A grab bag is an easily accessible and transportable bag to aid survival in a liferaft. A grab bag should be prepared on every boat and stowed in an easily accessible location. Ideally, it should be waterproof and able to float once the contents are in it. It is recommended to store it ready for immediate use within reach of the main companionway hatch. Make sure that every crew member knows where it is.
Do not be tempted to borrow items from the grab bag. It may be worthwhile having the permanent contents in one bag and a second one for the items which will be taken in and out, or which may need to be collected from around the boat in an emergency such as the EPIRB.
We all believe that the worst will not happen to us but, if it does, and you end up floating in a liferaft, you will be thankful that you have prepared a grab bag.
Grab Bag content
The content of the grab bag will depend on your voyage. If you are planning a long cruise or an ocean crossing, where rescue could be days or more away, it is essential that you prepare your grab bag carefully.
It is important to prepare the grab bag before the trip because if you have to abandon to the liferaft you will not have time to rummage around for what you need.
Below is a long list of suggestions for the desirable contents of a grab bag for an ocean-going yacht. Depending on the number of items you have on board you may have to leave some items out or shift some items from the first to the second grab bag and vice versa.
First Grab Bag (ready to use)
Waterproof torch(es) with spare batteries
Watertight strobe light with spare batteries
Scissors with a sharp knife and tin opener
Seasickness tablets (min 6 per person), antibiotics, painkillers etc.
2 x red parachute and 3 x red handheld flares
Gloves for use with flares
Nylon string and lengths of line or string
Needles and twine
Ziploc plastic bags
Bottled water (e.g. 4x0.5L) – leave some air in the containers to ensure that they can float
Signaling mirror, whistle and fog horn
Thermal / survival blankets
Distress V sheet
Bailer & Sponge (hint: you can make a bailer from a bottle)