And all the raw fish you can eat…

You know that old chestnut about what you’d take with you to a desert island? Which books, which friends, which food…?  Last week we had to actually make that decision about our boat’s life raft.

We’re getting ready to leave Darwin in September and sail to Hobart. Preparation has been going on for a while, but we’re getting closer to the pointy end of the countdown. Most of the big jobs are done, and now we’re getting down to the tin tacks. We put the life raft in for its regular service, and when the raft was ready to be packed away, the technician called us in to have a look at it. With sinking hearts anticipating an expensive replacement, we slunk into the chandlery only to find that he just wanted to make sure we knew what to expect if we had to deploy it.

It’s a sobering thing, looking inside your life raft. It looked big enough in the workshop, but you know how small it’s going to be out in the ocean. The techie walked us through what was inside, how the inflation worked, how to right it if it deployed upside down (!!), and asked if there was anything else we’d like to put in before he sealed it back inside its box.

An interesting question – what would you take if your life depended on it? My mind raced. Lots of water! Food! A squad of Navy Seals! But when the raft is packed up it’s a very small, heavy package, so the Navy guys were out. There was already a good selection of emergency gear in there – water, torches, batteries, small first aid kit and so on. In the end we decided to revisit our Grab Bag, that bag of essentials that off-shore yachties have stowed somewhere within easy reach in an “abandon boat” situation.

When we’re on passage, the Grab Bag holds things like the handheld VHF radio, EPIRB, a sharp knife (in a sheath), a cutting board (so you don’t jab a hole in your life raft), first aid gear; basic fishing gear (but no cooking gear…), long-life foods such as canned food, chocolate and dried fruit, sunscreen, sea-sickness tablets and spare batteries for the torches. And flares, repair kit for the inflatable, spare rope and so on. A 25 litre plastic jerry of fresh water sits beside the grab bag as well.

I added a few more things, including spare glasses (sun and reading), a couple of hats, and more chocolate. And finally, a pack of playing cards (I’d done some internet research and cards were recommended as a good way to keep up morale). Feeling very pleased with my endeavours to keep us alive, I asked my husband to look it over, which he did.

He turned to me with a serious expression on his face. “You’ve left out the most important thing.”

I looked at my list again – all the crucial things were there, weren’t they?

He shook his head. ‘You forgot the Wasabi and the tamari for all the raw fish!”

I sincerely hope I never see the inside of that life raft again. Outside of a service workshop, that is!

If someone remembers you, you’re not lost

I was tidying up my work space this morning and it got me thinking about the things I was picking up. Or more to the point, what wasn’t there. We’ve lived on a boat for the last six years, and my writing space is a bit small. Just part of the saloon table, where my MacBook Air sits. When we lived onshore, I had my own room to work in, a delightful, odd-shaped, attic-like place upstairs that held crammed bookshelves, an old Huon pine cabinet with wide flat drawers full of art paper and paints, a big table and a comfortable chair. Read more »