The Cruiser’s Medicine Chest

Whilst preparing for the next cruise of “Morgane” a lot of thought has gone into the medical equipment and drugs to carry. This is not an easy subject to tackle for the layman, nor I suspect for a medical professional.The equipment is one thing as most of it a one-off purchase but the drugs on the other hand are expensive and have a short self-life.

The commercially operated yachts that I have worked on have all had a full medical kit as defined by the MCA (the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency) for category-0 vessels (unrestricted operating area). This kit includes all kinds of weird and wonderful equipment, oxygen giving sets, airways, chest drains, catheters and lots of controlled drugs. You can build your own kit or buy them ready made and even have the suppliers manage the expiry dates of the contents for you. Some of the companies that supply kits also provide various levels of support in the form of doctors trained in telemedicine techniques.

If you want to see the full MCA ship’s medicine chest you can read MSN1768 which runs to 37 pages.

We decided to go with a basic but broad spectrum medicine chest mainly focused on treating travel bugs, controlling infection, and moderate pain control, along with a first aid kit that would allow us to fix up the usual sailing bangs, bruises and cuts. We consulted various sources, many books (some are listed at the end of this article), the pharmacy at the KEMH (King Edward Memorial Hospital) in Stanley, and considered our own medical capabilities. Friends recommended the website of Dr. Mark Anderson who provides information on his version of a cruising medical kit.

One book that we find very useful is “Where there is no Doctor”; which is pitched as a village health care handbook for remote/third-world communities. The book covers first-aid, diagnosis and treatment of many ailments with basic equipment and drugs and assumes that the reader has little, or no, medical training. You can download a pdf version for free from

After all our research we came up with a contents list for Morgane’s” medicine chest. Some items are obvious but many others are less so; for example if there is ever going be a female aboard it is wise to carry pregnancy test kits not so much for obvious use but as an aid in diagnosis to eliminate the cause of symptoms that may be associated with pregnancy. I post our list here not as a definitive guide but for discussion and comment. What do you think?

AllergiesCetirizine 10mg Tablets
AllergiesDiphenhydramine, 25mg capsules (Benadryl)
AllergiesHydrocortisone cream 1%
Allergies / Sea Sicknesscyclizine HCl 50mg tablets
Allergies / Sea Sickness / InsomoniaPromethazine 25mg Tablets
AnalgesiaBuffered aspirin, 323mg tablets
AnalgesiaCo-codamol 8/500 Tablets
AnalgesiaParacetamol / codine
AnalgesiaParacetamol 500mg Tablets
AnalgesiaSoluble aspirin
Analgesia / anti-inflamatoryIbuprofen 400mg Tablets
AnaphylaxisEpipen autoinjector
BurnsFlamzaine cream
CongestionPseudoephedrine 60mg Tablets
CongestionXylometazoline nasal spray
Exacerbation of asthma / Chest infectionPrednisolone 5mg Tablets
First aidBand Aids
First aidBandage, elastic wrap, 2", 3", 4"
First aidBandage, triangular
First aidEmergency (foil) blankets
First aidForceps
First aidGauze (trauma) pads, 5"x9" or 8"x10"
First aidGauze bandage rolls, 1”, 2”, 3”
First aidgloves, surgical
First aidNeck collar
First aidNon-stick sterile bandages, assorted
First aidScalpels, disposable (#11 and/or #12 blades)
First aidSteri-strips
First aidSterile gauze pads, 3x3" or 4x4"
First aidSuper glue
First aidSuture material (non-absorbable monofilament nylon on curved needle, suture sizes 3/0 and 4/0)
First aidtape, adhesive cloth, 10m
First aidtape, paper or silk (hypoallergenic), 10m
First aidTegaderm transparent wound dressing
First aidTweezers
Gastri-intesinal disordersBisacodyl 5mg Tablets
Gastri-intesinal disordersDioralyte Sachets
Gastri-intesinal disordersLoperamide 2mg Capsules
Gastri-intesinal disordersRanitidine 150mg Tablets
Gastri-intesinal disordersSenna 7.5mg Tablets
General suppliesAcetic Acid (vinegar)
General suppliesAlcohol, surgical, 70%
General suppliesThermometer, hypothermia
General suppliesThermometer, standard oral
InfectionAmoxicillin-clavulantate, 1g tablets
InfectionChloramphenicol eye ointment
InfectionCiprofloxacin 250mg Tablets
InfectionCo-amoxiclav 375mg Tablets (contains penicillin)
InfectionFluconazole 150mg Capsules
InfectionMebendazole 100mg Tablets
InfectionMetronidazole 200mg Tablets
InfectionMiconazole 2% cream
InfectionPovidone iodine 10% solution (Betadine), 1oz bottle or swabsticks
LicePermetihrin – shampoo or cream
PregnancyPregnancy test kit
Sea SicknessCinnarazine 15mg Tablets
Sea Sicknesshyoscine hydrobromide 300 ug tablets
Sea SicknessScopoderm (Hyoscine) Patches
ToothacheClove Oil
Toothache/tooth repairRefilit and Recapit tubes

And here are links to some of the books that we use or have used to research our medical kit.

The MCA’s “The Ship Captain Medical Guide” is available for download from

10 Comments on “The Cruiser’s Medicine Chest

    • Thanks Stew, I’ll have a look. Timely comment as I burnt my leg the other day. I was welding stainless steel and piece of slag jumped off and got inside my trouser leg; must have been quite comical to see me trying to shake it out!

  1. Had a simular long list, lucky enough not to use much under 4 yrs. Should ad second skin (Compeed etc) that comes in handy in places when cuts take forever to heal. So does really good tape, Lekoplast for example that really stucks. And a liter of pure aloe vera. And a couple of kilos of baby-swipes: general body cleaning, oil from motor, salt removal from skin – the best 🙂

  2. I suppose that if you have a visit to the dentist before departing you shouldn’t have to have any problem with toothache. I wonder if you don’t carry any antibiotic cream for mosquitoes bites getting infected, a local antibiotic such as mupirocin. It’s a basic in my first aids box!

    • Shouldn’t really need to use an antibiotic for an insect bite. I have only had antibiotics twice in my life; once for appendicitis and once for a severe dose of travelers tummy. We have topical antibiotic cream on the list anyway just in case, and as Nemo mentioned Aloe vera etc..

      • Well, I suppose any medicine chest is so personal as your own undies… LOL. My girl is prone to make cellulitis (kind of skin infection) on every bite and sometimes that cream has proved to be effective in case of other cuts or skin injuries but of course it’s not a must. What about any medicine for ear’s ache or conjunctivitis? I’m just wondering…

          • Yes, and the names listed here are the British English versions as they are what the MCA list, are what I am familiar with, and it’s the language of the pharmacy here in Stanley – for anybody else looking for US generic names Wikipedia or one of the drug cross-reference sites are a good place to start.

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