that needed updating. David got a new passport and our boat docs were renewed. I replaced the old docs with the new and also replaced the US$100 cash we borrowed when heading home to Las Vegas last time. There were several out of date AA batteries and I replaced those with some we'd brought back with us from the States. We must have borrowed and not returned the little screwdriver we pack with the VHF and GPS because it was nowhere to be found. I replaced it with a spare one from the tool drawer (probably the same one that was originally in the ditch bag).
Once the ditch bag inspection was complete and the contents repacked and stowed, I made notes for myself for next year's inspection. More batteries will need changing out next year as will some of the flares. Several of the meds are near their expiration dates, too. I moved on to the safety inspection.
Our inflatable PFDs are in good shape … both canisters showed green and the strobe lights and whistles work.
We added a new strobe light to the horseshoe just recently.
The fire extinguishers (all five of them) were fine except for the one in the cockpit which needed replacing. The others just needed their annual dusting off.
We have two EPIRBs aboard, one in the ditch bag (an older one) and one in a holder by the cockpit ladder, ready to grab in an emergency. I tested it, confirmed we'd put the new decal on it and rechecked the date for battery expiration.
Last, but certainly not least, I took a good look at our Great Circle life raft. It's mounted on the coach roof in a sealed canister, so there's not much to see. I noted, however, that it's due for its 3-year inspection in January 2017, so I put that on my calendar as a reminder.
The entire check took about an hour … well-spent time for safety and peace of mind.
We have an updated checklist available. If you'd like a copy, just drop an email to Gentry and she'll e-mail it to you.