How much spare gear can you carry on a cruise? It’s impossible to cover every eventuality, but there is a sensible list which should be considered:
Grab bag – Hand held VHF, Signalling mirror, flares, emergency food rations and some water, a pocket knife or multi-tool, fishing line and an LED or wind up torch. It’s not a bad idea on passages to get into the habit of putting your wallet, insurance policy details, car keys and mobile phone in there as well.
Electrical kit – Volt/amp meter, crimping tool and a range of crimps with some lengths of various gauge wires, bulbs, insulation tape and fuses.
Tool kit – comprehensive tool kit with everything waxed or oiled to protect from corrosion.
Engine spares kit – including impellor and gasket, belt, fuel and oil filters, intake hose and a good book on marine diesel engine maintenance.
Plumbing – various lengths of fuel and water hoses, a selection of hose clamps and toilet gasket kits.
Rigging – split pins, gooseneck bolt, masthead sheaves, spare mast turning block and a set of snap-shackle blocks (these can be used for multiple purposes including for outboard sheeting the headsail on long reaching legs), spare double ended halyard, spare genoa sheet, high load block.
Sail Repair – Sowing palm, some pieces of leather, sticky-back dacron and spinnaker cloth for sail repairs, large sowing needles and waxed thread.
Food/Water – Grab bags tend to be fairly compact, but I also recommend two other grab/or heavy duty waterproof bags, one for some food and water rations.
Clothes – The other bag with some dry clothes and hats. In the circumstances where you may have to abandon to a life-raft you don’t want to have to sit in salty wet clothes for any great length of time!
Safety gear is a separate subject in itself, but the Yachting Australia (AYF) blue book is a very good starting point and here is a link to their audit forms http://www.nsw.yachting.org.au/default.asp?MenuID=Racing/1059/0/,Equipment_Audit_Forms/1092/0/ . Although their requirements are for racing yachts a lot of the details are relevant, but there is additional equipment that should probably be considered such as a parachute anchor and more substantial emergency steering. Using a spinnaker pole as a ‘sweep’ with a bunk-board as a blade doesn’t work, ask anyone who has tried it, but I have had good reports of using a drogue with lines to each transom quarter, then to winches. From my own offshore racing and cruising experience it is important to imagine the worst conditions you could possibly encounter and then position and secure gear in the knowledge that it should be well secured, yet accessible if the likelihood arises. For instance life-rings with inverting lights look all very proper tied off on the pushpit, but when green water is coming over the deck I can’t tell you how many boats have found them washed away. These days you can purchase inexpensive heavy duty bags to ‘hold’ them in place. Another little tip which I think is very sensible is to secure the engine oil dipstick so that it can’t fall out in a knockdown or roll. Nobody wants to consider such a drastic occurrence, but if the worst does happen and as a consequence the rig braks the last think you want to happen is to find oil everywhere down below and an engine that seizes as you motor to safety!
Although jack-lines (security lines or webbing that is secured from bow to stern on both sides to allow you to clip your harness on and move to the bow safely) are usually considered ‘offshore’ equipment I encourage everyone who ever sails in the open sea on anything but a calm day to use them. These days slim-line inflatable lifejackets with built in harnesses that aren’t cumbersome are readily available, so there is no excuse for not wearing one when going anywhere out into the open sea.
There are lots of cruising forums available these days, so develop your own equipment list to suit your ambitions, experience and knowledge.
Lee Condell is a director of Performance Boating Sales and has cruised and raced extensively throughout the World.