If you are traveling on a large vessel, get to know the layout the moment you board. Find out where the life-rafts and the life-jackets are stowed.
Try putting on a life-jacket a few times, get to know how it works, what straps go where. In an emergency, this knowledge could save you vital time and could ensure the life-jacket is on securely before you need it.
Know how to release a life-raft. During a genuine emergency, the trained crew may be trapped, in a state of panic or otherwise not able to get the rafts into the sea. It could be up to you.
Negotiating your way around a large ship below decks can be confusing enough at the best of times. Note the exits, stairways / companionways and the direction you will have to take from any restaurant, lounge or cabin.
On longer journeys make a point of knowing the route the vessel will be taking, its proximity to any islands, and the estimated time and mileage to your destination. This information could be useful if you make it to land and need to know whether it is better to move or stay put.
Having a well-stocked waterproof bag within easy reach at all times could be a life-saver if you have to abandon ship.
A small duffel bag or rucksack with a waterproof inner plastic bag should be considered an essential piece of survival kit on all open sea journeys.
Pack it with the following items:-
flares and a heliograph (or mirror) for signalling
compass and map
high calorie food
The grab bag has to be relatively small; anything too large and bulky won't be practical in a real emergency. Remember, the most common killer if you capsize will be the cold, not sharks.
Once the alarm sounds, don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. Move! Survivors are pro-active and the dead and the drowned are all too often the introverts who sat around waiting for instructions.
If the appropriate action is to abandon ship, make sure you wrap up against the inevitable cold by wearing as much warm clothing as you can. Have your grab bag readily to hand.
Put on a life-jacket and get to the upper deck. Do not jump into the sea unless the vessel is on fire or about to explode. Ideally you want to virtually step into a life-raft and stay as dry as possible.
If there is no life-raft, grab anything that floats and don't bother trying to swim unless land is close by.
Swimming expends a lot of energy and a lot of body heat You could be in a hypothermic state within minutes and almost paralyzed by the cold within seconds.
Heat conservation is vital. Cross your legs and arms if you can and pull your legs up to your chest; forming a tight ball will slow body heat loss.
If you are with other survivors, huddle up and form a rugby scrum-like circle to both retain heat and ward off any dangerous predators that might be in the waters.
If life-rafts are launched, do not jump into one as you could damage it irreparably. Instead jump in beside it and swim up to it and climb in.
Wring out wet clothes when you can, as you lose body heat far faster if wet.
Check supplies, zip up and keep the rain and the sea out. Carry out periodic inspections of the raft and immediately repair any holes or tears as best you can.
Gather rainwater as additional drinking water by catching it in anything you have, such as cans, tarpaulins, etc.
Don't contaminate it with sea spray and seawater. Ration supplies, but start fishing before food runs out, and before your energy and general health start to decline.
Have flares and heliographs ready to use the moment you sight a potential rescue ship or aircraft.
If you believe your vessel was in a shipping lane on a regular route, it may be better to stay in it or close to it, as this is where rescuers will initially search. Slow the raft's movement by making a sea anchor and tying buckets, clothes, blankets to a cord and throwing overboard.
Controlling a life-raft is almost impossible and you have to go where the winds and the current take you.
However, if you know land is close by and in a specific direction, it may be worth doing all you can to steer or paddle as best you can.
Below are some indicators of land being close by; the more you see, the more you can be sure land is close:
White fluffy cumulus clouds, as they form over land.
Sea birds fly out no more than about a hundred miles in the morning looking for food, then fly back to land again in the afternoon.
Insects are rarely far from land, so if you are being pestered by flies and biting insects, it could be good news for once.
Sea water starts to go muddy and brown around estuaries, so keep an eye on any color changes. Water silty and full of debris and plant matter is likely to I suggest you are near land.
HOW LONG COULD YOU SURVIVE IN A LIFE-RAFT OR SMALL BOAT IF CAST ADRIFT?
ALWAYS KNOW THE LOCATIONS OF LIFEBELTS AND LIFE-JACKETS ON A SHIP.
GET TO KNOW THE LAYOUT OF A SHIP THE MOMENT YOU BOARD, A SIMPLE ORIENTATION COULD BE LIFE SAVING.
THE PRESENCE OF INSECTS INDICATES LAND IS CLOSE BY.
KNOW YOUR INTENDED ROUTE, IT MAY BE CRUCIAL IF YOU MAKE IT TO LAND AND NEED TO KNOW WHETHER TO STAY PUT OR MOVE.
PACK WATERPROOF MATCHES AND SPARK MAKER IN YOUR SEA SURVIVAL KIT.
PACK A GRAB BAG FULL OF USEFUL SURVIVAL ITEMS IN CASE YOU NEED TO ABANDON SHIP IN AN EMERGENCY.
IF YOU CAPSIZE IN THE OPEN SEA, THE COLD IS YOUR BIGGEST THREAT
FLUFFY CUMULUS CLOUDS ARE AN INDICATION OF LAND BEING NEARBY