The Art of Packing a Sea Bag

On a fishing boat, personal space is usually limited to your bunk. Packing a bag with all the essentials for a whole summer at sea is a unique challenge. Understanding what will keep you happy and healthy while you’re working hard and living in close quarters with your crew is crucial to knowing yourself. What will pick you up when you’ve had a frustrating day that tops the rest, or a day that you want to celebrate? What will you pull out of your bag to boost the moral of your captain or crew? What favorite sweet treat will you find tucked away in your bag when you need it most?

Fishermen are used to rationing, whether this means wearing the same clothes many days in a row, saving the best coffee for when it’s really needed, or making sure there will be enough fuel to drive back to town. Good rationing skills usually come from moments of true disappointment – when you’ve had to put your dirty clothes back on after a rare shower, go without milk in your cereal for a week, or run out of drinking water on the boat. It might be more important to bring a few extra books with you than pairs of socks, or it might mean leaving your laptop at home to make room for your favorite cooking spices. It’s all about what you love and need to do your best work and be your best self.

Once you get used to it, living with less can be freeing. Life at sea forces us to live without some of the creature comforts we take for granted while we’re living on land – clean laundry, a dishwasher, internet, fresh groceries, land to walk on, showers, cell-phone service, mail, the news. Days are simplified into the hours that we’re working, eating or sleeping. On days when there is downtime, hours are quickly filled with food preparation, net-mending, and catching up with the rest of the fleet. Sometimes there is a minute to read a good book, write a letter, walk on the beach, or whip up something delicious in the galley kitchen. When we are busy catching fish, the small moments feel like a treasure – a nap in the sun, a good cup of tea, a letter from a friend.

Sea Bag Essentials

  • Good books (how to tie knots, guide to birds, history of the surrounding area, a cookbook or two)
  • A camera (when everything around you is beautiful, just point and shoot – it’s hard to take a bad photo)
  • A fun game (chess, cards, cribbage)
  • A boat mug with a wide-base and a lid that will stay upright in rough weather
  • An instrument to play (harmonicas make great because they don’t take up much room) and a collection of music with a wide appeal (everyone on the crew will be listening to it together, on repeat, for months at  time)
  • Lucky fishing hat to keep the hair and sunshine out of your eyes
  • Comfy clothes that you want to wear everyday, and that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty
  • Boat shoes like flip flops, slippers or crocs so you can take your boots off and let your feet breath happily

What else do you pack in your seabag? Leave a comment below to share the items you never leave land without. 

Fishing Lifestyle

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