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Shipboard Medicine for the Sailor


Marine Medical Kit Checklist

Even if you are not planning to go offshore, it pays to be prepared when it comes to medical emergencies. Most injuries won't be serious enough to be life threatening, we hope, yet you may need to tend to the typical bumps and bruises, and cuts and breaks that happen in regular life. When you are ashore, you can run to the pharmacy or the emergency room. On a boat, however,you may be several hours from a port with access to medical services. That is why we advocate that everyone who goes cruising should have a full marine medical kit that will allow you to deal with the most common of injuries and illnesses without panic.

What's the most important component of that kit? Medical knowledge. Without the know-how to manage an injury or illness onboard, all the contents of the kit won't be of any use. Take an American Red Cross course on First Aid and CPR and include a reference book in your kit. A few suggestions appear below.

Adjust quantities for size of crew and length of cruise. Create a list of all contents and dates of expiration to make it easier to keep track of replacement needs. All of these items are readily available at your local pharmacy or surgical supply store. Preassembled kits are also available for purchase. The contents vary so it pays to compare several sources.


Items to include:

Pelican waterproof box or soft flotation case

15- 1" x 3" adhesive bandages
5 knuckle bandages
5 butterfly bandages
2 - 4" gauze rollers
2 - 3" x 3" gauze pads
4 triangular bandages
2 non-stick pads

5 cleansing wipes
4 - alcohol wipes
8 - triple antibiotic ointment packs
2 - instant cold packs
1 - 3.5" splinter forceps
2 - burn gel relief packets
1 - CPR face shield
10 - 500mg non-aspirin(2pk)
1 - 4 oz. povidone/iodine
1 - ready splint
5 - extra large bandages
2 fingertip bandages
1 - 2" gauze roller
2 - 2"x 2" gauze pads
4 - 4"x 4" gauze pads
2 - 5"x 9" trauma pads
2 - oval eye pads
1 - 4 oz. eye wash

1 - 4" Ace bandage
1 - 1" waterproof tape
1 - 2" Ace bandage
1 - 1/2"x 10 yds. adhesive tape
10 - vinyl gloves
15 - BZK wipes
6 - PVP wipes
3 - sting relief wipes
1 - Bandage scissors
1 - penlight
1 - 4" x 4" burn gel dressing
10 - 200mg Ibuprofen (2pk)
2 - cotton swabs (2pk)
1 - surgical scrub brush
1 - First Aid Instruction Guide
1 – SAM Splint
2 – plastic gloves
5 – Bendryl caps for allergic reactions

Marine medical references

These are a few good medical reference books that cover first aid for the marine environment. I also like to have the Merck Manual - Home Edition onboard for general medical reference. It is comprehensive yet easy to understand for anyone which means that someone onboard may be able to help me if I get in trouble.

  • The On-Board Medical Handbook: First Aid and Emergency Medicine Afloat, by Dr. Paul G. Gill, International Marine Publishers, 1996
  • Your Offshore Doctor: A Manual of Medical Self-Sufficiency at Sea, by Dr. Michael H. Beilan, Sheridan House, 1996
  • Advanced First Aid Afloat, third edition, by Dr. Peter F. Eastman, Cornell Maritime Press, 1995
  • A Guide to Small Boat Emergencies, by John M. Waters, Naval Institute Press
  • International Medical Guide for Ships (including the ship’s medical chest) second edition, from the World Health Organization 1988

See related article Shipboard Medicine for Cruisers and Racers.


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