How To

How To Survive at Sea in a Raft

Surviving at sea can be very difficult in many different situations. Follow these steps if in the open sea while on a raft.

  • Check the physical condition of all on board. Give first aid if necessary. Take seasickness pills if available. The best way to take these pills is to place them under the tongue and let them dissolve. There are also suppositories or injections against seasickness. Vomiting, whether from seasickness or other causes, increases the danger of dehydration.
  • Try to salvage all floating equipment–rations; canteens, thermos jugs, and other containers; clothing; seat cushions; parachutes; and anything else that will be useful to you. Secure the salvaged items in or to your raft. Make sure the items have no sharp edges that can puncture the raft.
  • If there are other rafts, lash the rafts together so they are about 7.5 meters apart. Be ready to draw them closer together if you see or hear an aircraft. It is easier for an aircrew to spot rafts that are close together rather than scattered.
  • Remember, rescue at sea is a cooperative effort. Use all available visual or electronic signaling devices to signal and make contact with rescuers. For example, raise a flag or reflecting material on an oar as high as possible to attract attention.
  • Locate the emergency radio and get it into operation. Operating instructions are on it. Use the emergency transceiver only when friendly aircraft are likely to be in the area.
  • Have other signaling devices ready for instant use. If you are in enemy territory, avoid using a signaling device that will alert the enemy. However, if your situation is desperate, you may have to signal the enemy for rescue if you are to survive.
  • Check the raft for inflation, leaks, and points of possible chafing. Make sure the main buoyancy chambers are firm (well rounded) but not overly tight. Check inflation regularly. Air expands with heat; therefore, on hot days, release some air and add air when the weather cools.
  • Decontaminate the raft of all fuel. Petroleum will weaken its surfaces and break down its glued joints.
  • Throw out the sea anchor, or improvise a drag from the raft’s case, bailing bucket, or a roll of clothing. A sea anchor helps you stay close to your ditching site, making it easier for searchers to find you if you have relayed your location. Without a sea anchor, your raft may drift over 160 kilometers in a day, making it much harder to find you. You can adjust the sea anchor to act as a drag to slow down the rate of travel with the current, or as a means to travel with the current. You make this adjustment by opening or closing the sea anchor’s apex. When open, the sea anchor acts as a drag that keeps you in the general area. When closed, it forms a pocket for the current to strike and propels the raft in the current’s direction.
  • Wrap the sea anchor rope with cloth to prevent its chafing the raft. The anchor also helps to keep the raft headed into the wind and waves.
  • In stormy water, rig the spray and windshield at once. In a 20-man raft, keep the canopy erected at all times. Keep your raft as dry as possible. Keep it properly balanced. All personnel should stay seated, the heaviest one in the center.
  • Calmly consider all aspects of your situation and determine what you and your companions must do to survive. Inventory all equipment, food, and water. Waterproof items that salt water may affect. These include compasses, watches, sextant, matches, and lighters. Ration food and water.
  • Assign a duty position to each person: for example, water collector, food collector, lookout, radio operator, signaler, and water bailers.

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