Photo credit George Broadlick, This photo was taken the day after I flipped my boat and had to self rescue. That self rescue is the first time I have flipped my boat on accident and it taught me a lot. I was able to finish the OBX 130 with the help of the Broadlick boys.
The OBX 130 is coming up fast (which I ‘guide’) and people coming on the trip have started asking me what they should bring on a long sailing trip. I just as often respond that if you are asking then you aren’t prepared to try it. Bill Moffitt, my father, says that doing a raid should be a step down from what you have done in the past, not a step up. However, I am sick of being asked so I am going to give me general advice on the process of being prepared. At the end I am going to include a list of what you need to be prepared with. Everyone I have seen on a raid packs totally differently than I do. So this is really aimed at the less experienced person to give them something to think about. But I have listed a lot of my favorite products to so some of you old salts might find a gem in the Texas mud of my article. Also, note I didn’t put some stuff on this which I will call “boat stuff.” Like a bailing bucket and sponge. Or seat cushion flotation devices. I was going for the personal stuff that goes in your storage. Of further note if you don’t know me I only sail open boats of 16’ or less.
First, lightness is everything. Spend the extra money on the super-light cooking stove. It weighs only 3 pounds less but costs $30 more? Do it. The tent you’re bringing is the one you use for car camping? No way that should be on your boat. Go spend north of $300 on something worthwhile which will take the high winds and weighs 5 lbs instead of 20 lbs. It will also take up a lot less volume. Don’t forget to get sand stakes as well as the thin aluminum ones. Get extra stakes. Get a pole tent repair kit and always carry it on you. I end up using or giving that repair kit to someone on every trip I have ever gone on. No lie.
Lightness is everything because with less volume and weight you get four advantages. First, you are buying higher quality. Quality is super important because having a tent fall over on you, or you knife blade snapping, or your home made pintles breaking off, can not only be highly annoying but at worst end your trip prematurely or endanger the life of yourself or someone else. Second, greater volume in your storage area means it is easier to sort through your things to find what you need. Third, if you stack your cabin or storage areas full of stuff and then your boat flips over all that “valuable heavy stuff” on the roof will make it that much harder for you to right your boat. Fourth, lighter = you will go faster. I know, I know, it’s a raid, not a race. But if you can take 50 or 100 lbs off your equipment by just packing better you will go faster. You will get to camp earlier. And whenever there are two boats on the water going to the same destination, well, races happen in a moment. I would bet that I packed 125 lbs of equipment the first times I went out. My pack is now 50 lbs max.
The Pink Elephant: I have this rule. I call it the Pink Elephant. I don’t know why. But every trip has one. When you pull out and unpack your boat you realize that you carried that ________ for 200 miles and it weighs _____ lbs and now that you think about it you ended up using this other thing in its stead. Ding Ding Ding!!! You found your pink elephant of the trip! Congratulations, you never have to pack it again! This is great news!
Which leads me to “why take three things when you can take one?” Everything you bring is a tool. Doesn’t matter if it is your knife, space blanket, or zipper pull, everything serves a purpose. The purpose and utility of any object should be multiplied whenever possible. I carry two knives. One is a big olde’ bowie type knife. I can cut down a tree with it and it has a whistle on the lanyard. It also has a hard base on the handle that doubles as a hammer. The sheath has a built in fire starter and straps to my thigh. It’s a straight blade and pulls out fast in case I get caught under a sail when (not if) my boat flips. My second knife I keep attached to my life jacket. It has a marlinspike and shackle key built into the handle. It takes time to find these kinds of things. And let me point out that now that I carry that big knife I no longer carry a hammer or a flint. It isn’t about adding things, it’s about subtracting things.
The first times I went out I took everything and the kitchen sink. Now I take very little but can do much, much, more. This is a short breakdown of how I organize my stuff and I like the Sea to Summit dry bags:
Small dry bag: my GPS, SPOT, change of batteries, extra sunglasses, lighter, Deet cream, small battery solar charger, cell phone inside of a ziplock, wallet inside of a ziplock, car key.
