Safety Equipment for Cruising: Take 1

February 02, 2012 — Portland, OR

Okay. Faced with the imminent prospect of setting sail, I realize that a Horse Shoe buoy, a Life Sling, and a bunch of expired flares don’t quite cut it as safety gear. There’s a bunch of stuff that the prudent mariner would take along for heading off shore. The big question is what gear do you actually need?

West marine has a list of cruising gear that they recommend you have. If I were to buy most of this, I wouldn’t have room to swinng a cat on Pearl. [Ed. Please note that neither the skipper nor crew of Pearl in any way endorse the swinging of cats for recreational or any other purposes, or causing cats or other animals harm.]

My best option, I figured was to approach the problem analytically and then figure it out.

Emergency situations:

  • Abandon ship
  • Hull breach / through hull failure
  • Crew overboard
  • Rigging failure
  • Storm conditions
  • Rudder failure
  • Electrical failure

That being said, however, what does one actually need? The basic list that I have come up with so far follows, in no particular order.

  • EPIRB (with GPS) — this should make you easier to find, hopefully resulting Ina shorter stay on thelife raft.
  • HF SSB radio — connect with HAM radionics nets for info sharing
  • Marine VHF with an AIS receiver — to identify vessel traffic
  • Handheld waterproof marine VHF — to chat with people if your radios are disabled
  • Sea Anchor — stabilizing you boat in a storm, or just keeping her off a lee shore, and generally avoiding the need to deploy the life raft
  • Hull patch/repair kit — this is whole different blog post in itself
  • Life raft (Coastal) — cost optimization based on fast find EPIRB
  • Manual reverse osmosis water maker — if you don’t have water to drink ….
  • Ditch bag — another whole blog post
  • Signalling devices — flares, horns, and bells (per USCG) requirements
  • Tools and spares — another longish blog post
  • Life vests, harnesses, and jack lines
  • Manual Nav gear and spare GPS — more on this as well
  • Spares and bilge water evacuation plan

So here’s my rationale for the list. Firstly, I want to avoid emergencies that prompt me to abandon ship or otherwise merit calling for the coast guard (or other help) if at all possible. To do that, one needs to be able to address problems with one’s boat oneself and have the tools, supplies, and knowledge, the problem oneself.


Pearl has been equiped with the gear listed above. More to come on the individual emergencies and how to either avoid or address them coming soon.

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