Here are a few items that I have and will never shove off without having with me. Sure, there are more things to add to this list that I find myself taking on every offshore passage, but these are the quintessential, non-negotiables. Hope it helps and fair winds to you!
Offshore PFD w/ Harness
The first and obvious piece of quintessential gear is most certainly a PFD. There are many to choose from and the type/model depends on your skill level and the type of sailing that you are planning to do. For offshore deliveries, I love my CrewSaver ErgoFit 290oc. It’s not the one pictured, but is similar. Its key features that suit offshore sailing very well are: integrated harness, hydrostatically actuated inflator, crotch straps, lifting beckets, and external EPIRB pocket.
Arguably, the one item that’s more important than a PFD is a tether. If ya get biffed into the drink, you’re gonna want a PFD, but it’s even better to simply stay on the boat. A double-armed tether is best so that you can clip-in, before you clip-off and always be connected to the ship. It sure would be a bummer to be diligently clipping-in, but get caught by a wave on deck between clips and get thrown off anyway because you only had a single-armed tether. So close!
Satellite Communication Device
This is the Garmin InReach Explorer+, and it has been one of the most useful–and fun–pieces of gear I have ever taken on board. While safety devices like this will never eliminate or mitigate risks, they are invaluable in the event those risks do in fact manifest. This particular model has emergency services built into all–including the most basic/cheapest–plans, while more advanced subscriptions get you unlimited text messaging and even live location sharing features.
Blunt-Tip Rigging Knife
This might be the least critical of all the items so far since most boats have plenty of tools. However, what really helps preparedness and enables responsiveness is to have a tool or two on-hand and not have to go digging belowdecks for a tool on a simple–or time-sensitive–task. I keep a rigging knife like this tethered to something on me most all of the time. Additionally, I’ve clipped a whistle to the ring on the handle–nice to have if you get caught without your PFD & tether at the wrong time.
Headlamp w/Night Mode
It gets dark out there! A headlamp in lieu of a handheld flashlight pays off in many and obvious ways. The rule is “one hand for you, and one hand for the boat.” If you actually want to steer or get anything done, then there are no more hands left for a flashlight. Put it on your noggin and make sure it has a red (and/or blue) mode to save your peepers (and other people’s peepers) at night. Get a rechargeable one and/or be sure to take extra batteries. Heck, it even doesn’t hurt to take a second headlamp.
Small Dry Bag
A dry bag is good to have. A dry bag with some external pockets and backpack straps is GREAT to have! It’s of course handy when going ashore via particularly splashy dinghy rides or taking it along empty to pick up a few groceries and knowing they won’t become fish food on the way back. I use mine most on Night Watch. Everything gets wet out there. It’s nice to have some snacks, water, a dry hat and any other Night-Watchy things nearby & dry. Even better, you don’t have to unsafely leave the cockpit and go scrounging through the icebox while everyone sleeps.
I hope you found these recommendations helpful!
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