Raft Survival: Making Your Lifeboat a ‘Survival Raft’

As many blue water and recreational sailors have learned with sufficient food, fuel, water and fishing equipment you can survive for months at sea. Depending on your food supplies (either dehydrated or boil-in-the-bag), you might need to set up a rain water collection system. If you do not have a solar still or de-salination unit simply rig up a tarpaulin, raincoat or plastic sheet that will direct the rain water into a container.  You could also erect a line of containers around your vessel to collect rain water when the inevitable storm blows over you.

Fortunately, many ships have modern lifeboats or life rafts, such as the popular Zodiac liferaft, which are well-equipped and fairly durable. You should practice rolling around in a lifeboat at sea prior to being in a situation where you would be forced to board one, as they are not very stable and lack a rudder for direction. Yet, the basic equipment in a modern lifeboat includes some form of covering, an insulated floor, fishing kits, bailing buckets, flares and water collection pouches. Using the priorities of several (PLAN-M) that you learnt on our HEAT courses, you can now prioritize your survival needs, relax, drink some water, do a little fishing and await your rescue.

The professional opinions regarding water conservation and use differ from expert to expert. Many adopt the conventional thinking which says that you should ration your water supplies by dividing the amount of water you have by the number of people on your lifeboat or life raft and their needs. Unfortunately, this calculation does not encourage people to reduce their water consumption to meet the quantity of water available. Experience has shown that thirst, like work, expands to meet the time available. Rather restrict your water needs by covering up, minimizing perspiration and mixing a small amount of sea water with the rain water you catch. You can also use seaweed to protect yourself from the sun’s rays during the day and use a sponge to collect dew from the sides of your life boat or raft.

The advantage of fishing at sea is that the majority of fish away from land are safe to eat. Not only will the fish provide you with sustenance but you can suck the fluid from the eye or the spine and use these fluids to supplement your water supply.