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Making a First Aid Kit for Your Cruising Sailboat

Updated on December 23, 2020
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I lived aboard my sailboat for several years and spent some of those years sailing in the Caribbean and along the coast Central America.

Things You Should Keep In A Cruiser's First Aid Kit

I once spent several years living aboard a small sailboat cruising the Caribbean, cruising from Miami to Panama and many places in between.

During that time my sailing companion and I suffered our share of burns, sunburns, broken fingers and toes, numerous cuts, heartburn, diarrhea, and many more maladies.

The occasional scrape or bruise is a normal occurrence on a cruising sailboat, where everything is constantly in motion and often slippery from salt spray.

On my small boat I carried a complete cruiser's first aid kit that was always well stocked and I had to use it quite a few times.

First Aid Kits For Offshore Vs. Those For Near Shore Sailing

The items you need in a first aid kit for cruising sailboats are numerous and I'm not going to list them all here, but what you'll want to look for is a kit that is made for offshore cruising or one for coastal waters if that is where you are going to sail.

The difference between the two kind of kits are that one is designed for minor patching up to that you can get to shore and the other carries more supplies for major patching up, when help may be several days sail away.

You may consider asking a doctor in your next port of call for a prescription for serious painkillers and antibiotics to add to the kit. These may be more easily purchased outside of the US. Carry all of the prescription information on those medicines, as your vessel at some point will most likely be searched by the Coast Guard or foreign authorities.

Also try and stock an offshore sailing first aid kit with extra over the counter medicines such as anti diarrhea medicine, antacids, etc.

Check with your doctor before taking off on your cruise and get all of the immunizations required for those areas that you're visiting, plus anti malarial pills if you are going to areas where malaria is a problem.

You may also want to make a smaller version of your primary first aid kit and keep it in your "ditch bag" or abandon ship bag.

A good first aid kit onboard your cruising sailboat can save your life so don't skimp on its contents.

In addition to a good first aid kit we keep a copy of the book "Wilderness Medicine" onboard. This handy medical survival book gives instructions on how to deal with just about anything, from performing an emergency tracheotomy to setting a broken arm, should you ever need to.

Things To Look For In A First Aid Kit For A Cruising Sailboat

It's important that a cruiser's first aid kit be waterproof, with a sealing "o-ring" around the edge of the kit and a compression type closure device, otherwise dampness will quickly destroy the contents of the kit.

A good boater's first aid kit for offshore use should have the necessary things to treat burns, minor and major cuts and lacerations as well as sprains and broken bones.

Your cruising sailboat first aid kit should have hospital quality tweezers to remove broken glass or sea urchin spines, along with scissors, items with which to make splints, large size bottles of iodine and tubes of triple antibiotic ointment, as well as other medicines to fight infection in wounds. Your first aid kit should also be well stocked with lots of bandages of all sizes for large as well as minor cuts.

A cruiser's first aid kit should also have a good sharp scalpel, in case you need to excise an embedded hook miles away from shore and hospitals. Make sure that you keep on hand a good lineman's wire cutter, as these kind of pliers work well to cut the barb off of a hook that may have passed through skin.

For swelling and pain your sailboat first aid kit should contain several instant cold packs. You may also want to include skin staples to close large wounds, eye wash for instances such as a boat battery accident and eye patches to cover injured eyes.

Keep in mind that many kinds of medicines will spoil or lose their effectiveness in the constant tropical heat. Keep those medications in your cooler or fridge, not in the first aid kit.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Nolen Hart


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