Voyage Preparations

Medical Kit

Sailorgirl is in perfect health and isn’t particulary obsessed with medical issues. We’ve read about various medical disasters on other boats but of course that couldn’t possibly happen to us. This is perhaps not the smartest attitude. So after a little research I’ve beefed up our first aid kit. Oh boy! Now we have our very own suture kit! He didn’t seem quite as enthused when I brought that item home. Green would be a good word when I explained I could sew him back together. I also added a general antibiotic, chemical cold pack (for burns), disposable hypodermic needles (in case you end up in a climic without them) and various sterilizing creams and lotions. While I’m not ready to perform open heart surgery, it’s nice to know we have more than aspirin on hand.

Here’s a basic medical kit checklist:

  • pain pills, aspirin, acetominephren and ibuprofen (good for sore muscles)
  • adhesive tape, gauze, band aids of all sizes, elastic bandage, butterfly bandages, safety pins, q-tips, cotton wool
  • scissors, tweezeers
  • suture kit
  • disposable hypodermic needles
  • chemical cold pack (for burns)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • all purpose antibiotic pills
  • antibiotic cream
  • antibiotic eye drops
  • antibiotic ear drops
  • antihistimines (eg. Benedryl)
  • seasickness medication (non-drowsy)
  • anti-itch cream (eg. calamine lotion)
  • anti-diarrhea medication, (eg. Pepto Bismol in both liquid and pill form)

Then there’s the basic stuff you’ll need: sunscreen (including lip balm), insect repellant, moisturizer etc.


The Panic Bag or The Abandon Ship Bag

Another item on the Prep List is the Panic Bag. Yes we know we should have one, but we don’t yet. The Panic Bag is also known as the Abandon Ship Bag. If something stupid happens and you need to abandon ship, this must be somewhere easy to reach. The Abandon Ship Bag contains any gear you need to survive until you are rescued, small handheld watermaker, fishing gear, peanut butter, stuff like that. Forbidden Planet isn’t going trans-ocean. However, stuff happens and there are some things it’s smart to have. So this year we’ve added the Panic Bag to the To Do list. Most important in the bag is paperwork. We’ll take photocopies of our passports, boat registration, Cuban tourist cards, a small amount of cash and a credit card. If the boat were to go down, and we swim to shore, I don’t really want to wash up in Cuba as a refugee.



Communications are proving to be an issue. I don’t like the idea of being totally out of touch. Boats going around the world with large budgets are usually equipped with an Inmarsat satellite system. This is beyond our budget and our needs. A new option (which is cheaper) is the Globalstar satellite phone. This is also beyond our budget and according to their website, they don’t service Cuba. It is possible to get a cell phone in Cuba through Cubacel in Havana. Costs are $3 a day + .90 cents airtime plus long distance charges of $3 – 5 a minute. This could get VERY expensive. So we’ve opted to use pay phones when we find them.

There’s always internet cafes for email. Or are there? I’ve found information on access in Havana and Varadero. This is an example of the challenge we’re running into. Once outside of these 2 cities, there’s really not a lot of information available. Like most things, we’ll find out when we get there.

On previous trips, we have relied solely on VHF for radio communications. In the Bahamas this is fine, as the NOAA weather forecast is relayed all the way through the islands. Not so in Cuba. We do not have the time or money for a full single side band radio, so we have opted for a receiver. We picked up the Si-Tex Nav Fax 200 Radio Receiver for $329. We opted for this because of it’s capability of receiving weather fax. (it comes with the laptop connector cable and software).



I know there’s food in Cuba. People are eating. I know it’s expensive and unpredictable. So we will take enough dry goods for 4 months and pad it out with whatever we can. We expect to eat out twice a week. We assume we will catch fish or trade with fishermen. We assume we can buy fruit and vegetables. So the big question is how much pasta and wine do 2 hungry sailors need for 4 months?

Then there’s all the boat supplies. If something breaks there’s no way of buying parts at the boat store. While we always carry extra fan belts and impellers, now we need all the little items like screws, washers, slip rings and extra line. You have to be totally self reliant.

It’s challenging.



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