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Pack Your Bags – But What Do You Pack?

Jan 07 2019

Love it or hate it, packing is a crucial part of a seafarers life. Do you work from a list when you’re packing or do you take a more cavalier approach and always miss out that one vital thing?

Back in the days when a sea voyage would take years rather than a few weeks or months at sea at a time the things that sailors packed wasn’t wildly different to what you likely put in your bags these days.

Careful seafarers would pack everything very neatly into his sea chest which held about as much as a modern duffel bag. The contents of this sea chest was expected to last the duration of their journey, often years at a time!  In a verse written in 1859 found in a journal from the whaling ship ‘Ocean Rover’ we are told what sailors would pack for a sea voyage and it included blankets, warm clothes, old clothes, entertainment, medicines and butter. The full verse is below if you’d like to read it.


So how does this compare to what you’d pack for a voyage now? In a recent survey the feedback that came back had a lot of common ground…

  • Warm clothes and old clothes, usually to throw away as you buy news ones on shore leave.
  • Modern gadgets and chargers – tablets, phones, kindle etc – taking over from books, papers and pencils!
  • Protein powders, the modern equivalent to the butter
  • Medicines/ Vitamins
  • Toiletries
  • Exercise equipment
  • Notepads
  • Certificate folder

Most people will have a packing routine to ensure that everything they need is safely in the bag. Do you double check your packing or have a routine that you stick to? Is there anything you would add to the list of essentials above? Let us know if your comments!


A chest that is neither too large nor too small

Is the first thing to which your attention I’ll call

The things to put in it are next to be named

And if I omit some I’m not to be blamed

Stow first in the bottom a blanket or quilt

To be used on the voyage whenever you wilt

Thick trousers and shirts woollen stockings and shoes

Next your papers and books to tell you the news

Good substantial tarpaulins to cover your head

Just to say keep it furled N. C. nuff said

Carry paper and ink pens wafers and wax

A shoemaker’s last awls and some small tacks

Some cotton and thread silk needles and palm

And a paper of pins as long as your arm

Two vests and a thimble a large lot of matches

A lot of old clothes that will answer for patches

A Bible and hymn book of course you must carry

If at the end of the voyage you expect for to marry

Don’t forget to take esseners pipes and cigars

Of the sweetest of butter a couple of jars

A razor you will want a pencil and slate

A comb and a hairbrush you will need for your pate

A brush and some shaving soap and plenty of squills

And a box of those excellent Richardson’s pills

A podeldoe and pain killer surely you will need

And something to stop the red stream should you bleed

Some things I’ve omitted but never mind that

Eat salt junk and hard bread and laugh and grow fat.