There are certain skills that every man should have, and basic survival skills are chief among them. But there is one specific type of survival that often gets overlooked, and is arguably one of the most important. And that is the ability to survive when you are lost at sea.
Now, the odds of you finding yourself adrift in the middle of the Atlantic are slim, but unlike being lost on land, if you don’t have a rudimentary understanding of what to do to survive, you are positively fucked.
So here are some tips to keep you alive if you ever find yourself lost at sea.
Collect potable water
One of the biggest “fuck you’s” of being lost at sea is the high chance that you will die of dehydration while being simultaneously surrounded by water. But you can’t drink salt water. It will actually kill you faster than not drinking anything. Instead, you should busy yourself by rigging up any tarps you have in a hammock-like fashion to collect any rainwater that may come your way. You can also use your clothing, plastic bags, or any other bag-type surface to collect this precious resource as it falls from the heavens. Hell, even the bottom of your raft will collect water, but you have to make sure you bottle and store it, otherwise it will just evaporate.
Get To Know the Stars
Having a basic understanding of astronomy can be extremely helpful when you are lost at sea. Being able to orient yourself and track your progress can not only help you find land, but also ensure that you are not just sailing around aimlessly. Staying on course is incredibly important, especially since it is so easy to get turned around, what with everything just being one big, blue, flat surface for thousands of miles.
While there isn’t time here to give a comprehensive overview of every star in the freaking sky, lets at least identify the most important one, and how you can find it. That star is Polaris, or the North Star. Guess why that one is important?
Because it is always going to be due north. So, if Polaris is on your left, that means you are headed East. If it is on your right, you are going West. And so on. But how do you find Polaris? Well, since the middle of the ocean doesn’t have to deal with too much light pollution, way more stars are going to be visible. And the ones that are normally visible (i.e., Polaris, Orion’s Belt) are going to be bright as all hell.
To find Polaris, simply find the little dipper and follow the handle to five spots. See that bright little gem on the end? That is Polaris. Now you have a compass. Pretty handy.
Righting a Capsized Boat
A scary thought – being flipped out of the one piece of “land” you can consider a salvation. But, if you can get past the initial shock and horror of now being tossed into the inky black abyss, righting a capsized boat is not all that difficult. Simply crawl atop the hull (or bottom) of the boat, grab ahold of something, and with all your might work towards spinning the boat backwards and flipping it right side up, Once righted, start bailing out all the excess water before your boat straight up sinks.
Now that we have solved for dehydration and lack of direction, let’s work on keeping you from starving. Food out at sea can seem scarce, but with a little know-how, you could be pulling modest meals from the belly of the ocean in no time.
Hopefully you have some fishing gear aboard the ship, and if not, you can fashion a hand lure out of some strong fibers from a tarp or clothing and find some dense yet pliable metal to serve as the hook. Hitch something shiny to use as a lure and troll it a few meters below the side of the boat. Oftentimes small fish will hang out under a life raft or small boat for protection. Use this to your advantage. Once you’ve made your first catch, save some of the innards to use for bait in round two.
Fixing a Leak
Water will get into your boat. Not a big deal. But if the water is coming in because of a hole or crack in the hull, this is a serious problem. So first, figure out where the water is coming from. It could just be that your drain plug is open, in which case, close it. If there is a hole, use the soft wood plug that should be tied to the hull to wedge in there and stop it up. If there is a crack in the hull, use a plastic sheet and wrap it around the outside of the boat. The force of the water should keep the plastic tight against the crack, acting as a band aid of sorts. That said, this is clearly not a permanent fix, so get a move on and find land.
Dealing With Sharks
Here it is – the real reason being lost at sea seems so freaking scary. What do you do if you’re confronted with a shark?
Well, first – and probably most obviously – get the hell away from it. If you end up in close proximity to one of these real life sea monsters, try to remain calm, but also swim away as quickly and as quietly as possible.
If that doesn’t work – which it may not, seeing as they are much better swimmers and also sharks – your next course of action should be to fight it off. Typically, sharks don’t want to eat people anyway. Once they get that first bite, they realize that we don’t have much to offer, food wise. What they are looking for is a big blubbery seal, and by that metric, even the most corpulent of us pale in comparison. So, even in a worst-case scenario when the shark does attack, there is a good chance they will still let you go.
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. You probably don’t want to live on a tiny raft for the rest of your life, eating fish and drinking rain water. So, how do you get rescued? If you have a radio or a handset, you should spend your days looking to get a signal and make contact with anyone. If not, do whatever you can to make yourself more visible. Use shiny objects to reflect light and make glare. Raise a brightly colored flag if you have a mast. Anything to make your boat stand out and be noticeable.
And, if all else fails, just keep sailing in a direction and you should hit land eventually. Just hope you picked the right direction!