Sailing Safely: First Aid Kit

Generally speaking, sailing is a healthy sport with few risks. Accidents are rare, but especially cruising sailors need to be prepared to take care of wounds, illness and other health issues themselves. A good first-aid kit is essential. In this article, I give a checklist of items that should be in your first-aid box.

If you go daysailing in a dinghy, it is appropriate to think that all members of the crew are equally responsible for health and safety. With a larger crew, normally the skipper takes on the part of the “health and safety officer”. He will know about seasick sailors, he will collect information about injuries, he will co-ordinate all first aid efforts in case of an accident.

Such efforts often require training in first aid. In most countries, a certain percentage lessons in a sailing course has to cover first aid, some countries even have compulsory first aid training as a prerequisite for holders of sailing certificates.

In any case, at least one member of any crew should have some sort of expertise in first aid – if your country doesn’t require any training for health and first aid issues, you should voluntarily take a some lessons before you tackle your sailing challenge.

The “ingredients” of an appropriate first aid box vary. They depend on the type of sailing you plan to do: Cruisers often have to carry half a pharmacy matched with specific diseases from the countries they travel to, whereas dinghy sailors will barely ever need more than plasters and painkillers. If you are in doubt what kinds of medication and other items you will need, talk to your general practitioner or – for cruises – a doctor specializing on tropical diseases.

Guidelines to a Basic First Aid Kit

1.) A set of different sterile gauze pads will be of use for deeper wounds
2.) Plasters – surely the one item you will need most often
3.) Triangular bandages for supporting broken limbs
4.) Clips, bandage tape and pins to fix bandages
5.) Scissors strong enough to cut bandages and clothing
6.) Sterile wipes for cleaning wounds (though the sterile gauze pads might do the job, too)
7.) Painkillers, ideally several ones: Aspirin and some that become instantly active
8.) Antiseptic and antiseptic lotion for wound treatment
9.) Tweezers and forceps to remove small particles from wounds
10.) Crepe and conforming bandages to finish your mummy-masterpiece
11.) Disposable gloves
12.) Plastic foil to cover/finish bandages that have to be dry if it’s rainy/stormy
13.) Face mask for the professional “kiss of life”
14.) Meds to boost one’s circulation
15.) A stick/rod or alike and duct tape to fix a broken limb
16.) Eye bath and sterile saline to rinse contaminated eyes
17;) Whisky as “anesthetic” (don’t mix with the meds, though!)
18.) A comprehensive first-aid manual that you should make yourself familiar with

Let me emphasize once again that this is more a set of guidelines than an actual checklist in the strict sense of the word. It might be incomplete for your type of sailing. It might be too extensive. You are not sure? Go to see your doctor who will be able to give you expert advice and who will also tell you where to get the gear.

The Best at the End...

Here's my very special trick for keeping small things together and dry on board: I put pins, gazes, gloves and alike into the yellow thingies that hold the content of a Kinder egg! Great! Though any other little plastic box should do the job...

Further Reading

Back to "gear"

Seasickness: What it is and How to treat it

The Worst of Tropical Diseases

Health and Safety on Cruises

Stay Safe on Boats - Includes First Aid Tutorials

First Aid in DMOZ

Wikipedia on First Aid