If you are in a life raft
Aboard larger vessels the contents of a life raft can easily be lost. Inspect the raft, ticking off everything against a checklist and replacing missing items. Some of the the most common and useful items in a life raft are:
- Sea Anchor
- Life Jacket
- First Aid Kit
- Sea Sickness Pills
- Repair Kit
- Reverse Osmosis Pump/Solar Still
- Emergency Locator Beacon
- Map, Compass, GPS
- Fishing Lines & Hooks
- Marine Radio
- Survival Leaflets
Understanding ocean currents is an essential piece of research before embarking on any maritime trip. If you find yourself lost at sea, knowledge of these currents will help you make informed navigational decisions. You should always inform someone of your intended route.
The golden rule to survive at sea is simple: life means water, and water means life. Your stores of fresh water should be absolutely secure and no opportunity to add to them should be spurned. This section should have a separate post by itself.
Some devices are capable of making seawater safe to drink, but if you don’t have one, you’ll have to find a way of procuring enough water to keep you alive.
Collecting Fresh Water
Snow and ice
In colder climates, water can be obtained from ice and snow. Snow can be scooped directly off the canopy of the life raft directly. Be careful not to scoop snow to close to the surface of the life raft canopy; you will risk contaminating the melted snow with salt encrusted on the canopy. Remember that snow is much less dense than water and a large amount of snow, even tightly compacted will produce a significantly smaller volume of water.
Most modern life rafts incorporate a built in rain water collection system, that channels rain and dew from the outer surface of the raft into collection pockets inside the raft. However if your raft is not outfitted with such a system you can construct an improvise rain collector using a tarp or any other water proof material. Watch the clouds and be ready for the possibility of rain in order to maximize your rain collection efforts.
If you have no means of collecting rainwater or dew, there are several products capable of turning undrinkable saltwater into fresh water. Although these products are standard issue on most life rafts, you should always try to have at least one of them with you if you are venturing into a marine environment.
Solar stills are a simple way of distilling water using the power of the sun. Saltwater is placed a the bottom of the container, where it is evaporated by the sun through clear plastic. Pure water condenses on the top of the plastic and drips down the side where it can be collected, often via tube. Most solar stills on modern life rafts are inflatable.
These kit use a chemical reaction called “ion exchange” to remove the salt from the seawater. If available, use only when supplies are dangerously low.
Reverse Osmosis Pump
A reverse osmosis pump is a hand powered device that pump seawater at very high pressure through a membrane that filters out the salt. After your life raft, your personal flotation device and your distress beacon, the reverse osmosis pump is the most important part of your at sea survival kit. It produces fresh water from sea water on demand, given it is well maintained. While there are other ways of collecting drinking water when at sea, these can never be solely relied upon.
Once you fresh water supply is established, you can turn your attention to sources of nutrition. The body needs certain nutritional requirements to function, and the ocean can provide them all. There is a chance that you will have some food supplies with you. Ration these out and begin to fish for food as soon as you have supplies of drinking water. Fish will act as your amin source of protein, which is necessary for cell and tissue repair, digestion and healthy blood. Seaweed and plankton are excellent sources of nutrition and can be found floating in the ocean.
Landing a fish
A fighting fish, particularly one still on the spear can cause devastating damage to your life raft. Once clear of the water, hold it by the gill and stun it with a blow to the head, then land it and kill it. The head contains some meat and the eyes are filled with salt free fluid. The tail can be discarded, the intestines used for bait, and the rest can be eaten. Do not forget to dispose of waste carefully. Never throw innards or blood into the water in close vicinity of your raft.
When stranded at see, your focus should always be on attracting rescue. Knowing how to use signalling equipment can mean that your survival experience could be brief.
Large pieces of color material are ideal for attracting attention. Your life raft is likely to have a survival blanket which could be used for this task. If not, use your foul weather clothing; the brighter and less natural color the better it will attract attention.
Mirror signalling projects bursts of vivid light over many miles and can be performed with materials ranging from polished metal to belt buckles. At the first sight of a nearby ship or aircraft, begin signalling so that the craft will spot your signal and inform the authorities of your position.
Other tools that can be used for signalling are radios, flares, flashlights & whistles.