Survival at Sea

Imagine going to sea with two heavy drinkers, a bikini-clad female and a teetotal sailor.  You are an experienced sailor yourself, who has competed in several professional races.  You, and the rest of the crew, sail into a hurricane and your vessel capsizes.

Owing to the hurricane winds, your survival raft is blown away and as the rest of the ship and cargo sank, you find that the only flotsam afloat is a small Zodiac inflatable.

You and the rest of the crew climb aboard in heavy seas and manage to ride out the storm a few hours later.  With the calm comes the sharks, and ultimately madness.

Within hours of sitting on any survival raft your skin becomes pock-marked with hundreds of sores caused by the salt water.  Your survival in the Hostile Environment at sea is exacerbated by the hot overhead sun, the lack of wind, and the presence of sharks.  You have no water, and no means of attracting other vessels sailing in the shipping lanes adjacent to you.

After the first day, the situation will either cause you to panic or force you to discipline your thoughts and control your emotions.

Two survivors of such a Hostile Environment were Brad Cavanagh and Deborah Kiley.  When their yacht, the Trashman, succumbed to hurricane forces, they were set adrift in the Zodiac with the other three crew members.  Soon, when three of the crew members experienced a whole rift of emotions from hysteria to giddiness to depression and anger, the other ex-passengers started to argue irrationally amongst themselves.

Both Kiley and Cavanagh realised that they would need to maintain control in order to survive.  A typical characteristic of a survivor is one who expects all advantage and all harm from themselves.  In other words, he or she does not blame others, nor turns to them, but takes responsibility for their own survival.

For those who are dying, they progress through Kubler-Ross’ stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  For a true survivor, you can go through the same process except that instead of acceptance you reach humility.  Once you recognise that your role in the entire Hostile Environment is small and insignificant, you will survive.

Consequently, Debbie realised that she needed to survive and recognised the need to maintain control.  The first thing she did was to insist that the crew cover themselves with seaweed for warmth.  Unfortunately, her two drunk companions declined such protection and suffered heatstroke the following day.  The heatstroke worsened and the two men guzzled seawater to slake their thirst.  Within two days, the two men were dead and the surviving female succumbed to the wounds she suffered during the sinking of the vessel.

After five days, both Kiley and Cavanagh were rescued and saved despite the lack of any resources or water on board.

During our HEAT courses, we introduce attendees to the Psychology of Survival.  This presentation and subsequent discussion raises questions about:

  1. – who will survive and why
  2. – how to survive at sea
  3. – what ocean survival really takes
  4. – how to prepare yourself for maritime disasters.