Making a First Aid Kit for Boating

Checking VHF radios, life jackets, and flares before embarking on a day on the water should be part of your pre-departure checklist. However, your first-aid kit is most likely tucked away and forgotten because you don’t seem to need it.

Most boaters believe they are unlikely to have a medical emergency if they go out for a few hours. Or they reason that they aren’t going far and will return to the dock quickly, so why worry? However, having basic supplies on hand could save you a visit to the hospital or your life.

Always keep an emergency boating kit on board with you. Nothing beats a day on the water for relaxation, whether it’s an afternoon of sightseeing, an early morning boat trip, or a multi-day trip. After all, nothing beats the feel of sea air on your face as you relax on your sailing boat, yacht, or any other boat type.

However, experienced boaters understand that things can go wrong quickly, so it’s critical to be prepared with boat safety tools and equipment in case of an unexpected incident. An extensive boating emergency kit on your vessel can provide practical assistance and reassurance if something unexpected occurs. This is how to make a boating first aid kit.

Make Your Own First-Aid Kit

Because medical attention is rarely close by when on the water, you must have an up-to-date, well-stocked, and ready marine first-aid kit. Stock it with the necessary supplies to treat any ailment; on-the-water injuries can range from an embedded fishhook to broken bones and gaping cuts.

If a life-threatening injury happens, you should report the emergency on channel 16 and call 911 if phone coverage is available.

Items You Must Have in Your First-Aid Kit

  • Acetaminophen — is an all-purpose pain reliever for people who cannot take aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Adhesive Bandages — keep a variety from large to small. To successfully close a deeper cut, use round and butterfly bandages.
  • Alcohol Wipes — for hand sterilization, cleaning tweezers and scissors before and after use, or gently cleaning a wound.
  • Antiseptic Spray or Ointment — apply to minor abrasions and scrapes to prevent infection.
  • Aspirin — if you’re suspecting a heart attack.
  • Burn Cream — treats galley burns or sunburn. Take note: a severe burn should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Cotton swabs — for cleaning sensitive areas before placing a dressing
  • Disposable Gloves — to be worn when in contact with bodily fluids, whether yours or someone else’s. Because some folks are allergic to latex, keep nitrile gloves on hand.
  • Elastic Bandages — provide support and covering to injuries.
  • Eye Wash — used to flush chemicals, dirt, fuel, and grit from the eyes. It can provide relief from severe pollen allergies.
  • Fabric tape — used to secure bandages and dressings.
  • First-Aid Manual — a must-have reference. Read it before using your first-aid kit.
  • Foil Space Blanket — minimizes shock by keeping body heat.
  • Ibuprofen — a general pain reliever
  • Individually Wrapped Common Medications — for diarrhea, stings, seasickness, heartburn, and other ailments.
  • Instant Cold Pack — provides short-term relief from minor burns and swelling associated with sprains and strains.
  • Large Adhesive Pads — for covering deeper cuts and wounds.
  • Safety Pins — to hold slings or bandages in place.
  • Saline Solution — to cleanse wounds before applying bandages
  • Sam Splint — a device used to immobilize a suspected fractured limb.
  • Scissors — to remove surgical tape, bandages, and clothing from a wound if removal is impossible.
  • Sterile Absorbent Pads — used to bandage wounds and abrasions.
  • Storage Container — keeps things easily accessible and organized.
  • Syringe (no needle) — to be filled with saline and used to flush dirt from an injured area or as an emergency eye-wash pump.
  • Triangular Bandage — to immobilize and support a damaged shoulder or arm
  • Tweezers — to remove ticks, splinters, and other small foreign bodies deep-seated in the skin
  • Rolled Gauze — used to cover wounds where extra absorbency is necessary or where an adhesive bandage is insufficient.

Where Should Your Marine First Aid Kit Be Stored?

Most of your emergency supplies can be kept in a huge waterproof container. As you may need to access the container quickly, ensure it is not hidden underneath other boxes or in the back of a storage hold.

Every time you sail, double-check your emergency equipment and kit. Replace anything that is past its expiration date or is running low.

Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning Cuts

Rinsing thoroughly with enough clean water, extracting foreign bodies, and cleaning the entire area with soap are all effective ways to prevent infection in most minor cuts and scrapes. It’s also gentler on injured tissue.

When there’s no access to clean water, hydrogen peroxide can be used as a first-line treatment, but it’s not recommended for bites, deep cuts, or burns. For those, see a doctor right away.

Emergency Location Devices and Radio Communication

A VHF radio is a good addition, even if it is not required. In an emergency, don’t rely on a cellphone; coverage may not always be available. VHF allows boaters to communicate with the Coast Guard and other vessels inside of range that can assist them.

VHF radios with a GPS receiver (internal or external) and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) can also pinpoint your location during an emergency and make an emergency call with that data to anyone within range. Remember to register for your free, one-of-a-kind Marine Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number so that you and your vessel can be identified.

VHF radios can also receive current marine weather reports and even sound an alarm signal in the event of unexpected, severe weather. In addition to fixed mount radios, portable handheld radios are available.

If your boating takes you offshore or out of sight on larger bodies of water, a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon) is a good idea. These devices will transmit both identity and location in case of an emergency.

File a Float Plan

Finally, tell a friend or a family member where you are going and how long you intend to be out whenever you go on the water. If the trip has to be longer, make a float plan with your friend or leave one at the local marina.

A description of passengers on board, your boat, where you’re going, safety equipment available, and how long you anticipate to be gone should all be included. Notify that person if your plans change. If you don’t return within an acceptable time, instruct the person in charge of your float plan to tell the Coast Guard or another appropriate agency.