Skip to content
Oct. 27, 2021

A Basic Boat First-Aid Kit

Capt. George Gozdz covers the basic first-aid supplies that belong aboard all boats.


Being prepared is a big part of boating safety. It starts with carrying the proper safety equipment and understanding how to use it.

One of the recommended items you should keep aboard is a first-aid kit. Although first-aid kits aren’t considered mandatory gear according to U.S. Coast Guard regulations, experienced boaters know that having a properly stocked kit aboard should be considered an absolute must. To get some insight into how a professional prepares for first aid aboard, we went to Capt. George Gozdz. The Mercury Pro Team member and host of “Unfathomed” has not only been a professional captain for more than 15 years, but prior to that was an emergency room nurse.

According to Gozdz, a basic first-aid kit belongs aboard every boat regardless of whether you run it inshore, offshore or anywhere else. A good start is a store-bought kit intended for marine use. Most kits meant for use aboard boats are packed in a container that is watertight or at least water-resistant, which helps keep essential supplies dry and clean.

Along with the basics, such as bandages, basic medication and cold compresses, the American Red Cross also recommends that all first-aid kits include:

  • Cloth tape
  • Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes
  • An emergency blanket
  • A breathing barrier (used for protection during CPR)
  • Nonlatex gloves
  • Hydrocortisone ointment
  • Scissors
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • A thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • A first-aid instruction booklet

Gozdz points out that while the basics will serve the needs of most boaters, he likes to take it next level when he’s travelling far from shore where medical attention may be delayed in the case of an emergency. That means packing even more bandages and, in his case, even some medical supplies that require advanced skills to administer. These are typically outside the scope of what most boaters would carry. However, he also specifies one item that anglers need to take note of: a tool capable of cutting through a fishing hook. Many of us have had to deal with accidental hookings at one time or another, and having dedicated hook cutters or a multitool capable of cutting metal fishing hooks will allow you to push the barb through, snip it off and back the hook out. In the accompanying video below, Gozdz also demonstrates an alternative method of fishing hook removal, which works well when hooks are caught in some parts of the body.

The fact of the matter is that boating is an amazingly safe activity – you’re statistically safer driving your boat than you are driving your car – but there’s surely not a mariner among us who doesn’t want to take every reasonable safety precaution before shoving off the dock. That includes packing a basic boat first-aid kit. Because while you might not have an emergency room nurse aboard every time you take out your boat, Capt. Gozdz’s advice is the next best thing.


For more from Capt. George Gozdz, follow him on Facebook and Instagram. Or check out

Cover ImageA Basic Boat First-Aid Kit
Cookie Preferences