How to Survive if Lost at Sea

No one wants to contemplate their peaceful sailing vacation or boat trip turning into a disaster-- and most mariners or ship passengers will have safe journeys. However, when faced with the unpredictable nature of the sea, it's best to plan for the worst.


Plan ahead

  1. 1
    Make sure your vessel has the following supplies:

    • Seaworthy life raft
    • Enough life jackets (PFDs) for everyone on board
    • Dry suits (particularly if you are in a cold climate)
    • Bottled water (enough for everyone on board for several days)
    • Radio transmitters (larger vessels should have a device called an EPRB, which helps rescuers locate the person using it)
    • Seasickness medication
    • Plastic-wrapped packages containing the "Ten Essentials" for everyone aboard.
    • Fish net
    • Plastic wrap
    • String or rope
  2. 2
    Package your emergency items in waterproof containers above decks, preferably strapped into the lifeboat.

  3. 3
    Create an emergency plan.

    • One or two people should be in charge of the following:
      • A unique "abandon ship" alarm, which should be heard by everyone aboard
      • Deploying lifeboats
      • Moving emergency supplies to lifeboat
      • Handing out survival gear
      • Head count
  4. 4
    Practice your emergency drill with your shipmates.

In The Emergency

  1. 1
    Move above decks if you are not there already.

  2. 2
    Collect your survival gear.

    • First, put on your dry suit and flotation device. If you have time, stash extra clothing in your suit for warmth.
    • Next, make sure you have food, supplies, and a container of water
    • Move toward the nearest lifeboat. Although you will be scared, avoid running or thrashing.
      • If you are not able to board the raft from the deck, swim towards it. Your odds of being rescued are much higher if you are with the group on a large raft.
  3. 3
    Take seasickness medication, even if you do not usually get seasick. The stress, proximity, and jumpy movements of the raft will probably induce nausea.

  4. 4
    Cover the life raft. There is usually a cover provided. This will help protect you from the weather.

  5. 5
    Signal a distress call on your radio.

    • State the name of your vessel, your situation, your last known location, and the number of people with you.

Extreme Survival Tactics

  1. 1
    Collect sea water in a large container. Place a smaller container within this one, and cover both with plastic wrap. Place a small weight in the center of the plastic wrap. Evaporation will cause the water to collect on the plastic, and drain inward, leaving the salt behind.

  2. 2
    Catch fish using a curved piece of metal or plastic on a string.The shadow of the raft will attract fish, even further out at sea. If you have a net, you may try using this instead.

    • Prepare the fish by removing all the guts (where parasites are most likely to be).

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