As with every kind of toolkit, the contents of a first-aid kit can reasonably vary. The right one for you has just what you need to handle a wide range of medical emergencies and contains little fluff. So
when it’s time to inventory kit supplies or shop for a new
one, make sure that the items included are in sync with
the kind of boating you do and the first-responder skills
you possess. While long-haul voyagers may take an EMT
course and carry serious supplies for spending extended
time away from medical facilities, boaters who stay closer
to professional medical care usually opt for a more abbreviated inventory. Safety expert Henry Marx of Landfall
Navigation and I looked over some first-aid kits, then
pulled together a list of 25 items to include.
Minor injuries are the most common reason to open the kit.
Slips and falls, pinched fingers, and stubbed toes are among
the most common injuries reported aboard, so make sure your
inventory includes ice packs and pain-relievers. In addition,
it’s a good idea to have aboard any medication you know you
We gave preference to individually wrapped supplies that
let you use the contents one dose at a time. Warm, moist summer air quickly invades a newly opened roll of gauze or other
items packaged in bulk, so most commercial kits provide antiseptic wipes, alcohol swabs, ointments, and bandages in sterile,
single-use packaging. A waterproof case provides additional
protection to the contents.
Remember that the first-aid ethos stresses doing no harm.
This means knowing how to put the contents of your first-aid
kit to use in an emergency. Courses from the Red Cross can
get you started, and a good marine medical text, written for the
lay person, is a valuable onboard addition.
Ralph Naranjo has sailed around the world with his family,
trained midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, and authored
The Art of Seamanship, recently published by McGraw-Hill.
What’s In Your First-Aid Kit?
The 25 must-have items to equip your boat’s basic medical kit
BoatU.S. Foundation for Clean Water and Boating Safety By Ralph Naranjo
1. Triangular bandage
for an arm sling
2. Folded heat-reflective
blanket used with hypothermic patient
3. Various sizes of an
open-airway device used to
help prevent suffocation
4. Spray antiseptic to treat
minor cuts and scrapes
5. Anti-sting analgesic for
jellyfish and coral stings
6. Eyewash to flush away