*This bag is the only one that remains on deck and it is tied down like my life depended on it at all times.
Medium dry bag: Tent clothes (soft cotton clothes I only wear inside the tent) Two pairs of socks, one change of sailing shirt, inflatable pillow, inflatable bedroll, double sized cotton sheet (I like these cocoons), small personal toiletry bag, Camping towel.
*Notice I hardly bring any clothes at all. There is no point. You will smell. So just get over it. Actually, I find sailing in the sun and washing “my pits” keeps me not smelling so bad. Clothes take up too much space and I gave up trying to win over Andy Linn with my looks a long time ago.
Large dry bag: Camp pot with lid (inside of which is a msr pocket rocket stove and fuel, lighter, camp soap, dish rag, spork, salt and pepper, Tabasco) my dehydrated rations for the trip plus one extra serving, power bars, tuna packs for lunch, trail mix, toilet paper, spade, French press (inside of which is coffee in a ziplock bag), small first aid kit (I pack a lot of stuff in my first aid kit even though its small. It’s always a good idea to bring meat tenderizer for jellyfish stings, 800mg Ibuprofen, burn cream, needle and thread which while your at it might as well be UV sail thread etc.)
Tool Kit box: Extra pintles and gudgeons, Plumbers epoxy tube or a repair kit, tape measure, 5 in 1 screwdriver, jar of random fasteners, extra blocks and eyes, small Japanese pull saw, pencil, extra bolts, extra lee board bolt, variety of zip ties, Flares, mirror, small can opener, sometimes I stick a leatherman or gerber in, (but lately I have been leaving it out as it reeks of pink elephant) one piece of sandpaper, fender washers.
*Do not make the toolbox too big. It can be a really small Art Supply Bin. Seriously, don’t get carried away here. You will only end up using the epoxy kit and a few zip ties. Its very rare you will use anything else. But if you forget to bring Pintles and Gudgeons you will definitely regret it.
Tent bag: tent, tent repair kit, aluminum spikes for hard ground, plastic wide wedges for sand, enough to fully stake the rain fly plus a couple of extras.
Life vest: I like the NRS CVest PFD, radio, Altoids Tin survival kit (which I have customized for sailing and sealed with electrical tape,) lighter, space blanket made into a poncho/tent, compass with fishing line wrapped around the base, thermometer, sailing knife, whistle, monocular, and every zipper has a pull made out of 550 test paracord with a trilobite knot.
What I wear: Full brimmed hat, SPF rated sailing shirt, SPF convertible pants, Keens, Cloth belt wrapped in 50’ of paracord, SPF rated kayaking gloves, paracord bracelet. I make all my own Paracord wears and also happen to sell them so if you wanted to check out my store…. Its called UhFrayedKnot
*The Key point to what you wear is that you need to be covered head to toe. Never expose your skin to the sun. Once you get a sunburn the rest of the trip will be hell. Also, if you lose your boat you should be able to keep warm, start a fire, have a pain killer, and fish. I also put a few water purification tablets in my Altoids tin.
What I drink: One gallon of water per day. On a five day trip I bring five gallons. One gallon of whiskey (for medicinal purposes, of course.) One liter of Gatorade per day.
What I like about my system is that the lightness of the pack lets me enjoy the trip more. I am not always searching for things. I have a system. Your system will be different. Don’t worry about trying to get everything all at once. Start with what you think is important and upgrade as you can afford it. When you get it right you’ll never have to look for anything or wonder why you brought that _______ which only ever go in the way. Get rid of the waste my friends, and enjoy the feeling of being prepared yet unencumbered!
Feel free to email me and let me know what you think or of equipment you think is essential that I have left out. I would love to do another article based your responses and insights.
thatmoffitt at gmail dot com